The Pandemic Lens: Focusing across Time Scales for Local-Global Sustainability

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13th November 2020

Paul Arthur Berkman

Patterns journal - CellPress Open Access

Prof Berkman holds positions at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Harvard Law School and Tufts University


Humanity faces a series of challenges over a range of timescales from minutes to centuries that are relevant to our sustainable development as a globally interconnected civilization. Our common survival at local-global levels depends on being able to understand the urgencies of exponential change across these timescales. The ‘‘Pandemic Lens’’ introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic gives us perspective to operate with informed short-term to long-term decision making for the benefit of all on Earth across generations.

This essay is written from the perspective of a parent, recognizing that children and even young adults today will be alive in the 22nd century. For those of you who will travel across the 21st century, consider basic lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic across your lifetime with relevance at local-global scales across generations. A starting point in this journey is to appreciate we are living in a globally interconnected civilization, as revealed by our global pandemic. We now have a common interest in survival on a planetary scale with the spread of the coronavirus, providing a lens for humankind to focus on the urgencies of exponential change across a wide range of embedded timescales. The ‘‘Pandemic Lens’’ introduces the option (without advocacy) for all of us to evolve with informed decision making as part of lifelong learning, operating across a ‘‘continuum of urgencies,’’ short-term to long-term, for the benefit of all on Earth across generations.

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