Listening to the Coronavirus

Humans have seemed unable to get a handle on climate change, with global emissions of greenhouse gases continuing to grow every year. But a microscopic pathogen, so structurally simple that it does not even have a single cell and is arguably not even alive, may be capable of accomplishing what our political leaders thus far cannot.

If I appear to minimize the suffering caused by the coronavirus, it is not my intent, and I also fear what the virus may wreak on those most vulnerable in my community and family.  But I do think we need to say it out loud:  this small being has opened possibilities for change that didn’t exist a month ago. I hope we can learn from it.

Its biggest lesson for me: settle TF down.  You really don’t need to fly there.  You don’t need to drive there.  Just stop. It’s ok to stop. To just stay home.

For all my pretensions to caring the planet I fly around a lot.  Out of vanity and curiosity and ambition.  Because I think that it is my job to keep up with the world, stay on top of what’s happening outside of my remote rural district on an out-lying island in the most isolated (but lovely) archipelago on the planet. Cutting down on flying means turning down opportunities to be where the action is, having a seat at the table, possibly “making a difference.”  But a lot of the flying is NOT really necessary.

The coronavirus will undoubtedly have significant economic impacts on Hawai’i’s tourism-dependent economy.  There may well be people who will lose their jobs because of this, and I don’t want to minimize that pain and suffering.   But this is yet another wake-up call that tourism dependency is not sustainable.  Tourism is easy money, but  easy money is highly destructive to the environment and to our communities. We need to wean ourselves off of the easy money.

Coronavirus is asking us what is essential, what is important, and what is not really necessary.  We need help learning this lesson.  It will not be our business and political leaders, who can learn from the coronavirus – they will be desperating trying to juice the economy, to re-start the engines of growth – but we ordinary people in our ordinary lives.

So let us learn from the coronavirus, instead of hating on it, because it may well be a messenger, and certainly it is a message.

2 Replies to “Listening to the Coronavirus”

  1. Thanks for raising this question Michelle. I imagine lots of us will be addressing it one way or another, weighing personal priorities and responding in our different ways.

    Though it’s premature to say what lessons we as societies may learn from this messenger, I can’t help noticing how institutional bungling at an early stage in the outbreak, in each of the world’s two most powerful states, has played a big part in the ensuing cascade of misfortune. In one of those states, an excess of nontransparent, unaccountable state authority allowed the virus to get a head start on containment efforts. In the other, a legacy of faith in the deregulated ‘free market’ appears to be having the same effect.

    I’m crossing my fingers that when the dust settles, both will have learned to temper their respective ideologies.

  2. Life in the time of corvid19. Another mutation culling the herds. Millions of barrels not being burned. Hundreds of thousands animals not run over on crammed roadways. Atmosphere with a pause from exhaust. Demand slowing fewer trees and brush cleared in the Amazon. Governments scrambling to slow the spread of viral threat, tending to citizens for a change. Not enough time to pursue wars on the others. Politicians pulling together, a break from incessant fear mongering to bases. . . . Is this how the earth begins a reset? . . . Support and health to all of you and your family’s.

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