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Emerging from lockdown

Looking back on the year so far from its mid-point in June, it is hard to recall what it felt like to go about life in January and February before the lockdown-style restrictions were put in place in March.

Coronavirus has had an impact on all our lives and many of us have seen our plans for the year disintegrate as events are cancelled, holidays postponed, jobs made insecure and incomes reduced, or, in the case of all the many hundreds of thousands who have fallen through the government safety nets, stopped altogether.

Life has changed for many. For some who have experienced this vicious virus, the road to recovery is long and arduous. Many others have lost loved ones. And as we express relief at the falling number of daily deaths, we are encouraged to get back to “normal” and do our duty on the high street to keep the big retail names that we are all familiar with thriving and profitable.

Yet, for many people, one of the joys of the lockdown has been not shopping. Not spending money on non-essential items, and not accruing debt to be faced in the future. We have heard how the environment temporarily breathed a sigh of relief while our cars remained still and our transport systems operated at a fraction of capacity. Hitting pause on our shopping habits has led to less clutter and shorter credit card bills, and a growing realisation that “normal” is neither sustainable nor desirable.
Recent studies have demonstrated the links between the destruction of forests and wild places, wildlife trade, our intensive food production system and the increase in diseases that leap from animals to humans. If we think about our recovery from this coronavirus pandemic, we have to factor in a substantial change in our relationship with nature if we are to avoid the human and economic losses seen these past months.

For Nature For Us by WWF makes precisely this point. It explains that “Humanity’s broken relationship with nature comes with a cost. That cost has revealed itself in terrible ways. Loss of lives, loss of jobs, and a shock to our global economy. This pandemic joins a long list of emerging diseases that will continue to undermine global stability unless we fix our relationship with nature.”

Yet this focus on “getting back to work”, “saving the economy”, “spending for recovery”, and “getting back to the high street” entirely misses this point. There has been much talk about a “new normal” and there is no doubt that if we strive to return to what was, we know from bitter experience what may become. So what might this new life look like?

If we approach this with sustainability, humanity and ecology in mind, this “new normal” could mean we don’t rush to consume non-essential items that have had a toll on our environment in their production, transportation and disposal. It could mean that we get used to our bills being lower, our homes being less cluttered, and the nature around us being able to thrive. And it just might mean that our environment can breathe again on the path to recovery.

Over the next few weeks Life Squared will be asking people to submit their ‘Lessons from lockdown’ – things they’ve learnt about life from their time during this period - and with your help we’ll produce a new publication setting out some ideas on how we can build better lives as we seek to recover together from the impact of coronavirus.

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