A last chance to reset the clock?

BACK in March I posted a blog about the possibility that the pandemic might just encourage us to rethink our relationship with the natural world and our place in it.

Written just days before the lockdown, it was a plea of hope that our experience of coping with the virus and its horrors might just provide some sort of global opportunity for humanity to reset its values.

Later posts considered the impact of the UK lockdown and the opportunities it offered to reconnect with the natural world.

It was by no means a lone voice, of course. Numerous leaders and pundits have put forward blueprints for how we can rebuild in the wake of the pandemic, and the Pope has been dedicating his Wednesday general audiences on how the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity can help heal the world. 

But have we really forgotten the potential lessons we learned from lockdown so very quickly?

We always knew the importance of the economic imperative and getting people back to work as far as possible. Yet in Warwickshire this week we are seeing ancient oaks being pulled down as HS2 construction work continues at an eventual cost already estimated at more than £70bn.

Every week when we walk among the centuries-old trees at Burnham Beeches we marvel at the age and beauty of these giants, which have witnessed so much history.

The devastation across the Chilterns which has reduced local residents to tears is just one symptom of the race to resume all the things we were doing before the whole crazy coronavirus scare began.

Five months on, do we really need a new railway at this moment in time? A third runway at Heathrow? An Oxford-Cambridge expressway? Surely there might be less damaging job-creation schemes that might protect what little we have left of our countryside before it gets buried in concrete and litter?

The March post suggested: “How we cope with and survive from the current crisis is in our hands. It will undoubtedly mean looking at the world in a different way – and changing how we live our lives.”

I’m not sure that’s happening. The race seems to be on to declare that it’s “business as usual”. But it’s no longer business as usual. And it would be good to see more of our political and business leaders taking account of the new reality before it’s too late.

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