“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
A lot has changed since my last post about my feelings regarding my daughter’s impeding graduation from high school. Not to put too fine a point on it, but stating that a lot has recently changed is putting it mildly. In a matter of mere weeks, the busy lives that people everywhere were living and the prospective futures they anticipated have vanished right before our collective eyes. First birthday parties, junior prom nights, high school graduations and spring break vacations- all mercilessly cancelled, and most without hope of a proper rescheduling of these milestone events. While there are millions of people who are much worse off than those in my household are because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I refrain from reminding our daughter of this and instead encourage her to go ahead and grieve the personal losses this pandemic has caused her. And as she questions my husband and I about whether or not she’ll be able to start her first year of college this fall on campus, as is normal as opposed to online, we can only unknowingly shrug. As current virus testing results and politicians minds continue to change, an official end to the suspension of regular life as we know it lies somewhat vaguely in the distance.
To be clear however, the far reaching effects of COVID-19 did not descend upon the world totally out of nowhere. Several global thought leaders, from my former employer and world-renowned virologist Dr. Nathan Wolfe to none other than Bill Gates, analyzed pertinent data on pandemic activity and offered public predictions of our current predicament several years ago. Epidemiologists, public health officials and other students of disease and population demographics have long understood that it was not if, but when we would globally experience a pandemic that would have far-reaching effects on world populations and global financial markets. Now that the time is finally here, we find ourselves behind the ball instead of in front of it, and the consequences of not listening to the advice of these experts are being deeply felt by people all over the world.
Rather than only focusing on the death and destruction that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause, we can also try to identify consequent side effects of a more positive nature that have been brought on by this unfortunate development. Weeks ago, a close friend joked that Mother Nature was essentially putting us all on a “time out” so we could ponder the consequences of our species’ bad behavior. As the days passed, this analogy rang more and more true to me, as I witnessed the noticeable changes in our environment due to the drastic reduction of human activity: clear blue skies once again could be seen over California, and the Pacific shores of the West Coast are measurably cleaner than they have been in decades. News reports have indicated that in some locations wild animals are venturing out into populated areas, unafraid and free to roam empty city streets. There is a positive impact on humans too. As a result of the shelter in place requirement, some families are spending more time together than usual and all are discovering creative ways to stay active and productive. These and other fruitful outcomes of this difficult time help to inspire hope during our darkest hours that the world can and should be a better place for all to live.
The Pandemic Time Out of 2020 provides additional positive aspects to consider. One potential silver lining of our national inability to act before this pandemic hit hard would be a group realization that destructive behaviors can and should be addressed well before populations are faced with their disastrous results. On an individual level, the disruption of daily conventional mores has inadvertently forced people to re-evaluate in real time whether or not the activities and routines they held in place before the pandemic were the very best use of their time and resources. Brainstorming on how society as a whole might hold onto a way of balancing work, family and the protection of our environment after the pandemic has passed is a great and worthy thought exercise. How can we maintain some of the current health and safety measures that protect us from widespread disease beyond this pandemic, without compromising quality of life? Can new initiatives around the issue of millions of people commuting to work daily continue to sustain the desirable impact that less crowding and lower pollution levels have recently had on the environment? If we fail to consider what happens by not acting on what we know is destructive, we will undoubtedly find ourselves right back on the path to yet another global catastrophe.
In order to foster the kind of changes needed to affect positive impacts on humanity and our planet, society would be required to resist the fabled return to “normalcy” and instead start promoting ideas for a new and improved daily existence. If we don’t consider that a “return to normal” is not the best result we can hope for in this situation, aren’t we missing out on an enormous opportunity to position not only ourselves but the world onto a new path of much needed positive change? Shouldn’t we right now not only welcome but also begin implementing a new and improved normal, before we are all lulled back into the national false sense of security we bought into before March of this year? I for one am excited by the possibility that this disaster might herald a global life-altering change of direction. With enough cooperative forethought and perseverance, the We’re-In-This-Together generation could truly be enabled to change the course. As the signs on the road we are currently traveling down point toward a dead end, the sooner we can be that change, the better.
©2020 Lisa Ihnken, All Rights Reserved. All images excepted.