Well, hello there. It’s been a while.
The past few months has been interesting for all of us – Nature included – and I wonder what exactly it has taught us all? It would be great to hear your stories and experiences too, particularly your Nature based experiences.
Coming out of Lockdown (for the time being anyway) I thought I might reflect on my own observances over the last few months. Some might resonate with you, some may jar with you but I think it is important to start a discussion about the whole Lockdown/pandemic situation, if only to reconnect with one another.
Oddly, I started Lockdown in something of a quandary. Fair to say, 2020 was not going to be the best year to have started up a brand-new business! Especially one that has such a focus on social interaction and connectivity. On top of which, the various ‘save your business’ schemes concocted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer didn’t really cover the gaps that were being created in my regular income. It was a test for sure. Now I was being asked to put my money where my mouth is and draw on the resilience I always claimed that my connection with Nature had given me. Added to which, I began to take a step back and observe how my colleagues were reacting to the situation. Lockdown afforded me an opportunity as well as presenting me with a real problem.
As the first days of Lockdown drifted by and the weather did its absolute best to draw us all outside, I began to feel mightily resentful of not being able to work with people in Nature in what could have been described as idyllic circumstances. On the other hand, what I started to see was an increase in the number of people who had chosen to walk along my favourite trail as part of their daily ‘one hour’ exercise. In part, I was pleased, people were accessing Nature and enjoying their experiences; there were pictures and posts all over social media painting an increasingly positive picture of the natural environment. In many ways, Lockdown was doing a great PR job for the Great Outdoors. So, I thought to myself, this is a really positive step forward. More people outside equals more people enjoying and appreciating their natural environment. Perhaps, I said to myself, the long-term benefits of this will be a more respectful connection, one where people consider their impact on the world around them because they have seen and experienced the benefits for themselves. More on that later…
As you will appreciate, running a business which depends on meeting people in Nature meant that while I could be philosophical about it all, I still wasn’t earning a living. Hmmm… Then I found out something about myself.
Suddenly, I noticed a number of businesses involved in nature connection promoting the benefits of being in Nature. Ok, that’s what businesses do you might say but the sorts of things that were being promoted seemed to me to be a little bit ‘complementary’ to the whole experience. For example, selling bottles of ‘Dartmoor air’ (yes, really) or jars of ‘Lakeland water’ (again, yes really); it all seemed a bit ‘Peckham Spring Water’ (for the Only Fools and Horses fans). There was the next level – kits that had been cobbled together such as the ‘Countryside Colouring Kit’ and the ‘How to Enjoy your Garden Guide.’ It all seemed a bit… well… exploitative. And that pushed my buttons. Sure, I could have jumped on the bandwagon and made a lot of noise too but, there was something important – for me at least – about seeing how people created their own connections with nature and how they communicated that experience. Instead of trying to sell something, I leaned back and listened – something Nature had taught me.
Now, as the government tackles the return to ‘normality,’ it may be hard to remember those first heady days of Lockdown but a legacy remains. Look at the skies. How many contrails do you see? How many planes have you heard today? This week? This month? While the government wrangles with trade deals and air corridors and the furlough scheme and grasping businesses with billion-pound war-chests, the skies remain silent. The roads, less so, but still nowhere near the volume (both meanings) that existed before Lockdown. And people noticed.
What about our ‘Green and Pleasant Land?’ We all started Lockdown appreciating the open spaces we were allowed to visit. Pictures flooded social media of beautiful places that people were just discovering were on their doorstep. Fast forward three months and we are looking at Bournemouth under a tide of litter. I’m not the first to ask but I’ll add my question: What happened? What changed? It wasn’t normal to litter before Lockdown… people loved being connected to Nature during Lockdown… and then? Questions raised by the likes of Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough forgotten. Pictures of plastic pollution forgotten.
On the other hand, the idea of community seemed to grow stronger. Remember the ‘panic buying’ phase? Even now, there are people with cupboards stuffed with toilet rolls, pasta and flour that they will probably never use – not unless they have some weird recipe I’ve never heard of. But that changed. And what changed it was the actions of people who gave selflessly – who saw an opportunity to make something happen for others, not for themselves. It was a real ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,’ moment.
It started with the sudden realisation that our actions have consequences. NHS workers desperately appealing for people to stop panic buying because they could not get access to vital supplies to feed themselves or their own families. Then, the realisation that what we have in this country is unique and something to be immensely proud – the NHS. Our understanding and our appreciation began with a round of applause that rippled across the country for weeks. It was augmented by the actions of the incredible Captain Tom and more recently, Tony Hudgell (aged 5) who gave of themselves to help others. And boy, did they ever. And the millions of people who gave money, supported them and made sure their voices were heard. Lockdown brought out the absolute best in people and that legacy continues.
And it shone a light on the worst: bigotry, violence, prejudice, illegal gatherings.
What I know is, is that Lockdown impacted each and every one of us and every one of us made choices. Those choices had consequences that were more obvious and more pertinent because we couldn’t lose them in the rush of daily living. As we ease out of Lockdown, I wonder what we do with our experience of those choices? It is easy to lose them all again in a surge towards the desperate need of capitalism to buy, buy, buy. But what sacrifices did we make that mattered? Not buying a pint at the local pub or not being able to see our loved ones? Not driving long distances to see a favourite beauty spot or not being able to get what we wanted when we wanted it?
The choices we made certainly had an impact on Nature and they will continue to do so after Lockdown. Maybe it is salient to remember – Covid19 was the evolution of a natural phenomenon, a critter of 0.12 microns (pretty small) and it brought the world to a standstill. Lean into that thought for a second. Then consider… yours is the next move.
What did the Coronavirus teach you?