Written by Carolyn Treadway and published May 2020 in The Voice.
Panorama. April 30, 2020. Rhododendrons and azaleas are in breathtaking bloom, cherry blossoms blow around like pink snow, and spring is in full glory. We are so fortunate, sequestered here amidst such beauty––while the COVID-19 pandemic rages across our globe. Thanks to the wisdom, care, and fast-acting leadership of our administrators who closed our campus on March 12, we have been safe and secure in our homes, without one COVID-19 case at Panorama thus far.
All of us have had difficulties adapting to new, rapidly changing realities. But compared to so many whose very lives, income, and housing are at risk daily, we are privileged indeed. Despite the necessity of physical distancing, social connection in times of crisis is crucial. Numerous residents have found safe ways to connect, support each other, and cooperate on projects such as sewing thousands of face masks. Such webs of connection offer a model for our planetary future.
These are liminal times— “in between” times, in transition between the old and the new. The past as we have known it is likely gone forever, and the future is uncertain. Not-knowing is scary, and we long for the security of a predictable “normal.” But what “normal” will allow us (humans and other species) to survive and thrive, into the future?
A tiny virus has brought our world to a sudden halt. This enforced pause gives us an opportunity to see things we might have been too busy to notice: our ecosystems are in crisis; our economic and social systems are not equable for all; climate change is rapidly becoming increasingly catastrophic; “business as usual” is unraveling; our economic model, based upon constant growth, is impossible on a finite planet; and on and on.
We notice, astonishingly, how quickly the world can come together to change when it is imperative. As most of the world shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19, human contribution to climate change became dramatically visible. As greenhouse gas emissions plummeted, air quality improved, smoggy skies cleared, and dolphins came back into the canals of Venice. Our choices and actions do make enormous differences.
What kind of a world do we want? Returning to our previous “normal” will continue to endanger the Earth, our matrix of life, our only home. What needs to change to create a sustainable world? COVID-19 clearly shows how intricately we are interconnected, and what is and is not working. More of the same will not “save” us; nor will technology.
We need shifts in the perceptions and behaviors of humans. We ARE the Earth, part of the integrated ecosystem of Earth, but we are the only species deliberately destroying it for personal gain. To survive, we must learn to live in harmony with the Earth and each other, as indigenous elders could well teach us. Natural systems survive and thrive by cooperation, not by separation and competition.
Let us not waste the opportunity of this unique liminal time to see more clearly what is happening across our planet, to reconnect with the Earth, and to work together to preserve it and each other.