A great time to contemplate great times past and future
Is the world ending? For most of you, no. For the rest of us, it is a fascinating time. We are learning a lot about not just about cutting-edge handwashing techniques and how to properly disinfect a doorknob, we’re learning about our auto-pilot habits, our ability to entertain ourselves, and the value of our connections.
Life has gotten intensely busy for most people over the years, and we fill in the gaps like never before. Any leisure moment now is generally devoted to our devices. Check your screen time if you don’t believe me. And it’s non-stop; many check their phones in the middle of the night. When we put down our phones it’s often because we’ve found our laptop.
Now, that’s become all we have for entertainment, but because it’s all we have, the leisure and useless part of it becomes stale, like anything else we get too much of. It’s not a break to check your phone now, it’s a break not to.
At the same time, we are forced to not shop, not travel, and not get out and spend. This is crushing for the economy, but it is temporary – we will return with a vengeance to IKEA and restaurants and movies and travel and hanging out with friends and everything we are dearly missing now.
In the meantime, it’s great to take stock of other things. There is kind of a cool effort underway to reconnect with people we’ve gotten too busy to keep up with. I’ve heard from people I haven’t heard from in ages, texts popping in to say hey how are you doing, and I actually take the time to answer them, and converse with them, with something approaching full attention (mostly, sorry, will get to the rest of you soon). And it is one of the better things to come out of this. We can reconnect with valued people and mean it, instead of a few 5-word texts spliced into 12 other e-conversations.
In this space, there is the time to do all those things we always think we should do. You can do yoga at home, and exercise. You don’t need a gym to do 40 real push-ups (no cheating) and trust me it will be a workout. You can read, and of course watch Netflix and our phones. We also now have time to reflect on the value of what’s been taken from us, and to actually make note of how it works, how valuable it all is, and realize that there is a cost.
We are learning about the footprint that our lives leave on the earth, just by life as we know it. The water in Venice is running clear, and cities China reported clearer skies than had been seen in forever as industrial activity ground to a halt. Things like this give us pause, or should, and hopefully calibrate our attention down the road to reducing pollution in whatever way we can, with that being the pure goal devoid of all political agendas.
Just as we are given a stark picture of our footprint on the earth, we are also reminded of our reliance on the systems that keep our various societal machines running. For better or worse, China’s coal consumption is returning to near normal levels. Globally, oil demand is forecast to fall by up to 20 million barrels per day, a staggering number. But in context, that means that 80 million barrels per day are expected to be consumed even with much of the world at a standstill.
But don’t be depressed by those stats; take solace in them. Those same consumption levels will make sure that our world doesn’t collapse. That same mega-system that consumes that much also provides a safety net for almost everyone. Governments are introducing programs to help renters and others who are losing their income. People lucky enough to remain employed are keeping everything going, and keeping the money flowing so that the hardest-hit industries’ employees are not abandoned to the wolves. We will be more focused on our footprint when we recover though, and that can only be a good thing. Maybe Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle will seem like the best advice we’ve ever heard instead of a 4-word annoying lecture.
For anyone feeling solitary out there and like the world is collapsing, you’re not alone – not by tens of millions – and the world isn’t collapsing, not by a long shot. We can be incredibly grateful that this depression will almost certainly be nothing like the one of nearly a century ago. Try to use the time to appreciate all that we miss, and when we go nuts at its return it will all feel respected and earned and we’ll all be wiser for it.
Nothing beats boredom like a book about fossil fuels. Well, this one anyway! Take a tour through the energy world like you’ve never imagined, from electrified cats to evil dentists, and everything hydrocarbon in between. Pick up “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” at Amazon.ca, Indigo.ca, or Amazon.com.