No, But Really…Where Do We Go from Here?
In an uncertain world, do we change for the better, or stay the course, no matter how destructive that may be?
In the days just before shelter-in-place restrictions were put into action here in California, grocery stores in my neighborhood were already bare.
I thought we were better than this, but the doomsday preppers were out in full force, grabbing as many frozen meals, bags of flour and packages of toilet paper as they could.
By the time I got out there, after a failed attempt at grocery delivery services that resulted in bags full of things no one in my house ordered, things were picked through quite efficiently.
But there was something telling going on in the meat aisle.
I’m not usually one to get all philosophical, but I was struck at how obvious it was that this was a crossroads in where we go next as people.
All that was left behind in those fridges, which are typically stocked with multiple versions of organic chicken, tenderloins of all sizes, and every cut of animal (and soy) protein imaginable, were giant, family-sized hunks of red meat, sitting alongside packages of the fake stuff. I don’t even know how a person cooks a piece of meat that massive, or what part of the animal it could have come from. I hear marbling is a good thing, so these must have been really good, because I could see the veins of white fat snaking through those dinosaur filets at least six feet away.
I watched one man in thick flannel pick up two packages of bleeding steaks for what I could only assume was his tiger den, because I recently learned that’s a thing people do.
I watched another take a look at the meat substitutes, hold them in his hands as if deciding whether they would be enough to sustain him during this trying time, and set them down again in favor of brontosaurus steaks for dinner.
It was my turn. I could spend my food budget on pounds and pounds of thick cuts that I guess I could marinate in some way, or shove on a kabob skewer. We aren’t vegetarians by any means, but steak is something that’s a rarity in our house for many reasons, including a predisposition to cancer and heart disease and a desire to keep things tight around here.
Or I could tell my husband we were expanding our meatless Mondays to include Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and likely even Thursdays.
I went with the faux Italian sausages and veggie burgers, but it got me thinking.
When all of this is over, and we’re out there making decisions for ourselves again, what kind of world will we choose to live in?
Will it be business as usual, indulgent and at times irresponsible, or will we make smarter decisions for the planet, and for ourselves?
We’ve seen the positive effects that our actions, or, more likely, the lack thereof, can have in just a few weeks of staying put.
Every morning I make sure to spend at least a few minutes checking out the various animal news around the world, because it just makes me feel good. You’ve got lions napping in the middle of the road in Kruger National Park. Bears and bobcats are coming out of hiding in our national parks, which may not be the best thing for us humans, as according to Carole Baskin, bobcats are two-faced and will eat you alive. I’m paraphrasing.
The canals of Venice are so clear without human interference that a jellyfish was filmed floating along the waterways the other day, apparently to classical music. The most polluted cities in the world are boasting views so clear and air so clean that people just might want to get used to that sort of thing.
Closer to home, people in Los Angeles are seeing the cleanest air in decades with fewer cars on the road and planes in the air. As I’m in San Diego, this is welcome news.
But is it sustainable? Will people decide they’d like to see this idea of living clean grow and sacrifice for the good of the planet? Will we invest in public transportation that people actually want to use, or return to our dependence on oil?
When all of this is over, what kind of actions will we take when dealing with each other?
Around the world, we’re seeing the effects of the pandemic on the human psyche, and seeing how resilient we actually are. We’ve certainly seen both the best and the worst in people.
There are groups of protestors out there apparently righting for their right to catch the virus and give it to their loved ones, just so that they can get haircuts again. (Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just reading their signage.)
But there are more people doing the right thing, and caring about their neighbors. They’re making a little extra at dinner to take care of the elderly people in their communities. They’re planning nightly rituals in recognition of the work our healthcare personnel are doing. Retired doctors are coming back into the fold to support overloaded staff around the country, despite the risk of contracting this awful illness.
In my own small corner of the world, I’m seeing my teacher friends rally together to do what they can for their students with what remains of the school year, often while taking care of families of their own. Chalk messages on the sidewalks motivate people to stay safe, and stay the course. One neighbor with a hookup for fresh fruits and vegetables has been holding a free farmer’s market of her own on the driveway in front of her house. Passerby can grab what they need, and donate what they don’t.
Seeing the positives coming out of this, a push toward more healthy options, both for ourselves and the planet, a breath of literally fresher air, a boost in positive human interaction despite six feet of required distance, makes me wonder about what’s next.
Will we care more about the legacies we’re leaving?
Or will it be more of the same?