As 100 million people in Europe are in lockdown, the US seems to be completely unprepared for the tsunami that is about to hit. “We’re about to experience the worst public health disaster since polio,” says Dr Martin Makary, professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Don’t believe the numbers when you see, even on our Johns Hopkins website, that 1,600 Americans have the virus. No, that means 1,600 got the test, tested positive. There are probably 25 to 50 people who have the virus for every one person who is confirmed. I think we have between 50,000 and half a million cases right now walking around in the United States.”
Having returned to the US from Europe on the last plane before the travel ban kicked in two days ago, I feel as if I have traveled backwards in time. Which is exactly what people report when they arrive in Europe from East Asia now. You feel as if you’re moving backward in time, back into an earlier state of awareness, which the country of departure had already moved past. Here are my eight takeaways.
1. The Coronavirus Disruption is a Harbinger of Things to Come
COVID-19 has further opened up our current state of disruption and, interestingly, has accomplished more to reduce CO2 emissions within weeks than all climate conversations combined have done in years. While some disasters, like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, tend to bring out the best in people (pulling folks together), pandemics tend to do the opposite, as columnist David Brooks argued recently. The virus holds up a mirror in front of us. It forces us to become aware of our own behavior and its impact on the collective, on the system. That mirror gently invites us to make a few personal sacrifices that benefit the whole — to shift our inner place from ego to eco.
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Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer in the MIT Management Sloan School and founder of the Presencing Institute.