Kevin Burger’s interesting article for Nautilus by (found here) features a review of the work of a scientist called Dennis Carroll. Carroll has been operating at the forefront of the defence against the dark arts of zoonotic disease for most of his career and his scariest observation is that zoonotic diseases, or viruses like Coronavirus which came from bats is just a small part of the threat posed by viruses already prevalent in the animal kingdom. As humans push against the boundaries of the natural environment, we only increase the risk of new threats emerging. In short, Covid-19 is just one of many viruses which will challenge us on an increasingly regular basis.

The way we live our lives and the way we work have now irrevocably changed.

Two new features of this new, after Covid-19, world are socially distancing and self-isolation. Both extensions of social exclusion and which, based on Dennis Carroll’s work, are highly probable to be the new normal. Even when we have succeeded with destroying or disrupting COVID-19 and the virus itself, the problem of emerging threats which will force our communities back into the socially excluding activities is very real. Imagine for a moment a world where every two to three years we are all forced to ‘hibernate’ in order to stay alive and prevent the spread of disease. Some might suggest that this has been done for centuries, what’s the big deal? Well, big is the right word because the population has boomed, urban environments will accommodate 90% of the population within the next 5 years and things are not being designed properly already let alone for people who are going to be forced to stay inside.

Accessibility, visitability, usability and inclusive design are all core concepts that Perito work with every day in everything it does as a company. Creating inclusive environments is something that is very important, even if people don’t necessarily have it that high on the priority list. However, change is something people choose to do or are forced to do. Covid-19 has made the decision for us and what is needed is an expanded definition of what an inclusive environment can do to help answer one important question: –

‘How do we all successfully engage, participate and contribute even though we live in a dense, complex, often poorly designed world that no longer places the human being at the centre of everything it does but now expects us to safely and comfortably live, work and play six feet apart when we are well but isolate effectively when we are not?’

Perito feels that inclusive environments are the answer.

Inclusive Environments are places in which all, unique and diverse, humankind can access participate and contribute equally because they put the human being back at the centre of everything they do. We might traditionally see our environments across the following categories:

– The Geographic Environment

– The Man-Made Environment (Inner & Outer Environments)

There are lots of academic interpretations, but here are more explicit examples that suit the purposes of inclusive environments than those high-level categories:

– The Built Environment: our towns, cities and industry.

– The Natural Environment: Our countryside, marine and recreational spaces.

– The Social-Cultural Environment: The environments in which we live and work.

– The Space Environment: The human environment in space i.e. spacecraft and planetary exploration.

Whilst social-distancing is now a feature concept of all those environments there is a new addition to the list and that is ‘Isolation Environments’.

These are specific inclusive environments which have been designed to support human beings undergoing periods of isolation. They make provision for core needs like water, food and care, communication and commercial activity. They innovate and design for all requires via universal and inclusive design, but they are fundamentally about equality. A core concept of an inclusive environment is to create an environment where anyone can participate on equal terms — social isolation cannot achieve that and thus the individual, community or country will suffer as a direct result. If we are going to be isolated for much of our lives then we need to consider permanent environments, inclusive environments, which are designed to support this new way of live.

What has been demonstrated by the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic is that the world and its leadership were not prepared. Worst of all it has opened clear gaps in both the European Union and the United States. Whilst the liberal democracy has been proven now to be more robust than previously thought it is not through our government’s clairvoyance, openness and deft international relations.

A spirit of global cooperation and solidarity is now more important than ever. Just as the alien invasion in 1995’s Independence Day brought the world together, this virus and other emerging threats can do the same now. The paradigm shift has happened, and the virus makes clear that no person or community is safe and that there is nowhere to hide. If you are lucky enough to own a Scottish Highlands plot with a natural spring that is all well and good but the chances are high that one morning you’ll wake up, open your log cabin door to be faced with a hoard of wealthy pensioners in luxury motorhomes parked on your veg patch.

We can’t hide and don’t let anyone tell you we can. It’s not possible anymore. That’s why the best option is to plug ourselves directly into this global solidarity and make that contribution. This doesn’t have to be about technology or the internet it can take many forms, but it has to be global and about being openness, sharing information and exposing our culture and community to the rest of the world. To achieve this, we simply need to ensure that our new inclusive environments are designed with this goal in mind. We need to ensure that when our new Isolation Environments protect us and our community but also allow us to project ourselves new and open-source ways, so that we can have inbuilt capabilities to share our experiences and allow others to learn just as we learn from the rest of the world. Covid-19 has shown that sharing our experiences will save lives, places our heads in the sand won’t do much but offer a small delay.

In addition, we must always be quick to adapt. The concept at play here is Adaptive Inclusivity which operates much like a business might. It keeps us learning and it accepts that we don’t know everything so we must remain agile enough to respond to changing situations. By making sure inclusive environments are linked by global solidarity and global cooperation we can ensure that our environments, Isolation or otherwise, stay in the best shape to meet the user and the community’s need.

The task is simple then. As we construct, design and innovate our agile inclusive built, natural, social and space environments we need to ensure that they maintain a sustainable link to the rest of our World. Whether that is shared learning, mechanisms for communication, twinning organisations for inclusive environments across the globe or even a simple webpage or Instagram demonstrating the humans and the community that access, participate and contribute.

Equally.

Takeaways:

– The way we view inclusive environments must change. They are not local or regional monoliths. They play one part in a global nexus of inclusive environments which are part of a single global entity.

– Inclusive Environments must find ways to connect to the rest of the world are a new core aim.

– Social distancing and self-isolation are forms of social exclusion.

– Isolation Environments are now a new normal. Innovation, design, architecture and social and cultural activity should make the change to as early as possible.

– Agility through the concept of Adaptive Inclusion is critical. Global Cooperation can ensure that our inclusive environments remain fit for purpose.

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