Lockdown lessons for climate change

There is no doubt that COVID-19 will change the way we live forever!

Routine is now the order of the day, breakfast in the sun, WI work, gardening, cooking and patchwork, and walks across the adjacent army ranges replacing visits to Wisley, the only time I step beyond our gate. Simple aspects of everyday living provide their challenges. Can I eke the milk out until the next supermarket delivery? How can I use 40 chicken drumsticks, delivered as an alternative to a chicken? Why, when I order a pair of knickers online, do I have to give them my bra size?

Each day I hear about the many wonderful things SFWI members are doing in lockdown. I have been extraordinarily moved by how members have met the current challenge and have developed so many ways to deliver a monthly meeting and to keep in regular contact — meetings on line, craft activities delivered to members, phone calls and cards. Your versatility, as detailed in this edition of SWIN, is an inspiration to us all. If your committee has not yet taken the initiative to find alternative ways to engage with its members, then this edition has the answers, read on! If you have an idea, then implement it. Your fellow members will be delighted.

Very many WIs have also answered the call from local NHS and care homes to make PPE. Your efforts have been impressive. I salute you all. The Federation is most proud of your achievement.

As the unbelievable and tragic death toll gradually reduces and the government guidance relaxes a little, we must look to the future. For the moment however we must live under a set of seemingly incoherent, unfair and sometimes upsetting rules, where a cleaning lady can visit my house, but a member of my family cannot. I can greet my friend’s dog in the park but not my own grandchild … We all have our frustrations.

In a recent YouGov poll, a significant majority of participants did not wish to return to life as it was before. Do you? What is your vision for the future? We are certainly far more vulnerable than we thought we were. We can no longer live in a false bubble of comfort and complacency.  COVID-19 is a significant reminder that we are an integral part of the world that we are totally dependent on, and that we have the capacity to destroy it. We have been reminded that we are utterly reliant on nature. What does this mean? Will we emerge from this a more thoughtful and engaging species?

One thing is certain: climate change is far more of a threat to the world than the pandemic and we should take it much more seriously. Post COVID-19, radical changes in government agendas will be needed, a new approach to public services and the tax system, and a move towards equality in society. Can we begin to imagine that future? Shall we begin to live this new normal now? A normal that is good for the planet?

The WI is playing a significant role in campaigning on climate change. At the moment it seems as if there is little we can do, as daily living provides us with unique and difficult challenges, but we are already making a difference by our reduction in car usage, cancelling overseas holidays, growing fruit and vegetables and ‘Making Do and Mend’. Resourcefulness is key.

Back to today. The sun has risen on a beautiful spring morning, the birds sing, my enchanting wood mouse vacuums up under the bird feeder. There is much to enjoy. And remember, as the VE Day Commemoration drifts into our memory, we are not at war. This is a time of peace not conflict, so we will get through this in a calm and controlled way.

And finally, in the words of Rumi, the medieval, Persian Sufi poet: ‘This too will pass’.

Carol Gartrell, Federation Chairman

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