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Paradigm Shift

Photo by Todd Trapani / Pexels


Today is the day California “reopens” and eases its mask requirements.

Any silver linings or unexpected good things from the pandemic? This question was posed as a prompt for our writing group two days ago. My response follows.

COVID-19 rocked our world—our assumptions, expectations and the way we view reality.

Like a slap to the side of the head, it woke us up. No, this was not going to be business as usual. Your kids are going to be going to school in your living room while you try to figure out how to work from home. And if your work is deemed essential, you’re going to be at risk of exposing yourself and your family members to the virus. Be patient and vigilant. It’s likely to be a year before vaccines can be developed and deployed.

Interesting to me, was the timing of the pandemic, arriving here in the U.S. during the Trump administration. Already, America had thumbed its nose at the global impacts of climate change and had fractured diplomatic relations with several nations worldwide. Many families across our country saw their members assert themselves politically and divisively. I suspect that in most cases, these alliances fall along the lines of those who were eager to receive the vaccination and those who continue to resist.

The message the pandemic delivered is the one we have been ignoring for too long at our peril. We are not in charge.

A silver lining? Only if we answer this call to action with a sustained and unified effort to correct our course for future generations. We must be compelled to look carefully at our lifestyle choices and the lessons we’ve learned after a year of sheltering-in-place. Yes, we can get by with less gasoline and fewer miles driven. Many employers are looking at options for their workforce that don’t require them to be road warriors. Cities are cautiously evaluating proposals for new development with a critical eye toward the undeniable impacts of climate change. Real estate values in coastal communities in parts of Florida are trending downward, reflecting the reality of sea level rise.

In Northern California, we are no strangers to drought and water conservation. But in the face of what has become our new “wildfire season,” we need to up our game. Hundreds of water rights holders have been ordered by the State to cease drawing water from the Russian River for irrigation.

This is the first year luscious wild blackberries haven’t spontaneously appeared along our fence line and in fact, the vines are dead. When we moved here almost forty years ago, we could hear the songs of crickets and frogs on summer evenings. No more. Now lizards scurry along the borders of the garden box and coyotes cry out in the night.

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