As the country begins to reopen, I can’t help but feel a little uneasy. I’m writing this as pictures of a strange-looking high street dominate the news. Hours before opening, queues of retail-deprived shoppers eagerly await their turn to embrace what’s inside. Some images illustrate textbook social distancing; others resemble frantic January-sale madness.
By the time this is published, I’m not sure how it will look. Perhaps we’re seeing more similar scenes, except the queues, extend to hair salons, cinemas, bars and restaurants.
Health is the priority
I get it; we’ve missed the high street. Our hair is out of control (did anyone else attempt cutting their own fringe?), we’ve exhausted Netflix, homemade cocktails aren’t a patch on those made by a mixologist (for many reasons), and we just want someone else, just once, to cook for us. I’m at the top of the list for supporting the return of the industries that served us well and made life worth living. There is an urgent need to relight the fire of our desperate economy. But are we risking our health and that of others, in the process?
As a potential consequence of the country rushing to reopen, I sincerely hope we’re not looking at a series of localised lockdowns as the virus attempts to regain control. In our haste, it will undoubtedly cause considerably more damage to the economy, and our mental health, if this is the case.
Let’s not also forget our environmental intentions pre-pandemic. Our concerted efforts to reduce single-use plastic were going so well and we’d finally got the hang of leaving the house with our trusty reusable cup. The rise has been unavoidable, for our safety, but as cafes reopen and you stride off with your takeaway version, just think of where it goes when you’ve finished. Does this ritual need to become a daily habit when you managed for three months without?
Protecting our planet
And if we’re not queuing on the streets, we’ve somehow managed to create queues in nature. Scenes of overcrowded beaches and parks, left with nothing but tonnes of rubbish as the sun sets for the night, are intensely disturbing.
We shouldn’t be too quick to forget the lessons we may (or may not) have learned during lockdown. We should take a step back and think about what is really good for us and the world around us, as we attempt to reconnect with the life we once knew. Do we need to hurry back with such intention?
Pre-lockdown, mass-consumerism and pollution were destroying our once-beautiful planet. We then gave it time to breathe. We slowed down. Nature flourished. Are we in danger of suffocating our precious environment under stress-coated blankets, as we slip back into old behaviours with instant gratification at the top of the agenda?
Just slow down
Let’s not forget why lockdown happened in the first place. The life-threatening virus, unfortunately, hasn’t magically disappeared. Let’s not also forget how much we needed to slow down, before we were dramatically forced into doing so. Let’s try and consider how we can take a mindful approach to a brand new existence. We can wait, quite happily, in a queue. Why can’t we simply, wait?
As you seek any sort of normality, I urge you to make your return to the outside world with caution. Look after yourselves, look after others and look after our planet. We have the opportunity to make a difference; to change our world for the better. Let’s not mess it up.