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Living Lightly column

There’s something better than the old ‘normal’

By Chris McGorlick

In times of crisis, governments of all persuasions are wont to encourage citizens to focus on the future and the response to the crisis, rather than the circumstances that led us there in the first place.

The words ‘now is not the time’ have been used so frequently in response to shootings in America, and our own recent bushfire crisis, that they have become shorthand for all forms denialism and maintaining the status quo.

As the COVID-19 curve flattens, the infection rate slows, and attention turns towards dealing with the looming economic crisis, government attention will turn to the future.

The push for things to ‘return to normal’ will strengthen, and we will be told that ‘now is not the time’ to question the merits of what we once considered normal.

I believe there has never been, and possibly never will be again, a better time to do just that.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is (and will continue to be) the biggest global tragedy most of us will ever live through, it will not pass without revealing any silver linings.

The most significant of these may well prove to be the glimpse we have all seen of a world slowed down, and that prioritises people over profit.

You might have experienced this as the calm of cancelled commitments, the quietness of local roads, having the time to cook, bake and create, the comfort of an expanded social safety net, the warmth and generosity of friends neighbours and family, the excitement of seeing dolphins return to Venice, coyotes crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, wild goats in Welsh villages.

When we overcome the challenges of the responding to the COVID-19 crisis, there is no reason all these things can’t be a feature of life and our economy ‘on the other side.’

And now is EXACTLY the time to be collecting those ideas and imagining how they can be realised. To paraphrase Bill Mollison, the system will only be limited by our imagination.

So next time you are leaving cake on your neighbour’s doorstep, zooming with your family, or standing in a slow-moving queue (observing 1.5m separation, of course), share your thoughts about what could be.

You may well find more in common between your new ideas than with the old notion of ‘normal.’