Life in times of Corona – Impressions from Bonn…

Image: impressions from Bonn

©Tatjana Reiber

Dear MGG friends,

These are crazy and upsetting times. I hope that you are all healthy and safe. It is wonderful to read your observations from the situation in your countries, to learn about your thoughts and daily routines. Thank you for sharing!

Here in Bonn, life has also changed dramatically. Kindergardens and schools are closed, almost all shops are shut, same is true for public facilities, sport clubs etc. At the time of writing, we do not know how long this situation will last.


People are practicing social distancing and I observe myself making awkward dances to keep the 2 meters distance when I meet my neighbours by chance in the hallway. Luckily, people are allowed to go outside, although gatherings of more than two persons are forbidden (unless you are in the group of people that live in your household). People have started sewing masks and we will probably soon start wearing them when we go shopping. Most colleagues at DIE are in home office and the building in the Tulpenfeld has become a lonesome place. Even the coffee machine is switched off.

For our family, the biggest challenge is that Noam, our five year old son, is not going to Kindergarden and cannot meet his friends, cousins or grandparents anymore. To keep up the good spirit, we are exploring all kind of activities, e.g. drawing, gardening, baking, cycling, singing and dancing (and yes, also some TV 🙂 ).

At work, it feels like we have jumped into the digital future and are doing things that seemed impossible four weeks ago. Home office for (almost) all (!) – virtual collaboration – online facilitation – working with digital tools I have never heard of before. It is fascinating and I am amazed how institutionalised working patterns can change in times of crisis. My learning curve is steep and I sometimes wish the day had more hours because there is sooooo much to learn. Interesting webinars, tutorials and articles with best practices seem to be mushrooming all over the place.

As you can imagine, we have started to think about the implications of COVID 19 for the MGG Academy and we are thinking about digitalising some elements. That is exciting and thrilling. And at the same time I have moments when I am panicking how we will manage.

I am also trying to take some time to step back and reflect. What kind of times are we experiencing? How could we reach here? What can we learn out of this crisis? Is there anything good that can come out of this crisis and can we use the momentum for a transformation towards a more sustainable future? There are prominent scholars who predict a rise of nationalism, even more egoism and more geopolitical competition. Others fear that the severe economic crisis will further endanger and postpone climate action and that financial resources will be invested to re-establish the „old“, unsustainable economic order. These scenarios are scary and depressing. It comforts me to know that they do not have to become true. These predicitions are based on assumptions and worldviews, e.g. that nation states are egoistic and that they have to strive for their survival in an unkind, competitive world. This is a narrative. Undoubtedly, a very strong one. And if too many people believe in it, it will become true.

At present, we find ourselves at a crossroads. The Corona virus has forced the world to a halt. Following the recommendations of scientists, we have drastically reduced traveling, producing, consuming. Whole nations are in a situation of lockdown. At the same time, the virus has pushed us into a transformation at unprecedented speed, with huge levels of uncertainty and drastic measures. This situation gives us the opportunity to rethink the world we want to live in. Do we want to return to business as usual or is there a different future that we are striving for?

The Indian novelist Arundhaty Roy has expressed it like this:

„Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imaging another world. And ready to fight for it.“

I hope that we are many in the MGG network who are ready to fight for a different world. Who will create a more hopeful narrative to all those pessimistic voices out there. Who will show that international cooperation is not only needed but also possible. And who will join hands to create a more sustainable future.

Warm regards to all of you

Tatjana Reiber
Head of MGG Academy

Photo: Tatjana Reiber, Senior Researcher and Head of the MGG

Tatjana Reiber is Senior Researcher and Head of the MGG Academy at the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS)

Leave Comment

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht. Erforderliche Felder sind mit * markiert