The Cooperative Society Newsletter
January 2022, Issue 33
by E.G. Nadeau, Ph.D.
I had planned to write about the resurrection of the Build Back Better legislation in the United States Congress, but as of this writing, it is stalled.
Instead, the big news I’d like to reflect on is what appears to be a plateauing of worldwide Covid cases, and significant declines in some countries. South Africa, where the Omicron variant originated, has one-sixth the number of cases that it had a month ago. The United Kingdom, the first European country hit hard by Omicron, has experienced an almost 50% decline in weekly cases since its peak level. The United States has begun a downward trend in just the past week.
Thus, it’s time to look back at the world’s almost two-year ordeal (so far) with the pandemic and to prepare for what comes next.
This is a fitting Cooperative Society topic because, if we’re going to shape a better world, we have to learn from the lessons of catastrophic events like the worldwide spread of the coronavirus and do a much better job when the next killer virus or other worldwide disaster comes along.
The five lessons and three predictions:
Lesson 1. Avoid complacency about potential future disasters
In many ways, international health organizations, governments, pharmaceutical companies, and the scientific community got caught with their pants down when Covid emerged in China in December 2019. There had been a lot of discussion in the early 2000s about creating a quick response system to address new viruses and other major international health threats. However, when Covid arrived, the world’s response capabilities were woefully inadequate and had to be cobbled together anew.
The lesson? After more than 5.5 million global Covid deaths and counting, let’s get serious this time. We need to create and maintain a worldwide readiness system.
Lesson 2. Act quickly and cooperatively when disaster strikes
This lesson builds directly on the previous one. It’s not enough to have a system in place to deal with potential worldwide health and other disasters. The system needs to be activated quickly, effectively, and universally. China dawdled, mostly in secrecy, when the country’s leaders became aware of the seriousness of a new virus that first emerged in Wuhan in mid-December 2019. China’s leaders were slow to warn the rest of the world about the potential threat of a pandemic. And when they did come clean, many of the world’s political leaders minimized the threat and/or were slow to act. For example, the infamous comment by then-President Trump on January 22, 2020: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”
Lesson 3. Denial is the hobgoblin of little minds
Speaking of Trump, the United States, under his lack of leadership, became the world’s bastion of incompetence in limiting the spread of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in 2020. His denial mentality continued even after his presidency ended, carried on by other Republican leaders and followers. As a result, in January 2022, the U.S. still has the lowest vaccination rate among developed countries and the highest number of Covid deaths of all the countries in the world.
On the international stage, there were a number of other governmental leaders who exacerbated Covid deaths through their attempts to minimize the seriousness of the pandemic. For example: Modi in India, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Lukashenko in Belarus, and Lopez Obrador in Mexico.
The lesson? To avoid unnecessary suffering and death in pandemics and other health crises, governmental leaders should avoid political posturing and, instead, take actions based on science.
Lesson 4. We have the ability to solve complex problems
On the positive side of the Covid ledger, the world has an incredible ability to solve scientific and logistical problems. In the United States and in other countries, major funding was provided to pharmaceutical companies and scientific institutions to develop vaccines, tests, and other means to combat the pandemic. In an unprecedentedly short period of time, several effective vaccines were available for widespread use in some countries.
Lesson 5. The distribution of resources
We still need to learn how to distribute resources equitably when disaster strikes. Almost two years into the pandemic, only about 5% of people in low-income countries are fully vaccinated compared to an average of over 70% in high-income countries. And in some countries that have good access to the vaccines, there are groups of people – usually people of color, the poor, and those in rural communities – who were last in line to get vaccines and, in some cases, still haven’t received them.
Prediction 1. Covid and its variants will decline steeply soon
By early summer, people around the world will emerge from their Covid bunkers and become sociable again. Recent data suggest that the rapid International spike in Covid caused by the Omicron variant will soon be on a swift downturn. In addition, Pfizer announced in early January that it will be releasing a new vaccine beginning in March specifically targeted to protect against Omicron. What these events most probably mean is that life for many of us will almost return to normal by the end of June.
Prediction 2. Covid will become more effectively preventable and treatable by the fall
An extension of the previous prediction is that by the fall of 2022, Covid will cease to be a pandemic. Instead, it will be a nuisance virus like the flu, for which many of us will receive an annual, or possibly semi-annual, vaccination. Covid cases will still occur, and there may be incidents of troublesome mutations that cause temporary flareups and vaccine adjustments. But Covid will no longer be a major threat to world health.
Prediction 3. The lessons from Covid will provide a model for addressing future disasters
Our battle with Covid will make us better able to solve the climate change crisis and be better prepared for future worldwide disasters.
This is the iffiest of the three predictions. Will we really learn from all the suffering and death wrought by the coronavirus and our bumbling response to it? Or will we just saunter blithely along, forgetting about the international nightmare caused by the pandemic?
Despite our tendency as a species to ignore the lessons of the past, there is a real possibility that we will learn from the Covid pandemic, and apply that learning to other world disasters, such as global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels; the gross inequality of people around the world not having adequate access to food, healthcare, and other necessities of life; or another killer virus.
Videos, books, and downloads
• We invite you to view a brief, informative video on community solar co-ops. It’s a summary of E.G.’s December 2021 presentation at the World Cooperative Congress in Seoul, Korea. E.G. describes the ease, affordability, and benefits of establishing a solar co-op.
• Also newly released is a video during which E.G.’s son, Luc, interviews E.G. about his 2021 book Strengthening the Cooperative Community. Luc is co-founder – with E.G. – of The Cooperative Society Project. The book is based on E.G.’s 50 years of international cooperative research and development experience. Of special interest are the 16 recommendations E.G. provides for realizing future cooperative development opportunities.
“Anyone interested in concrete ideas for reducing inequality domestically or internationally should read this book,…”—Dave Grace, Managing Partner, Dave Grace and Associates
“Thank you for this lively, agile, and accessible introduction to the cooperative world…”—Gianluca Salvatori, CEO, Euricse
“E.G. has made a major contribution to the history and future impact of cooperative enterprise…I hope the 16 recommendations in this narrative will be given serious consideration by cooperative leadership at the global, regional, national and local levels across all sectors.”—Dr. Martin Lowery, Executive Vice President Emeritus, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, International Cooperative Alliance board member and Chair, ICA Cooperative Identity Committee
- And we remind you that E.G’s book The Cooperative Solution is available on our website as a free download. Published in 2012, EG’s points about making both economic democracy and political democracy the foundations of American society continue to be very relevant today.