The Task Remains the Same

Coronavirus panic has governments and organizations cancelling events large and small. Events as far out as May, and beyond, are being cancelled. Kids’ schools are shutting down, leaving working parents scrambling for ways to accommodate the situation.

The influenza pandemic of 1918 infected ONE-THIRD of the world’s population and eventually killed one in ten of those it infected. The flu every year kills tens of thousands. So far, coronavirus isn’t showing signs of being anywhere near this magnitude of crisis. It’s killing about 2-3% of those it infects, and those infected are a tiny percentage of the population so far. But then again, the 1918 pandemic started with a milder wave in the spring of that year, and only in the fall came back as the raging monster we read about. Knowing human nature, I can’t really fault people for panicking, or governments and event planners for being cautious.

As I see it, coronavirus is just the latest of Mother Nature’s wakeup calls to humanity. Previous wakeup calls include severe storms, wildfires, drought-flood extremes. By “wakeup call,” I don’t mean anything like “Mother Nature is punishing us,” “God/dess is showing us His/Her wrath,” etc. No. What I mean by wakeup call is, an invitation for human beings in the rich industrialized world to notice where the design of our current systems makes us fragile and vulnerable. And a further invitation to us to build resilience into our households and communities.

Be it a storm, earthquake, drought, flood, or disease, the task remains the same: Build resilience.

The most basic human needs are food and water. At the very least, we need to boost our self-reliance in collecting and storing rainwater, and growing food locally. Not everyone needs to grow their own food, and we don’t each need to grow all our own food. But growing at least some greens at home would be a start. And planting fruit trees in neighborhoods. Potatoes and other calorie crops too.

Other than food and water, our core needs are shelter and each other. The coronavirus panic (like the many disasters that went before, and the many that will surely follow) is a wakeup call to meet our neighbors (if we haven’t already) and start working together on things like food, water, and grassroots aid (for example, teaming up to provide childcare for working parents, and making sure vulnerable seniors are looked after).

Also: Boost your economic resilience by diversifying your income sources, the more local, less commute-dependent the better. Think of a need that you can meet in your community. Mail-order businesses (crafting, etc.) are good too, though of course long-distance transport can be vulnerable to disasters. On the positive side: U.S. Postal Service says not to worry about transmission of Coronavirus via mail; the virus has poor survivability on surfaces.

And speaking of economics, the closures and event cancellations underscore the importance of acting as individuals and neighborhoods to support our local businesses, local nonprofits, local artists and musicians through this time. Hey, it’s what we need to be doing anyway, right? Times of trouble are a fact of life; might as well use them for the good.

Modern industrial societies right now are the opposite of resilient. We are too dependent on flimsy supply lines (conventional wisdom says the typical grocery store has three days’ worth of food) and long-distance travel, and every crisis gives us a peek at how fragile our systems are. So do we just keep on pretending this isn’t so, or do we take the cancellations and quarantines as an opportunity to get our house in order?

The Riot for Austerity, the grassroots movement of people aiming to cut their eco footprint to 10% of the US average, turns out to be very sensible disaster prep too. For example, if you know how to get by on five gallons (or less) of water per person per day, and you have a thousand or even just a hundred gallons of water collected in rainbarrels in your yard, you’re obviously a lot better off than someone who’s lost without running water (or storebought bottled water).

If this post rings true for you but you aren’t sure where to start, drop me a line. I can steer you to resources that will help you and your community become more resilient. One good place to start is the Transition Towns movement (linked in the sidebar). My heart is with you on the journey we all share.

The task remains the same as it has always been. Build resilience. And, use the pressure of difficult times as an opportunity to clarify what matters most in life.

Further Reading:

“The Theory of Anyway,” by Sharon Astyk (co-founder of the Riot for Austerity). “My friend Pat Meadows, a very, very smart woman, has a wonderful idea she calls “The Theory of Anyway.” What it entails is this – she argues that 95% of what is needed to resolve the coming crises in energy depletion, or climate change, or most other global crises are the same sort of efforts. When in doubt about how to change, we should change our lives to reflect what we should be doing “Anyway.” Living more simply, more frugally, using less, leaving reserves for others, reconnecting with our food and our community, these are things we should be doing because they are the right thing to do on many levels. That they also have the potential to save our lives is merely a side benefit (a big one, though).”

“Sharing with Your Neighbors” (Madisyn Taylor, DailyOM): “Creating a network of neighbors who agree to pool certain resources and share daily duties … Together, you will need to decide what chores you want to do communally and what resources can be shared. Ideas for community sharing are child care, errands, housework, keeping a joint garden, cooking for the group, and carpooling. For instance, if you cook large meals for four neighbors once a week, you take off four nights after that.”