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The World Is Changing - So Can We

The pandemic is revealing the many ways our lives intersect. Is this an opportunity for us to reimagine what we can be?

I went for a long bike ride today. I needed to get out and clear my head. The sun was shining, flowers were emerging along the bike route, trees were in bloom and at one point I thought to myself, “Yeah, life goes on.”

Maybe even a bit selfish given what so many people are going through right now. But maintaining the basic rhythms of life that remain available can give one a sense of resilience.

I ask myself, is there something we can learn from this, something that will prepare us to better weather the next crisis, some different way of being that might make us stronger? Is this an opportunity to change our thinking, our behaviour? How can we even do that? Are we capable of doing that?

It’s ironic that as the pandemic forces us into our separate corners, it’s also showing us how intricately

we are all connected. It’s revealing the many ways that our lives intersect almost without our noticing. And it’s showing us just how tenuous our existence becomes when we try to abandon those connections and distance from one another. Health care, housing, race, inequality, the climate — we’re all in the same leaky boat.

Viruses don’t respect borders. They get in even with extra screening and travel restrictions. Maybe less, but some slips in. And until there is a vaccine, no one is immune. What that means is that we have to put aside some of our suspicions and animosities towards others and see how much we can limit or even halt the damage.

One hopes that smart analyses and initiatives will help us discover how to do that. We have Reasons to Be Cheerful like to look around and see who has already found success in solving a problem. A few places like South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore have done a good job with containing this thing — kids are in school, people are going to work, cafes and restaurants are full. In many European countries, governments are making sure folks still have an income. Clearly, these people’s worlds and economies are returning to normal — a somewhat new normal.

Nothing is normal anymore

There are different kinds of freedoms. When you’re stuck in your house, as I am, you’re not free, that’s for sure. If you’ve been laid off you’re not exactly free, either. How much do we surrender our rights and freedoms as individuals in order to better the health, safety, economic security and well being of everyone, including ourselves? Are we a bucket of crabs or a community?

What is happening now is an opportunity to learn how to change our behaviour. For many of us, our belief in the value of the collective good has eroded in recent decades. But in an emergency that can change quickly. During the Great Depression, new policies to protect the public were introduced. It was accepted that these were necessary to stabilise society and get life back on track.

In emergencies, citizens can suddenly cooperate and collaborate. Change can happen. We’re going to need to work together as the effects of climate change ramp up. Here is an opportunity for us to see things differently — to see that we really are all connected — and adjust our behaviour accordingly.

Are we willing to do this? Is this moment an opportunity to see how truly interdependent we all are? To live in a world that is different and better than the one we live in now? We might be too far down the road to test every asymptomatic person, but a change in our mindsets, in how we view our neighbours, could lay the groundwork for the collective action we’ll need to deal with other global crises. The time to see how connected we all are is now.

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