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The stars are so clear...

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Reflections to try to see things more clearly

At the end of the first long week of working from home, walking my dog after putting our two young boys to bed, I turned the corner back onto our street and saw the bright star that always leads us home from my son’s daycare during the winter months. I stopped and looked further up. Never had I seen so many stars in Verdun, and never had I seen them shine so brightly.

Well aware that most of Montreal had not been driving or commuting to work or school for that week, and having seen the stats on decreasing smog and pollution levels in China and Italy because of the COVID-19 crisis, I asked myself if I was imagining it. But no, there was no doubt.

Two reflections then: 1- I didn’t realize that there were so many particles screening my view of the stars a week or two ago. 2- What a show is being put on for us every night, that I don’t often take the time to appreciate.

It had been a hard week of adaptation for me, as it was for everyone. Emotions are high. Anxiety is hard to avoid. I never wanted to be that mother trying to focus on a laptop while my kids try to get my attention. Despite all the technology that makes working from home possible, it was a lot harder not being in direct contact with my colleagues. Frustration is inevitable. And the scary news coming from all directions is very hard to digest.

But the clear stars made me happy that night. They reminded me of my summer vacations as a kid, where we had no electricity and the wonder of the stars was our evening entertainment. Cherished memories from a simpler and less hectic period of life.

These crazy and unprecedented times caused by the frenzy and concern around COVID-19 has turned life as we know it on its head. Swift and strong action from our governments is being appreciated and respected by the great majority of the population, ready to make drastic changes in our ways of life. People are making sacrifices and questioning all that we take for granted. We have simplified our lives to our immediate families and our immediate homes and communities. Difficult in many ways, but wonderful in others. I’m grateful that my family is safe. I’m grateful to be having breakfast, lunch and dinner with them every day. I’m grateful that my time with them is so much less hurried than usual. And I’m grateful to have a job.

I know that most are not ready or interested in thinking too far into the future, when we are all just taking things day by day and trying to keep our loved ones safe. But the societal and government response to COVID-19 is a concrete example of the human capacity to adapt and to look out for one another and our collective future. What an opportune time to rethink the type of society we want to live in once we get through this.

A society where our communities are built around the people – bringing people together and helping each other out. Where we can get to school and work and to the services that we need without adding emissions to the atmosphere. Where we can trust that the food that we’re eating is healthy and safe. Where we can avoid unnecessary and dangerous waste. Where we know that the air is clear and the water is clean. Where we have more time for the people we care about, for playing outside, for watching the stars...

About a year ago I attended a workshop where someone said that we must be careful when we call the climate crisis “an emergency”. Because in an emergency situation, there is a need for a benevolent dictator to step in and dictate how to get us out of the situation... and who really wants that? In this public health crisis we’re currently living, we’re grateful for all that our governments are doing – a clear indication of our society’s capacity to make necessary changes to ensure our collective future.

The COVID-19 crisis is showing the fragility of our systems.

The climate crisis is showing the fragility of our planet, in many ways related to the unsustainable systems that underpin our societies and economies.

As we navigate through this crisis, we must learn from it and from the crises of the past in order to reimagine and restructure our systems for the future. Our planet is resilient when given the chance. Just look at how the sky cleared in a week. We must work to ensure the resilience of our society and our systems to get us through the current crisis and to make us strong and united to prepare for future ones.

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