Having hosted New Year’s Eve to see in 2020, (it seems a long time ago now), I have latterly been thinking about how even our language has developed since that point in time. The first break-the-ice conversation, on that December evening, could have gone as follows:

“So, how’s the self-isolation been going, I hope you and the family managed to stay safe?” “Yes, it went as well as can be expected. We quarantined for a few months and the kids adapted really well to remote schooling.”

“Us too and ultimately we were able to cope using 2 permits a week to do the family grocery shopping.”

“Thankfully the Covid-19 testing allowed a quick return to normality as the vaccine took longer than expected”

“Yes, that was a definite positive and this year we hope to travel home during the summer”

Back then, this discussion would have been an alien language or an off-shoot from a Hollywood blockbuster. But as we saw in the New Year, it appears that the outbreak of Coronavirus, according to proven reports, was already underway in Wuhan. Exactly how, remains to be confirmed, but there is no doubt of the source point and the severity of how this viral pandemic has impacted the whole planet and ultimately how we may need to manage our lives in the coming years.

Moving on a few months, the media and news has been scary, gruesome to watch and at times too sad to watch. Whilst we know journalism can be biased, the pictures can’t lie. Recently on CNN, I saw an interview with Jared Diamond, an American author and historian. He spoke sense and whilst not a Doctor or a Scientist, his views and commentaries resonated with me at that point in time. He cited that whilst Covid-19 wasn’t going to end humanity and that the pandemic would be defeated, he carried on to say that this was a pressing and urgent wakeup call, for the world once more, to the potential greater threat of climate change and the “exhaustion of planet resources”.

Global warming is upon us but on a positive note today, the environment can be saved, preserved and maintained in a healthier manner. The lockdown has already proven how the skies can become even more blue, the canals clearer and the oceans more temperate. All in their own way, contributing to more balanced weather patterns and stable climate trends. Diamond went on to state; that the global cooperation required to fight Covid-19, will also be required, to fight the threat of our climate change and effectively the long-term sustainability of the planet.

As it stands today, we can blame politicians, front-line medical workers, a laboratory or a “wet market” in Wuhan. However and now, we all need to learn from the bigger picture of our globalised consumer-centric world. In this context, it made me think about how we have reached this point and a bar of soap allowed me some clarity and focus.

When the news starting spreading about this viral outbreak, at first an epidemic in China, it was made apparent that one of the steps to stay safe was to wash your hands. Instantly the world, including myself, was sucked in to this necessity and starting buying excessive amounts of hand sanitizer, gels, sprays and other liquids to assist in this need. Singing “Happy Birthday” suddenly had a new meaning and the world, as always, consumed the information and the newer commercial products in greater volume.

It made me think; when did I actually last use, what my Grandma would have called, “a proper bar of soap.” Would it even protect me? Subsequently, as a consumer, my naivety and thirst for new products had meant that I’d lost sight and understanding. As we all are, I had been sucked in to a world of marketing, trends and fashionable items, whilst not thinking about all of the benefits, prices and opportunity costs.

Why do I need the latest fragranced hand wash and its fancy applications, when I can buy a bar of “proper” soap? For clean hands and to assist in dissipating any viral germs (the latest pre-requisite) a standard bar of soap is proven to be the most effective washing supplement. And where did I find my bar of soap? In my sock drawer!

To come full circle, I wanted to highlight our over-consumption. Our taste and desire for fancy, resource-thirsty products. Our oversight of simple but effective produce. Our desire to impulse buy. Our lack of concern over how these consumption patterns are contributing, to biggest threat of all, global warming and resource exhaustion. To refer back to Jared Diamond; he was clear that humans won’t survive continued neglect of the planet and whilst Covid-19 will be eradicated, we now need our mind-set geared towards a more sustainable (greener) globalised consumer world, with agreement and cooperation at its core.

It can be introduced successfully and let’s hope world leadership doesn’t allow for increased isolation, at the cost of global cooperation that will be required, to alleviate and reduce barriers in assisting with the common goal of a healthy planet. What we can learn from this pandemic, whilst the lesson-content is tough, needs to be taken.

In the meantime, we are grateful to all medical professionals and whilst the lockdown is tough, both physically and mentally, we need to reflect also on where we are within the larger network of people, towns, cities, countries and beyond.

Please stay safe and buy a bar of soap.

Gareth Clayton 

April 2020