Ollie's Modern Life

This month, Ollie Peart looks beyond the pandemic, and hears a wakeup call for all of humanity


We are nowhere near the new normal. Each time we think things are under control, they’re not. I’m pretty sure there’s some science as to why this is the case. I think it’s called chaos theory. The idea that a fart can change the weather, or something like that. I wonder how many of my horrific guffs have caused damage and suffering to others across the world?

Humanity forgets this. Humanity forgets its own fragility. We have an incessant, irrational desire to control. Maybe our craving for control is part of the reason 1.4 trillion (yes, trillion) photographs will be taken by the world’s population this year, a single moment in time, the framing and presentation of which we have absolute control. No wonder we’re so addicted.

But as we stand back and watch a virus tear through our normality, we have again, forgotten the reality - we have absolutely no control, nor will we ever. There is no normal, and there won’t be a new normal either.

Our craving for control is one of the reasons we are in this mess in the first place. We tamed the world, conquered every corner and gorged our way to this pandemic. A pandemic that hitched a ride on our astonishing inventions, and reaped havoc across the world as a result.

Our first instinct was to ‘control the virus’. It was a reassuringly simple idea, as if a man with a big net would come along, catch all the virus and seal it in a big glass jar. For a moment, we thought we had it. After an intense and gruelling lockdown, cases plummeted, the sun shone and news stories of people enjoying the beaches beamed across the world.

But we were making the same mistake we always make. We thought WE were in control. We never were. We were merely taming a beast, and just a like a lion whipped to perform, pretty soon it’ll get tired and bite your fucking arm off.

The misconception was that barriers, masks, one way systems and hand sanitiser would fight off the virus, or scare it off or something. It gives us a false sense of security, a feeling of control, a feeling that with all this clobber, everything will be fine.

You may think I’m some kind of anti-masker or herd-immunity activist who’s about to suggest we let it have its way. Far from it. In fact, the complete opposite. The world will always change, and we have to learn to change with it, not fight it off.

Let me explain.

All efforts so far have focussed on systems, tiered or otherwise, that can allow us to return to a ‘new normal’ to get things back to the way they were. But what happens when another pandemic hits? Which it will - In the last 20 years alone we’ve had SARS, MERS, Ebola, avian influenza and swine flu. It just so happens Covid-19 was the one to get us. We’re just lucky it isn’t more deadly. The next one may be much, much worse.

The idea we are even contemplating getting things as back to normal as soon as possible is fucking ludicrous. If we did, it would mean a continuation of mass deforestation and plummeting bio-diversity, a human habit which is one of the driving factors for further deadly pandemics in the future.

We need to stop thinking of ourselves as these things that were popped on earth one day. We weren’t. We ARE nature and we are part of the natural world, and we need to start working with it. If we had, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now.

Sir David Attenbourough has been doing the rounds with this message. That we have to build biodiversity back up again, and change the way we live our lives otherwise we will see further, more devastating pandemics, ferocious weather events and catastrophic shifts in our climate.

The messaging around this pandemic should not be one of ‘control’ - it should be one of change. WE need to change, and we need to change now or this will just keep happening.

WE need to change, and we need to change now or this will just keep happening

In the short term we will have to change what we wear, how we behave and our habits. But in the long term, we will have to change almost everything. We will have to change what we value. Economic output should not be a measure of prosperity, growth should not be conflated with success. What we eat and how we farm it will have to change drastically. Industrialised farming of animals will have to cease, how crops are planted and harvested will need to be addressed, the use of fertilisers that obliterate biodiversity will have to stop. We have to stop burning fossil fuels, we have to use more renewables. We need to travel less, we need to protect the wild…

The list goes on, and on, and on.

The pandemic is perhaps the sharp kick up the arse we need for action. We have a real danger of being the generation who was alerted to the problems, but craved our comfortable ‘normal’ lives so much, we didn’t bother changing.

So, have a think. If anything about your current situation feels ‘normal’ - it shouldn’t. 

YOU need to change. WE need to change. 

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