The Welsh Internationalist

Social Capital and Crisis

From Planet 238

by Russell Todd and Andy Green

In a new series that proposes how society could change for the better in response to Covid-19, Russell Todd and Andy Green argue why a deadly heatwave in 1990s Chicago demonstrates how vital a close-knit community is for people to not only survive pandemics but thrive beyond them. How can we build stronger social infrastructure?

We write this at the end of week one of the national lockdown precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is still early days with, we are told at the time of writing, worse to come in terms of infections and fatalities.

Without wishing to play the crisis down or to ignore the Herculean effort of health workers treating the sick, there has simultaneously been a sense of disorientation and of reconnection, even tranquility. On the one hand, routines have been disrupted, fears have emerged, norms questioned, orthodoxies challenged and freedoms curtailed. Work has abruptly ended for many people, which has brought great anxiety. On the other hand, the commute has ended for many too. Our rare ventures beyond our front door are for the necessities of sustenance, exercise (for us and the dog), fresh air and social interaction, albeit at a distance. In addition to being more neighbourly with those we are already locally acquainted with, how many of us have found ourselves more readily greeting, and being greeted by, a stranger on our walks?

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