I did not go to Spain this spring. It wasn’t easy to make the decision; I left it till the 11th hour. The Canadian Government (as with most governments) was still giving a Level 1 travel advisory for most of Europe: “Travel and take precautions.” It wasn’t until the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the infections in Spain doubled in a day, and work told me I would have to self-isolate when I returned, that I saw the writing on the wall. Sometimes it’s a battle to see the trends. Sometimes we don’t want to believe what seems an extreme outcome. This spring equinox a microscopic virus has halted all our best laid plans: our RSPs, our jobs, our studies, all our strategies for economic growth, and our travels. All we want is to go back to “normal.”
There’s another crisis we are facing in the world right now: climate change. Something we’ve known about since the 1970s but have had a harder time coming to terms with. Something there will be no simple vaccine for. Some scientists call our age the Anthropocene for the huge impact humans have had on planet Earth. A friend, referring to COVID 19, said to me, “Maybe this is how it happens, the death of the carbon economy. With the drop in oil prices and the rise of the tech sector, the rise of the new economy.” Though not without cost.
It’s worth remembering the roots of the word “economy” come from the Greek meaning home or household and meaning to manage. What does it mean to manage our household and our home, the Earth? Maybe this is the meteor of our epoch. Maybe we have an opportunity in this moment of solitude, of renewed family ties and friendships, cyber work and learning environs, to birth something radically new.
In Alberta, where I live, spring is like a battle every year: a see-saw between temperature and precipitation. One day it snows, the next it melts. Back and forth, a tug-a-war; the coming of spring can take months. It’s a limbo time, a liminal, in-between time, pregnant with possibility. Change may have many false starts and then seemingly, miraculously, come like an avalanche all at once. Every spring in many ways, a whole new world.
The day after my decision to postpone my trip, a friend said to me, “Barcelona will still be there next year.” It will and so will we, together. Another friend forwarded me a note she’d had from a friend of a friend (the wondrous side of social media) quarantined in Barcelona. The contact described the sound, around 8 o’clock in the evening, coming from the street on the first day of the lockdown. Something loud and popping, something exploding and boistrous like the sound of firecrackers. But it wasn’t firecrackers. It was the sound of citizens, everyone out on their balconies, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands; everyone clapping for many minutes. Clapping, the neighbours said, for frontline healthcare workers as they battle COVID 19.
We need to stand together. We need to applaud the heroes on the frontlines of COVID 19 and on the frontlines of the climate crisis. We will survive and we can birth something new, together.