While we’re all bemoaning the impact of coronavirus on our personal worlds, crises like these often change some aspects of our behaviour positively, permanently. Since the Esso Longford Bass Strait gas explosion in 1998 stopped our gas supply for several months and we had no hot water or stove, we switched to washing clothes in cold water…and never changed back. Unpredicted stock market crashes in 1987 and 2001 (repeated in 2008 and now 2020) led me to use professional investment advice, despite my own financial background. I proved to myself that someone else made better decisions than I had…and I became more conservative as well.
So what unexpected positive changes will the coronavirus epidemic bring, as it bears down so rapidly upon us?
1. Carbon emissions will significantly reduce globally and nationally!
Reductions in travel (tourism, education, business and visiting family and friends), flights, road transport, shipping and manufacturing will cause a major decrease in carbon emissions. Based on China’s experience, the developed world will shut down for the equivalent of 1-2 months or even more. We can therefore expect an 8-20+% reduction in carbon emissions this year! We’ve been wanting this to happen, but no government has been prepared to regulate the actions required. Thanks coronavirus! And it’s likely that, for some of the reasons below, this reduction will be longer lasting than just one year.
2. Existing online services will rapidly increase and new innovative services will develop to solve needs created by coronavirus, or to take the place of services no longer available.
For instance, all types of businesses, not just international ones, will be forced to use videoconferencing because travel will be regarded as too risky or will be banned. Students will become used to online education (which will improve through pressure to deliver), to the point that it will become mainstream and only be partly replaced when face to face classes are allowed again.
Working at home will significantly increase as it becomes clear how much can be done from home without going to the office. Office sizes will reduce as it becomes clear that it will be rare for most people to be in the office simultaneously. Online deliveries to homes for workers and particularly for families during lockdowns and self-isolations will soar significantly replacing retail shopping, for most products and many services.
New interactive services will be developed. For instance, rather than attend an exercise, language or creative class locally, innovative providers will develop group interactive apps or websites like videoconferencing that can handle groups where the members are in several different physical places.
As major sports ban attendances, there will be a great increase in demand for TV viewing, or fans will switch to other sports which better manage the transition from live attendance to TV-live, or other activities centred around the home.
3. We will slow down our lives…and discover unexpected benefits from activities we had forgotten about or never known.
We will spend more time, more leisurely, on Facetime and Skype with friends and family to keep in eye contact when physical connectedness is not possible. We will discover the joys of the ‘green’ world of growing and growth in backyards, houses, streets and local parks. We will have the time to watch plants grow, which will – surprisingly to some – bring calmness, wonder and joy from the miracles of the natural world.
Sex will go through the roof. Let’s hope protection methods remain easily available, but a baby boom is almost certain.
Forgotten activities, such as reading, family games and cooking, will bring joy to alleviate the frustrations of the physical constraints. New activities will be developed. Diaries about coping with coronavirus will be written, new skills embarked on, new exercise regimes developed, family histories begun.
Home maintenance will surge. Minor repairs previously put off through lack of time will be addressed. Major renovations will be planned and commenced.
And When It’s Over…
We’ll be thrilled to have our personal freedom back. We’ll realise how important freedom is. We’ll reflect on whether the ability of Big Brothers to track our every movement via our smartphones has been good for society preservation or bad for individual privacy.
We’ll rush back to catch up on things we haven’t been able to do – physically see people, travel – but we’ll probably find that some of the activities we’ve enjoyed during our enforced constraints are ones we want to continue…and our lives will be changed for the better.