As I walked home last week with PLASTIC grocery bags, I reminded myself of a few things.
- This is temporary. I hope. Eventually the fear that my reusable bags and bulk-bin containers from home are carrying the coronavirus will dissipate and we will return to more eco-friendly options for grocery shopping.
- I practiced expressing gratitude that stores are still open. I’m also grateful there’s one close enough that I can ride my bike or walk to when I need it.
- That I can only do what I can do. I practice this mantra daily. Plastic use is up, so are home deliveries, which might have a significant carbon footprint, but some of these are out of my control. There are things I DO have control over, and I can do my part with them. Riding my bike, walking, eating more plant-based foods, conserving resources and energy, recycling, and supporting local, environmentally-friendly businesses.
- Businesses may have installed some seemingly weird protocols or practices. But they are navigating this strange situation the same as all of us. One day at a time. Managers and owners are only doing what they feel is right to stay in keeping their employees safe, and their customers safe. Getting frustrated with cashiers or employees doesn’t do anyone any good. It just makes me look like an asshole.
- Most important: While I have relaxed my criteria for reducing my impact, the bigger picture is a LOT brighter. The earth is healing. Pollution levels are going down. Cities with the worst air quality in the world are clearing up. Astronauts are claiming they can see the difference from before quarantine to after quarantine…from space. These are truly heartening thoughts.
What if this became our new normal?
I got to thinking of a couple more things on my walk home with six extra plastic bags. (I was pretty annoyed, I hadn’t used plastic bags in years).
What if this became our new normal?
Not like, quarantine is our new normal, but the huge positive impact on the planet being the new normal. I know it’s unlikely. As soon as travel restrictions are lifted and businesses open, traffic in Los Angeles will return to previous levels and the pollution will return.
But what if it didn’t? What if those who were forced to work from home and telecommute figured out a way to a) work from home a couple days a week, or b) started teleconferencing instead of traveling all over the country to reduce our impact?
I’ve seen so many people the past few weeks taking walks outside. What if that became our new normal? Going outside not to get to our car, but for exercise, to get some fresh air, to just get outside?
What if we conserved our resources because we weren’t exactly sure if there would be toilet paper or hand sanitizer at the store? And what if we didn’t stop at those products, but all items?
It’s not impossible to imagine it, so it’s not impossible to make it happen.
COVID-19 Versus Climate Change
I am also inspired by how the whole world teamed up and tackled this pandemic together. Right, not like side-by-side, but in solidarity. We helped flatten the curve by making small (and some not so small) sacrifices. But we did respond a little slower than we could have.
There is clear evidence of the price we’re paying for responding too slowly to coronavirus. Are we going to pay a similar price for ignoring the climate crisis, pollution, habitat destruction, and other environmental challenges? If we think coronavirus was devastating, imagine the global disaster from climate change if we respond too slowly.
Lessons from Coronavirus
It’s the 50th anniversary of Earth Day today. Unfortunately, not many people are “celebrating” because COVID-19 has kept us from gathering together. But we can celebrate the spirit of Earth Day. On this 50th anniversary, we can celebrate the spirit of Earth Day everyday. Celebrate that the earth is healing. Celebrate the new habits we are establishing that can have a better impact on the environment. And know there will come a time when we can celebrate the renewal of our healthy, positive day-to-day actions.
The biggest takeaway from this experience is if we give earth a chance, she will heal. We just need to keep giving her chances.
Earth and Ocean Month
Because I couldn’t go to Whidbey Island to celebrate in person, I sent a couple video presentations to the folks who organize Earth and Ocean Month. If you want to know what small actions you can take while in quarantine to improve your health and the health of the planet, I’d love for you to watch them.