Lily Cole attends a dinner in London on Dec. 9, 2019.
Dave Benett—Getty Images/NETFLIX

What we learn from this crisis will be different for everyone. But for me, it starts with trying to understand why it happened in the first place. According to the U.N., this means acknowledging the links between environmental degradation, intensive animal agriculture and increasing rates of infectious diseases: ultimately recognizing the intersections between the climate crisis, biodiversity crisis and public-health.

As most economies slow, perhaps we need to rethink our economic model that places growth above all else, and consider what exactly we want to see grow. There are some encouraging political movements looking to redefine how our governments measure national prosperity beyond GDP. Shouldn’t we, for example, exclude activities that cause violence or degradation, such as the arms trade? Or perhaps include metrics that track mental and physical health, sustainability and perhaps even that most evanescent of things, happiness?

Faced with our own mortality, I think this pandemic has provoked many of us to ask hard and deep questions — personally, collectively, politically — about the meaning of life. What values do we hold dear? What kind of societies do we want to build and be part of? What kind of lives do we want to lead?

This pandemic has been an X-ray on innumerable existing forms of inequality, highlighting how our systems continue to fail many people around the world. This is a time to be creative, to pilot bold solutions and to leverage the current political appetite for transformative policies that could address the enormous interconnected challenges we face. As someone once advised, let’s not let a good crisis go to waste.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at