A Slower, Smarter Pace?
We should be intentional as we look forward to postpandemic life
By Geoff Dueck Thiessen, Regional Director
It’s been over 15 months since the global pandemic was declared. With generally declining COVID numbers and rollouts of effective vaccines, many are hopeful that we will soon return to normal life.
Wait a minute. Remember when the pandemic lockdowns started? Sports were cancelled, many people started working from home, traffic disappeared, travel was cancelled.
It was so difficult to make sense of this thing.
On the one hand, it was difficult to cope with the loss of activities, work, income, recreation, social life.
On the other hand, there was also some relief. We suddenly had a break from what in most cases was a life that was way too busy. We struggled with our new reality, but didn’t necessarily want to go back to the old one either.
We must not minimize the damage this pandemic has caused. So many people have died; many of them alone. Businesses have been closed permanently. Pandemic consequences have been most profound for the most vulnerable, impacting mental health, addictions, poverty, homelessness, and domestic violence.
But we should also be intentional as we look forward to postpandemic life.
The International Energy Agency reports that global carbon dioxide emissions have already returned to prepandemic levels. That’s bad news for the earth’s climate, but it also indicates a return to prepandemic economic activity and consumption. What do we think about that?
6 Key Opportunities We Can Seize From Pandemic Learnings
- Buying local – Concern about small business gained traction, particularly as an alternative to an over-reliance on online ordering from mega corporations. Movements started, encouraging intentional purchasing. Can we keep that going?
- Intentional relationships – Losing the ability to meet in person has given us the opportunity to meet more effectively virtually. Perhaps a sense of loneliness prompted many to connect more often, even if virtually, more often and with greater vulnerability. Without forced isolation, will we lose that urgency to keep up our relationships?
- Work-life balance – This isn’t a simple calculation, but it is expected that many workers in Canada who had to work from home will want to continue to do so, to some degree. This could be good for mental health, and reduce traffic congestion and overhead costs. It might also make a whole lot of pets happier! Will we adapt workplace policies to retain the good that came from working from home?
- Awareness of the vulnerable – The pandemic has allowed us to measure disparities in new ways. For example, the pandemic had worse consequences for Canada’s Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC). The disparities and inequities that underlie this won’t go away after everyone is vaccinated. Are we willing to develop antiracist policies and keep at the hard work of making society better for everyone?
- Time to breathe – How many parents breathed a sigh of relief not to be driving kids around five nights per week? How many of us got outside more often, enjoying nature even as a survival tactic? Are we willing to give up this newfound breathing room?
- Consumption – There is much wisdom that says continued rates of consumption are big trouble for humans and the environment. A recent study from John Hopkins and the World Health Organization found that COVID-19 mortality rates were 10 times higher in countries where more than half the adults are overweight, compared to countries where fewer than half are overweight. Have we learned enough about what is truly important so we consume less and in sustainable ways?
So much about this pandemic has seemed contradictory, making it difficult to easily evaluate. What we need now is to be intentional.
Humans do seem to enjoy grasping onto extremes. One extreme approach would be to resist a return to prepandemic activities, economic or social, at all. The other extreme approach would be to rush headlong back to how things used to be, without intention.
Hopefully, this experience has given humanity a collective opportunity to slow down and examine what it is that we really value, so we can make some smart changes where needed. And also, who isn’t looking forward to a good old-fashioned social gathering?