Article by Christa Pongratz-Lippit, Germany, La Croix International, April 21, 2020
Writing In the Catholic Daily, La Croix International the President of Pontifical Academy of Sciences says there’s no returning to business as usual
Joachim von Braun, president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is convinced that the coronavirus crisis will prompt people to rethink their lifestyles. He recently told the German Catholic news agency KNA that the world will not be able to go back to business as usual once the pandemic is under control.
The 69-year-old German – a world-renown expert on issues surrounding hunger and malnutrition, including agricultural economics – said we will need to seriously re-evaluate our Weltanschauungen, the way we see and relate to the world. Von Braun said our current lifestyles and economic evaluations were too focused on the short-term. He insisted that such myopia had to change if humanity is to face the challenge of the Anthropocene Epoch we are currently in.
Protecting lives over the freedom of movement
“If we want to survive we will need a society that is more responsible, more prepared to share, more caring, just and equal,” he said. He warned that so-called exit-scenarios should not be envisioned too quickly. He said the main priority right now is to flatten the curve; that is, to spread out the projected number of new cases over a longer period so that people had better access to health care.Von Braun said it is impossible to offset the costs and benefits of life and survival. “This is a question we should not even pose,” he insisted.
He said one could not weigh the “goods” of endangered human lives against freedom of movement and recreation. Von Braun called that a truly terrible equation and one that must definitely be rejected.
Threat of selfish national interests
He noted that the Pontifical Academy for Science has pointed out that global crises demand collective action, while warning against a trend towards national egotism on the part of certain states in the European Union. “We are concerned about the selfishness and shortsightedness of uncoordinated national responses,” says a March 20 statement from the Academy. “This is the time to prove that the ‘Family of Nations’ (Paul VI and John Paul II) or the ‘Family of Peoples’ (Pope Francis) are communities of values with a common origin and shared destiny, ” says the statement, which is titled “Responding to the Pandemic, Lessons for Future Actions and Changing Priorities”. Von Braun told KNA that the EU is only as strong as the common will of its members and he opined that the coronavirus would make Europeans much more aware of the great value of a common European health and economic policy.
Closed churches and acts of solidarity
What does it say about society that supermarkets are considered to be of vital importance but religious services are not, he was asked. Von Braun replied that the Churches and all religious communities were called to action. “One lesson the coronavirus has taught us is that freedom cannot be enjoyed without responsibility and solidarity,” he said. “The paradox is that we know that it is essential for every one of us to cooperate with others at exactly that moment when, for health reasons, we have to isolate ourselves from everyone else,” he added. However, the Pontifical Academy president said self-isolation was really an act of solidarity – a case of loving one’s neighbor as oneself.
Von Braun expressed concern for developing countries and nations gripped by political crises, where the pandemic could pose an even greater peril. He also pointed to places with a large presence of refugees and slum dwellers, saying living in close contact and with hardly any access to medical care put people in great danger. “One of our greatest concerns is that the international and national food trade will run into difficulties and that hunger will increase, which would affect the poor and poorer countries most of all,” he said.
Global crises demand collective action. Preventing pandemics and protecting global commodities demanded intensified global coordination, von Braun said, in the spirit of Laudato si’.
Reproduced with permission from La Croix International.