The global pandemic has blazed a long trail of upheaval, the vast majority of it bad: surging inflation rates, small business devastation, and a death toll that’s climbed above the last 10 years of casualties from the flu. But according to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), that’s not the worst of it: What we should fear most is “social cohesion erosion.” That’s the fastest-growing threat to our planet since the COVID crisis struck.
What exactly is social cohesion erosion? you ask.
If you think it sounds scary, you’re not alone. According to the WEF, it’s “perceived as a critical threat to the world across all time spans—short, medium, and long term—and is seen as among the most potentially damaging for the next 10 years.” Social cohesion worsens upon rising divisions and polarization in society—as income inequalities are exacerbated by the pandemic’s lopsided recovery, for example, with 51 million people projected to live in extreme poverty by 2030 while billionaires grow richer than ever. Erosion also lurks in the fissures created by opposing viewpoints vaccines and on face-mask mandates, and in the rallying cries for long-awaited racial justice in historically oppressed communities.
Put simply, it’s the crumbling of civil society, fractured by divergent forces from within. Consider the attack on the U.S. Capitol led by Donald Trump supporters a year ago; that’s “one manifestation of the instability that political polarization risks creating,” the report says. In the pessimistic scenario, it’s just a harbinger of what’s to come. And voters seem to feel it looming: In a recent poll, they named “division in the country” as their greatest worry, and said they expected it to increase in 2022.
WEF: Social cohesion erosion is threatening world stabilityWEF: Social cohesion erosion is threatening world stability