I feel cautious around all the “Covid-19 is a beautiful corrective experience”-speak.
Not because I don’t wish that such a sentiment was signifying a substantive shift in the Zeitgeist. I want it more than anything else on this poor, bedraggled planet.
But is the point.
We want a correction. We want more of the stuff we’ve seen transpire during this truely strange isolation period.
That doesn’t mean this desired correction is actually happening.
Sorry to be Debbie Downer at this iso party, but I think some whoppingly problematic, premature and privileged cognitive bias is going on.
I saw this meme (below) do the rounds, shared and reshared, and thought it might be a good exercise to pull it apart line by line and use it to ask some more probing and helpful questions (even further below).
The feelgood meme:
FUEL is affordable,
KIDS are at home with their FAMILIES.
PARENTS are home taking care of their CHILDREN.
FAST FOOD replaced by HOME COOKED MEALS.
Hectic SCHEDULES replaced by NAPS, REST, and RELAXATION.
The AIR seems CLEANER.
The WORLD quieter.
PEOPLE are conscious about HYGIENE and HEALTH.
MONEY doesn’t make the WORLD GO ROUND anymore.
DESIGNER clothing is pointless as nobody ever really needed it.
DOCTORS, SCIENTISTS AND NURSES are being praised and recognized instead of athletes and celebrities.
And WE now have TIME, finally,
to STOP and SMELL the roses
Copied, pasted, reposted
So True ❤️
Now let’s pull it apart
TRAFFIC has gone: Yes, we have been driving and flying a lot less and the resulting clean air in Europe during lockdown, for instance, has led to 11,000 fewer deaths… in one month! Sharp falls in road traffic and industrial emissions have also resulted in 1.3m fewer days of work absence, 6,000 fewer children developing asthma, 1,900 avoided emergency room visits and 600 fewer preterm births, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
But many are seeing this as a boon for the climate movement. No, it isn’t. There are several reasons why and I’ll go into them in a later post (in a fun way). Topline: The change hasn’t occurred because we’ve changed our behaviour in an active way or because policies have shifted radically. Thus, we will go back to our old ways once restrictions lift. Worse: Governements are using the distraction of the crisis to roll back existing environmental policies at a rapid rate. Again, more soon.
FUEL is affordable: This is not a good thing. Cheap fuel sees us consume more of it, and less likely to question the viability of gas moving forward. Plus, lower prices will see the industry fight for (more) subsidies from governments. Already Australia’s Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, has suggested that the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis will be gas-fired.
BILLS extended: Yep, the provisions to extend debt rerpayments and rent, to provide bail outs and job keeper payments have seemed refreshingly…kind. But governments’ aim here is to keep the economy going. It’s a financial decision, not one based on kindness, per se. Governments need us to keep spending. The machine must be fed.
Plus such provisions will be rolled back when the economy starts to groan forward, not when humans are stable and safe again, yes, per se. Kindness and humanitarian need are not the drivers here. We live in a neo-liberal world. The dollar rules. Let’s be real.
BUT! Let’s also be real and alive to this, too:
We truly want to see kindness in our lives. We miss it. We long for it. We like living in a world that has more of it.
In Australia, we’ve seen the provision of free childcare and doubling of the job seeker payment to a liveable living wage. I pose, wouldn’t it be great if we continued with these measures, to feed kindness back into our society? Then I pose, shouldn’t we push for this and hold our government to account when they wind them back?
And I’ll say it here, and many times over,
This is our moment to choose our future, to fight for it. To really tell our leaders we want more kindness.
KIDS are at home with their FAMILIES: Well, some are. Many are at home alone while their parents work in frontline, underpaid gigs. Foster kids around the world are sitting in limbo in motel rooms or institutions, alone. Some kids are trapped in violent family scenarios. Yeah, realness is required here.
And this question lingers…if kids spending more grounded, simple time at home seems so valuable, will we choose to live out such values on our own, mindfully, when we emerge from all this? Or will we be sucked back into the system ?
PARENTS are home taking care of their CHILDREN: As above.
FAST FOOD replaced by HOME COOKED MEALS. Yes, this is true. In the US homecooking is up for the first time in 50 years. Studies show people are reaping the health benefits already. Will we mobilise to keep this way of eating up? Push for provisions that make homecooking more accessible, especially to the less privileged?
Hectic SCHEDULES replaced by NAPS, REST, and RELAXATION. Yeah, alright. This is great. But, again, it’s been a luxury enjoyed by some. Perhaps from our restful, refreshed position we could put our refound energy to making the world more equitable, to fighting for higher wages for teachers and health workers?
The AIR seems CLEANER. It is. For now. I’ll cover this in another post soon – bear in mind the isolation period that has seen 4 billion people globally retreat and move less, has resulted in an 8 per cent decrease in CO2 emissions. To save the planet (ensure temperatures do not increase more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels), the United Nations has said we must decrease emissions by at least 8 per cent every year until 2030.
Bill McKibben pointed out last week that the covid-19 pandemic has taught us something interesting: even locking down most of the planet didn’t cut emissions as much as we might have thought. This suggests that a great percentage of the trouble is hardwired into our systems, and not solely a function of our habits and choices. Indeed, according to a new app that that grew out of M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management if you reduce the growth of both populations and economies to the lowest level the programmers considered possible, the planet still warms almost 3.5 degrees Celsius.
The WORLD quieter. Yes. For now. Shall we try to maintain this? Or let life return to “normal”? What will we do? What will we sacrifice?
PEOPLE are conscious about HYGIENE and HEALTH. Hmmm, ’m not sure increased hygiene is our priority at all times. But, yep, an awareness of how modern diseases (diabetes, smoking, heart disease) are the biggest risk factors could give some of us a kick up the bum. But that’s up to us going forward.
MONEY doesn’t make the WORLD GO ROUND anymore. Actually it very much does. The rich are getting richer from the experience, the poor poorer. The economy is down, the stock market is going up. That rationale most governments are pivoting from is getting the economy going again.
OK, so we are feeling that money matters less, and experiences and humans and love are mattering more, yes? Well, let’s focus on this.
This is what we want. We don’t have it yet. But let’s ensure we prioritise it.
We must let our leaders know we want a world that spins to kindness, not money.
DESIGNER clothing is pointless as nobody ever really needed it. Yes, but all signs are pointing to folk flocking to malls as soon as they are able to in various parts of the world. Do you have that urge? I’d also say that high-end clothing is what we need to be buying, as opposed to cheap fashion, in the “new normal”. We need to buy super high-quality, albeit expensive stuff that lasts for decades, and far less of it. Instead of the stuff everyone has been culling and dumping during their Covid bliss bubble clean outs.
DOCTORS, SCIENTISTS AND NURSES are being praised and recognized instead of athletes and celebrities. Praised, but not necessarily rewarded. And certainly overworked. My focus is going to be on ensuring that I support any movements to demand pay increases and better conditions for those working in such professions. And to ensure the respect we’ve (re)developed for science carries over into climate debates.
And WE now have TIME, finally, to STOP and SMELL the roses. At the risk of cracked-record-ing…I think it’s a truly marvellous thing that we know now that this is what we want. We do, don’t we. Aims come with refined questions. Here’s a few I’d love to see our culture ask:
Will we choose roses over keeping up with Joneses in the “new normal”?
Will we sacrifice things for time?
Will we prioritise kindness? Will we give kindness, not just revel in receiving it and seeing it “out there somewhere” playing out on Italian balconies etc?
What do you think?