But What Can We Do?

A woman in the middle of a roadsitting on a box next to globe on a suitcase. She is reading a map; obviously planning the future.
I’m starting to miss travelling. Where are we going next? Image by Lorri Lang from Pixabay

Are you bored yet? Excited to see other parts of the country opening up, yet worried that this will just extend our time stuck at home. I miss you! I see you! I had a melt down last night; I am so lonely, so useless, scared and frustrated. As a scientist, it is hard to watch the news as people completely mess up the science or worse, deliberately and completely ignore the science. I’m better this morning. I feel more confident that we can get through this and build a better future while we are at it.

In Heather Cox Richardson’s Letter for America for May 4 she ended with this quote from FDR’s acceptance speech for President in 1932.

“Out of every crisis, every tribulation, every disaster, mankind rises with some share of greater knowledge, of higher decency, of purer purpose. Today we shall have come through a period of loose thinking, descending morals, an era of selfishness, among individual men and women and among Nations. “

I was intrigued enough to read the rest of his speech. I found it very interesting as to how relevant to what we are going through today. How can we use his ideas to make the future that we want to see?

“On the farms, in the large metropolitan areas, in the smaller cities and in the villages, millions of our citizens cherish the hope that their old standards of living and of thought have not gone forever. Those millions cannot and shall not hope in vain.”

This echoes the idea that we want our lives to “return to normal” which is unlikely to happen for a while, if ever. We need to make the future brighter than the world before COVID-19; we need to make the world we want. A world to dream for, a world for our children to live in and grow in and a world we cherish. We don’t have that world yet, so I hope we can use this time sitting on our sofas to change and build a greater and better society. Let’s not return to the unequal society that we had in January 2020 and before. I am particularly concerned about building a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable food system. I am very concerned how damaged our food system has been shown to be by the pandemic. 

The Great Depression left a lasting impact on our country and our families. Image from Pixabay.

It is very daunting to contemplate change and being part of a big change is scary. We have to recognize that changes are necessary if we want to provide people the two things that FDR said we most need:

“What do the people of America want more than anything else? To my mind, they want two things: work, with all the moral and spiritual values that go with it; and with work, a reasonable measure of security–security for themselves and for their wives and children. Work and security–these are more than words. They are more than facts. They are the spiritual values, the true goal toward which our efforts of reconstruction should lead. These are the values that this program is intended to gain; these are the values we have failed to achieve by the leadership we now have.”

Today perhaps we wouldn’t say it in quite this way but really all anybody wants is work and security. Essentially what we wanted nearly 90 years ago is the same as what we want now: LOVE AND PURPOSE. We want to receive and give love and we feel love by providing for our families and friends and we find purpose by being of service to others through our work.

My food system is reflected by fruit originally from all over the world. Image by Cathy Davies.

We need to make the food system more resilient and that means supporting local food systems and small food businesses. Additionally we need to find purposeful work that people can do from home. I am able to work from home, so why not other people. 

Is it now time to talk about a basic income? We know that the $1200 didn’t go far for many of us. One month’s rent and utilities in my case. Do we want a COVID-19 New Deal? If small businesses are truly supported, what services could they provide that we are currently lacking? What work would be appropriate for people during a pandemic? We could pay people to:

  • Garden to grow food and flowers for us
  • Create beautiful websites
  • Make masks and other clothes we might need

In the meantime, while we wait for government action; not forgetting how long it took to get the New Deal; what can we do while sitting on our sofas and Zooming with our colleagues and friends? While, TBH, sitting on our sofas is about the most important thing we are doing right now even if it is boring and being social animals means we want to be sociable, we can also make decisions that influence the future we want to see. We can:

A picture of a shovel in freshly dug dirt representing the work we need to do to build the community and society we want after the pandemic
We have to dig deep to build a new community Image by Goumbik from Pixabay
  • Start a garden, if we have space 
  • Support a local community garden
  • Buy vegetable seedlings (also known as starts) from a local garden center
  • Visit a farmers market to support local farmers and food businesses
  • Sign up for a CSA for a local farm
  • Purchase meals from local restaurants or buy gift cards for use in the future 
  • Find and support local organizations who are providing local food to those in need

Oh! And wash your damn hands.

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