We are facing a range of pressing challenges. The presentations I give on a regular basis typically contain one slide describing the existing global challenges:
- climate change
- shortage of resources
- demographic development
- conflicts and disasters
There is no numbering to indicate priority, but it is obvious that climate change and COVID-19 are predominant these days. While climate change is still seen (wrongly) by most people to require action only on the political level, COVID-19 has a direct impact on our daily lives, not only because of the restrictions in place but also due to individual anxieties. However, observing the behaviour of individuals here and there, I am really afraid a second wave will hit us. ESA is doing very well in coping with these difficult times, with teleworking having become the nominal working mode. Many tasks can be done remotely but some require direct contact with others or simply to be performed on site. We do not want to be the source of another wave of infection; instead, we will remain focussed on taking care of the health of our staff and contractors while at the same time ensuring business continuity. So we are gradually increasing the numbers of people on site, as we perform a gradual “return to site”, as opposed to a “return to work”.
One thing is clear and that is that the world has been changed by COVID-19. The big questions today are how we remain in control of this crisis that so completely transcends national borders and what are the lessons we should draw from it about how to live our lives – private and working – after corona. Our working environment will be different for sure, but teleworking as the norm cannot be the solution: humans need direct interaction to develop sound solutions to existing problems and to plan effectively for the future.
While COVID-19 continues to impact us day by day, we see many issues worldwide which are also deserving of our full attention. There are wars going on with many people dying, and recent events in the US show that there is a long way to go before we reach a world of solidarity, equality and freedom.
Equality is not only an issue in other far away parts of the world; it is also an issue confronting us here and now. My hope has always been that space can help bridge earthly crises…and it does. However, it is obvious that more efforts are needed from governments as well as from institutions and individuals if we are to make this world a better place; this Blue Dot, this fabulous, unique spacecraft we call home deserves no less.