The Pandemic Fog – Since March I’ve been feeling like I’m living in a fog. There is a certain sameness about being in my house all the time and taking the same walking paths around my neighborhood. I miss the hugs and the sense of comfort I get when hanging out without worrying about how close I am to someone else. I miss the excitement of “looking ahead to the next trip or vacation”. There is a lack of freshness, a lack of oportunty and a lack of excitement in my everyday life. On top of that, more fear has entered my life. I’m greatly concerned about how and when this pandemic will end and the financial and health-related hardships many of us are facing.
I don’t think of this Pandemic Fog that I’m experiencing as boredom, however, because I’ve taken the opportunity to read more, walk more, and appreciate my partner and close friends more. I’ve meditated more this year and have tried to always “be there” for my family and friends. I’ve also engaged much more than in past years in the political campaigns and in my ongoing efforts to inspire more people to take personal actions in the fight against climate change. So I don’t think it’s boredom. In fact, life seems to be going too fast and I’m concerned that I’m wasting time and missing out on something important. It’s as if I’m lost in a fog and missing a year of my life.
Don’t miss out on reading good books this summer, especially since so many of us are caught inside due to the temperatures and Covid 19. It’s a great opportunity.
Aside from reading quite a few picture books, I have somehow found time to read novels and non fiction pieces some of which are both beautifully written and fully engaging. My mind is still elastic enough to learn something which each book I read. So find the time and enjoy.
I sent out my favorite reads of all time last year and they are well worth reading. But this year I would like to add a few more recommendations.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Between the World and Me by Tai-Nehisi Coates
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Drawdown by Paul Hawkin
I am also happy to report that my latest novel, The Big Melt, is enjoying brisk sales in both the paper copy and the e version. It has been shortlisted for 2 book awards and reviewers are finding it engaging and inspiring. I have been doing zoom discussions of the book with book clubs, school groups, environmental groups, and church groups. Email me to schedule a time: email@example.com.
What if we focused the 2.2+ trillion dollars on steps and products that will help us shift our economy to one based on clean energy and sustainable practices? Hmmmmm – I don’t need to think very long about that – we could attack several of our biggest challenges at the same time. That’s right, we could crank up the economy and shift it to a direction that will leave us less exposed to the next pandemic and which will help us start to solve the climate crisis at the same time. We could take all that we have learned about working together and use the stimulus to create a healthier, safer, and more robust future for all of us. Just think of the things we could do if we all agreed to take the necessary steps as part of the recovery. We could:
- end commuting and rush hour traffic by demonstrating to our employers that we are actually a lot more effective working at home. This would result in saving a lot of time and money now that we figured out how to do work from home during the coronavirus lockdown.
- end spending countless hours driving and shopping now that we have convinced ourselves to have our food or at least the basics delivered to our front doors – just think of the time we would save.
- reduce all the non-essential business travel by convincing our colleagues and clients to do more, and better, communication on line. This would be safer, cheaper, far less polluting, and give us a lot more time.
- send a clear message to businesses that we want to support sustainable firms and buy sustainable products. We can send that message by:
- all agreeing not to buy food and products wrapped in layers of plastic.
- buying energy efficient appliances
- buying solar and wind generated electricity
- buying electrical vehicles and hybrids
- put to good use the monies dedicated to infrastructure projects by making all of our buildings more energy efficient and by creating a smart electrical grid that supports the development of clean energy.
There is so much we could do.
We could even develop behaviors that would help clean the air and water and soils of this country and beyond.
By working together, we could move mountains!
Here is a link for an uplifting video.
Spent the morning with friends being shown around the Howard County Living Farm Museum. It is a beautiful 400 acre farm across Route 144 from the Howard County Fairgrounds. There are 20 buildings on the farm which is owned by Howard County Recreation and Parks. It is managed and maintained by all volunteer efforts by about 200 members of the Howard County Antique Farm Machinery Club. They mow about 6 miles of trails around the farm land and back into the woods on the north side of the Middle Patuxent River. It is a wonderful place to get away, learn about our past, and go for a walk.
John and Virginia Frank have been very involved in the club from the beginning. They and a group of farmers initially held annual events at the Howard County Conservancy. But they had ambitious plans and secured a deal with the county for this farm and have accomplished a great deal.
They showed us around and we learned a great deal about the past – I recognized most of the equipment and home furnishings, but also learned a great deal. Kathy and I became members of the club because it provides a real service to the community and we hope to take our family out for events. I look forward to attending music and other outdoor events there in the future when things open back up and they return to hosting seasonal events.
For now, I suggest you check out the trail map on their website, go for a walk, and consider supporting them during these challenging times.
I have learned to appreciate so much during the pandemic that I have gained a great deal of perspective on my life and the health of all of us on the planet. Here are a few items that I pledge to change.
I will enjoy all that my local community has to offer
I will walk more
I will read more
I will snack less
I will eat less meat
I will drink much more water that comes out of the tap with no packaging
I will engage with others more
I will listen more
I will drive less (goal is to get off fossil fuels). There is so much to do, see, and enjoy close by.
I will reduce my energy use at home
I will fly less but stay longer
I will buy less stuff
I will vote every time I get the chance
I will encourage others to vote
I will continue to wash my hands
I will advocate more for the climate
I will advocate more for science
I will advocate more against oppression
I will smile more
A few years ago there were not many options for climate impact investing. But things have evolved. There is a Dow Jones Sustainability ranking for most large companies. The bigger financial firms have developed a wide range of screening protocols for a whole host of environmental, social, and governance parameters (ESG). And there is a ‘divestment from fossil fuels’ initiative expanding across the country from the board rooms of our most prestigious universities and corporations to your average citizen. You might want to look at investments through a ‘climate lens’ as you plan for the long term health of your family and your portfolio – especially as you restructure your investment strategy during this pandemic.
I suggest that you read: citing-climate-change-blackrock-will-start-moving-away-from-fossil-fuels. People want good returns and they no longer trust fossil fuel companies or firms who aren’t planning and helping to create a more sustainable future.
There is also a big move toward rebuilding our country from the coronavirus impacts in a way that will make us more resilient and better prepared for the looming climate challenges. Check out recent actions by over 300 businesses.
There is also a trend among the baby-boomers who want to have an impact with their investments. As a group they represent the greatest transfer of wealth of all time. Just think what they could accomplish if their funds were funneled in the right way. Some of the largest Wall Street firms are trying to meet this demand. For example, look at the strategy of Morgan Stanley. institute-for-sustainable-investing. We as consumers and investors can have a great deal of influence on which businesses we support and which ones we choose not to support. I try to consider these impacts every time I spend a dollar – whether it is purchasing something or where I invest. Just think of the impact we might have on shaping the future if we all did this.
As I mentioned in my May 12, 2020 blog, the people who are hurt the most from pollution and the impacts from our changing climate are often people with the least means to avoid these problems. People who live downstream or downwind from an ‘out of compliance’ manufacturing site or power plant have the most exposure to air and water pollution, and they are without the financial resources to move to a more expensive but cleaner area. They may benefit from the power generated or commercial goods produced, but they often suffer most from the exposure to toxic chemicals. This is one good reason that we have regulations and why we need to enforce these regulations at all times. The costs of good environmental regulation has proven to be far less than the health and economic benefits that we all gain.
Caring for the environment may seem like a luxury to some because it takes time, money, knowledge, and political power to clean things up and keep them clean. The exposure to toxic chemicals has been made worse by the practice of redlining in many parts of the country. Redlining is the systematic denial of various services by government agencies and the private sector to residents of specific neighborhoods – most notably black and brown communities. This is done either directly or through the selective raising of prices. Just think how these historic and current practices make things worse for some sectors of our population. Here are a few ways that people who are trapped in poor areas suffer more than the rest of us when it comes to the wide-ranging impacts of a changing climate.
Health impacts in poor areas:
- Existing social, health, infrastructure, food supply, and housing vulnerabilities in poor areas will impact residents’ ability to respond in the face of a changing climate.
- Weather – Major rain storms threaten all of us but especially people living in low-lying areas with inadequate and poorly maintained stormwater, sewage, transportation, and electrical infrastructure.
- Air Quality – Coal, oil, and natural gas fired power plants and manufacturing facilities are often located in or near poor areas. They can emit toxins, e.g., coal plants often emit mercury, arsenic, lead, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.
- Higher temperatures are exacerbated by the ‘Heat Island Affect’, and our cities often lack the cooling and cleaning benefits of a forested area. This leads to higher temperatures and greater risk of heat stroke, COPD, heart attack, and premature death.
- Increased heat and ozone levels result in more asthma attacks and hospitalization.
- Extreme heat and extreme precipitation events increase the risk of salmonella infections.
- Mental Health – Greater impacts result from repeated exposures and climatic events.
For further information, I would recommend resources from EcoAmerica. They have an entire climate and health program. Climate Justice Alliance is also a good resource for climate and social justice concerns.
In times of stress, many of our wounds come to the forefront. The best solutions to stress are to take action and to take care of yourself and your neighbors – all of them.
Action – Lets do whatever we can to:
- confront our racial inequities, xenophobia, and other institutional and personal oppressions.
- support our health professionals and follow their advice.
- keep moving forward on reducing fossil fuel emissions and creating a more stable climate.
Please take actions today on each of these fronts. We all need to act, each and every day.
Mental Health – And make sure you are taking time out for your own mental health by going outside.
Here are some of my favorite walking location suggestions in Howard County that may be of value to you.
Here are some great places to visit.
Here are some of my favorite walking locations in Maryland.
Here are my favorite kid-friendly camping grounds.
It’s a balance between helping others and keeping strong and in touch with the Earth.
The most important step you can take for the climate is to exercise your vote. We get the opportunity to do this at a local, state and national level during primary, special, and general elections. We all need to decide for ourselves how important the climate issue will be in our future and how important it is that we take the right actions now. We need to elect people at all levels who understand this and who are willing to work together to meet this challenge. They will need crisis management and strategic planning skills and not just respond with too little, too late.
Climate, like Covid-19, has a huge impact on our economic health, public health, and national security. One of the biggest impacts will be on our agricultural sector which will impact us all on a daily and seasonal basis. Agriculture also offers a key opportunity to manage/slow down climate warming by sequestering carbon. We need to be doing this and many other things now. So it is key to have our politician’s support and leadership on climate issues at all levels at all times. They need to be looking at all the decisions they make through a climate lens.
At the recent World Economic Forum, the 750 delegates from all around the world said that not controlling the warming of the planet is the greatest danger we face as a civilization. This is clearly not just a Democrat or Republican issue. Everyone needs to be part of the solution and not just continue kicking the ball down the field until it is too late and future generations have few choices except to suffer.
So I ask you to start looking at everything you do through a climate lens as well. Vote for those leaders with the strongest climate commitments. Support them during the race and then stay with them as closely as you can, celebrating the wins and encouraging continuous attention. Always clap and send letters of support when they mention the climate challenges and solutions. We’ve got to keep this issue front and center. The climate crisis can only be solved by electing the right people and implementing the right plan. It is complicated because as our climate moves out of the Goldilocks zone that we have all evolved within, the changes will impact everything we do.
Make sure you and your friends are registered and then make sure you vote.
I could not believe my eyes. Traffic has increased – already! I was just out for an essential errand – food – and the empty roads are no more. There were also 20 cars at the roadside market that we support. The beauty of having the road and the stores to myself is gone. And I was just getting to like a slower pace to my life.
I was surprised that people are in that much of a hurry to be flooding the highways so quickly. Thank you, Governor Hogan for lighting up the highway signs “Stay home. Stay safe. Essential jobs only.”
No, the traffic was nothing like the old days, but it was bad enough to bring back awful memories of fighting traffic every day between 7 and 9 am and 4 and 7pm. It was more like nightmares – that is as clear as I can be. How could we accept putting ourselves at that level of risk and anxiety on every work day. I’ve been wondering about that and whether all of us will go right back to that sort of chaos and risk. It seems like we will. I hope that we all will consider the following questions before we do.
- What are our options?
- Why don’t we live closer to where we work?
- Why don’t more of us work from home?
- Why don’t we take mass transit?
- Why don’t we work on flex hours to avoid the traffic?
- Why do we put ourselves and others at risk – every day?
- Why do we spend all that money on cars, insurance, and fuel, and all that time on the roads?
Of course, the answers to these questions vary a lot – and I get it. But they are questions we should be asking ourselves and our county, state, and regional planners. We could re-engineer how we live and work in light of the virus and the looming challenges of climate change. After all, the transportation sector is the one area that contributes the most Greenhouse Gasses to the atmosphere and an area where we can dramatically lower those emissions if we do one or more of the items above.
So, take a moment and reflect on whether you want to go back to the way things were. Let’s change these bad habits and spend our time and money on making the future better for all of us.