How can a massively disruptive event can leave such an indelible mark on the world that most observers find strikingly beautiful?
Glaciers, volcanos, and rivers all shape their environments in extreme ways. A couple weeks ago, to provide my family with a sense of normalcy in this strange year, we went on a road trip (with masks in hand). Without intending to do so, I found myself relating the extreme beauty to what we are dealing with today.
Our first stop was Crater Lake. According to Wikipedia, sometime around 5700 BC, a tremendous eruption blew off 2,500 to 3,500 feet of the volcano and over then next 740 years and beautiful lake that is deep blue was formed in the caldera.
I was struck by how a massively disruptive event can leave such an indelible mark on the world that most observers find strikingly beautiful. I doubt anybody will look back on the pandemic we are in as beautiful, but perhaps there will be outcomes that make us all stronger and better at business and life. The violence can happen in a moment but afterward as we adapt to the change, something beautiful can happen.
The indelible mark the global pandemic is leaving on the market is causing some areas to thrive – like online shopping, remote working and spawning new business opportunities (like face coverings and other PPE). If we can learn anything from our environment, it’s that despite the ever-shifting tides, there will be a future. We are learning to adapt to changing economics and societal norms and more people than ever are working from home and adopting technologies that enable us to connect in new ways.
Glaciers, Mountains, Waterfalls
The next stop on our adventure was Glacier National Park. Wow! If you have not seen this national gem, you should definitely go! Glaciers, jagged mountains, endless waterfalls, lakes, wildflowers, wildlife, and masked hikers – truly a special place. In fact, glaciers, rivers, avalanches, fire, and water are still working on this area to continually shape it.
There is no doubt that the economy is taking cues from the pandemic. States, amidst surges in COVID-19 cases have paused or reversed opening efforts. The school year for many is still an unknown mixture of distance learning and in-person instruction. Companies have shut down, partially reopened and some have been forced to alter or reclose. This is not the same environment we had prior to COVID-19, and the necessary changes we have had to make continue to reshape what the future will look like.
Last, but not least we stopped at the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. St. Helens. Yet more natural beauty that is shaped by the harsh environmental activities or water, fire, and volcano. Crawling through lava tubes that still bear the imprint of the tree that burned there as lava engulfed it, the beauty we saw required something harsh to create it. Most trees die or are burned up and no permanent marker is left. With the violence of lava flows, it is cast in stone for generations to see the mark it left behind.
We do not know what the future holds, what social and economic outcomes will finally look like, but this event is large and landscape altering. However, there are encouraging signs that all is not lost economically. Last Thursday, second quarter GDP showed that the contraction in the US was of historic proportions, however companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple all posted shockingly strong earnings and revenue, giving a glimpse into the resilience of consumers and their willingness to adapt to staying home, working and shopping electronically.
It has been far from perfect, but in the moments during, and after, volcanic eruptions, burning fires, and landslides, I am positive that the shock and awe in the affected areas was extreme, even painful. Today we are living through the shock and awe of the times. As we continue to observe the evolution of the pandemic, we are confident we can move through this time and there will be another side.
Just as many of the events that created this year’s road trip destinations were violent and destructive in their own day, they left behind new things that we now admire. Mountains moved, rocks were crushed, wildlife was disrupted, but now look at what grew up in its place.
We are struggling with uncertain trajectory of the virus, businesses struggling and lost jobs. For those that work hard, are flexible and adapt, there will be new opportunities. Signs are already starting to emerge that perhaps the worst is behind us. We cannot stop being watchful, careful, or complacent, but we can learn a lot and grow from the pressures we are currently under.
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