How shall I then live?

Both my husband and I have received two shots of COVID-19 vaccine. Now what? I think that is a question that many of us are asking and I would like to believe that I might have some thoughts on how to answer it. Many of us have read the book or seen the movie The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. That was one of my first reflections on the responsibility involved in choosing how and what to eat.

I have been fortunate to have always had a choice. When I lived in Bangladesh, I met people who were grateful to have the same rice and lentils every day. That dish or nothing was their choice. But with options come responsibilities. Just as with food options, whether it is vegetarian, vegan, organic, local, etc., so it is with other areas of life that the pandemic has shown us.

Many of us feel as if we have had no choice in our activities over the last year. We have not been able to be with friends or family, share food around the same table, hug each other, or gather to do the things we feel are important for our lives. We have been asked to live primarily within our local milieu. That has been a shock to people like me who feel entitled to go where they want and do what they want. Many of us have turned to exploring our own territory, camping, hiking, biking, paddling, skiing, etc.

But we have missed the travelling, holidays in warmer locales, exotic hikes in places such as South America, sipping coffee on terraces along the Seine in Paris, visiting game parks in Africa, and road trips in New Zealand, to name a few. More importantly, we’ve missed visiting family and friends who live in distant places. But now, as life begins to return to “normal,” how will we choose to live? How will I choose to live?

I am not a climate scientist and I am lucky to be past my working (for pay) life, but I have been encouraged to see the way reducing air travel, driving shorter distances and using less fossil fuel has been helping to improve the planet. Many of us have been trying to consume less, reduce the waste that we produce, to reuse and recycle. I know folks who have had the time to declutter and reorganize their homes. Some are working from home and many may continue to do so even after it is no longer essential. That could mean big reductions in commuting and vehicle congestion, especially in cities. I believe that if enough people are committed to making changes, new work options will open up in green industries.

Author’s dog camping

So then, how will I decide? Especially on the issues of travel? I have close relatives in Ontario, England, and France and I really want to be able to see them again. Should I decide never to fly again? Sounds hard. I have a son in Powell River, B.C., and even travelling there usually means a flight. And what if I need a medical specialist in Vancouver? Perhaps I should restrict myself to essential only air travel? Or how about one flight every two years? Only to visit loved ones? Or an overseas flight every two years? And what if no one else is willing to change? Why should I make sacrifices if no one else does? It’s not fair! But what is fair? What is just?

There are industries that have suffered from forced reductions in their services. The airlines are a big one. But should we rush to return to previous levels of using their services? Or are there some habits and ways of living that just need to change to meet the changing world?
What has the pandemic taught me as an individual, us as a territory, a country, a world?
How shall I then live?

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