Thomas Kankam Adjei’s thoughts … The new normal

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The advent of the coronavirus and its endemic impact across the world has brought nothing but a total change in living as we know it. From the province of Wuhan in far-away China to the huts in Zualungu, Ghana, coronavirus has made its mark. Good or bad the world is still grappling with the spread of the virus, even the most powerful and advanced are crumbling.

Bloomberg Business estimates that the pandemic is expected to cost the global economy some US$2.7 trillion equal to the GDP of the UK. Over 300,000 people have died already and still counting. The pandemic is far more than the 2008 financial crisis and anything of its kind in the past. For some, the year 2020 should be skipped or cancelled.

Albeit hilarious and unfathomable, it seems not so bad an idea given how the year and in fact the new decade has started. From the threat of a third world war between the USA and Iran to the fires in Australia, to major earthquakes and floods around Asia minor, to the death of Kobe Bryant, the world seemed not ready for all of these.

The coronavirus (COVID-19), its lethal spread and ravaging effects has brought the world to a standstill. Countries are having to rethink their economic models and social structure, companies are rewriting their business strategies, revising forecasts and in some cases cutting losses by laying-off workers. Families are looking for buffers and reaching out into the deep for lifetime savings to sustain their livelihoods throughout this global meltdown.

On the lighter side, husbands and wives are stuck with each other in daily make or break moments. But the good news is children get to spend quality time with their parents. Couples and parents will now have to adopt new coping mechanisms and updated parenting skills to survive these times. Across the length and breadth of our social ladder everyone is under siege, one way or the other, from the President to the pauper, the privileged to the downtrodden, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, working class or upper class, royalty or servant. Some are obviously coping better than others based on your access to resources such as food, water, shelter, healthcare, personal protective equipment (PPE).

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Until we find a cure or vaccine or nonetheless get more ventilators in our hospitals, adapting to the dictates of the virus as we know best is the pre-occupation now. Depending on the resource availability and accessibility, individuals may adapt differently or in a more formidable and resolute manner. But the simple and proven ways of staying safe are the same for all i.e. wearing a nose mask, washing your hand with soap under running water as frequently as possible, avoiding handshakes and physical contact by practising social distancing.

The sad but relevant part is how much the outbreak of this disease has exposed our poor health care system and infrastructure, fragility of our economy, perverse inequality, non-resilient value chains and business strategies, inadequate investments into technology, limited understanding of the world and how we all need each other. Our very existence as humans and life as we know it is threatened by a virus we cannot even see with our naked eyes.

The virus is making much waves greater and more terrifying than any army of men or its colleagues like HIV, SARS etc. which have also sentenced millions around the world to death already. At this point, I dare say ‘we have come this far by grace’.

Workers are now working from home not from the workplace, meetings are now being done virtually over communication platforms and not in meeting rooms, marriage ceremonies are now being conducted online and not in churches or gardens, pastors now mainly using social media platforms as congregation points to reach out and deliver the good news and not crusade grounds or auditoriums, teachers are no more teaching in classrooms in-front of students but studios in-front of cameras, and many other new possibilities we were not used to on the regular. The recent announcement by the Registrar General to registered companies, directing them to have their Annual General Meetings (AGM) online is perfect example of the new normal.

I guess the only thing that is yet to change is ourselves. We still have our eyes to see, our ears to hear, our limbs to move and our heads to think. Charles Darwin’s postulate on evolution still resounds in my thoughts “survival is not for the fittest but the organism that best adapts to their environment”.

Technology is here to stay and we must embrace it whichever way possible. Much more as a private sector advocate and sustainability professional, I can’t wait to see that transition from the brown economy to a green economy with sustainable lifestyles and business models with its co-benefits due to reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and efficient ways of doing things.

It will now make sense perhaps for governments to start investing more money where it matters i.e. technology, infrastructure and human capital at all levels of development. On the global scale what does this mean for the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the Paris Agreement on climate change by 2030? I am interested in the answers.

I hope that at the end of the pandemic (fingers crossed), as the new normal, we will be able to work from home, pay our creditors, transact business en masse using e-commerce platforms,  school online, spend more time with the people who matter in our lives, place more value on lives as a nation, and as individuals wittingly and adequately  plan for emergencies and uncertainties by taking insurance policies, savings and finding multiple streams of income to enhance our resilience to future uncertainties.

Maybe businesses would have recovered more quickly if they had insured their operations and supply chains and workers would have survived a few more months after layoff if they had some savings or surplus income. As a country, we could have saved more lives if we had a robust national emergency response system and constantly investing in our healthcare infrastructure and professionals. As the Akan adage goes “bad news comes without a warning”, maybe sometimes it does but we are too negligent to care or react swiftly. So, we got ‘served’ what next? My answer: Remember Darwin.

However, I must confess, as a Christian and believer in the creation story am not so much a fan of Darwin and his evolution stories, even though as a scientist, I tend to agree. Corona has left me perturbed but for my Christian bias I am hopeful. I am wondering how I can fulfil the famous elucidation from our erudite patriarch; King David, who said “I was glad when they said unto me; let us go into the house of the Lord”.

Again, I am stuck thinking but then I remember another famous one, a Bible revolutionary worth remembering in these revolutionary times; the Apostle Paul, as controversial as his writings, he once wrote to the Galatian church “…your body is a temple of the Lord…”. So, I guess I can conclude that I can fellowship with God by myself and still be okay after all I am the ‘temple’.

Not trying to portray as a Bible scholar or alas try to contend with one in an exegesis debate, another popular quote from the Apostle again comes to mind “let us not forsake the gathering of the saints as is the character of some…”. Then I sigh and say after all churches are closed so there is no gathering for me to miss, at least not the physical one maybe virtually.

So, I come to this conclusion; I need to work on myself (physically and spiritually) as the ‘temple’ as I await the assembly of the saints of God once again in earnest, with assurances of gladness as we meet face to face. Embrace the New Normal; Normal never looked so lit and woke (e-Normal).

Stay safe and God Bless you

>>>The writer is a climate and energy policy analyst

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