Yes, it is. And that’s it. So, I could finish my article today. But you know it’s not my style. As the third week of confinement draws to a close, I have had time to reflect and see that it is in the most dramatic situations that the real opportunities to change something arise. In today’s post I want to leave you with those opportunities that have been made available to us and that we should not miss.

The coronavirus has come to stay… and we don’t know what comes next

Who would have thought a month ago that we would not be able to enjoy our Easter holidays. Nor of being able to go out for a beer, nor of celebrating our birthdays together, nor of being able to go to the office, nor of being able to take “real walks” with our furry friends.

As of right now, we have surpassed one million infected and 55,000 dead worldwide from coronaviruses. Practically the entire world has cases of patients detected by COVID-19, and in Spain we are second only to the United States, with almost 118,000 positive cases and 11,000 deaths (data of the 4th April 2020). And this is just the beginning, although it seems to us that we have been fighting this pandemic for years.

We are in a moment of total uncertainty where the most important thing for the moment is #stayathome. And I’m not saying that, but scientists who in recent weeks have tried to make a series of predictions of the impacts that containment measures, social distancing, school closures, etc. will have in the near future.

In addition, I would like to highlight that, as shown in the report by BCG[1], Spain is among the 5 countries that have imposed the most drastic measures to stop the coronavirus (Figure 1).


[1] Covid-19 Overview. Bostn Consulting Group. 31 March 2020.

We don’t know when or exactly how we will get out of this one, surely it will be step by step, raising the alarm when the experts recommend it and, later, starting to relate in a different way. Because I have the feeling that nothing will ever be the same again. And that if we are not able to learn that we could not continue with the pace of life we led before the pandemic, I think we will have another one very soon.

We are all still very fresh from the 2008 crisis and have some fears that this will be the same or worse. But let us remember that this is not an economic crisis, it is a public health crisis that has affected all activities of society and the economy. But the root is very different and, although it never rains to everyone’s satisfaction, the measures at a global level and at a Spanish level, as is my case since I live in this country, are trying to be guided by science; which leaves me in peace. It is true that the other basic variable in a world crisis, such as solidarity, is conspicuous by its absence, but from time to time it gives us some glimmer of hope.

Specifically, in the case of Spain, simulations are already being made of possible economic and employment scenarios based on two variables: the degree of the crisis and the length of time the measures derived from the state of alarm are in force. In the following table you can see four scenarios calculated with data from the National Institute of Statistics, where clearly and seen the data of this week in terms of unemployment and social security affiliation, we are in the worst of the four.

But I want to think that this is a stop, it is something momentary that is affecting us a lot at all levels, professional and personal, but from what I hope we are learning a lot. I’m certainly trying and either because of my innate gift of thinking or because I look out the window and see everything different, I think it’s good that we see the bright side of life as the Monty Python recommended…

Nature calling

Nature is better off without us and that makes me very, very sad. And the worst thing of all is that a microscopic coronavirus (virus of animal origin, I remind you) has had to come to get us out of our lethargy. Because, gentlemen, we are destroying the planet. It’s that clear. And we scientists, activists and two-fingered people have been saying this for many years. Yes, it can be said in many ways, but governments and much of society have gone “through the motions” of those who know. And I am sorry to be so direct in the language, but for this monstrosity we are living there are no possible euphemisms. Science is always on the edge of its vital signs, the actions dedicated to protecting nature are little less than anecdotal and voluntary, and the great powers are not complying with the Kyoto Protocol and are going beyond the recommendations of the COP25. Well, take a coronavirus, you didn’t see that coming!

As I mentioned in my last blog post at RSR Consultora de Estrategia, science was mobilizing to find quick answers to this global crisis. Since I published that article, many other measures have been put in place, mainly related to the extension of deadlines for submitting applications for research projects dedicated to the fight against COVI-19 and some extra funds for this purpose. But it is clear that concrete action “in despair” will not save us from the next pandemic or similar.

Plus, this little virus is airing out the planet’s dirty laundry. It is taking the colours off world leaders in a very visible way: through the nature trade-off paradigm.

In an interview with Pushpam Kumar, head of the United Nations Environment Programme[1], he defines this paradigm as “a compensatory analysis that considers both the positive and negative impacts of human interventions on nature and looks at the ways in which a situation changes when there is more of one and less of the other”.


[1] https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/covid-19-and-nature-trade-paradigm

Efforts to contain the virus by restricting its movement have had a significant environmental impact.  According to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, data recorded between January and March 2020 reflect an 84.5 per cent increase in days with good air quality in 337 cities, and United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite data show a decrease in nitrogen dioxide in China.

In an interview with Pushpam Kumar, head of the United Nations Environment Programme[1], he defines this paradigm as “a compensatory analysis that considers both the positive and negative impacts of human interventions on nature and looks at the ways in which a situation changes when there is more of one and less of the other”.

Efforts to contain the virus by restricting its movement have had a significant environmental impact.  According to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, data recorded between January and March 2020 reflect an 84.5 per cent increase in days with good air quality in 337 cities, and United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite data show a decrease in nitrogen dioxide in China.

The outbreak of epidemics such as COVID-19 reveals the fundamental principles of compensation that we constantly face: humans have unlimited needs, but the planet has limited capacity to meet them. COVID-19 is a virus that has been attributed to human interference such as deforestation, encroachment on animal habitats and loss of biodiversity, and is already causing tens of thousands of deaths globally.

Studies already indicate that the levels of air pollutants and greenhouse gases in cities and regions have decreased significantly as the coronavirus impacts on work and travel. While home-based workers are likely to increase their use of home heating and electricity, reduced commuting and the overall slowdown in economies is likely to impact on overall emissions.

What is likely to make a major difference in the scale of carbon emissions and air pollution is how governments decide to re-stimulate their economies once the pandemic subsides.

In 2008-09, following the global financial collapse, carbon emissions soared by 5% as a result of stimulus spending that boosted fossil fuel use. In the coming months, governments will have the opportunity to alter that outcome. They could insist, for example, that any airline bailouts be linked to much more stringent reductions in aviation emissions.

However, some argue that if the pandemic continues for a long time, any stimulus will most likely focus on promoting any economic growth, regardless of the impact on the environment.

In the European Union, data from the European Environment Agency (EEA) confirm large decreases in concentrations of air pollutants – of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations in particular – largely due to reductions in traffic and other activities, especially in large cities subject to closure measures. Reductions of about half have been observed in some locations. EEA data are measured every hour, on the ground, at about 3,000 monitoring stations in all European countries.


[1] https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/covid-19-and-nature-trade-paradigm

According to the Executive Director of the EEA, Hans Bruyninck, “the EEA data show an accurate picture of the fall in air pollution, especially due to the reduction in traffic in cities. However, tackling air quality in the long term is a problem that requires ambitious policies and forward-looking investments. As such, the current crisis and its multiple impacts on our society run counter to what we are trying to achieve, which is a just and well-managed transition to a resilient and sustainable society”.

In Madrid alone, average NO levels fell by 56% from one week to the next (data from the week of 16 to 22 March 2020). Compared to the same week in 2019, the reduction was 41%.

How can we anticipate similar situations and what do I get out of it?

What better way to end this article than with Pushpam Kumar’s recommendations: “A strong collaboration of science – including economics, natural sciences, zoology and ecology – should identify, assess and quantify the gains and losses of stakeholders in the present and future. Given the variety and intensity with which nature and humans impact each other, this is critical to informing decisions that may produce conflicting outcomes, when, for example, the potential outcomes are both positive and negative”.

From my humble perspective, where not every day is good by any means, I am living this period of confinement in a fairly quiet and realistic way (for what I am usually). Here are some ideas of what is bringing smiles to my face almost every day:

  • Do not take public transportation. Although it’s a time when I always take the opportunity to read, let’s be honest, it’s a pain in the ass to have to go to the office. I still maintain my morning routine in which I eat a quiet breakfast, get ready (I not only take off my pyjamas, but also put on my make-up) and sit down to work without having invested a minute in transportation. Wonderful!
  • I eat at home every day. That, for those of us who have been eating “tupper-ware” since our childhood in the corridors of the Biology Faculty at Universidad Complutense, is a dream, folks. To get up and put on your little plate the food of the day is priceless.
  • I am always with my family. I’m an “outdoors” girl. That means that I don’t spend much time at home and that, a priori, I should be climbing the walls with this “outside” social and sporting life. Well, here’s my surprise, that I’m not missing it. I still have my routine so the working weeks are very similar to the ones I had in BC (Before Covid). And I am with my dog Gala and my boyfriend Deiv all day. And we are all three very comfortable.
  • The home-office. I am among the lucky ones who can telework. And this is very positive because, in a public foundation like the one I work for, the issue of working from home was not at all established. Because you know, it’s much better to warm up the chair for 8 hours than to get results in 6… and that nobody had seen you on top of that! Joking aside, I think that having implemented teleworking in the public sector in record time will help this culture to take hold and can be used as a measure to make personal and work life balance more flexible.
  • The person who plays the vuvuzela every day at 8 p.m. while we applaud.
  • I am doing more sport than I have ever done in my life. While it is true that the worst thing I am carrying from confinement is not being able to play paddle tennis, I am making up for it with the best of sports. My brother and my sister-in-law, both professionals in the field of sports, have started the “Home Training” group in a totally altruistic way, where we do strength training, Pilates, nutrition, psychology, all without moving from home. I’m signed up for the “Sports-Health” group, but there’s another one especially aimed at runners. And with the certainty that what we are doing is designed by specialized professionals, which is a real advantage. And well, I also do my hip-hop and zumba dances 😊

  • I made up the hashtag on Instagram from #coronafashionweek where I hang my outfits to go to work in my room. And it really motivates me.
  • I’ve gone back to writing in my diary and listening to more podcasts about psychology to keep my head as crazy as it was before the coronavirus, and not worse.
  • I’m watching a lot of movies and series.
  • I continue with my reading rhythm, that’s something that always accompanies me, and to be able to do it in the chair of the swimming pool in my micro-terrace, with the sun on my face, is glory friends.
  • And I have implemented the video – calling, a fashion that I will not let happen, because it is fantastic, there is no excuse for not seeing each other!
  • You can hear the birds singing… and nothing else!

As you can see, even in the worst situations there are wonderful things. I hope that you too will make the effort to be positive and to think that we have a great opportunity ahead of us to be better, to change what we previously thought impossible, and to make this historic moment a real turning point.

See you next time!


[1] Flaxman et al. 2020. Estimating the number of infections and the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in 11 European countries. Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team. 30 March 2020.

[2] Covid-19 Overview. Bostn Consulting Group. 31 March 2020.

[3] https://www.expansion.com/economia/2020/03/17/5e6fec20468aebcf478b4574.html

[4] https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/covid-19-and-nature-trade-paradigm