A 1959 reminder to wash your hands. Alberta Department of Health

The COVID-19 silver lining: a new deal for everyone

We should take the chance to rethink our world

I want to be clear, the COVID-19 crisis is one of the biggest struggles that we will face in our time.

The mood reminds me of that of wartime. People across the world are buckling down to face what could be a drastic change in our lifestyles. It feels like we are facing off against an enemy, unseen and unknown to us. Like the days of Soviet sleeper agents, or nuclear threats, or imminent invasion from hostile forces, we are staring in the face of uncertainty, and that terrifies people. It terrifies me. News and rumours of stock markets crashing, unemployment, supply chain disruption, and emergency measures all feed into this wartime rhetoric, and into our collective psyche.

However, there is a silver lining to all of this. While some may see the future as a uncertain mess, it can also be seen as a blank canvas on which we can carve out a better future.

One of the main effects of the first world war and the great depression that followed it was the New Deal, a massive undertaking to ensure that the world at the end of the day was better than how it started. We can do a similar thing now. COVID-19 can be a chance for us to do something similar and reset the problematic areas in our society to reimagine them in ways that benefit everyone.

The crisis will likely affect women differently than it does men. It will affect white people differently than it affects people of colour. The same goes for indigenous people, LGBTQ+ people, trans people, or people of different economic backgrounds. There can be a New Deal for all of us.

During this time of struggle, think about the businesses and industries that are struggling to help people. If they are unable to support us through the times in which we need them most, they likely need to be rethought. Think about the food systems that we rely on, or the energy systems, or the This time of strife can be one in which we all learn to be more resilient and helpful to our neighbours. It must be. We cannot go backwards.

Consider how the sudden lack of transportation to populated areas has caused the first measured drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide in decades, how the canals of Venice have cleared up, or how smog has finally lifted in China. Consider where your food comes from, and how that would be interrupted by a country-wide lockdown. What would happen if the global food distribution system falls apart?

There are solutions to all of these problems. Locally grown food is our key to being resilient. Gardening can happen almost anywhere. The Agricultural Land Reserve exists in B.C. only to ensure farmland is secured for times of need. We may be in a time of need.

Vote with your dollar. Think about the local businesses who can’t afford to stick out a prolonged shutdown, or of which restaurants provide paid sick leave for their workers. Think about investing in community supported agriculture, or learning how to grow potatoes.

The most important thing you can do right now is to be there for people. When quarantined, help out around the house, call your neighbour, donate to the food bank, be an ally to everyone, and be there for each other, because we are all in this together.

The First and Second World Wars were scary, but they ushered in a era of unprecedented growth and prosperity. That system has become bloated and sick, and needs to be reconfigured so it benefits everyone.

These are scary times, but they don’t have to be the end of everything you love. We will come out of this, and we can come out of it stronger than we were before. We just have to make that choice.

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