By the time this goes to print the state of the COVID-19 pandemic will be in a very different place than it is now so bear with me.
We are experiencing unprecedented times. The pandemic is not just affecting the health of the global population, but it is also having an effect on the health and wellbeing of the planet as a whole. Due to the various lockdowns we have seen a significant reduction in air pollution over these countries. To give some context (but not wanting to downplay the significance of the pandemic), according to WHO, air pollution kills almost 7million people every year. But this barely gets a mention in people’s conversations or on the news.
Every day our children walk to school they breathe in the poisons from our commuters’ cars (it’s also worth recognising children in buggies are at the same height as a car exhaust) yet we don’t seem to find social media meme’s saying ‘stay safe’ for our kids but simply accept this is how life is.
With the sudden and exponential onset of COVID-19 we are seeing businesses having to rethink their whole way of operating. Working from home has become the ‘right and safe thing to do’. Amazon has stopped all ‘non-essential’ deliveries. With these small changes we will see an immediate positive effect on our children’s wellbeing.
Beyond this, as public events, sports and schools close we will be ‘forced’ to spend more time with each other as families. This may be a little daunting for some, but it can also be seen as an opportunity. We have the chance to reconnect with our children and allow life to slow down to really think on what is important. As the UK is not in full lock down it also allows us to reconnect with, notice and appreciate nature.
The ‘business as usual’ mentality has had to change in light of this tragedy. Attitudes to our consumption behaviour have changed whether through necessity (due to lack of goods) or due to focussing on our health and wellbeing. And despite the selfish act of stockpiling by many people, it has also brought out the good in humanity. We have neighbourhoods looking out for the elderly and housebound by buying and delivering goods for them. Behaviour has changed and it is the more positive results of the pandemic that I hope we can show children on how society really can be.
But what happens once the pandemic passes and business as usual returns? The economic scars could be long and deep. There will be the temptation (as we see in China already loosening rules on pollution) to ramp up production and put the long-term negative effects on the environment aside for short term monetary gain to get us all ‘back on track’.
Surely as we all have to rethink how we work, live and shop, this presents us with the opportunity to make the permanent and systematic shift toward a better future, giving us a very real chance of saving humanity and the precious environment.
We owe it to our children and we owe it to ourselves.