Another world is possible...

The Coronavirus has brought the world to its knees and stopped us all in our tracks like nothing has before. But it’s giving us just long enough for us to pause and examine our social and economic systems, allowing us the opportunity to ask ourselves whether that’s what we want to return to afterwards. This time would be wasted if we did not use it to evaluate our situation and to shape a model of living that works towards making our common home better for all who live here.

Before start, I just wanted to address the fact that I am able to write this article from a position of fortune. At the time of writing, my family are all fit and healthy, despite the increased risk experienced by some of my family working on the frontline. We continue to have jobs and are able to work from home. We have a garden, so have been able to enjoy green spaces in addition to the one walk/run outside of the home that we are allocated each day. We are young, fit but we are also female and White, which means that for reasons not yet fully explored, we are from a population that is not being hit as hard by other gender and ethnic groups. However, the themes I address later in this blog, I hope, are applicable to all.

As lockdown in the UK enters its seventh week, we have to acknowledge that the Coronavirus has been nothing short of an epic human tragedy – tearing families apart, risking the lives of those on the frontline, isolating the lonely further, forcing key workers to choose between maintaining an income and seeing their families, ripping children and young people away from their educations, preventing those who are otherwise sick or frail from accessing lifesaving treatments and operations and jeopardising the prospects of businesses small and large. The pandemic has done all of this whilst reinforcing the inequalities that perpetuate society, exacerbating vulnerability, risk and infection rate disproportionality across our communities.

The Coronavirus has brought the world to its knees and stopped us all in our tracks like nothing has before. But it’s giving us just long enough for us to pause and examine our social and economic systems, allowing us the opportunity to ask ourselves whether that’s what we want to return to afterwards. This time would be wasted if we did not use it to evaluate our situation and to shape a model of living that works towards making our common home better for all who live here.

Under the rough themes of engagement, opportunity, appreciation and consciousness, I discuss four key lessons that I think need to be taken from Coronavirus at the individual and local level in order to shape a new way of life that is better for all who live here.

Lesson 1: Engagement

My sister has often spoken about her experience of living in a small Fijian village and how every evening, the community would congregate in the village hall to sing, dance, eat and be with each other. It’s something I’ve seen in other cultures too – active community participation. Maybe it’s to do with our culture or our sensible British norms, but up until now, it’s not something I’ve seen here in the UK at the same level.

However, as I walked down a side street in my town yesterday, I noticed they all had green pieces of paper up in their windows. Initially puzzled, I soon realised that people would turn between red/green paper to notify their neighbours if they’re good (green) or if they need help (red). In a similar vein, I’ve also read about new WhatsApp groups being set up for streets, new mutual aid groups being founded and meals being delivered to the socially isolated. It is wonderful to see resources are being shared – we’re communicating and engaging with our neighbours and wider community more than ever.

Once this is over, I hope we celebrate our forced distance by coming together like never before – through shared dinners, street parties and carnivals, opportunities just to gather and be with one another and celebrate as the social beings that we are! It would be devastating if we let this level of engagement in civic life and between one another slip.

Lesson 2: Opportunity

Despite the sadness of this time, it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge the joy I’ve felt in having the opportunity to pause, reflect, rest and be present. When lockdown started, I was torn between making this the most productive time of my life versus embracing the opportunity to slow down. My thoughts on this have ebbed and flowed – some days I’ve woken and finished projects I started half a decade ago, on other days I’ve enjoyed sitting out in the garden and playing Uno with my sisters.

This time has provided an opportunity for me to change and shift my mindset. It’s gone from #hustle to an appreciation that just ‘being’ is enough. Our worth is not based on our productivity. We are not failures if all we can do is get out of bed that day. I read recently that this mindset of continually doing something might actually be a personal manifestation of capitalism – pursuing endless physical and mental growth. Going forwards, I’ll learn that it’s okay to be still.

I’m also hugely grateful for the opportunity this time has afforded me to connect to friends and loved ones. As an introvert, navigating this has been interesting at times (I guess that’s a whole other article) but I am so blessed to have been able to speak to so many loved ones, to check in with them, to play virtual pub quizzes and have virtual pub lunches, which we would not have done before. It’s set a precedent for new ways of communicating (who even knew what Zoom was before this?!) that I hope continues far into the future. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for developing a new post-covid way of being – we’ve shown the ease of transitioning to remote working and cross-country conference calling. Think of the flights and journeys that have been saved as a result. Let’s use this as a springboard for change moving forwards… another world is possible.

Lesson 3: Appreciation

I also think that as a society, our level of compassion for others and ourselves has been heightened. We are taking greater care over the wellbeing of our neighbours, the socially isolated and the vulnerable. We are more aware and are grateful for the efforts of our postmen and our waste collectors. We’re leaving messages of love in our windows for our delivery drivers. We’re donating meals to our key workers.

In addition to the appreciation and love that is now being shown for one another, I think our appreciation for spending time outdoors has also grown. Like many other countries, in the UK we’ve only been allowed out once per day for exercise or for a walk. The beautiful weather we’ve had, combined with traffic free roads has really exacerbated this feeling, making outings into nature even more special. Having our freedom to enjoy the outdoors limited has allowed many people to reflect on the important part open and green spaces play in our wellbeing. As I reflect on my personal access to a modestly sized private green space, I cannot begin to imagine the experiences of those in high rise apartment buildings. Providing access to green spaces within close radius of our homes should be of the utmost priority by governments, councils, planners and landscape architects alike. They should be well considered and of high quality, which brings me on to my final lesson…

Lesson 4: Consciousness

Going forwards, my hope is that we live more consciously. This crisis has meant that we are now more cognisant of the power of individual action. We’re more aware than ever of the part we play in the physical and mental health of those around us. We know that individual action makes a difference – in this instance, literally straddling the border between life and death.

But many people aren’t aware of the moral responsibility they hold, Coronavirus or not. Our individual actions significantly contribute to the welfare of communities across the world who are vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis. Every action we take has a knock-on consequence for another human elsewhere on the planet. People should be encouraged onwards, safe in the knowledge that every action they take for the sake of the planet has an immeasurable impact.

We have choices every day and we must continue to act in ways that put people and planet first.

It's all very well dabbling in abstract concepts and ideas, but these are my four tangible pledges going forwards, building on my experiences during lockdown:

  1. I will work harder to provide opportunities to bring people together – whether that’s Zoom games nights, dinner parties or mass food sharing events, we cannot lose this sense of community

  2. I’ve got into a habit of doing many things at once – being creative whilst watching a film or listening to a podcast while I’m on a walk. Going forwards I will take more opportunities to pause and slow down and not berate myself for doing so.

  3. With renewed enthusiasm, I will continue my work at a community level, working towards improving our natural environment through building up the Climate Action Network.

  4. I will also use my platforms to raise awareness of the power of individual action, to remind people that everyone plays a part in making a difference and that individual action must be taken to prevent the further destruction of our planet.

These are just a few, limited takeaways – not even scraping the surface of the tectonic shifts required within our economic and political systems to make our planet and its people a priority, once we are on the other side of this.

We cannot return to business as usual; another world is possible…

This disaster has shown that as a community, we can pull together and make our shared home better for all who live here.

Please don’t let that slip.

What are your four key post Corona pledges? We’d love to hear them – drop us a comment or tag us on Instagram - @CommonGroundCo_

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