Twenty years ago, the world was paralyzed by a pandemic that our societies had not known for more than a century.
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Given the gap between these two similar events, the preparation of our communities was more or less understandable. Even if, at the end of the immediate reaction to the crisis, many voices were heard to point out that we could have been better prepared, some even warning us in advance.
Today, as our world is increasingly facing major climatic events and various conflicts related to environmental issues, the question that many ask is the following: are we ready for another pandemic?
Have our societies indeed learned from their recent experience? Because, on a human scale, 20 years remains a not so distant time.
"Resilient communities are those that remember" says the expression... And to use John Dewey's phrase: "we don't learn from experience, we learn by reflecting on our experiences".
So, have we taken the time to reflect on this experience? What memories have we kept that will help us be better prepared next time?
Because there will be a next time. The risk is always there. For the simple reason that our interactions with the environment, and in particular with "preserved" areas, although reduced today, are still present in certain areas. Because certain governments have not learned.
Brazil still continues to deforest, wild animals trafficking continues, although slightly better controlled. And, beyond these persistent shortcomings, there is an unavoidable natural hazard which means that the risk of a new pandemic will never be zero.
The real question to ask is rather at the level of our attitudes.
At the end of the crisis, good habits of physical distancing were quickly forgotten for many. And most of us focused mainly on the economic recovery, because the invoices were waiting at the end of the month.
Fortunately, in some communities, public decision-makers have decided to work on young people and school programs have integrated a greater share of "collective hygiene" as it is called today: raising children's awareness of basic health rules to create the right mindset and necessary preventive actions.
But the "mask revolts" which broke out in certain communities (mainly under populist governance in 2020) to protest against the imposition of compulsory protection measures, created a strong resentment in certain sections of the population which generated a real rejection of possible protective measures in the future. Unfortunately, these "mask revolts" were then used as a political weapons in electoral contexts without necessarily thinking of the global context.
So, in terms of prevention, you could say 50/50: the children are better educated in certain places, some communities have nevertheless adopted effective health habits (to the point of modifying the usual greetings). But unfortunately much remains to be done to ensure that the vast majority of people around the world understand that their attitude affects the health of others.
In terms of public health policies, the results are also mixed. Here again, short-term political interests have swept up and down the means given to health professionals. Beyond this aspect of pure societal and civic "management" one of the elements which has greatly impacted the evolution of public health policies is not linked to the decision-makers themselves.
It turned out that it was all the disinformation and fake news campaigns that found fertile ground in pandemic anxiety, and that were perpetuated over time, that generated a lot of debate.
Faced with many conspiracy theories and political polarization of certain strategies of health care and fight against the pandemic, many decisions taken by governments have not been approved by all their populations.
And when the population cannot agree, the subject becomes a controversial weapon that appeals to populisms of all stripes. Because it then becomes a tool for destabilizing the institutional system which then makes it possible to play on the fears and divisions on which these movements feed.
Unfortunately, despite the various attempts to fight against this scourge, nothing could really make them disappear. In this, the responsibility of social networks, including primarily Facebook whose founder, Mark Zuckerberg has done everything to prevent his platform from being held responsible for the content it supports. And the influence of the company on many decision-makers has been such that nothing has really progressed, except a few cosmetic changes at the margin.
In this inventory of uninviting news, there is still a positive note. Numerous studies carried out in recent years by various researchers in sociology and anthropology have repeatedly and universally demonstrated that humanity has changed: the pandemic of 2020 has somewhat helped us to increase our sense of global collective belonging. While there is still a lot of work to be done, it is certain that this crisis has solidified trends towards more mutual aid, more support between communities and more sensitivity to the fact that we are all connected.
Aided in this no doubt by the unavoidable awareness of the climatic reality, the scale of the crises which followed the pandemic have very probably made it possible to bring everyone back to their individual condition. And when individuals face the scale of time and nature, they will very naturally get closer to their fellows to feel reassured.
So are we ready for a new pandemic? Not as much as medical professionals would like it to be a fact. But, 20 years later, it still seems that humanity has come out a little more resilient. Sufficient, hopefully, to react faster and better the next time and thus continue to build the dynamics of a combative species, facing the concrete idea of its own potential extinction