I’M surprised that my main reaction to the coronavirus is, mostly, anger. What, at a tiny, barely alive parasite, simply fulfilling its evolutionary function, to adapt and survive in the environments it encounters?

No. It’s at my progressive colleagues, at business-as-usual and the powers-that-be, and at myself. How could we all be so heedless, so careless, about our basic collective fragility? Something that clears us from our own streets, our own common weal?

If you’re from my generation (I’m 56, on the cusp between the boomers and Generation X), you may be wondering what the parallel nagging at the back of your mind is. I unearthed it the other day: the threat of nuclear war. My cohort grew up with ready images of empty, irradiated streets. Remember those neutron bombs that destroyed people, not buildings?

In recent years, I’ve found myself looking at the puppet show of official politics from the viewpoint of a submarine meltdown in the Firth of Clyde. Or, in the latest delightful scenario, the return of the idea of “winnable” tactical nuclear wars, which is fuelling the latest round of missile expansion between the US and Russia.

In late January, the Bulletin Of Atomic Scientists moved their Doomsday Clock the closest it’s ever been to midnight (100 seconds), citing such proliferation and the climate crisis. Scottish indy’s moral core remains this: the small practical deed, and the larger symbolic one, of using our new sovereignty to enact nuclear non-proliferation.

The National:

In any case, cowering at home and staring out at empty streets, cleared by an invisible threat of extermination, shouldn’t be mental news to anyone who ever put on a CND badge.

The other thing that makes my fury simmer is the sheer inertia, and even resistance, of our established structures in the face of necessary change.

We have to give it to those who planned and executed Extinction Rebellion. They realised how terrible the pile-up of consequences of climate crisis were going to be, and how radical and disruptive their actions needed to be, in order to shake up our common sense.

However, I think the Rebels at least anticipated that – however baking, or torrential, or in flames the wider world was – the public realm would be their theatre of operations. Now, the “disruption” or “shutdown” of the system is commanded by governments themselves.

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And this is not as a result of XR’s “people’s assemblies” nailing their demands to Westminster or Holyrood’s door, but because of the sheer and scary power of biological contagion.

From the biosphere, something bad was coming to get us — to genuinely turn our modernity upside down. Australians rehearsed it with their biblical fires, Yorkshire with its rural and village floods.

The informed were steeling themselves for migrant millions in the summer, fleeing their baked and uninhabitable lands in the equatorial zones (it’s still very likely).

Others have been waiting on global warming to belch up methane from a thawing-out Russian tundra. Or failing harvests threatening our food supply chains.

Well, the overturning has finally come – and in this particular form. The question is: what will coronavirus change in our societies and economics? And in us?

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I don’t take much consolation from gurus like Yuval Noah Harari. He’s been arguing that humans have always been in battle with the viral universe. Harari also suggests that our current genetic literacy might be a better weapon against the mutations of a super-virus than we’ve ever had.

Maybe so. But there’s a deeper structural truth here, standing behind our scientific ingenuity.

It’s our model of commerce, particularly agribusiness, that fundamentally leaves us wide open to superbugs jumping dangerously from animal to human.

An expert you should read in this moment is Rob Wallace, whose 2015 book Big Farms Make Big Flu is proving queasily prescient. Wallace (and many other epidemiologists) have been waiting for the NBO (Next Big One) for a while.

Wallace accepts that our global travel networks have never been so interconnected, and thus are super-efficient routes for contagion. But he also wants us to focus on how agribusiness – which can clearly be Eastern as much as Western – smashes through virgin land in developing zones, unleashing all kinds of threats. As Wallace says in a recent interview: “Growing genetic monocultures of domestic animals removes whatever immune firebreaks may be available to slow down transmission. Larger population sizes and densities [of animals] facilitate greater rates of transmission. Such crowded conditions depress their immune response. High throughput, a part of any industrial production, provides a continually renewed supply of susceptibles – the fuel for the evolution of virulence.”

Wallace’s alternative model, which he calls “agro-ecological”, involves farmers in these lands having more autonomy, and their public sectors being stronger regulators. It means introducing into these countries varieties of stock and crops – and strategic rewilding – at both the farm and regional levels. Even something as basic as allowing farm animals to reproduce on-site would pass on immunities.

My young vegan friends would say: For Gaia’s sake, just leave the animals alone … and they may well be right. But Wallace’s points do shine a spotlight on the high wall of radical change we have to clamber over – if we choose to do so.

Are there signs that this great estrangement will shift our consensus, in politics and society? Will we realise that some parts of our economy are “foundational”, as Robin McAlpine put it the other day – those medics, cleaners, retailers, carers, food-makers that are essential to our survival? Will we then shift our priorities and resources towards them? And away from untethered, aggrandising elites?

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Let’s see. indy-minded Scots and Corbynites may not be able to resist waving a few recent manifestos and policy papers around.

The much-derided “free broadband” comes to mind. I’ve been living a web-conferencing life for a while, and I’m very familiar with Skype and particularly Zoom. In the last few weeks, it’s been warming to see friends and colleagues stumble on to these multiscreen platforms.

We gather together like digital versions of the storytellers secluding themselves from the plague in Bocaccio’s Decameron. Although maybe unlike the original medieval tale, most of us are acutely aware of our privilege as freelancers, able to make a living anywhere that we land with our devices. Broadband is now going to become as vital a public service as the NHS.

In that light, it’s also been pleasing, if ironic, to see the moment of Universal Basic Income finally land – right at the heart of establishments that have been otherwise mostly resistant.

The political-cultural job, in my eyes, is to connect up some of these disparate dots. If we halve our carbon impact on these islands, due to our “busyness-as-usual” shutting down, could this strange, still moment allow a new, post-consumerist vision into our lives?

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Could we point to these emotions and experiences — where care becomes its own reward, where we dwell on our own everyday motivations, where friends, family and locality loom large – and suggest: is this what a different future might feel like? Is this what it would feel like to live in a system driven by the goals of social wellbeing, existing in homeostasis with nature – rather than by forms of growth that despoil and disorder it? Someone will have to be brave and bold enough to articulate this.

At the end of this piece, I’ve realised that my anger comes from feeling so disconnected from any solution. And that turning to help others, using all the many webs of connection now available at our fingertips, is one way to address that.

Nicola Sturgeon was right the other day to identify the Yes movement as an asset here – it should become a massive force for linking up communities and people.

We live in the most unstable times: and maybe some of my fury is resentment at being a punchbag for various defeats over the past few years. Get over it, pal. In these next 12-18 months, we need ordinary angels and tiny victories. Fury needs to translate into a determination for daily action.

Between and beneath the peaks and troughs of this virus, a much better society might also be unstoppably breeding.