Wednesday, April 22

Earth Day 2020. Don't stop the celebration.

Thrive Global
Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Organizations have all kinds of ways for us to celebrate the Earth. Today. And yet. . .

I read a few interesting news stories today. The first from The Guardian about how we might finally, finally start recognizing the importance of taking care of and protecting the Earth, the environment.

We are at an interesting inflection point. Many of us have read or seen stories about clearing air and clearing water. New Delhi skies free of pollution. Water clearing in Venice. Sea turtles being able to nest in peace. . . as long as Florida beaches were closed. I'm sure there are dozens of similar stories.

The fact is that with the pandemic, the Earth has been able to take a break. Less noise. Less movement. The world is a lot quieter. It seems as though the lockdowns around the world have had a startling impact on many things, and mostly in a good way.

Not economically, I know. People are suffering. There are no easy choices when it comes to managing a pandemic. I cannot even imagine what state and city government personnel are going through as they weigh all of the challenges, watching state budgets crater and knowing the people in their states and in their cities are in dire situations. Not everyone will agree with Dan Patrick's assertion that "there are more important things than living and that's saving this country."

Meanwhile, in the Great Lakes region, where I live, the Environmental Protection Agency has decided that protecting the Great Lakes, specifically Lake Michigan from which thousands of people get their drinking water, isn't all that important.

The EPA, charged with protecting the environment because it's, you know, actually in the name of the agency, has loosened restrictions around "a class of cancer-linked chemicals." Nice. There are two stories on that: one from the Chicago Tribune and another from The Hill. The former bends liberal and there are a whole bunch of Democrats in Chicago.

This isn't the first rollback of the EPA rollbacks and I doubt it will be the last. It just seems so unfortunate that we have such grand opportunities to make significant positive changes on so many fronts and it seems we are likely to miss nearly every one of them.

Even so, every opportunity to celebrate the Earth is a good one. And may you sustain and maintain those celebrations for days to come.

Sunday, April 5

Wondering about "normal"

I had to laugh out loud, and literally out loud, when I skimmed this article. The one thing that stood out is that everyone wants the world to return to normal. And, to be honest, I stopped even skimming after that.

I'd jut gotten back from going to the bank and the grocery. I wiped down the ATM keyboard and screen before I used it and then wiped it down again after I used it. Not normal. I put on gloves when I went into the grocery store, made sure I had a two-cart distance between me and other shoppers, pondered those who were wearing masks or some facsimile compared to those of us who weren't, wondered if the people behind the deli counter should be wearing masks (they probably should), noted the store workers who were wearing gloves and/or masks and those who weren't, took note of what shelves are still relatively empty and those that aren't, and offered up several prayers of gratitude that most of what I wanted and needed was on the shelves and that I can easily get to the store. Most of that not normal.

I thought about how empty the streets are. Not normal.

I noted how friendly people are even as they maintain their distance and even as there distinct degrees of quiet and sombreness.

I find I think a lot about what the world will be like once we emerge on the other side of the pandemic. I wonder, too, about other parts of the world and how isolated I feel from really knowing what's happening in other parts of the world. It's as though the media is no longer able to get information from other parts of the world. So I worry about the locusts in Africa and have to go find that information myself. Did you even know about the locust plague in Africa?

In truth, the locust plague in Africa is of less concern to me than the thousands of kids who aren't eating in the United States because schools are closed. And yet I see there are school districts that have found truly creative solutions through the monster efforts of their cafeteria staffs who prepare meals and get them loaded on school buses to be distributed to families.

I do wonder about education and if we'll be able to take advantage of this situation to really rethink what education is and how we should do it. I wonder if we'll take serious notice of the depth of the digital divide and how many of our children don't have access and what we should do to ensure they do have access.

I wonder if teachers and parents and administrators will think differently about the work of teachers and what should really be their responsibilities and what should really be the responsibilities of parents and guardians.

I wonder about the future of work and the nature of work. What jobs will change? What jobs will disappear? How will the work place have to evolve and not just because we might worry about another pandemic, but because we should be less complacent about the possibility of tragedy.

I wonder how long it will take for us to become complacent again.

I wonder how long it will take for us to be noisy and raucous and focused on ourselves again. 

I wonder if we will spend so much time yearning for a return to whatever seems normal that we won't take advantage of this amazing opportunity to change and change for the better.

I wonder if having this time to think and reflect, having this time to appreciate the Earth, will get swallowed back up into the need to return to whatever we thought normal was and is.

I wonder how long it will take to get back to devastating levels of smog and pollution once industries do their best to return to whatever they think is and should be normal, though the Earth is vibrating less and pollution levels are down. . . for now.

I wonder how many of us are and will be more traumatized than we realize as we gauge the distance between us and strangers, as we find ourselves counting cars in a parking lot, as we pause for that split second if we happen to cough to assess how our lungs feel. I wonder how much our social attitudes and behaviors will change and what will really be most important.

I wonder how many of us are thinking about the nature of our relationships and, if we don't have much family, how much we counted on work colleagues and even moderately good friends with whom we used to get together periodically. I wonder how much more effort many of us are making to connect in various ways--social media, texts, email, even letters.

I wonder if we'll be able to see the world differently because the pandemic is affecting the world. I wonder if we'll be able to see beyond our borders differently, if there's a chance we can all be more compassionate or if we'll find that even more of us will be victimized by the power players who think only about the themselves and how much power and money they can grab because of other people's misery.

I want to have faith in people and our ability to connect, be empathetic, be compassionate, but too much of what I read seems to be about those who are grabbing for headlines, grabbing for power, grabbing to shape the world in whatever narrow way they see it, which is one of the reasons I read less news and tend to skim a lot of the stories I read regardless of the source.

I wonder if we really have an idea of what "normal" is or if what we think we want is whatever was before and that we'll consider normal to be whatever comes after, but I wonder if we realize that whatever happens after and whatever we become and do and are after will never, ever be like what was before. That normal will be different, no matter what.