Out of this Pandemic, Let’s Build a ‘New Normal’ that is Better for Our Lives and the Planet
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted April 27th, 2020 on Niagara At Large
This Sunday, April 26 was the last day of Earth Week in Canada – a very special one that included the 50th anniversary of the very first Earth Day engaged in by tens of millions of people around the planet.
And I heard so many people say how depressing it is – thanks to this awful pandemic that has us shut in our homes – that we could not go out and participate in any rallies or marches, or tree-plantings or trash cleanups in observance of this milestone Earth Day, and in recognition of all the urgent environmental challenges we continue to face.
I have also heard many lament how much the crisis we are facing with COVID-19 has taken most or all the attention away from the climate emergency that was just beginning to receive the attention it deserves, thanks mostly to younger people like now 17-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
It wasn’t all that long ago, back in the final week of December, 2019, that Greta Thunberg and the great fight she and so many others are waging against climate-ravaging carbon pollution, made the cover of Time Magazine, as she was named ‘Person of the Year’. And yet, somehow, no thanks to this killer virus, it now seems so very long ago.
I have also heard many people say, even as they despair over the attention the virus has taken away from the climate fight, that they hope things will soon “go back to normal.” Some say they fear things will never go back to normal.
In some respects, I share these feelings. I wouldn’t mind enough normal coming back tore- open the doors of my favourite book and record stores, or to make it safe enough to open the border so I can go visit my friends on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Yet, in many other respects, I am hoping that we never go back to the normal that we had before the outbreak of this pandemic.
As damaging and destructive as this plague is, I am hoping that something very positive can come out of it.
I hope that we use it as a time for learning and change, and for coming out of this with a “new normal” that is fair and more just for people, and is far more in tune with protecting and preserving the air, the waters, other species and all of the other natural resources we need on this planet to live a safe and healthy life.
As a kid back in grade school, I remember coming away from the very first Earth Day hoping that time when we would be living in peace with our planet would be here by now.
That was 50 springs ago. Scientists were already warning about carbon pollution wreaking havoc with the earth’s climate, and yet here we are, five decades later, facing a life-threatening climate emergency of our own making.
And here we still are with a segment of the general population and with far too many politicians who still think that climate change and related environmental threats s are a hoax or are being overblown. These political neanderthals are willing to put their dated and increasingly dysfunctional idea of “business as usual” and of being “open for business” – code for short-term, self-serving greed – ahead of the mess our children and grandchildren will face if we continue to do little or nothing to change our ways now.
The widespread slowdown or shutdown of air travel, of truck and car travel, and many of the other activities that constituted business as usual in our pre-pandemic world have come, withn a matter of months, with remarkable improvements to the overall quality of the world’s air and water, and of habitat for fish, for birds and for other living beings that we need to share this planet with in order to survive in any way that makes for a healthy existence.
There are some amazing videos being made by teams of scientists and journalists. showing the healing that has taken place since so many of the engines run on carbon fuels have slowed or have been left sitting idle on runways or in parking lots.
Not that I or anyone else I am aware of expect all of these machines and all of the other activities that have taken a toll on the planet in the past to continue to stand down as we begin to lift the pandemic shutdowns and open up our towns and cities again.
Yet what I have found so encouraging over the past number of weeks is that there are at least some political leaders out there – most recently among them, the Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo – who have been openly talking about opportunities this health crisis gives us to create a “new normal” that could be much better than the normal we had for peoples’ lives and for our planet.
Two days before Earth Day, in one of his highly watched daily COVID-19 briefings, Cuomo spoke at length about “re-imaging” his state in ways that has fewer cars congesting roads, has more people who have discovered that working at home is working well for them and the businesses that employ them, and who could continuing to do that, and on and on. (Niagara At Large will post that April 20th briefing with more on what it can teach us about planning for a better future at a later date.)
In the meantime, we can, if we have the will to do so, , we can, iuse this time at home to hold virtual meetings with each other, and begin planning together for that post-pandemic “new normal” that is far more protective of and friendly to the air, the trees and forests, to the wetlands and to other life-giving resources we need to survive and thrive on this one and only place in the universe that we can call home.
We can get to work on shaping that new normal now, and we can also make a resolution that in this post-pandemic world, we will no longer put up with those businesses and with those politicians at the federal, provincial/state and local levels who refuse to take the journey to a better, more self-sustaining future with us – one that doesn’t include the continued, relentless burning of climate-ravaging carbon fuels, and the continued sprawl and paving over of what are left of our green places and wetlands.
Let’s make a pledge to work together now as engaged citizens, with those leaders in politics and business who want to come out of this health crisis with the will to join us in re-imagining and building a new normal that is better for the quality of people’s lives, and for the quality of our planet as a whole.
I will have more to say about this on Niagara At Large in the days and weeks ahead.
Stay Tuned. And please feel free to share your thoughts too.
Doug Draper, journalist, Niagara At Large.
Before I leave this post though, here is one great video that shows some of the planetary healing that has been going on during this pandemic crisis. I will be posting it and others like it again in the coming days, with discussion on what we can do.
To watch, click on the screen immediately below –
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