Emergence: New Words for a New World

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Emergence: New Words for a New World

By Deborah Leipziger

While COVID-19 forced us all home, a new world began to emerge. This unprecedented moment sees the birth of new patterns and paradigms. These new patterns and paradigms require a new language, or at the very least a new set of definitions for a world in the process of becoming.

Interconnectedness: We see the webs that link us together. From Wuhan to Rome, to our own towns and cities, what happens in one part of the world affects the whole world.

Fragility: Despite our technology and medicine, human life remains fragile and vulnerable. The cracks in the systems around us – the food system, housing, prisons, public health – opened wide under the pressure of this crisis. How do we prepare for the inevitable systemic shocks to come?

Solidarity: We see that our actions matter, that small actions like staying home, checking on older neighbors, and delivering food, can make an impact. In a recent lecture at UMass Boston, Christiana Figueres, the UN Climate Chief, spoke of the “primacy of solidarity” for the individual, the nation, and the world. 

Presence: The very nature of presence is changing. Though we isolate ourselves physically, we work and socialize in new ways.

Value: Shortages require us to value things differently. Our priorities change: we are no longer travelling; we may be fortunate to spend more time with family and more time in nature. Many people spend more time gardening, growing food, composting, and baking their own bread.

Multilateralism: As systems break down, the need for multilateral approaches becomes imperative; one country or even one city cannot address the systemic shocks alone. The massive governance gaps that surround us mandate newer and better systems.

Regeneration: All around us we witness regeneration. The air is cleaner, birds are signing.  rivers teem with life.

Transformation: In just a few weeks, we have witnessed unprecedented transformation in ourselves andin our world. The UN Sustainable Development Goals have become more crucial and attainable than ever. Coronavirus recovery means facing an emerging future with new vocabulary and new paradigms. This new language must accompany new ways of being, featuring regenerative, rather than extractive systems.


Deborah Leipziger advises companies around the world on sustainability and CSR. She is the author of several key books in the fields of sustainability and human rights and is a Judge for the Meaningful Business 100.  http://deborahleipziger.com/