Without discounting any of the stress, loss, confusion and anxiety many experience as we move through this COVID time, it is possible to identify some positive learnings which connect closely and obviously with the climate crisis.
We know in a fresh and powerful way that science matters and facts deserve our attention. One reason Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix command such respect is that we believe for the most part that the data they share and the procedures they invite us to follow will result in a healthy and creative society. Most of us do what is asked of us, and the curve has flattened here in BC significantly.
We know that we can change our behaviour very quickly in response to the COVID threat and can coordinate our actions with others effectively. People are motivated by both fear and love; both are evident in conversations, media reports, social media postings and in other ways. Both can and do drive a change in behaviour as we learn things about ourselves, as we learn to cope with new challenges, some of which may become “new normal” practices going forward. I think of patterns of travel by air, water and land. I think of food management as more folks cook at home while others support local eateries intentionally. I think of ways in which neighbours reach out to neighbours or engage strangers here in Kamloops and elsewhere.
Amidst the many directives from government health agencies, coupled with the rapid changes in economic activity, we all have had to reconsider personal choices in order to be safe, to be well, and to act kindly. We are discovering the web of interconnected systems in a vital way. Economically we speak of globalization which COVID has shown to be a mixed blessing: Consumer opportunities are likewise a pathway for any virus. Physically, we speak of the environment as a way to understand and appreciate our living connection with all beings and forms of life: As many are experiencing the outdoors on a regular basis we are re-kindling our connection with and respect for nature. Socially, many are discovering anew our connections with each other and can begin to recover a sense of “the commons” as a non-competitive sharing of space.
COVID has certainly brought death to some, illness for others and inconvenience and frustration for many. There may be however a silver lining to the pandemic we are learning to live with. Many are expressing interest in changing consumer patterns; some yearn for a more inclusive community both locally and globally; others say they will make sacrificial changes to lifestyle. That said, some still yearn for normal ways to return. In a recent Angus Reid poll (May 5, 2020):
- 68% of Canadians now say it will be at least six months before normal life resumes, up from 43% in April.
- For the vast majority (79%), their primary concern continues to be the risk of illness for friends and family, compared to 59 per cent who say they are worried about their personal risk.
Return is on the minds of Canadians. But what does return look like? Or what could it look like?
Former Secretary to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres hopes we will not miss an opportunity, to link our recovery from COVID, with lessons learned about both economic and climate realities. She hopes we will invest in the recovery of both simultaneously. Concerning the economic recovery up to twenty trillion dollars are already in play in response to COVID. We have never seen this scale of injection into the global economy. These are unprecedented times.
She wants us to “seize this unprecedented opportunity to press the reset button, to prove that we have learned from our mistakes of the past, to prove that in reflection of who we really are, and of our Creator, that we can actually act more responsibly, with more solidarity and much longer vision.”
She optimistically suggests that we are entirely capable of making decisions now to build back better. We can do so in a way that is socially just through tools such as a universal basic income; in a way that is ecologically sustainable where our relationship with the earth is considered equally with the need for profit; we can be better in the way we use and generate energy; and we can do better in the way we manage industry.
How Ms. Figures’ global vision translates into a local Kamloops vision is up to us. How do we see “recovery” operating locally? If Kamloops is presently dubbed the Tournament Capital, an initiative which celebrates first class sporting events, a robust volunteer base and outstanding facilities, could we also be known for special resilience, an ability to imagine business, industry, relationships and community differently?
What sort of society do we want to name and create right here and right now? In a shared COVID and Climate Crisis recovery we have a fine opportunity to make recovery not simply a return to something we remember from twelve months ago. Looking forward, maybe we can reclaim the title of a popular jazz album from the 1970s and “Return to Forever” where COVID has taught us valuable lessons which will lead to a more sustainable community, country and world.