Will COVID Gives Us a New Baseline to Work From? [Opinion]

These days I pass my mornings with my children, going for a walk in the local nature reserve, doing some work in the garden, reading stories and occasionally doing some activity books with the oldest; who’s three and a half. I get to hand over after lunch but I’m often reluctant, as I’ve come to love this simple time, often with undone projects of making elderflower cordial or beer, or a plant out in the garden. I sometimes camp at the weekend with my daughter, and we increasingly find ourselves more and more interested in the bees and the small goings-on in the pond.

I look lovingly at my wife and my children and feel incredibly blessed to have this time. I reflect on what it was like before lockdown. I was busy, we struggled for a time, I felt torn between my home life, work-life, social life and social media life. It’s pretty tricky with a one-year-old and three-year-old, no doubt, but it still felt unnatural to feel so anxious.

What is this anxiety? To be loved, to have a place in the world, to feel that you have as much as everyone else? I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it is this same anxiety which is fueling the climate and ecological breakdown. We want to flutter from one place to the next, get messages through all our different channels, buy what we want to and squeeze in some time for high-end luxury activity, whilst still having a great home where we can get easy access care and attention.

It’s weird. I said when I was getting married ‘emotions are the most expensive thing in the world’. It was my realisation that we feed our desires with resources. Over the last few weeks, it has become clear to me that it is exactly that desire or previously described anxiety which is deconstructing the makeup of the natural world.

But perhaps we will find a new baseline of what we want to feed this desire? Being an environmental scientist, it’s all about baselines. The UK has set it’s climate targets upon a 1990 baseline, 1970s seems to be the common baseline for biodiversity (when it really started declining), so what is the baseline requirement for a human being? Most will say established human rights, access to water and food, but I say that’s nonsense, the baseline requirement for a human is to feel loved and to have sustenance to live.

So what if our new baseline means that everyone stops trying to get what the upper class got back in the mid-twentieth century and begins to be what actually just fulfils us?

We’re living on loads less than I did before, my wife and I are having conversations about cutting down working collective working hours and establishing a new financial baseline whereby we aim to just see our closest family during holidays and give up the rat race of here and there. I’m even thinking about hiring out the car, as we hardly use it, and whether we could Airbnb our house when we’re away. Why have all these resources which aren’t doing anything?

Perhaps others are also thinking this way? It is certainly an opportunity for enlightened thinking, a chance to reconsider priorities. A recent poll of US and UK citizens showed that over 60% would support policies that were as restrictive as lockdown in order to tackle climate change. This could be our opportunity to find happiness in simple things as well as address the biggest issue facing humanity.

I wonder whether we will change or we’ll go back to what we did before…?

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