Holiday escapism, even virtual holidays down memory lane, oftentimes involve wilfully ignoring inconvenient truths. So back home in the now, the hard realities in the news preoccupy me once again as Covid-19 infection rates escalate across significant parts of South Africa.
As has been widely noted, the pandemic has thrown global social and economic inequalities into sharp relief. In the context of the Covid-19 infection rates and the many thousands of deaths in the US where African-Americans have been disproportionally affected, the brutally callous killing of George Floyd by a white police officer has led to national protests against police brutality, systemic racism and white supremacism.
Global protests followed in solidarity, also protesting brutality from police and security forces in other countries, particularly against black people . Here in South Africa more than ten people, all of them black, have died at the hands of the security forces since the Covid-19 lockdown commenced in March 2020. For more information see for example https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/south-africa-police-brutality-poor-black-protest/
Even as we follow the health guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19, depending on our circumstances we can each search for ways to reach out to others and speak up for justice. At the same time white people must heed the call to sincerely strive to challenge individual and collective race-based prejudices and question unacknowledged assumptions.
In times such as these, is blogging about letting nature back in anything other than a trivial and privileged pursuit? Even though there are many reports of nature providing comfort and solace during the pandemic and the consequent social isolation regulations, for people living in inner-city or densely crowded housing, nature is not necessarily accessible or a high priority. For people who are suffering injustice and deprivation where they are struggling to get food for themselves and their families, what might be cherished under other circumstances becomes less relevant.
We all have to chart our way through the Covid-19 pandemic and there is no quick fix. Our long-term futures are altered and uncertain. We are all affected in some way, and we can hope that there are more people who are open-hearted and don’t get bogged down in pettiness and complaining and that more people are moved to kindness and empathy than are moved by bigotry and hatred.
We need to build kindness and courage. In South Africa the number of active cases of Covid-19 is increasing daily, and so too is the number of deaths. It is predicted that the worst is still to come over the next few months. Even though there is an easing of lockdown regulations, regulated protocols remain in place that are aimed at preventing or at least slowing down the spread of Covid-19. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a wealth of practical information on how to protect ourselves and others: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
An important aspect of protecting ourselves during these stressful times is to look after our emotional and mental health. Here are some pointers, also from WHO: https://www.who.int/campaigns/connecting-the-world-to-combat-coronavirus/healthyathome/healthyathome—mental-health
Research has shown that access to nature can be surprisingly restorative and beneficial to our physical health and our sense of well-being, and this remains true during the pandemic when lockdowns and social isolation can exacerbate stress and anxiety. How to access nature in the context of social isolation, even in the city, is discussed in this article published by the University of Washington’s UW News on 16 April 2020 (https://www.washington.edu/news/2020/04/16/dose-of-nature-at-home-could-help-mental-health-well-being-during-covid-19/
For those unable to go outside, attention can be given to nature from indoors too: for example by tending an indoor plant, looking with attention out of a window, sketching a natural object, and even by watching nature videos. Such nature-centred activities can help shift the focus to something outside of ourselves to something that is calming and consoling.
When I started naturebackin I hoped to share how nature can be present and immediate in our daily lives even in urban areas; experiencing nature need not be reserved for travelling out to the countryside or to wilder areas.
And even now during the pandemic I hope that more and more people have the chance to find solace and a measure of peace in nature, and discover that a leaf, a flower, seedhead, feather or birdcall can each be a source of wonder and fascination. From small forms of life around us to the big sky above, may nature be open to us in its many forms and may we be in a position to be open to nature.
Posted by Carol