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The Covid-19 pandemic, an invitation to rethink the economy.

Companies invited to reinvent themselves with the coronavirus crisis: Armor redirects its production to manufacture 3D visors for masks for healthcare professionals

By Hubert de Boisredon, director of the Armor company

The current pandemic is creating an unprecedented economic crisis. But beyond this drama, another deeper, ecological disaster threatens the inhabitants of our Earth. May this pandemic push us to reinvent the way we manage our lives, our relationships and the world.

As the SARS-COV2 conoravirus rages, with its share of deaths that remind us of our human fragility, the economy is also bearing the brunt of the impact of business closures and falling demand. The loss of global economic activity is currently 50%, with a sudden stop in entire sectors such as the automotive industry, air transport or tourism. A third of employees in the private sector in France are on partial unemployment. In the United States, already 20 million Americans are unemployed and some are already predicting that this figure could double. In India, confinement leads to the exodus of millions of workers on the roads, on foot, hundreds of kilometers from their homes. How not to also think of the impact of this global confinement for all the microentrepreneurs who, having no social protection, lose everything. Economists predict a decline of up to -10% in global GDP in 2020. Global stock markets have collapsed by -40% and this is probably only the beginning of a long-term bear cycle. Unlike the stock market crash of 1929 or the subprime crisis of 2008, this pandemic shuts down the productive apparatus and therefore destroys the heart of the real economy.

This unprecedented disaster on a planetary scale has another particularity. The sociologist Bruno Latour explains very well that it is a major economic disaster following a major health disaster, these two disasters being encapsulated in an even more important underlying disaster which has not yet been treated with the adequate means. I want to talk about the ecological catastrophe linked to climate chaos and the destruction of life, and with it the terrible consequences for hundreds of millions of poor people in the world. However, the challenge is enormous: we must halve our CO2 emissions by 2030 (in barely 10 years!) in order to hope to be able to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest.

Faced with this situation, two attitudes are possible: one that would consist in hoping for the end of the coronavirus pandemic to start again “from the top” as before, with the added desire to catch up with the observed slowdown, or one that would reflect on another future possible for the economy. Some have already taken a position in favor of the first option, such as Donald Trump who, unlike the European Union, has just revised downwards the CO2 emissions targets set by Barack Obama for the automotive sector. Its goal is to revive the production of large cars to stimulate oil production and the American economy after the current health crisis. But for us Christians or men and women of good will who want to listen to the signs of the times, is there not another way to welcome?

We can hope to find a solution to the health crisis sooner or later. Probably vaccines will be invented. But other viruses are to be feared in the years to come, as long as we have not dealt with the problem at its source and therefore stopped destroying biodiversity. We are entering a new global cycle, for which we must write new rules, design new objectives, new imaginations. It is therefore a question of adapting ourselves in depth and carrying out a major reorientation of the economy. Are we going to continue to aim for ever stronger growth in order to increase profits and stock market prices ever more? Are we going to continue to airlift tons of flowers and fruit around the world because they come to market cheaper than those of our local growers? Are we going to cover our agricultural land with photovoltaic panels imported from China, when there are more suitable alternatives? Will we continue to manufacture huge luxury yachts with fuel consumption of up to 80 tons per day? Are we going to find queues in supermarkets outside cities after having experienced the benefits of small local shops?

The crisis that we are experiencing gives avenues for a more humane, united and fraternal economy. We see the benefits of short circuits: the importance of the local farmer and market gardener who feed us, and the small businesses that bring neighborhoods to life. We appreciate the calm of cities, the best air quality and value more ecological means of transport: walking, cycling, electric buses. We realize that the supply of food, pharmaceuticals and basic necessities depend on local manufacturing. Sometimes devalued professions have shown that they are essential: caregivers, drivers, cashiers, craftsmen, production workers… Without them, the economy does not work. There is no doubt that there is an invitation to revalorize these essential professions.

The “how to” is not known. It is to be invented, drawing inspiration from the solutions that emerge here and there: manufacturers have been able to show how quickly they can adapt their factories to produce the masks, visors, gels, respirators, gowns or gloves that are sorely lacking. Let’s continue this effort, so that confinement becomes a chrysalis, the first phase of a metamorphosis. Let’s believe that an exciting future is ahead of us. Perhaps this terrible health ordeal opens up a new path to welcome within us first, in a new relationship to the world, to invent new ways of acting in our individual and collective behaviors for the economy.

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