We live in uncertain times and yet through the Covid-19 crisis, many of us feel we have been shown a different way of life, a slower pace. One where we can achieve a work/life balance that allows us to spend more time with those we love, where we can take a deep breath of clean air.
Many have commented that this coronavirus has done what environmentalists have failed to do. It has also highlighted many wrongs in our societies.
So how do we move forward in a way that keeps the positive changes, into a life we want? A world we want to live in, societies that are fairer where there is much less or no inequality, where we live in peace and harmony with each other and with the planet.
The Green Party has long talked about some of these solutions. For example, schools with smaller classes where children learn more practical skills that will help them in life. In the Covid-19 world, this could be implemented by children attending school part-time. For example, classes could be divided into two and each group attends school for two and a half days a week and the other days they learn at home with their parents, where the life skills such as cooking, growing food, repairing and making things could be taught. Moving away from the target driven education they receive now which leaves no space for fun activities. Learning should always be fun because you remember the things you enjoy and you work harder at them.
The parents, if working, could work from home doing longer days when the children are at school and shorter days when they are at home. If the parents are not able to work from home, then a four-day week, which research has shown to actually improve productivity, should be adopted to allow time for family and one’s own personal development. Many people working from home have also gained two or three hours a day which were previously spent commuting to work and can now be spent enjoying exercise and increased leisure time alone or with their families.
In the pre-coronavirus world, stress was seen as a natural, normal consequence of life when it is the complete opposite. Stress and mental health issues have risen steeply, to where more and more incredibly young children are being seen by doctors for depression. Surely, there is something very wrong with a society in which such young children are being diagnosed with depression and an ever-increasing number of people of all ages with mental health issues.
Some contend this is due to a loss of connection with others and feeling unfulfilled in a target driven society. We are all too busy to enjoy life. Looking after the health and welfare of people should be the first responsibility of a civilised society, not money. The need to bring in ever increasing profits has drained society of joy. There needs to be a balance. We need time to relax and learn to enjoy life. The old saying, ‘Work to live, not live to work’ needs to be remembered because what is the point of working so hard if you don’t then have the time to do the things you enjoy? The Universal Basic Income, which we have been champions of long before it was picked up other parties, would be a good step towards helping people to realise some of these ambitions.
The environment has also benefited. The lack of cars and aeroplanes has left the air cleaner, so we can take a good deep breath and hear the birds singing. Wildlife has also prospered due to our absence and interference. People are out enjoying parks, walking and cycling.
We have promoted this in our policies for quite some time as a way of improving our general health, the environment and lessening the demand on the NHS. It is simple, if people are walking and cycling more, they will be healthier and less likely to suffer from issues associated with a lack of exercise and an unbalanced diet, such as diabetes, obesity and various heart conditions.
Another aspect of this issue is that more should be invested in public transport, so that it is cheaper, more reliable and completely green to the point that owning a car will seem pointless. Thereby ridding us of the congestion issue, too.
During this period, many people have taken to gardening and growing their own food. At this time with Brexit looming and a trade deal with the USA which seems to mean lower standards of food production, it would be a good skill to encourage, as people could grow enough for themselves and share with neighbours, having the positive effect of creating communities, more nutritious food and less food waste.
This also raises other issues, such as a lack of gardens and tower blocks with limited or no outdoor space. We should be building homes that give people a certain quality of life and are eco-friendly. Each home a generator of energy.
In conclusion, continuing some aspects of life under Covid-19, would bring us closer to the goal of creating a more sustainable way of life, fairer and more equal societies where work is balanced with the needs of a personal life, as well as respect for the planet.