AP Photo credit John Locher
If you had told me earlier this year that cities across the world would look like this, I would have said it couldn’t be possible. Nothing could bring down the inexorable momentum of population growth, a growing economy thirsty for consumers to buy, buy buy and a rapidly urbanized landscape with all of its concommitant issues like traffic congestion, economic hardship for growing numbers of vulnerable people, climate change and so on and so on.
Many of us are extraordinarily lucky to live in countries with healthy economies, working democracies, access to healthcare and social safety nets. But here we are. In a matter of weeks the entire global economy has been brought to its knees, and the economic and social systems we built to support this wonderful world we have created, have all but collapsed. Inequality, dying democracies, dying social and environmental systems, climate refugees, and piles of garbage we don’t know what to do with. The pandemic has shown us many things but one of them is how fragile this world we built is.
I don’t think it’s ever been more evident how interwoven and interdependent our environment, social and economic systems are. The failure of one signals the failure of the other. The current crisis has revealed deep schisms, that we likely already knew were there but chose to ignore or don’t really know what to about.
How do we put Humpty Dumpty back together again? On a hopeful level I don’t think there has ever been a greater demonstration that the exploitation of wildlife, that incursions and destruction of habitat, that trophy hunting, Chinese traditional medicine with its extensive and unproven use of wildlife for so called medicinal purposes, that wet markets, that all of these combined together are destructive not only to the species that are exploited but for our planet as an ecosystem that includes humans. We are all vulnerable. By connecting the dots we can start telling a different story, and by telling a different story we can collectively create pathways to a better future for all. Part of that story is bridging the economic divide that drives behaviour and part of it is education. Alot of it is political will.
In Canada we know that seniors have been left to languish in private care homes owned in many cases by foreign corporations that have been grossly underserved, leaving many left to die difficult and lonely deaths. This is an opportunity to do something different. Let’s do this differently.
The residents of the homeless tent city in the downtown Eastside have been found temporary homes. Why can’t we find permanent homes for vulnerable people? Why does it take a pandemic?
The money flowing from our federal government coffers shows me one thing. That a guaranteed income for economically disadvantaged people is possible. Let’s keep making that possible.
On a micro level I see how we are digging in to the things that matter most. None of them are involve running to the mall to buy more clothes or stuff but instead staying close to home, embracing really simple things like hanging out together, baking bread (if you can get your hands on yeast), discovering birds, hoping to god that nobody that we know will get COVID19, phoning people to make sure they’re not lonely, and being kind.