“The success of our recovery will depend on the choices we make.“
Andrew Wear ~ Recovery
The word ‘unprecedented’ is often used to describe the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet facing a crisis is nothing new; throughout history, societies have been challenged and tested. Sometimes they have recovered, sometimes they have not.
Occasionally, they have bounced back even stronger than before. Recovery draws lessons from progress that has occurred in spite of – and perhaps because of – great crises in the past and suggests how those lessons can help guide us today.
Andrew Wear’s Solved! was one of the best books of 2020. Its premise was simple: consider some of the biggest issues facing the world, identify the countries dealing with them most effectively and discover what lessons we can learn from them. Through detailed research and expert insight, Wear set out clear models of excellence that could be used to help make progress in areas as diverse as education and energy production.
Barely one year later, Wear’s new book, Recovery, treads a similar path of learning from others’ success (and sometimes failure). This time, the examples come not just from around the world, but from history. Wear delves into the past to examine four types of historical crises – pandemic, recession, natural disaster and war – and explores what lessons can be applied to our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each type of crisis is examined through two case studies. For example, the ‘pandemic’ section features the Spanish flu and SARS, while the ‘war’ section looks at how South Korea and Germany successfully emerged from devastating conflicts in the middle of the last century. The case studies are fascinating and related in an easy-to-read narrative style. Wear is quick to point out that he is not a historian, but he certainly has a knack for explaining historical events.
Although COVID-19 was the catalyst for the book, I came away from it feeling that our recovery is not really about COVID-19 at all; most of the issues we will face in its aftermath were around long before the first ominous reports started coming out of Wuhan, and they will likely still be around long after the last travel restrictions have been lifted.
COVID-19 did not cause financial inequality, unequal health outcomes, uneven educational opportunities or myriad other challenges we face; it simply exacerbated and highlighted them. Even if we ‘beat’ the virus and return to ‘normal’, these issues will remain.
This brings us to one of Wear’s most interesting observations; the word ‘crisis’ is not synonymous with ‘disaster’. Rather, a crisis is a turning point. Seen this way, the pandemic can provide an opportunity to actually change things for the better.
Part history book, part policy guidebook, Recovery is well written and weaves interesting anecdotes with informed analysis. But most importantly it is a clarion call to seize this rare opportunity for change and to set the bar of recovery higher than simply a return to how things were before.
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher, Legend Times. All opinions are my own.