by J. Bruce Neill, Ph.D
Right about now, we hear that, we say that, we so badly yearn for that, getting back to normal. I’m sorry to be the annoying one to remind, or tell you, perhaps once again, but we’re not going back. That’s not how time, history or civilization works – we go forward, never back. It’s never, ever gonna be like it was before the 2020 pandemic. I don’t know exactly how it’ll be different, but I feel strongly that we ought to embrace the new, not yearn for the old.
We will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic a new, changed community, nation and world, and if we embrace the concept of moving forward, I believe we will create better lives. But better won’t happen by accident. We have to be brave and think about what we have learned and what we want for our future. And, it will require the strength of conviction to do the work to move into, and maintain that new, better way of life until it becomes habitual.
Don’t be confused, I’m not, in any way, making light of the loss of human life, nor suffering, nor hardship, but in some ways this pandemic can serve for many of us as a gift. An opportunity for a reset. The motivation to choose how and what we want our lives to be as we go forward in the new, post-pandemic world. I would bet that most of us had lives that weren’t perfect before COVID-19, and they won’t be perfect after; however, we can make all our lives a little better. We have it to do all over again. And now is the time for us to think about the future we want to create
In the conservation business, we have to grapple with, accept, and ultimately embrace the inevitability of change rather than constancy. In conservation discussions, we sometimes use the jargon restore, but it’s just that, jargon; dynamic things don’t get restored. As an example, we are never going to restore the Caloosahatchee; there are too many people in southwest Florida who impact it, and we have changed it too radically. Even if we could somehow magically wind the hands of time backwards, what would be our desired stopping point?
Would Caloosahatchee restoration be before it was connected to Lake Okeechobee, or before the Calusa dug canals and diverted its flow? The questions of restoration become numerous and complex; the simple path is that for conservation, our task is to design for the future so that natural environments can be sustained and remain as healthy as is possible under prevailing and possible future conditions – the new normal.
As individuals, sheltered at home, we have to shake the idea of going back and instead, look to the future and decide what we want it to be like. America is never going to look like a Norman Rockwell rendition again. It is a great nation – there is no again relevant to reality. Our challenge is to decide what each of us will learn, what we will set as priorities and how we will help it become a greater nation through our actions.
Over the last month, my wife and I have adopted long neighborhood strolls after dinner; I think we will work hard to preserve these once we have the ability to be distracted by other things. Turns out these strolls are really very good – for our health, for our relationship, for our neighborhood; they are probably worth working to maintain. I believe we will work to make them a vital part of our new life. I talk with my sister more than I have in years, and it’s good; I will work to make that a part of my new normal.
What about you? What do you want make a part of your new normal life? Soon we will go to that new normal.
Until then, please stay well. Enjoy the small joys of life and include more of nature in your enjoyment.
Dr. Neill is the Director of Education at Sanibel Sea School. Part of the SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) Family, Sanibel Sea School’s mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.