Reflection: Anyone who has watched the Apollo 13 movie will remember the famous line.
“Houston we’ve had a problem.”
On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert blasted off on a mission to make NASA’s third lunar landing, but their ill-fated flight would make history for another reason.
“OK, Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” said the Apollo 13 crew, just moments after a malfunctioning oxygen tank exploded, crippling their main spacecraft.
It was a communication beamed over 200,000 miles from space to mission control in Houston, Texas.
Faced with the prospect of their moon mission being aborted and the crew in danger, scientists scrambled to find creative solutions to enable the crew to return safely back to earth.
The subsequent inventiveness and camaraderie of those involved in the rescue mission was inspiring. Many lessons were learnt to enable safer space travel in the future.
Similarly, the threat of Covid-19 has motivated scientists to work feverishly to find ways to combat the pandemic, minimise deaths and the impact on our health systems.
This is another Apollo 13 moment where human inventiveness and spirit has had to come to the fore.
Hundreds of scientists around the world are working collaboratively on vaccines, anti-viral drugs, blood plasma treatments to help curb the pandemic.
Some drugs are displaying very promising results completely destroying the Covid-19 virus in a test tube.
We must be cautious however since a human being is much more complicated than a test tube. A test tube does not have a heart, liver or kidney.
I have no doubt that at the end of this period we will see some huge scientific breakthroughs. We may even undergo a technological leapfrog with Covid-19 responsible for the digital transformation of many companies.
And in a bizarre sort of way, the problem that started in Wuhan, is causing us to reflect on our current way of life and ask some serious questions.
The lockdown is giving many of us time to slow down and reflect. No longer do we waste time travelling to work.
We are getting the opportunity to be more creative or do something we always wanted to do.
We are witnessing a huge reduction in pollution. The Himalayan mountaintops are visible for the first time in 30 years as air pollution continues to plummet in India
Our streets are much emptier of cars enabling children to play safely in the street.
Birds have returned to our cities and the sound of birds singing is greater than the sound of cars.
We are getting to know our neighbours better. Keeping up with the neighbours has taken on a new meaning. We are showing an interest in their welfare, rather than having the best car or house in the street.
We are walking more and spending more quality time with our family. Many families are now eating and watching movies together.
The non-emptying of recycling bins (in Wellington) has forced us to think about the amount of waste we produce and how much we throw away.
We can also take heart that this pandemic is not a famine. There will be no food shortages once this is over.
This is not a physical war that is destroying our infrastructure. Our buildings, factories, highways, bridges etc. remain intact.
The virus does not appear to be targeting the young or healthy people. Once this is over the vast majority of people will be able to return to work quickly.
Wuhan you have identified a problem
Some of us are finding the benefits arising from the lockdown attractive and compelling.
As we return to more of a normal life over the next few weeks, do we want to see these benefits lost?
Some may find their previous very busy, stressful, goal-driven, consumer way of life no longer desirable.
The lockdown has taken away the noise and distractions of the world so we can focus on what is important. And appreciate the little moments in life.
When we do go back to normal life, what do we want to retain?
Have we discovered something new about our self that we need to nurture?
Will we continue to appreciate those healthcare and other essential workers who sacrificed much in the line of duty?
Do we need to go to the office every day?
Are we prepared to re-negotiate our employment contract with our employer?
Can we walk more instead of taking the car?
Can we make more time for our family?
Do our children need to be involved in so many activities?
Can we put aside Saturday or Sunday as a day of rest for more family time?
Is there more we can do to help our neighbours?
Can we reduce waste and recycle more?
Will we buy less and based on quality rather than price?
Will we say to our manufacturers, make me something that will last 10-15 years?
And lastly, will we be more grateful, patient, appreciative of others and thankful for the freedoms we have in New Zealand.
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