London — In our current COVID 19 context of suffering and fear, that may sound like a strange and spooky quote. But let's be clear: what we have achieved so far in the present is not - and shouldn't be - indicative of what we can achieve in the future.
And, as Arundhati Roy reminds us, crisis moments can be portals to a different world.
There is enough scientific evidence to show that we have been living on borrowed time. We have not only inflicted unrestrained damages to the planet but also crossed planetary boundaries that shouldn't be crossed.
Over the past century, as a civilisation, we have focused on un-sustained growth, power and profits, and in the bargain, we have meandered from our values, our humanity and our inner longing for peace and harmony.
We have heard it said multiple times, that we are living in an "unprecedented" situation. The same was said for the world wars and the 9/11 attack. What is unprecedented can either become the new normal or an opportunity to change and create something new.
And in the situation of COVID 19 which has infiltrated and impacted the entire planet, the world must now put aside their differences and come together to work towards the one unified goal of finding medicines and a vaccine - and giving access to them to all.
And we must do more than that. We must build a new world order. We are not at war with the virus. But we are in a situation as global and as groundbreaking as the two world wars. And there are lessons we can learn.
World War I led to fundamental changes in politics, economics and society. Aside from the gravely high human costs, the war resulted in new territories, where boundaries and political maps were redrawn, especially in Europe.
The war destroyed empires, created new nation-states and encouraged independence movements. The power of autocracy and the upper class was diminished, if not destroyed. It wasn't all positive change, for sure. But fundamental change it was.
World War II also resulted in significant changes, and some called 1945 "the year zero". The war led to the creation of the United Nations, thereby resulting in increased collaboration and peaceful cooperation amongst nations.
Another collaborative achievement that came out of WWII was the Bretton Woods Conference, a gathering of over 700 delegates from 44 allied nations who agreed to create institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to enhance international economic cooperation.
Again, those institutions were not perfect (and in recent decades these institutions became avenues in which the developed world imposed cruel economic conditionalities on poorer countries). But they were new institutions born out of the zeitgeist and values of their time.
The COVID 19 crisis is not a world war, but just like the wars, it has led to a collective, global shock, a shock that is now urging humankind to live a life based on values and principles which work for people and the planet.
During this time when we have closely experienced the unimaginable, we have gained renewed respect and admiration for our front line essential workers, a greater appreciation for human kindness towards self and the community, as well as a deeper appreciation for nature - birds and fish are returning to areas they have abandoned; cities are seeing a drastic drop in air pollution and nitrogen levels; there is less dependence on fossil fuel; the destructive capitalistic economic model of extract and grow at any price is literally on its knees.
Yet, despite growing global social movements fueled by the people and citizens - such as Fridays for Future, the Fight Inequality Alliance or urban movements for change worldwide - our world leaders have sadly and continuously let us down.
But these are all the more reasons why this is the time to push the reset button - also for multilateralism and global institutions! This is the time to create something different, based on our human values of peace, dignity, and harmony with nature while respecting planetary boundaries.
Taking a leaf from the pages of history, now is the right time for the people and citizens to call for a world order that reflects these intrinsic human values. Now is the time to give birth to a new world order based on the principles of solidarity that COVID 19 have surfaced as key values for all of us all over the world.
As the United Nations marked 24th April as the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, this is the perfect moment to get the ball rolling, and work in close collaboration and coordination for a global call to action. Such global call will lay the foundations for the creation of the new world order.
Citizens must push their leaders to show real statesmanship by working together, and be bold and forge a new path, no matter how difficult it may be. This new governance for people and our planet must be based on human values and not profits.
We need global governance that puts equality, peace, dignity, democracy, and sustainable economics all at its very core. Public good should triumph over private profits.
This pathway would involve tackling climate change, developing a green and just economy via a just transition, ensuring food sovereignty, as well as investing to promote small localised agriculture, localised green energy production, and sustainable transport and cities.
Financial assistance, incentives, technical support and grants should be provided to emerging economies whilst at the same time incentivising developed economies to make the necessary shifts towards this new path for people and the planet. Corporations need to be fully accountable to people and planet, and trade needs to serve the public good.
The new world order can start with new institutions - like after the last two wars. Or it can be a re-founding of the United Nations. What is key is that we need global institutions with teeth. We need for health care, social protection and the environment global governance at least as powerful as the World Trade Organization is on trade.
We need global institution(s) that have the ability to hold governments and corporations to account if they fail to deliver on global agreements such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or the Paris Agreement, able to provide financial support and incentives to not breach 1.5 degrees of warming threshold and ensure protection and restoration of biodiversity on land, forest and oceans.
A clean, sustainable and green economic system should be a centrifugal force of the new world order - not captured by corporate greed or entangled by complex bureaucratic procedures - and move at a lightening speed for the planet and its people.
Let the last day of this pandemic be the first day of the beginning of a new world many have been dreaming of. Because as illustrated in The Alchemist, when we really, really want something, the universe will conspire to help us achieve it.
The time to hit the reset button is NOW.
Savio Carvalho is a Global Campaign Leader at Greenpeace International. Twitter: @savioconnects