Casting My Vote for a New Normal (2)

(This is part 2 of a 2-part post; you can read part 1 here.) I wrote it back in June, but with schools now reopening in person (in many cases by official force, against the will of teachers, families, and communities), it seems more relevant now than ever.

Following is a letter I sent on June 4 to a citizens’ board I’ve been serving on, but recently decided to step down from. Partly because I’m not willing to meet indoors, but really at the root of it more because I have had the joy of serving on this board for a couple of years and want to give someone else the chance. The chairman’s announcement that meetings would be resuming, and that they’d be indoors rather than outdoors or by Zoom, just helped crystallize my decision.

Hi {everyone}, This subject is important enough that I feel compelled to put it in writing. Over the past few months, local governments and other organizations have demonstrated that meetings can be held by Zoom or other teleconference tools rather than in person. 

{Name of leader}, it was through you that I first learned that the 1918 pandemic came in waves, the second wave in the fall much more severe than the first wave in the spring. Am I particularly worried about catching the virus myself? No. But I do know many others who are afraid. And I feel that local government should be more protective of the public health by setting an example of caution. Our practices help shape what’s considered “normal and acceptable” by the public. 

Personally, I am focused on environmental concerns. Now that the world has amassed months of proof that so many meetings don’t need to happen in person — can just as well be held virtually — I am not, as an environmentalist, willing to go back.

Our focus on this board is urban redevelopment. Have you ever noticed how much of our discussions are dominated by cars and parking? Obviously cars aren’t going away anytime soon, and many people can’t walk, bicycle, or take public transport. But as a board promoting responsible development and creative solutions, we have an opportunity to set an example of reducing the car-dependency that has degraded so much of our urban environment. We also have an opportunity to help people save time by being able to meet from their own homes.

Just my two cents in writing, for what it’s worth as a board member stepping down. Please hold meetings of this board by teleconference rather than in person.

With regard and respect, {my signature}

I hope that fellow eco-minded citizens will find these words helpful in standing up to peer pressure (as well as standing up to their own inner pressure). If we want a “normal” that is in line with our environmental awareness, we have to lead the way!