Like many of us these days, I find myself wavering between despair and hope. In the depths of the COVID-19 crisis, words like “unprecedented” do not adequately reflect the magnitude of this massive disruption. What parts of this collective experience could have a lasting impact on the ways we relate to nature and climate change?
Before this virus took over our lives, people were largely still behaving as if there was no climate or biodiversity crisis. While 2019 finally ignited more widespread awareness that something had to give most of us went about our busy lives flying, driving, consuming, investing, and staking our future on an economy that was killing the planet.
And then COVID-19 hit.
Now, remarkably, people are taking drastic measures to flatten the curve. Is it possible that COVID-19’s influence could shift our culture in a way that benefits climate action and nature? For starters, the billions of dollars that will be spent to ensure an economic recovery is a huge opportunity for policy-makers to enable a transition to a just and green economy.
But what about the rest of us? Do we want to go back to how things were?
I am not here to peddle a post-pandemic utopia, but rather share ideas that could help us build resilient communities once our economy starts up again, and we physically reconnect.
I suggest 10 concepts of hope as habits and behaviours to cultivate:
1. Trust in science and experts. Around the world, we turn first to public health officials for the latest advice and guidance. Could these new trusted ambassadors help us shift to limit global warming to 1.5 C and maintain planetary health?
2. Believe disruption is the new normal. Banning international travel seemed like a radical idea when the coronavirus started spreading. Now it seems minor. Each day, new realities and challenges hit and we adapt. Could this mean that we accept major lifestyle transformations to live within the boundaries of our planet’s limits?
3. Connect more, travel less. As we move our work online, our new ways of working could drastically minimize the need for greenhouse gas/waste-producing conferences and business travel. Heck, with grandma now on Zoom, we can be more connected to family than ever while staying off those cruise ships.
4. Build essential local solutions. As healthcare and front-line workers navigate short supply of ventilators or masks, this crisis has exposed the vulnerability of our global supply chains. Governments that don’t want to be caught off guard again are saying that life-saving supplies need to be locally sourced. Climate activists have long been advocating for more local business participation for reducing the carbon costs of shipment. Could the future be more local?
5. Cook, bake, share, grow. Across Canada, there are record-highs of bread-baking. Gardens are being planned and food waste is down. We have new appreciation for those who stock our grocery shelves and what it means to get food onto our plates. Is it possible we will build new habits around food that champion a more regenerative system?
6. Caremongering. (A movement rapidly spreading across Canada to spread kindness and help others in their communities) It has received international attention as people look out for their neighbours and strangers. The experiences of marginalized people most affected by the virus have been brought forward, including homeless people, remote Indigenous communities, and seniors in long-term care. Privilege is being surfaced to those of us with space, savings, internet access and jobs that can be done remotely. We see volunteering grow, foundations step up their giving, and communities respond. More love and decency shine, and greed moves more into the shadows. What could this mean for how we apply our privilege to advance social equity and caremongering for Mother Nature?
7. Honour the role of our elders. We are at risk of losing our elders to the virus. We are upending our societies to protect these most vulnerable community members in exchange for all they have given us throughout their lifetimes. Could COVID give us pause to listen with deeper connection to the teachings of our elders?
8. Get outdoors. Nature is healing. Suddenly a walk through a green space has become an essential stress reliever in these anxiety-inducing times. That’s because trees and nature impact body chemistry. Instead of movie theatres and shopping malls, could this appreciation for the natural spaces in our communities lead to protection of nature and our health?
9. What can I do? We all want to do our part. For nature and the climate, there is much we can all do: Avoid single-use plastic, take fewer flights, eat a plant-based diet, or donate to environmental organizations. Massive individual behaviour change will lead to system change. We are watching it right now.
10. Recognize our interconnectedness. Perhaps, most importantly, this is a moment of reckoning for humans on this planet. COVID-19 most likely started in a bat that infected other species, to humans, and then travelled around the world. Imagine, just one bat toppled entire economic systems. And the way to stop the virus is for every one of us to do our part within the system.
Never before has there been such a painful lesson that I hope we remember for a long time to come: We are all part of nature and hold a stake in its future.
My greatest hope is that we are able to transform from this crisis with new compassion and connections. From our losses, there will be scars. But from our experience, there may be new cultures that define a healthier future.
If you need to talk about your feelings during this time of change please contact me
Lee Pryke, Spiritual Life Coach