Dutch department store De Bijenkorf is closed due to corona threat.

I am very happy to have been born and raised in The Netherlands. Happy to be a father and an entrepreneur in this country. Of course The Netherlands is not perfect. There are plenty of things to moan about, which we all do very heartily. But in the end The Netherlands is safe and it’s a socially responsible country. There is good education, good healthcare, good housing, practically available for everyone.

But we are also quite spoiled. When there was a power failure in Amsterdam at the beginning of 2017, this led to questions in the Dutch government. We’re not used to something not working. Everything always runs smoothly in The Netherlands. But now we are facing the greatest disruption of our society in three generations.

For the first time, we have a sense of how vulnerable our highly efficiently organized society really is. How well everything has been optimized. How everyone apparently seems to have just enough toilet paper in their homes for one more day. But also how dependent we are on a global network of suppliers. A network that is transparent via the internet, leads to the lowest price, and works extremely smoothly … under normal circumstances.

It’s a good thing that we are experiencing this. It is good to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of our society. Many things we already knew – that this pandemic had been predicted by countless experts – yet never really understood because we had never felt it – we now do understand. We now see for ourselves where we are most vulnerable. But we can see where we are flexible and strong as well.

 A.S.A.P.

Suddenly home schooling is a real possibility. Suddenly working from home is not a problem. Streets are deserted, traffic congestion is resolved. We can change things radically from one day to the next. When we see the need for it, it happens. We see fantastic initiatives where people are signing up with hospitals and nursing homes to help. At home, engineers are working on 3d printable parts for respirators to address shortages. What is needed, gets done.

This gives me cause for optimism. We’ve been trying to limit global warming for decades. With moderate success. So many vested interests. Plenty of thinking in terms of what’s not possible. But this crisis shows that the demand for a declaration of climate emergency is the right one. We have already gone far too far when it comes to the amount of CO2 we have emitted. Gradual change is not going to resolve the problem. And we now see what we are capable of it when we really have to. Change is not that difficult. People are creative. When we see the need, solutions are possible. Not within decades, but sometimes even within a few hours.

This crisis hurts. Unfortunately, it will cause great personal suffering to many families. But this crisis highlights the strength of our society. It demonstrates how we deal with our own vulnerabilities. Let’s keep utilizing that strength.

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About the author

Author profile picture Merien ten Houten is entrepeneur in Eindhoven an founder and owner of Media52 BV, the publisher of innovationorigins.com.