Simon Phelps| When everything gets back to normal.

As Lockdown seemingly ends, Conservationist Simon Phelps ponders what our new normal can be

What is normal?

I bet this is a phrase that we have all been using a lot of late (I know I have). The coronavirus crisis has turned all of our lives upside down and changed everything. We are all living under difficult lockdown conditions, where our freedoms are curtailed and life is harder. We want thing to get back to how they used to be, so happiness can return. We want our previous normal back.

However do we really want it back? Back to normal means returning to a time when the air was dirtier, traffic greater and carbon emissions higher. We’d also be returning to a time when climate change was largely ignored and our wildlife was in terminal decline. Whilst the coronavirus is undoubtedly a horrible thing, it has also given us a golden opportunity to evaluate what type of world we wish to return to. We have a chance to create a new kind of normal.

Dramatic change is needed

We have been shown that when we treat something as a crisis we can make rapid and dramatic changes to our lives that can have big impacts on the world. This is what Greta Thunberg has been calling for in her campaigning on climate breakdown. She sees it as a crisis, just as the coronavirus is. We have reduced our air and road travel massively because we have had to. We can do it if we want to, if we take it seriously enough.

It seems insensitive to mention the positives associated with the coronavirus crisis, however there are many and I think they merit focus. To ignore them would be to ignore the pathways to a better world. They show us what we could have if we chose it. If we drive less our air is cleaner and less people die. If we mow our urban grasslands less flowers come back, providing food for insects and beauty for our eyes to behold. If we commute less, or work virtually more, we have more time for other things and remove the stress and cost of travel. We can even hear more birdsong, as the noisy hum of cars is reduced. Natures melodies floating back into our lives.

Build back better

Of course some of the ‘old normal’ has to come back. People are losing their jobs, businesses being ruined and lives being disrupted. This is not about prohibiting economic activity and curtailing freedoms, more about rebuilding the economy (and our lives) in a way that gives the planet greater respect than we used to give it. Through this horrible pandemic we have been handed an opportunity to reset certain things. We have a chance to consider how we rebuild, to reflect on the way the world is and how it could be in the future. It is a chance that I hope we take.

Staying local

It is a chance for all of us too, not just governments and big businesses. We’ve been shown how changing aspects of our own lives can potentially have positive side effects. I have saved a huge amount of money through being forced to drive less, and have also dramatically reduced my carbon footprint at the same time. I have discovered rare and wonderful wildlife in my local area (violet oil beetle and green-winged orchids) which I never knew were there before. Focusing my attention locally has made me a better naturalist, it has helped me to connect to the rhythms of the natural world in a deeper way. I’ve decided that, for the time being, I will try and continue to use my car less and stay local in my exploration. These are two simple things that I can do which will contribute to making the world a better place. There will be many more things that we can all do.

When you next go to think about what it will be like to ‘get back to normal’, take a moment to think about what version of normal you want. Perhaps think about the changes you could keep hold of, when the lockdown is lifted. Will our new found focus on our local wildlife be retained? Will we continue to fly less and perhaps holiday in the UK? Will we use our cars less? We know we can do it. It is up to us now.

Can we create a new normal?

Simon Phelps is a Conservationist. He also has a website where he displays his photography and writing. The article written above originally featured on his website. If you are interested in Conservation or nature, it is well worth checking out his website.

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