What a crazy moment in time we are experiencing. In another post I wrote today, I took the time to encourage everyone to pause and reflect on this moment. And for me when I pause then I start to think. I think about a lot, in fact, I over analyze and get myself worked up with my over-thinking. Today is definitely one of those days, in fact we could say its one of those weeks even. On my mind today, amongst so many other things, is a reflection of how our efforts to keep safe during COVID could impact our planet in a negative way.
When COVID started (I just love this phrase and I probably use it more than I should..) I thought that this was a fantastic opportunity for the earth to take a moment to breath. I felt like we would finally be able to have the opportunity to reverse some of the damage we have so rapidly been inflicting. I struggled in other areas around COVID of course, but I often took comfort in the idea of the earth renewing itself. Then as we started to slowly awaken, re-open and move around again, I saw the reverse take place. Our collective fear of this virus pushed aside any thought towards sustainability or conservation. Everyone shifted into survival mode. The phrase we would often hear was "we just have to get through right now.." This meant that suddenly plastic, whom we all had started to recognize as not so good, was welcomed back. We started covering everything in it. The reusable bags at stores- no longer allowed, back to- "paper or plastic?". Regular plates and utensils at a restaurant were replaced with plastic and styrofoam. Anywhere you looked items were starting to be individually wrapped in plastic. It is an understatement to say that plastic definitely worked its way back into our lives. Don't even get me started on not being able to use reusable cups and mugs.....Reusable was the enemy and disposable became our friend.
Another change.. suddenly ride sharing isn't a good idea and public transportation is frowned upon. So instead of clearing the roadways we added more cars back on.
Then we see the ma and pa shops who had worked so hard to bring home cooked and hopefully healthy food can barely keep their doors open as cars line up outside of fast food establishments.
Remember when we got so excited that people were actually getting outside again? That they were enjoying the outdoors? Well this is still fantastic of course, but we need to take a look at how people are enjoying those outdoors. ATV sales are through the roof. What does this mean? More fossil fuel usage and more emissions. I am not demonizing the use of these vehicles because we too own an ATV (the same one for the past 16 years) and we use it to haul wood, to pull fallen logs, and sometimes for a ride. So no, I am not ripping on their use, I am merely pointing out our skewed idea of what it means to spend time outside. Some people are on the right track and recognize the opportunity to do more camping, hiking and biking. This has increased ten fold (not a true statistic- I made this data up- no need to fact check). Many of these individuals are new to outdoor recreation and don't have the understanding of sustainability while doing these activities. They have their brand new or rented camper of some sort with their propane grill set up, they spray their bug fogger everywhere, light their tiki torches and settle in for a night of outdoor living. No one is actually roughing it except those that have been camping well before COVID started. And so many of these outdoor enthusiasts bring their plastic wrapped granola bars or plastic water bottles and let's just hope everyone is taking the time to separate out their trash and at least recycle.
In addition to all this, we start using hand sanitizer like its our one saving grace. For years now I have been fighting the use of excess hand sanitizer with my clients, emphasizing the importance of "good bugs" and keeping their immune system strong by cultivating the bacteria in and on their body. Now people are so fearful that they have actually resorted to trying to DRINK hand sanitizer, there are warnings now "not to ingest this product". Do I have hand sanitizer at my establishment? Absolutely! Do I use it? Absolutely. Do I use it in place of washing my hands? No! Do I use it unnecessarily out of fear and just because it's there. No! Washing our hands still does the trick and should be our first choice. For me I use hand sanitizer if I am in a situation where I can not wash my hands and I will be touching, or have touched surfaces that others will potentially touch within a window of time.
Obviously I have gotten off on a bit of a tangent and I might say a hypocritical one as well as I am also guilty of slipping in my eco ways and I have bought a plastic water bottle or two, and I certainly visit the coffee shop more than my wallet should allow. I also threw away things that could have been repurposed or re-homed. And I definitely have succumbed to convenience more than I want to admit. I justified some of these things as ways to support the businesses struggling, but most I did because my desire for whatever I wanted at the time superseded my need to support the planet.
As cranky as this post sounds it is actually meant to be a reminder to us all that it is time to snap out of it. We need to get back to being sustainable and mindful. We need to care for our planet again. Let's encourage the science over the fear and get back to taking care of our planet because if we don't it won't be able to take care of us.