On the first official day of spring in the global north, we’re looking forward to a glorious summer – a summer without Covid deaths, for the first time in years. That dread disease has been defeated by biotech innovation and public health programs, and is now on the wane, worldwide. Infections are falling fast, and anyone who does get sick is easily treated. Despite its many variants, Covid has become ‘just another flu’.
But there’s a dark side to this summery scenario. Political leaders of every persuasion are deeply concerned. Their ability to influence, direct, or even outright control society and business was at its height when the pandemic was rampant. After all, they were ‘saving lives’ with their curfews, travel bans and lockdowns. And it mostly worked, didn’t it? And you can’t argue with science.
Now democratic governments and dictators alike are in a quandary. They need a new universal peril, a new public enemy, to motivate the people to support them, to accept restrictions on their rights to speak, move and trade freely. All governments love control, it makes them more powerful, and it’s easy to justify, to keep the populace compliant, when you have a clear and present danger like a deadly pandemic. But what do you do when it’s over? The masses become restive and rebellious, and start demanding a better deal.
It’s not as if the pandemic was universally bad; it played into the hands of elites and megacorps. Some of them tripled their wealth or doubled their market cap, even as millions lost their jobs, sickened, and died. Now those who decide our fates are looking for a new bogeyman, a shadowy, fear-inducing menace. Could it be a massive asteroid headed our way? What about nuclear mutual destruction?
Fear not, science has provided the ideal global threat to human happiness and prosperity, one to unite us, a common enemy that we will gladly make personal sacrifices to combat. An existential risk that can’t be denied and won’t easily be defeated. It’s called the ‘Climate Crisis’.