Some reflections on the word 'crisis'


The word crisis in Japanese (危機=kiki) has the kanjis 危=”danger” and 機=”opportunity” (this kanji has also other meanings). We are no linguists, and our Japanese is a bit rusty, but it is interesting to reflect on what the word 'crisis' means to us anyway.

For many of us, this is the first crisis of this scale we have to deal with. Of course, we hear the word ‘crisis’ quite often in the last years. But the COVID-19 virus really disturbed our daily lives in a way the climate crisis - unfortunately - never really did. It may be an opportunity to finally deal with that crisis, or do exactly the opposite. In the Western world the Japanese word has been used by leaders like J.F. Kennedy to guide citizens through a difficult moment. The promise is that we will get out of this stronger, is the promise. "Never waste a good crisis", etc. It is great to look at a crisis like this, and it is definitely more productive than feeling powerless and sad. But a crisis also means danger. In the case of the COVID-19 virus it is about existential stuff, like life and death. There must be time to process this traumatic moment. Just moving with a blind trust that all will be fine may not be the right attitude to use this crisis for the better. As city makers, we must learn from this moment of human revaluation. The climate crisis is in the end a crisis of humanity. We, humans, need each other. We are our social connections. Let’s make sure that this moment of social isolation is a reset, so we extend the care for the other beyond our family, friends, or compatriots. Let’s practice real kindness, and build our cities based on those values.

At the same we need to work on phasing out all the processes and rules of the 'old world' and not be naive that this will be quite a challenge. This is our moment, humankind. We must prepare and act. So we don't waste this period, and turn it in a good crisis, after all.

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