We’ve just been locked down for another three weeks across the UK. While so many are desperate to get back to normal, I’m realising, more and more, that I don’t want to return to the way things were.

I don’t want to go back to noise pollution, dirty waterways, sweaty, sardine-crammed tubes and smog-filled skies. I don’t want to go back to a world where our kids are more focused on shooting virtual soldiers on X-Box and obsessing over the social media popularity game, rather than appreciating that time outside, enjoying family communication and consuming home-cooked meals in place of a fast food burger. 

Sure, I want my family and friends to be well and for those in business to be able to survive and thrive for the good of all, and I think we need to learn some huge lessons through this.

If we – as a people – don’t learn from this pandemic and create a new ‘normal’ as a result, we need our heads looked at, and we need to check our hearts are still red, and not chiselled from granite.

I’m the eternal optimist, I know – I’m all about flipping my negatives and finding the life lessons, instead of sinking into pessimism and gloom.

Am I finding the positives in this global catastrophe? You bet I am – and they’re easy to spot for anyone who doesn’t have their head rammed firmly where the sun don’t shine.

Stop counting your dollars for a moment and start counting your blessings.

Stop counting the numbers of deaths for a moment and start looking at LIFE!

You know, I might be an optimist, but I’m also one hell of a realist – and yeah, it’s entirely possible to hold onto both at the same time.

I don’t believe the moon is made from delicious cream cheese, but I DO believe we need to be far more aware that the moon is actually there for us all to marvel at.

The natural world is full of wonders – every day miracles we frequently ignore, because we’re too busy positioning ourselves at the top of a pyramid that only exists because our egos put it there!

We need to stop claiming dominion over the natural world and start seeing our relationship with Mother Nature as more of a partnership.

Earlier this week, I interviewed British TV presenter, author and naturalist, Chris Packham.

This guy has drawn so much hostility over the years, for daring to suggest that we need to take far more care of the world around us.

For instance, he once came under fire for suggesting we should treat the packaging around animal products in the same way we treat cigarette boxes, here in the UK. I’m not sure if it’s similar in the US, but our tobacco products have to carry health warnings in big letters AND images to show the impact of lung disease and the like.

Imagine if that were true of meat packs. Chris’ idea was for every pack of meat, carton of eggs, even milk and butter, to carry very real images of the actual animals those products came from, in situ. Wouldn’t it change our choices overnight if we were forced to confront the difference between battery hens and free range flocks every time we wanted to buy eggs? What about the difference in conditions between factory-farmed and organic milk or beef?

Chris Packham knows his stuff, he’s on the side of the natural world, and he’s not afraid to share his views. 

In our egocentric, ‘screw you, Jack’ world it’s little wonder he’s had all kinds of death threats, not to mention the lower echelons of the hunting ‘community’ hanging animal sacrifices around his property in some twisted warning shot.

To spin off at a bit of a tangent, let me tell you I’ve always been pretty pro-capitalism, to an extent – but there has to be a balance.

What do I mean by that? Well, I’m absolutely in favour of every human being able to make their own way in the world and carve out their own success. I utterly believe that determination, drive, creativity and ingenuity should be celebrated and that those traits should be given the room to grow and to generate their own rewards.

I believe that if we can work to earn a good living, we should, and that those who put in the effort – or are able to put in the effort – should be able to reap the rewards.

I believe in teaching a man to fish, rather than throwing him a salmon.

I believe in encouraging entrepreneurial spirit and that those who work hard – or smart – should be able to generate a richer income than those who actively choose to sit on their backsides and expect to get a share of the harvest.

BUT… that HAS to be balanced by compassion, understanding, generosity and gratitude.

It’s the shadow side of capitalism I take issue with. 

When people put wealth and empire-building above other living beings, that cannot be right.

When people who genuinely cannot earn for themselves, are cast aside, instead of being cared for, that cannot be right.

When we put our arrogance, our ego, our self-assumed power above the natural world that sustains us all, that cannot be right.

Balance in all things. And yes, I do believe we are all related – we’re connected to every element of the world we inhabit, and every action has a consequence.

When it comes to the coronavirus, we need to remember that we are living in a very connected world, and we need to bear in mind that wise people were sounding the alarm bells about this well before it knocked us all on our collective backsides, and we didn’t listen.

It’s easy to start pointing the finger and attributing blame. It’s easy to dismiss a GLOBAL pandemic as ‘Chinese ‘flu’ or start calling people out for eating bats. That’s a bit of a short-sighted view though, isn’t it?

No, of course we shouldn’t be eating bats. There are plenty of things us two-leggeds are doing that don’t sit well with the natural order.

Arguably, we shouldn’t be trafficking animals all over the world or mixing them in live markets, where pathogens can mutate and get into the human species.

We weren’t put here for that, right?

Well, I’m not convinced we were put here to use our cash to go over to game reserves and take pleasure from shooting big game animals either.

Whatever form you believe our ‘creator’ takes, I doubt ‘they’ had visions of us felling forests to make way for highways and skyscrapers, fracking, nuclear power or people generally raping the earth in any way we saw fit.

To quote Chris: “The idea that we hold dominion over every other form of life, that it’s there to serve us, has been brutally exposed by this virus. Now, you can argue about how alive viruses are, but they’re competitive, they reproduce, they seek advantage. They’re essentially living things. And at the moment, that living thing is holding dominion over us. That’s one of the cruel lessons that we are being taught here, we are not separate from nature, we are very much a part of it. And when we abuse it, we make ourselves vulnerable.”

Those first few lines about the virus… competitive, reproduce, seek advantage, holding dominion over us… it doesn’t sound dissimilar to the shadow side of capitalism, does it?

And so, back to my optimism, though this pandemic is utterly tragic in its death toll, not to mention all the businesses that have been felled in its trail of destruction, we must take this as a catalyst to do things differently.

We need to remember the crystal clear canals in Venice and look to all those places where the natural world is beginning to recover and heal after aeons of human mistreatment.

We need to open a window and listen to the sound of the world without heavy traffic, on the roads, the rails AND in the air.

We need to rejoice in being able to spend time with our kids and our loved ones and, in cases where we’re isolated from family members, start to pay more attention to how often we put in the effort for human contact, instead of seeing them as too much bother when we’re so short on time.

We need to look at how much our kids are starting to marvel at nature – show them the magic of a bird’s nest or a spider web, start to teach them the differences between the bird songs – those everyday miracles we too often ignore.

And we need to look at how quickly we’ve been able to adapt to working from home, regulating our spending habits, reeling in our consumption, when our excuse for far too long has been that we can’t.

I’m no angel. I like to hop onto a plane and enjoy an overseas holiday as much as the next person. I’m not about to suddenly become Greta Thunberg, but I do believe this pandemic, and our response, provides a golden opportunity for us to start taking far more responsibility for our place in the world, the mark we leave upon her skin, and the creatures that walk alongside us on her surface.

Whatever’s going on right now, please, I urge you, find the positives this unparalleled situation provides for us and learn from them.

Let’s not go back to normal. Let’s create a new normal instead – one where we might feel proud of the future we pass down to our children and grandchildren and their children to come. Let that pride stem from the healthier world we’ve contributed to, not the amount of zeros on our bank balance, shotguns in our possession or big game trophies on our walls.

I want to leave you with a final quote from my interview with Chris Packham: “You will hear people, myself included, saying, we’re dependent on the ecosystem that services earth for all of our food that grows from the soil, where the bacteria in the soil are what give it its ability to produce that food. We’re dependent on the timber from the forest for our building materials. We’re dependent on the fish from the sea. I could go on. 

“But the word ‘dependent’ is where I want to challenge myself. Because it’s not that we are dependent, it’s that we’re a part of it. If we forget we’re a part of it, then this is what happens, basically.”

Until next time,