I saw these words painted on a rock and laid on the side of the pathway where I walk my dog. This is one of the new normals. Houses are decorated with flowers and notes of thanks, even Christmas lights are back up.
Walking around the neighbourhood, there seems to be two types of people: those that make eye contact with a smile of a wave (or both) along that knowing glance that says "ya, me too. Crazy eh?". Then there are those that make no eye contact seemingly for fear that maybe I have "it". Maybe if there is an opportunity to say hi, that fleeting greeting will include a droplet of spittle that carries the dreaded virus. So rather than open up to that possibility, they seem to think it is better to not make eye contact and assume that I'm the one out spreading it around.
It's weird. I've seen these two behaviours in the grocery store too. It's either "we're in this together" or it's some real life Hunger Games where the enemy lurks perhaps in plain sight. Either way though, things are different for sure. There are fewer people moving about. The roads are nearly empty, nobody knows exactly how to act around each other. "Is it offensive if I cross the road when someone is walking from the other direction, or is it offensive if I don't?".
But here is another interesting observation. Too obvious to state? I don't know but have you noticed that everyone is talking about this? And not just here in town but all around the world. I've seen people interviewed in Lagos, Chiang Mai, Toronto, New York, Sydney, Rome and everyone, everywhere is talking about the same thing! I believe this is moment because whatever this thing is, it has everyone's attention. So now that we are listening, what do you suppose it is trying to say to us? Not to be too fanciful mind you. Because it's not like there hasn't been a pandemic before. Check out this interesting piece of writing from 1869:
Eery eh? So let's perhaps stop saying this is unprecedented. Unless we say "in our lifetime", in which case then yes, it is unprecedented.
But here's the rub. This change has got to change us and the way we live on this planet! if we go back to status quo, and life just as it was, then it will be proof that this truly is the post-intellectual era where we routinely say things like "alternative facts" and "fake news".
So here is what I believe needs consideration moving forward:
1. If governments around the world can come up with 10s of billions of dollars to "pay" people to stay home from work, then it can fund the changes that need to follow.
2. What changes? Well, do you think that people are missing the 2-3 hours per day that they spend in their car commuting. Financial stresses aside, a lot fewer people are waking up at 5am to join the "rush hour" traffic. The sudden rise of video conferencing (I bet you've used Zoom recently) has allowed us to stay connected without travelling. Hey could this be a thing? And is it any coincidence that we keep seeing on the news and weather reports that the air is so much cleaner now? Are we liking this, people?! I should think so. How many jobs could be set up this way well beyond the end of the social distancing era? I hope a lot of people are thinking about keeping this up.
3. And what about cars on the roads? We dedicate so much land area to cars, from roads, to bridges, parking lots, driveways. If your car has it's own house (your garage), in a world with so much homelessness...doesn't that just seem frivolously flagrant? We can't even social distance because all the roadways are designed for car traffic, not foot traffic. But of course we will still need to get around, so we can't stop using cars. But do they have to burn gas or diesel? Referencing the government funding that has materialized (the US government pulled a $2 trillion dollar rabbit out the of the hat this week!!), what do you think we need to subsidize the electrification of transportation. I'm talking about an electric car in every driveway. Canada found $95 billion dollars to go towards wages and business subsidies through some fancy pencil work I'm sure. There are 22 million cars on Canadian roads with 2 million new cars purchased each year. Less than 50,000 of those were zero emission vehicles. That's only 2.5%...so why don't we aim for 10%/year, then in 10 years we have an electrified roadway. With a $10,000 grant from the feds and another $5,000 from provinces, that will bring the cost more in line with the gas burners, and the prices will get closer naturally as the decade wanes. That's a $2 billion dollar commitment from Ottawa per year which is a lot less than 95!
4. More changes? Learn to live with less...we're doing it right now. Stop living the extravagant lifestyle...stay home and be with family more. Think long and hard about air travel...we are getting by right now with a lot of spring break trips cancelled and we all survived. Support local businesses...shop local. Plant a garden and consider the benefit of growing your own produce. Just live more simply. We've been such a waste-oriented, consumption prone, single-use, latte sipping, selfie taking, me first group of people for too long. Knock it off everyone! There's more to this world than YOU! Think more of others, think of the planet, sustain it for future generations. Let this virus be your wake up call.
I suppose we all have our own thoughts and suggestions on what this all means. Maybe just writing them down clears my head a bit. But I just hope that when changes like these happen, then changes will happen in other places too. Now is the time to think differently, to innovate, create, imagine our world better than it was before, showing it the respect that we haven't given it for so long. Please consider how you do life. What are the changes that are coming for you, that will benefit everyone? The changes that you will look at years from now and say, "oh ya, we did that/started that/changed the way we did that...after Corona 2020". Because if we don't do that, I guess the entire population is collectively too dense to listen when the planet speaks.