Navigating coronavirus: plant seeds, buy local, care for community

Any crisis brings out the best and the worst in humanity. Like many of you, we in the Gaia Team are talking about, thinking about and taking action in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. In this article we share what we are doing to navigate this crisis, support those most at risk and ensure the best in human nature prevails where we live and beyond.  

We’re working this out for ourselves as we go, inspired by our commitment to community, solidarity and a love of life on Earth. We offer the following ideas with humility and in the hope they’ll be useful to you and yours. 

 

1) Looking after ourselves 

(Photo: everydayhealth.com)

We can only be of service to others in a crisis if we ourselves are healthy. As far as possible, follow the advice given by our heroic health services about hand washing and other basic but vital hygiene and social-distancing recommendations 

We’re all elbow bumping or bowing to our friends. We have also taken the decision to work remotely for the time being, closing our office to avoid tube and train journeys.

In doing so we are aware of our privilege and stand in solidarity with those who do not have these choices: communities at risk, those whose jobs are threatened and frontline service workers tending to people who are unwell.

 

2) Caring for our communities

(Photo: weareyourvoicemag.com)

All around the world, incredible examples of community spirit and care are blossoming in difficult circumstances. Check out Italy’s balcony parties or the global sofa sing along, for example. 

Communities around the planet have set up dozens of Covid-19 Mutual Aid groups to share skills and support each other, in particular those most vulnerable to the virus. From helping get in the shopping to phoning someone you know is alone and isolated, these groups are making a huge difference.  

For those living in the UK:

Gaia’s Tina Flores is supporting mutual aid work where she lives and says: 

I’ve always loved people power but this is really something special. Nearly 200 people have signed up to flyer our local area since Friday. Flyers telling residents about the (mutual aid) group’s existence have already been delivered in their hundreds. Phones have been purchased which will act as community help-lines, and a rota is being developed both for the phone help-lines and a help-desk email account, so there will be 24/7 local support for anyone who needs it.

  

3) Buy local and support growers 

Photo: Fabrice Monteiro for We Feed the World

The panic buying going on across the world shows how dysfunctional our industrialised food system really is. The supermarket shelves might be empty, but those at high risk from the fallout of Covid-19 are small-scale growers and farmers, many of whom are losing vital customers and markets.   

The real heroes of our food system need our support and we need their delicious produce, so take this opportunity to do two things:  

1) Find local small-scale producers near you and reach out to them to see if you can source your food ultra-locally. This is an opportunity to form valuable connections to growers in your community and help develop a stronger local food system.

If you know a local producer who usually sells to restaurants or at farmers’ markets, get in touch to see if they’re up for selling to you directly. Here are a few places to start if you live in the UK:  

2) If you can, growing your own is an affordable way of providing yourself, your family and your community with nutritious food- it’s good for body and mind, too.

Start today by sourcing high quality, organic and open-pollinated seed. Here are some UK suppliers:  

  

4) Find hope and inspiration 

(Photo: The Gaia Foundation)

Health goes beyond the body. We’re feeling the mental strain of uncertainty and endless coronavirus news stories.  

The vulnerability we are feeling right now, due to the slump of economies and floundering of our industrial, fossil fuel-intensive food systems as a result of this virus, is telling us something social movements have been saying for decades – we need new ways into the future.

It is vital that we recognise that our health relies on that of our planet- that deforestation, mining, agribusiness and other sources of ecological, climate and social destruction create conditions for the emergence of diseases like Covid-19. Now is a time to engage our imaginations and strengthen the alternatives so that as soon as the crisis is over it’s not back to business as usual.

We can make a small contribution here. Over the years we’ve made films, animations and documentaries about how communities from the Amazon to Africa are building resilient life ways that care for the great diversity of species with whom we share our living planet.  

We urgently need to learn from them. 

We particularly recommend our Seeds of Freedom Trilogy, our Water is Life animation and our brand new film Custodians of Life: Reviving Culture and Nature in Uganda’s Great Lakes. 

 

5) Reconnect with the Earth Community 

(Photo: Jordi Ruiz Ciera for We Feed the World)

Unless you’ve been advised to self-isolate or are under curfew, now is an important time to seek out what poet and essayist Wendell Berry called ‘the peace of wild things’.  

As long as you’re not heading into a crowd, go out and get some fresh air. It could be in your garden, a park, or you may be fortunate to live near rolling hills, moorland or seashore. Wherever you are, fresh air and the sound of birdsong are a perfect tonic for the difficult moment we find ourselves in.

For decades Mother Earth has been suffering. This crisis is giving us a deep, personal experience her pain. Connecting with the myriad species we share our living planet with reminds us who we are- a part of this living system- and what we must protect.  

 

The Peace of Wild Things, By Wendell Berry 

When despair for the world grows in me 

and I wake in the night at the least sound 

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, 

I go and lie down where the wood drake 

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. 

I come into the peace of wild things 

who do not tax their lives with forethought 

of grief. I come into the presence of still water. 

And I feel above me the day-blind stars 

waiting with their light. For a time 

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 

 

Other recommended reading

These articles have offered us a fresh perspective on the coronavirus outbreak- from the reasons for its outbreak to how it intersects with the climate and ecological crisis.

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