• Ian McClellan

Week 33: I will travel light.

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Our buildings, fields, roads, rivers, oceans and skies are slowly opening up again. In many ways, this is going to be the most complicated part, in the way that destruction is often easier than creation. In the same way that shouting is easier than listening. Closing down, and retreating to our homes, felt like a singular moment. We are closed.

Opening up comes with so much new information, unforeseen complication, fear. It is not a singular moment. We are open, but ...

Thought, work, and co-operation needs to be put in by us all, to support each other and to consider each other. Although a virus is not new anymore, it is still the same virus that it was when we were asked to protect ourselves and each other.

We are leaving our homes. But as we go about our days we have to make sure that whatever we do will not ruin someone else's day, or someone else's life. You shouldn't just nip through that gap. The one-way system is not for everyone else but you, because you are in a hurry.

This ability to consider strangers, is something that us humans are not that great at in my experience and including myself. I felt like even getting from the car to the supermarket was a passive aggressive foot race to avoid dropping back in the socially distant queue.

I didn't really mean to write the last two paragraphs, but it seems fitting as a headline to what I've been thinking about this week. As is the case with many families, we've been thinking about going out, for the day or perhaps even on holiday. We have been in a wonderful bubble in many ways for the last 14 weeks, and is was only when that bubble both metaphorically and actually burst this week that feelings began to flood in. Feelings that we didn't realise we had been repressing about how we have been living a 2D life. Friends and family, colleagues and contacts on video, never in person. Schedules that were necessary, but gave no time to breathe. Being strong, feeling lucky, but also exhausted.

It is also a strange concept to have been at home, but at the same time feel like we need some kind of break. Some kind of holiday. Perhaps it is a change of scenery, or perhaps it is simply missing sunshine and beaches. We can overthink these things, given what we have all been through. We can be ashamed that we have missed the things that we have missed. Things that are somehow not considered worthy or thoughtful. It sounds shallow, but I really love sunshine and beaches.

I've also missed a good burger, but thankfully we have some great places nearby who have worked hard to stay available. Establishments who have been able to do this, who have given us small moments or joy, I don't think also have received all the love that is deserved. I am not saying there is a hierarchy of appreciation, but life is also too short to live without poetry.

I've also missed sitting by a river, in a cosmopolitan city, in the sunshine, with a really cold glass of white wine. Can't wait for that one.

What is the point of this, you might be thinking, if you are still reading. I guess the point is that I began to try and think differently about our planet sometime in the past few years, and definitely in the last 32 weeks. I have been trying to find alternatives, small changes that will make us a better partner to our planet. As part of Project Planetwise, I have made 32 little changes that I believe we can all do if we don't already, and that might create connections and new ideas about how we can all be a little bit better to the planet for myself and others. I have to say also that we've had tonnes of fun along the way.

For the first time this week, I wondered about all the things we don't have to do rather than the alternatives. Really thought about it. That true alternatives to what we do, might be nothing.

Thought about all the things that we do habitually, something I touched on this a bit in week 17 when we were looking forward to now. At the moment, I was projecting forward to big and specific things that we can change. That we could commute less, or that we have up one thing that we used to do or purchase out of a convenient habit.

I still believe all these things, and even further than that, I was wondering this week, if I should all just make that a principle in life. There are going to be many temptations, old routines, and old habits available soon. Maybe not available in the same way, but lurking. We are also going to be asked to filter our thoughts and perhaps even sometimes feel guilty, and there is going to be division. We are going to be told to go on holiday, and at the same time we're going to be told that this means the air will become polluted again, and that the Arc de Triomphe or India Gate will disappear behind a haze again.

I don't know how I feel about this, because although I truly believe in reducing emissions, I have also been in Paris at sunrise. If you walk up the Champs Élysées at that time of the day, from Place de la Concorde, then the Arc de Triomphe is not the only wonderful thing to see, and is certainly very clear up close, and very beautiful even when the air was less clean. I would also love to visit India Gate and feel the history and beauty of India in general, and I don't feel ashamed saying that as much as I also want to help our planet.

So, perhaps instead of thinking that we cannot do what we used to do, perhaps instead we make every decision based on what we love. As we are able to do more than before, perhaps we think about whether we really want to, or need to as part of our everyday lives. If we love it and missed it, then we should absolutely fixate and look forward to that moment.

But if we didn't really love it, then we should try to never, ever do it again. Or never, ever buy it again.

This would eliminate some of the guilt that we might feel, when we really want to head to the beach, or when we really want that guilty pleasure. If we question all our decisions through the filter of love, I am convinced that we will eliminate more than we reintroduce. It will also make us think in a planetwise way, because reduction is a very important part of being kinder to the planet. I also think it will make me think more deeply even about the things we decide to continue, because it will create more consciousness in what we are doing. Reduction, and thoughtful decisions about what to continue.

So what does it mean?

Right now, I am not sure. It will be different for everyone. The list of things that I don't love, and that I only do or consume out of habit, is likely very long. I have been as guilty as anyone of buying a coffee on the way to work, and leaving half of it for no particular reason.

In my head, it might also mean that I wash my face less, to be honest, or wash less in general. It means I'll walk the full length of a counter or the shelves before I choose something, to make sure I make the purchase that is best for the planet, if at all. I don't love the pressure I sometimes feel to buy something. I'll walk more, and finally pump up the tyres on our bikes because I love cycling.

But it also means that it's very likely that the first chance we get, we'll find a beach in the sunshine. There are many wonderful ones here in the UK, but I love Greece. At the same time, we'll consider the carbon implications of that.

I'll also have that glass of wine, but will make sure it is one I love, somewhere I love. And maybe we'll catch the train there.

The most planetwise things we can do sometimes, is to do nothing, or think more. The best purchase for the planet, is the one we didn't make. The best trip to take, is the one we didn't do. If we do buy something, the best purchase is the one we cannot borrow, make, swap, or get in a charity store. If we do take the trip, it is because we cannot get that experience elsewhere, and we should not be ashamed of that.

We have lived through a tough few weeks, but as the internet says, if you were born in 1900, then by the age I am, you'd have lived through a World War, and likely you'll be serving in a second. You'll have hopefully survived the 'Spanish Flu' and you'll have experienced the Great Depression. This is an internet cliche, but it doesn't mean it is not true. My grandad used to remind me often, that we don't realise how lucky we are to have been born when we have been. He meant it in a positive way. He loved technology, and he loved cities, it was not that he craved the past.

The future is a bit scary, so let's try and travel through it more lightly, and wear it with love.

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