The lockdown that swept like a tsunami Europe and the rest of the world left us all scarred, scared and upset but also hopeful for a better, brighter future. Or didn’t it?
While locked up in our homes, we all experienced these unprecedented circumstances in different ways but it is quite fair to say that learning was a huge part of the process for the entire world population. Or wasn’t it?
Let’s be honest here: it wasn’t a walk in the park. Many people found themselves in utterly horrible situations such as losing a loved one, not being able to provide for the family or even being stuck in a home with someone abusive.
At the same time a resurgence of the dear old, but often forgotten community spirit made us all feel that we were in it together and that through our common endeavours we would have come out victorious. We all behaved well, listened to the experts, helped others in need and smiled from our balconies.
As we speak, a new lockdown is looming and new restrictions are being put in place to prevent the worst from happening again so this is the time to reflect upon some of the things we shoulda/coulda/woulda learned last time around.
1 Essential goods aka toilet-rolls frenzy
Remember making fun of those people building fallout shelters during the Cold War who were stashing on beans, canned soups, torches, water and anything with the “durable” label on it? Those fools, scared out of their wits of an atomic bomb that no one actually had ever wanted to drop.
Well, it turns out that half of a century later our primal survival instinct kicked in again, but we, the educated and modern people of the 21st century, are terribly afraid of running out of toilet paper.
Our predecessors were concerned about hunger in the midst of a nuclear disaster
whereas we have proven to be brave enough to risk our immune systems to buy as many toilet rolls as possible. One could argue that during the first wave of the pandemic many people were eating more veggies because now I have the time to cook them but it is doubtful that the improved fibre intake would have meant a shortage of toilet rolls on a global scale.
And yet, people scuffled (hi there social distancing!), knives were produced, hair pulling was all the rage. Next time around, let’s avoid stockpiling and focus on what really matters in times of need, which brings us to the next point.
2 Food is not a toy
Back in April, yeast production was on the brink of collapse.
Wannabe bakers of the world united on the sacred mission of posting on Instagram and other social media loaves of bread and pizza crusts, never mind the consequences on the industry that produces it and the waste that was being generated but the aspiring chefs. While it is absolutely true that avoiding pre-packaged foods and giving home cooking a go is the best thing we can do for the planet and our personal finances, emptying shelves of precious items that we don’t even know how to properly use really doesn’t make any sense.
Some people stockpiled on food leaving others in need to bite the dust coming off of their trolleys wheels and gorged on homemade meals as if civilisation was about to end.
Replenishing supplies and posting the products of our efforts became the new n°1 sport worldwide, only to forget about this primary urge to healthily feed our families as soon as restrictions were lifted and restaurants could reopen, which, by all means, was a great thing for the economy.
Nobody really stopped to think about what food was being bought, at what cost and how those newly found good habits could propel our economies towards a more sustainable existence.
Back to wasting, eating junk food and giving this abundance of sustenance we’re blessed to have for granted.
If something similar to a lockdown should ever knock on our doors again, it might be wise to be mindful of what we have, what others need and what really matters.
3 Environmental come back (with a bounce back)
We’ve all seen the videos, we’ve all marvelled at the pictures (look, the Himalayas!), we’ve all breathed cleaner air from our balconies and rejoiced because singing birds were suddenly audible again.
Jellyfish in Venice canals, boars roaming residential neighbourhoods, dolphins at empty ports… we must have all recognised at one point or another that we are the virus making the planet ill and that the Earth would be a much happier place if things on our part would just slow down a little (a lot).
Thanks to reduced transport and demand of fossil fuels, compared to April 2019, global carbon emissions were down by 17% this year, allowing the planet to literally breathe a sigh of relief.
It was only a glimpse of the Eden that this planet is supposed to be and a beautiful, crystal clear lesson that reminded us that we are part of the environment, not its master or creator.
At the same time, more waste was generated during lockdown, as many companies encouraged consumers to buy single-packaged goods, recycling was suspended or reduced in many parts of the world, inorganic waste went sky-high thanks to take away food containers and of course, millions of single-use masks and hand sanitiser gel bottles.
Now that the economy is open for business and people can travel or simply go to work, we are almost back at the same level of pollution, not to mention that the reduced capacity of public transport demanded by social distancing is leading people to drive their own cars everywhere.
It seems that wildlife at our doorsteps was a phenomenon of little or no consequence at all in our collective mind, as if we were not just one species among billions of others that needs clean air, unpolluted water and healthy food to survive.
4 Another ugly face of fast fashion
Surely it didn’t take a global pandemic to realise how bad the fast fashion industry really is for the environment and how this ridiculous and frivolous induced need of buying something new every week has turned us in clothes hoarders.
It is well known where those poor quality items are made and the cost that cheap,
pollutant, unethical materials are billing to the planet.
All the shops were closed, shipments were halted and even if big retailers pushed
massive online sales, all the supply chain was stopped which resulted in an enormous, unwanted stockpile.
In the lucky part of the world, some people came to the conclusion that buying more clothes during lockdown was useless, some others had to face financial instability and took care of more essential needs.
In the other part of the world, already exploited workers were laid off, factories were permanently shut down and little or no severance pay was given.
While we were fighting over toilet rolls other much less fortunate people were wondering how they were going to be able to feed their families and pay their bills. It was not a matter of giving something up for a few months, rather a question of survival.
Going forward, consumers have the power to make choices and demand change,
remembering that no man is an island and every action taken has massive consequences on a global scale.
5 Self care & we’re in it together
Back in spring, doctors, nurses and health workers became the new superheroes and rightly so: they risked their lives to make sure the toll didn’t end up being abysmal.
To match their efforts, people rediscovered a community spirit that many thought lost, whether in a philosophical or practical way with mutual aid groups, groceries for the less fortunate and family services of any kind.
While the 2020 superheroes were out there, most of us were safe inside where a new reality hit us straight in the face.
Rest assured, family members confined in small flats were constantly bumping into each other, struggling to redefine what was once a clear line between work or school and time spent at home, but even under those circumstances the majority of us found a different way to connect with our inner selves and our loved ones.
Relationships were rekindled thanks to technology that allows us to see people living in different continents, drinks were had on Zoom, board games were played on Skype, yoga and fitness classes were held on live Facebook.
Some of the pressure connected with our hectic lifestyle was lifted off our backs and the most precious gift for all living creatures was bestowed on us: time.
Time to read, time to observe, time to think, time to exercise, time to clean, time to cook, time to play, time to finish that tv-series, time to sleep, time to get bored even.
The time that many reserve everyday for just being spiteful, nasty or narcissistic almost disappeared, because everyone was on the same boat and feeling a sense of belonging was more important than shading someone online.
Guess what, we’re back at it. One of the most asked questions during the first wave of the pandemic was “when are we going to get back to our normal life?”.
All things considered, if there is one lesson to be learned from Covid 19, is that the old normal should stay in the past and new, purer and gentler normal should take its place.