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Sustainability

Coronavirus Redemption

Bur Oak Tree acorns.

The coronavirus pandemic put us in our place.

When the real risk of illness or death can be found everywhere, behaviors change. Upon reflection, so can our process for living.

Yesterday, the Washington Post published an article titled 9 everyday experiences the pandemic has endangered — and how they impact our lives. I read it and only one of nine, using cash for payments, impacted my life. That’s one of the problems with this pandemic: one person’s perspective just doesn’t apply to everyone. That’s increasingly American and to the extent our tolerance for diverse opinions is scant, it is a problem for coming out of the virus. If we can’t agree with scientists, including epidemiologists and public health officials, we will not solve the problem of a virus that sickens millions and kills hundreds of thousands.

How do we get out of the pandemic? Given today, I don’t know how we can.

The cost of redemption is subverting our egos, something a large group of people are willing to do, at least long enough to abate the virus. Absent political leadership, such ideas seem futile. As lifelong Republicans are willing to vote for Joe Biden to end the crazy of the current administration, suppression of who we are, while it may get us through the pandemic, is not a longer term solution to social problems.

The pandemic forces us to change how we live. We now have homemade cloth masks to wear in public. If one of us were out more we’d invest in a plastic shield to protect our eyes. We cook all of our meals at home. We rarely leave the property. When our cable to internet access was accidentally cut, our wireless usage more than doubled — we stay connected to the digital world. Increasingly, internet content seems homogeneous.

There are a few changes to daily life I hope continue into the post pandemic period.

Containing Contagion. We’ve not been sick since the governor declared the emergency on March 9, six months ago. In retrospect, not going to a workplace with 80 employees reduced the number of infections I brought home. While I enjoyed the extra income from that retail job, I better enjoyed good health and the absence of colds, influenza and pneumonia. I hope mask wearing, washing hands, sanitizing when soap and water is not available, and maintaining social distancing continues in society long past the end point of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m likely an outlier.

Using Stuff. Our house became over-filled with the unused detritus of living in a consumer culture. The coronavirus pandemic has us using some of that stuff in a way we hadn’t anticipated. I found my webcam and installed it on my desktop to participate in video conferencing. I took my bicycle off the hooks in the garage and have been riding it almost daily. When it breaks down I try to fix it myself and consult with friends and technicians on what to do. I’m cooking more, trying to use up ingredients stored in the pantry and freezer. I developed a process to circulate and wear clothing that is too worn to donate to charity but had remaining use. Our home has become a workshop in a way I have long wanted but was too busy to create.

Kitchen Garden. I abandoned my quest for local food and its meaning. To replace it, I focus on the new term, “kitchen garden,” which represents the intersection between created meals and the farms, gardens, orchards and manufacturers that produce our food. The term “local food” was a construct that no longer serves our purpose. We are consuming more locally produced food than ever by recognizing and living in this nexus.

Wellness. The coronavirus pandemic brought attention to our health and wellness. I get in 25-30 minutes of exercise daily, eat less, and address my health risks. In addition, I write letters (on paper) to a few people, stay in touch via email and social media, and do more neighboring. While the circle of friends radius is shorter, it is more meaningful and that has been better for wellness. It is important to mention the pensions our household receives. The viable economic base they provide makes everything else possible.

Intellectual Development. While my work status is “retired,” I stay busy. The coronavirus pandemic stopped everything in its tracks as I stayed home and followed what government leaders suggested when it made sense. The enlightenment of this self-isolation is that something will be next. I don’t know what it will be, but it will be local, new, and grounded in intellectual pursuit as we tackle issues where I live. There have been a number of locals interested in participating over the years. It is time we break from participation in distant activities to create our own local ones. I’m not sure what that looks like but am motivated because of the pandemic to figure it out.

Transportation. Most days if I leave the property it is to exercise. The number of auto trips is severely reduced as I shop at the wholesale club once every two weeks and go to a grocer less than once a week. I need to rotate the autos so they both get started and driven regularly. Gasoline use dropped 20 percent. When we ran a generator during the derecho recovery we consumed 15 gallons or more. I make occasional trips to the county seat, visited a local nature preserve once, and drove to the TestIowa COVID-19 test site three times. That’s pretty much it. I’ve become comfortable with staying home for several days at a time.

It is hard to say when the coronavirus pandemic will be officially over. It will be with us for a while, I’m sad to say. Amid the sickness, death and financial challenges I find a new way of life and a wavering ray of hope. Let’s hope it persists.

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