As I look out the window of my back porch I hear the road buzzing with cars. It’s 5:45pm – people are going home from work. It almost appears that traffic is heavier than it was before COVID-19. We are over a year into a global pandemic that has taken countless lives… but we have been given an opportunity: to teach, learn and reflect on our lives as we live on this tiny little planet, and even more specifically, in our cities that will need help over the long haul if we don’t plan and live appropriately. COVID-19 has suggested, in her own way, that people throughout the world need to slow down a bit, regroup, and take a closer look at what we have around us and how we live among each other. Whether one believes in a higher power, or nothing spiritual at all, the bottom line is that people on this planet have an opportunity to reset, regroup, and recreate the way they live. It’s not just the responsibility of giant corporations, architects, landscapers, environmentalists, city planners and others in government to recreate the way we live, it is up to every individual and it MUST be taught experientially in homes, schools and organizations.
There are so many examples of thoughtful living around the world. I personally think of parts of West Africa, Native American life before European settlers, and so many others living today who keep it simple, clean, and sustainable. We all seem to forget that we have a HUGE responsibility to leave this place better than what we were given. It’s the only way the planet will survive.
The pandemic brought big numbers to the table – numbers that we can think about and learn from:
- 1,600,000 global deaths in the past year
- 76,000,000 COVID-19 cases in the past year
- 140,000,000 N95 masks during a 90-day peak-use period
- 26,500,000 people filed for unemployment by end of April, 2020
- 193,700,000 unemployed people globally in 2021
- 80,000,000 + people were displaced from their homes in 2020
Papers and books are already being written on the changing numbers and trends that we have seen during this pandemic, but the reality of what this challenge has brought to the world is awkwardly and perhaps refreshingly good. It is our responsibility to view this as an opportunity to change, to work together, and to encourage collaboration for all people of the world. It’s a big task, but we all must make the effort.
- Life on Earth is very delicate and fragile
- People on Earth have an opportunity to look at how they live, do their part and be part of a solution beyond just taking care of themselves s – now is the time.
What we do with urban settings over the upcoming years will be very important. Money will dictate what people can and can’t do. If we don’t move beyond economic injustice, urban settings will be completely gentrified and people of lesser economic means will be forced out further and further beyond the city itself. So what do we need to do and how do we do it? It’s a deeply complicated issue and although local policies like land trusts, rent control, just-cause eviction ordinances, community benefits communities, tenant option to purchase, regulating and taxing short-term rentals and vacancy taxes help, there still seems to be ways in which developers are making big money and creating a bigger gap between people.
The bottom line – we must always remember who and what we have lost during COVID-19 while seeing it as an opportunity to change. To most readers this is not a solution, it’s just a rant. But I am confident that if we don’t get back to the basics, explore our prejudices, reflect on our own power related to money, get involved in local politics, pay close attention to our environment we will diminish and human flourishing will eventually collapse. However, if we all do our own part to work on these actions independently and collaboratively, we will begin to make a bigger difference.
5 simple ways to start:
- Walk and talk in and beyond your own neighborhood
- Ride a bike whenever you can – to work, to school, to the grocery store
- Visit your community parks and imagine how they could be better and share your ideas with the city parks department
- Get involved in local politics
- Help out with kids and education
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Greater Equity. Forum Journal, Volume 31, Number 4, 2017, pp. 19-26
National Low Income Housing Association. (2019, April 5). Gentrification and Neighborhood Revitalization: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Olin, A. (2020, April 10). In the COVID-19 era, a renewed appreciation of our parks and open spaces. Urban Edge.
UNHCR (2020, June 18). Figures at a Glance.
Wahba, S. (2021, March 2). Future of Cities Will Shape Post-COVID-19 World. The World Bank