There is only one subject in the air at the moment: the COVID-19 pandemic. For this year’s Worldwide Intergenerational Fairness Week we’ve invited writers from around the globe to contribute articles on the impact of COVID-19 on intergenerational fairness. IF’s editor Antony Mason introduces the series and the week’s schedule of publication.
This is the second Worldwide Intergenerational Fairness Week (WIFW), held in the second week of July as it was in 2019, and as we hope it always will be.
When we launched WIFW in 2019, we imagined that it might snowball gently from a simple blog week into an ever-larger week of events.
Not a hope this time round. We are now four months into COVID-19 lockdown, our movements still shackled. It has been a bizarre time for us all, the whole world in a state of hiatus, living in fear of a deadly disease whose random and arbitrary effects have brought horrible suffering and death to hundreds of thousands around the world.
Many people have said that this is like a war. But it is also the opposite of war. In wars, older generations of politicians and generals send younger generations into battle to fight and die for some cause. But there is no cause here but survival, and overwhelmingly it is the older generations that COVID-19 has been killing, largely sparing the young.
Sparing the young of disease and death, but not of the collateral damage – to education, the prospects of work and employment, and their whole social fabric, squirting them with uncertainty, loneliness and anxiety. As many of our writers point out, the lockdown and economic freeze have had – and will have – a major and lasting impact on young people, while rubbing salt into the inequalities that already existed in society.
But our writers are by no means universally gloomy. Released from the hurly-burly of our old-normal lives, we have had time to reflect on what matters, what is important, and what we have to do to secure these things.
We have seen an acceleration in many of the developments that were already under way, but needed the shock of COVID to force the pace of change. How much do we really need to go to an office to work? Through greater use of Zoom and FaceTime and Skype we have learned that – whereas in the past we have hesitated to meet up because of the travel required – now physical distance is no longer an issue.
And how much do we really need air-travel? Restrictions to movement, and industrial output and consumption, have had a dramatic impact on air-pollution, achieving drops in emissions exceeding what anyone thought possible just six months ago.
So can we negotiate a way out of lockdown while managing the triangular tensions between getting the economy going again, accelerating the green agenda, and ensuring intergenerational fairness (many young people are traditionally engaged in some of the hardest-hit service industries, such as hospitality and travel)?
Several writers have detected a new sense of activism and commitment among young people in the COVID-19 era. Younger generations can see more clearly than ever the faults in the old-normal world, and they can see that they are the ones who are going to have to do something about it.
What is certain is that we are not about to step into some post-COVID halcyon days. If COVID provided a vision of how the world might be better, then we owe it to ourselves, to all that we have been through, and to all who have suffered and died from the disease, to keep that vision fresh in the mind’s eye, and to fight to achieve that better world.
In government debt, economic chaos, unemployment and educational disruption, COVID-19 poses a huge threat to intergenerational fairness. But also, surely, in these unprecedented times, there are also unprecedented opportunities.
Our writers demonstrate that many of the problems introduced by the COVID-19 crisis are shared around the world, albeit that the circumstances and the responses are subtly different. We start the week with articles about Brazil, India and Japan.
Our many thanks to all who have contributed to this fascinating collection.
Monday 6 July
Politics, COVID and Brain Drain in Bolsonaro’s Brazil
João Leal, Policy-Maker at the State Secretariat for Social Development in São Paulo
Online education in India: fault lines of enduring inequality
Prasham Kothari, recent graduate, now an economics tutor also working with NGOs
Young people respond to COVID-19 in Japan
Hikari Hida, recent graduate, now at The NY Times
Tuesday 7 July
Generational change: breaking the silence of the old
Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at Oxford University
The corona crisis and the future of Europe
Maria Lenk, of the Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations, Stuttgart
Fairy tales and reality: making sense of COVID-19 in Italy
Martin Solly, professor at the Department of Culture, Politics and Society, University of Turin
Wednesday 8 July
Education post-COVID – a life or death decision?
Jane Davidson, author of #futuregen: lessons from a small country (Wales)
Australia under COVID-19: still “the lucky country”?
Danielle Wood and Owain Emslie, of the Grattan Institute, Melbourne
COVID-19 warns us: we need global environment law
Sándor Fülöp, first Parliamentary Commissioner for future generations in Hungary
Thursday 9 July
How a microscopic virus shines a searchlight on the world’s inequalities
David McNair, Executive Director, Global Policy, at the global campaigning movement ONE
China: pandemic preparedness for ageing populations
Lauren A. Johnston, Research Associate, SOAS, University of London
Plagues and Intergenerational Justice
Jörg Tremmel, professor at the Institute of Political Science at the Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen
Friday 10 July
Poverty and homelessness: the risks remain
John Bird, sponsor of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill, UK Parliament
The asymmetric intergenerational impact of COVID: the Italian case
Luciano Monti, Adjunct Professor of European Union Policies at LUISS, Rome
COVID has forced Australia to re-evaluate its values
Sweeney Preston, newsroom contributor for the FYA (Foundation for Young Australians)
Saturday 11 July
How will future generations remember COVID-19 – if they remember it at all?
Roman Krznaric, author of The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World
The scars of COVID-19
Lukas Sustala, Director of the liberal think tank NEOS Lab, Vienna
A Letter to Future Generations
Rebecca Freitag, Ambassador for the Foundation for the Rights for Future, Stuttgart
Sunday 12 July
Summary of the Worldwide Intergenerational Fairness Week 2020
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