SCENARIO / Imagine, this is the year 2050, and we look back at the origin and evolution of the coronavirus pandemic over the past three decades: both the plagues of pandemics, flooded cities, burned forests, drought and other rising violent climate disasters. We offer the following scenario for such a prospect from the future.


Co-author: Hazel Henderson

As we move into the second half of our 21st century, we can now finally, from an evolutionary systemic perspective, provide a framework for understanding the origin and consequence of coronavirus that hit the world in 2020. Today, in 2050, looking back on the last 40 turbulent years on our home planet, it seems obvious that Earth itself had taken on the responsibility of teaching our human family something.

Our planet taught us the most basic about our situation in terms of entire systems that had otherwise been identified by some foresight thinkers as far back as the mid-19th century. This expanded human consciousness revealed how the planet actually works, and that its living biosphere is systemically driven by the daily flow of photons from our parent star, the Sun.

Moreover, expanded consciousness overcame the cognitive limitations and wrong assumptions and ideologies that had created the crises of the 20th century. False theories of human development and progress, measured narrowly based on prices and money-based measurements, such as GDP, culminating in growing social and environmental losses: pollution of air, water and land; destruction of biological diversity; loss of ecosystem services, all exacerbated by global warming, rising sea levels and massive climate change.

These narrow-minded policies had also led to social collapse, inequality, poverty, mental and physical illness, addiction, loss of trust in institutions – including the media, academia and science itself – as well as loss of social solidarity. They had also led to 21st century pandemics: SARS, MERS, AIDS, influenza and the various coronavirus that came back in 2020.

social propaganda

During the last decades of the 20th century, humanity had exceeded Earth's carrying capacity. The human family had grown to 7,6 billion by 2020 and had continued its obsession with economic, corporate and technological growth that had caused the growing existential crises that threatened humanity's entire survival. By fueling this excessive growth in fossil fuels, humans had warmed the atmosphere to such an extent that the United Nations Climate Research Consortium IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in its 2020 update noted that humanity had only ten years left to reverse this crisis situation.

As far back as 2000, all the means for this had already been available: We had the know-how and had designed effective renewable technologies and circular economic systems based on the ecological principles of nature. In 2000 lost patriarchysocieties take control of their female population due to the forces of urbanization and education. Women themselves had begun to take control of their bodies, and fertility rates began to fall even before the turn of the century. Widespread rebellion against the top-down narrow economic model for globalization and its male-dominated elites led to breaches of the unsustainable development paths fueled by fossil fuels, nuclear power, militarism, profit, greed and egocentric leadership.

Locally, we installed green technologies: solar, wind, geothermal energy sources, LED lighting, electric vehicles, boats and even aircraft.

Military budgets, which had starved the health and education needs for human development, gradually shifted from tanks and battleships to cheaper, less violent information wars. In the early 21st century, the international power struggle focused more on social propaganda, persuasion technologies, infiltration and control of the global Internet.

Weapons and casino

In 2020 competed coronavirus pandemic priorities regarding the medical facilities with emergency room visitors, whether they had been subjected to violence or were patients with other life-threatening conditions. By 2019, the nationwide U.S. school student movement had teamed up with the medical profession to challenge gun violence as a public health crisis. Strict gun laws gradually accompanied the rejection of gun manufacturers as part of pension fund assets, to crush the gun lobby, and in many countries guns were bought back by governments from gun owners and destroyed, as Australia had done in the 20th century. This reduced the global armorturnover sharply in combination with international laws requiring expensive annual licenses and insurance, while global taxation reduced the earlier centuries' uneconomic arms race. Conflicts between nations are now largely governed by international treaties and transparency. Now in 2050, conflicts rarely involve notification of military hardware and have changed to include Internet propaganda, espionage and cyber war.
By 2020, these rebellions exhibited all the fault lines of human society: from racisme and ignorance, conspiracy theories, xenophobia and scapegoating harassment of "the other" into various cognitive prejudices – technological determinism, theory-induced blindness, and the fatal, widespread misunderstanding that is to confuse money with actual wealth. As we all know today, money was a useful invention: All currencies are simply social protocols (physical or virtual symbols of trust) operating on social platforms with network effects, where their prices fluctuate to the extent that their various users trust and use them. Yet, countries and elites around the world were fascinated by money and gambling in the "global financial casino", further encouraging the seven deadly sins of traditional values ​​such as collaboration, sharing, mutual aid and the economy's Golden Rule.

Scientists and environmental activists had warned about the dire consequences of these unsustainable societies and retrogressive value systems for decades, but until the 2020 pandemic, corporate and policy leaders and other elites strongly resisted these warnings. They had previously not been able to break their intoxication over economic surplus and political power, but now their own citizens forced them to focus again on the well-being and survival of humanity and the living community.


The current fossil-fueled industries struggled to maintain their tax cuts and subsidies in all countries as gas and oil prices collapsed. But they became less able to buy political services and support their privileges. It happened at the same time as global reactions from millions of young people, grassroots globalists and indigenous peoples who understood the systemic processes on our planet Gaia – a self-organizing, self-regulating biosphere, which for billions of years had controlled all planetary evolution without the intervention of the cognitively challenged humans.

Military budgets, which had starved the health and education needs for human development, gradually shifted from tanks and battleships to cheaper, less violent information wars.

In the first years of our 21st century, Gaia reacted in an unexpected way, as it had so often over the long term Evolutionhistory. Humans' large geographical clear-cutting areas with tropical rainforests and massive intrusions into other ecosystems around the world had fragmented these self-regulating ecosystems and broken the web of life. One of the many consequences of these destructive actions was that some viruses that had lived in symbiosis with certain animal species sprang from these species to others and to humans where they were highly toxic or deadly. People in many countries and regions marginalized by the narrow profit-oriented economic globalization alleviated their hunger by seeking "bush meat" in these newly exposed wild areas and by killing monkeys, molluscs, shellfish, rodents and bats as additional protein sources . These wild species, which carry a variety of viruses, were also sold live on «wet markets», which exposed more and more urban populations to these new viruses.


Back in the 1960s, for example, an obscure virus sprung from a rare species of monkeys killed as "bush meat" and eaten by humans in west Africa. It then spread to the United States, where it was identified as the HIV virus and caused the AIDS epidemic. Over four decades, they caused an estimated 39 million deaths worldwide, approx. half a percent of the world's population.

Four decades later, the impact was off coronavirus fast and dramatic. In 2020, the virus jumped from a kind of bat to humans in China, and from there it spread rapidly around the world, decimating the world population by an estimated 50 million in just one decade. From the point of view of the current year 2050, we can look back at the order of these viruses: SARS, MERS and the global influence of the various coronavirus mutations that began back in 2020. Eventually, such pandemics were stabilized, in part by the direct bans on “wet markets” throughout China. Such bans, against trade in wildlife, were spread to other countries and global markets, reducing the prevalence along with improved public health systems, preventive care and the development of effective vaccines and drugs.

The basic doctrine of people in our tragic 50 years of self-inflicted global crises, the plagues of pandemics, flooded cities, burned forests, drought and other rising violent climate disasters – were simple, many based on the discoveries of Charles Darwin and other biologists in the 19th and 20th Century:

  • We humans are a species that has very little variation in our basic DNA.
  • We evolved with other species in the globe's biosphere by natural selection and responded to changes and stress in our various habitats and environments.
  • We are a global species that has migrated from the African continent to all others and competed with other species and caused various extinctions.
  • Our planetary colonization and success, in this one anthropocene period of our 21st century, was largely due to our ability to connect, collaborate, share and develop with ever-growing populations and organizations.
  • Mankind has grown from being robbing gangs of nomads to living and living in agricultural towns, to cities and megabies in the 20th century where over 50% of our population lived. Until the climate crises and pandemicin the first years of our 21st century, all forecasts predicted that these megabyteis will continue to grow and that human population would reach 10 billion today, by 2050.


Now we know why the human population peaked at 7,6 billion in 2030, as expected in the IPCC's most hopeful scenario, as well as in the global urban surveys of social scientists documenting the decline of fertility in Empty Planet (2019). The newly-aware grassroots globalists, school children armies, global environmentalists and empowered women joined forces with green, more ethical investors and entrepreneurs who are locating markets. Millions were served by microgrid cooperatives, powered by renewable electricity, which were part of the world's cooperatives that already in 2012 employed more people worldwide than all pro-profit companies combined. They no longer used the fake money metrics from GDP, but in 2015 switched to governing their communities following the UN SDGs with their 17 goals of sustainability and restoring all ecosystems and human health.

Millions were served by microgrid cooperatives, powered by renewable electricity, which were part of the world's cooperatives.

These new social goals and metrics all focused on collaboration, sharing and knowledge-enhancing human development, using renewable resources and maximum efficiency. This long-term sustainability, equally distributed, was beneficial to all members of the human family and was in a tolerance relationship with other species in our living biosphere. Competition and creativity are booming along with good ideas that drive the less useful, and along with science-based ethical standards and in-depth information in self-help and better connected communities at all levels from local to global.

Da coronavirus entered the world in 2020, the human reactions were initially chaotic and inadequate, but they soon became more coherent and even dramatically different. Global trade shrank to transport only rare goods and changed to being trade information. Instead of sending cakes, cookies and biscuits around the planet, we sent their recipes and all the other recipes for creating plant-based foods and beverages. Locally, we installed green technologies: solar, wind, geothermal energy sources, LED lighting, electric vehicles, boats and even aircraft.

Fossil fuel reserves remained safe in the ground as carbon was considered a resource far too precious to burn. The excess CO2 in the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion was captured by organic soil bacteria, deep-rooted plants, billions of newly planted trees and by the widespread rebalancing of human food systems based on agrochemical industrial agriculture, advertising and global trade in a few monoculture crops. This over-reliance on fossil fuels, pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics in farmed meat feed, were all based on the planet's dwindling fresh water and proved to be unsustainable.

Today, in 2050, our global food is produced locally, including many more overlooked native and wild crops, saltwater farming and all the other salt-loving (halophytes) food plants whose perfect proteins are healthier for human diets.

All the fault lines in human societies: from racism and ignorance, conspiracy theories, xenophobia and scapegoating of the "other".

Mass tourism and travel generally dived radically at the same time as air traffic and the phasing out of fossil fuel use. Communities around the world stabilized in small to medium-sized population centers, which became largely self-help with local and regional food and energy production. The use of fossil fuels practically disappeared as, by 2020, it could no longer compete with rapidly evolving renewable energy resources and corresponding new technologies and upcycling all previously wasted resources in our circular economies today.

Due to the danger of infections in mass assemblies, sweat shops, large chain retailers as well as sporting events and entertainment in large arenas gradually disappeared. Democratic politics became more rational as demagogues could no longer gather in the thousands in large assemblies to hear them. Their empty promises were also slowed down in social media when theirs profitmonopoly was broken up in 2025 and now in 2050 is regulated as public utilities serving the public, common good, in all countries.

Finance and meat loses

Global casino financial markets collapsed, and economic activities shifted back from the financial sector to credit unions and public banks in our cooperative sectors, as we also know them today. Manufacturing goods and our service-based economies revived the traditional barter and informal voluntary sectors, local currencies as well as numerous non-monetary transactions that developed while reaching the pandemic peak. As a consequence of a wide spread of decentralization and the growth of self-reliant society, our economies today by 2050 have become regenerative rather than extractive, and poverty gaps and inequality in the money-obsessed, exploitative models have largely disappeared.

The 2020 pandemic that shut down global markets became the end of the ideologies of money and market fundamentals. Central bank tools no longer worked, so "helicopter money" and direct cash payments to distressed families, like the pioneers of Brazil, became the only ways to secure purchasing power for a smooth and orderly transition to a sustainable society. This prompted US and European politicians to move from generating new money with stimulus policies to replacing "austerity" by quickly investing in all the renewable resources infrastructure in their respective Green New Deal plans.

Global trade shrank to transport only rare goods and shifted
for trade information.

When: coronavirus spread to livestock, cattle and other ruminants, sheep and goats, some of these animals became carriers of disease – but without showing any symptoms themselves. Consequently, animal slaughter and consumption declined dramatically around the world. Grazing and animal husbandry accounted for nearly 15% of annual global greenhouse gases. Large meat-producing multinationals were short-circuited by savvy investors as the next group of "stranded assets" after the fossil fuel companies. Some switched entirely to plant-based ones food products with many analogies for meat, fish and cheese. Beef became very expensive and rare, and cows were – as originally – owned by families on small farms for the production of local milk, cheese and meat along with eggs from their chickens.

Green villages

After the pandemics disappeared and expensive vaccines were developed, it was only allowed worldwide to travel with today's known vaccination certificates, mainly used by traders and wealthy people. The majority of the world's population now prefers the joys of local communities and online meetings and communications, combined with traveling locally by public transport, electric cars and the solar and wind powered sailboats that we all enjoy today. As a consequence, air pollution has fallen dramatically in all major cities worldwide.

With the growth of self-help communities, so-called urban villages have been redesigned in many cities, showing high-density structures combined with abundant common green spaces. These areas boast significant energy savings and a healthy, safe and community-oriented environment with drastically reduced levels of pollution. Today's eco-cities include food grown in high-rise buildings with sun terraces, vegetables and electric public transportation after cars were largely banned on city streets by 2030. These streets were re-occupied by pedestrians, cyclists and people on scooters flowing for less local shops, craft galleries and farmers market. Solar-powered vehicles for use in the city often offer to recharge and discharge their batteries at night to balance electricity in single-family homes. Freestanding solar-powered vehicle rechargers are available in all areas, reducing the use of fossil-based electricity from obsolete centralized utilities, many of which went bankrupt in 2030.

Less stress

After all the dramatic changes we are enjoying today, we realize that our lives are now less stressful, healthier and more fulfilling, and our society is planning for the long term in the future. To ensure the sustainability of our new lifestyles, we are aware that restoring ecosystems around the world will be crucial, so virus, which is dangerous to humans, is again limited to creatures where they do no harm.

To restore ecosystems around the world, our global shift to organic, regenerative agriculture flourished along with plant-based foods, beverages, and all the saltwater-produced foods and seagrass species we enjoy. The billions of trees that we planted around the world after 2020, along with agricultural improvements, gradually restored ecosystems.

As a consequence of all these changes, the global climate has finally stabilized, with today's CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere returning to the safe level of 350 parts per minute. million.

Higher sea levels will remain a reality for a century, and many cities are now thriving on safer, higher ground. Climate disasters are now rare, with many weather events still interfering with our lives just as they had in previous centuries. The many global crises and pandemics resulting from our previous ignorance of planetary processes and feedback loops had far-reaching tragic consequences for individuals and communities. Yet we humans have managed to gain many, yet painful experiences.

Looking back today from 2050, we realize that Earth is our wisest teacher, and its terrible teachings may have saved humanity and much of our common planetary living community from extinction.

Translated by our writer Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen. (Corrected 2.4.)

Also read: When viruses go viral

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