It has never been clearer that everyone and everything is interconnected. Our interdependence has enabled COVID-19 to spread rapidly around the globe, yet simultaneously this pandemic has highlighted the crucial importance of interdependence for our health and well-being. As we practice social distancing, communicating and connecting with loved ones has become more important than ever. Many vulnerable people are able to self-isolate due to the kindness of others providing food, medication and support, organised by communities. Key workers everywhere are taking individual risks to ensure healthcare, food and education remain available to communities and, at a global level, many countries are sharing resources and information to help lessen the pandemic’s local impacts. Of course, far more needs to be done.
We are facing the reality that we are unified as one whole, living, interconnected system. Whether the impacts of our interdependence are destructive, or lifesaving, is a choice available to us all, and which affects us all.
During this pandemic we are catching glimpses of two opposing futures.
On the one hand, the pandemic is highlighting the inequalities in our societies and systems. Businesses are receiving financial support while NHS staff’s lives are put at risk due to lack of funding for Personal Protective Equipment. The poorest members of society are forced to ignore social distancing due to the necessity for income and, in many countries, are at risk of eviction from their homes. At a global level medical equipment continues to be channelled primarily to the most affluent countries, and while in the less economically developed countries many citizens cannot practice social distancing due to lack of housing, food and water.
On the other hand, unprecedented levels of community cohesion and solidarity are emerging. In the UK and many European countries, community support groups are being set up at an astounding rate: people are risking their own health to provide vital healthcare and services to vulnerable community members; others are donating their time and money to supporting health services. Perhaps most surprising of all, hotels and offices are being re-purposed with the aim of housing the UK's entire homeless population. Many of these things were unimaginable just a few weeks ago.
In this pivotal moment, one simple principle can provide crucial guidance: treat others and the planet as you would wish to be treated. This ancient principle, often referred to as the Golden Rule, has been central to cultures and religions across the world, and across history. It is possibly the single most universal value around which humanity can unify. As we reassess our world and our lives in this moment of suffering, pause, and reflection, this simple principle can be a valuable tool to help us build a more compassionate, unified, sustainable world. Let’s also remember: the positive impacts of global unity and compassion built during this time can extend far beyond this pandemic and are key to addressing an even larger global crisis that has been looming over humanity for years: the climate crisis.
COVID-19 has delivered a shocking wake up call to the destruction and suffering our behaviour can produce when we do not consider its impacts on those we are unknowingly connected to. But in doing so it has offered a valuable reminder. Each day ask yourself how what you say and what you do impacts others and the planet. In our increasingly globalised world, these impacts have never been so far reaching. Let’s take this opportunity to grasp our deepening awareness of our interconnection, and what is possible when we use this compassionately, to build a new normal: a compassionate, sustainable future for all.