People don’t change long-standing habits easily; where we shop, what we eat, how we speak, ways we dress, and so forth, become firmly established within the on-going conduct of our lives. Even when we learn that our behavior has a negative effect on society, the environment, or personal health, it is difficult to abandon established habits.
Yet, the sudden and considerable risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic have done what advocacy, scientific studies, and governmental advice have not; consumer and social habits have changed dramatically. Nearly all aspects of everyday life have been affected, and we don’t know how long the effects of the pandemic on ordinary life will last.
Challenging, inconvenient, and frightening, this health crisis has awakened many people to the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of our social safety net, food system, health services, and economy. The vital role of low-paid workers whose daily contribution to the basic running of society is now more obvious than ever: the caregivers, maintenance workers, truck drivers, and service workers. These people are among those suffering the greatest economic impacts of this pandemic, but among the changes taking place has been increased attention to providing increased food security for those who need it. It’s a welcome development.
Local farmers have been challenged by disruption of the food supply system, but ways of getting fresh food directly to consumers have improved as well; Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has expanded with increased delivery of boxes of produce directly to homes. In an interesting way, the role of the middleman has diminished, and with it the added burden of transportation and fuel emissions. It’s likely that those who are enjoying direct delivery of farm produce will want it to continue.
Many people are starting vegetable gardens, , and awakening to the pleasure and value of growing their own food. True wealth comes from the land, a lesson we in our comfortable, effortless bubble of bounty largely forgot during the past half-century. Overall, we see a shift from consumer mentality to the appreciation of thrift and frugality. This is a welcome antidote to our ingrained wasteful habits based on convenience. We’ve all had to make choices between needs and desires; we guess that consumer spending will not return to the fervid pace of the past, and that’s a good thing.
Sonoma County and the Northern Bay area enacted health protection measures such as social distancing and non-essential business closures well before other parts of California did so, and it shows in our low rate of infection and minimal fatalities. This was smart social policy; we’ve had ten weeks of training and are far better prepared to work safely and collaboratively with each other than when the pandemic first appeared. As our economy begins to reopen, these new habits will continue to protect us and provide time for effective treatment and a potential coronavirus vaccine to be developed.
This pandemic has been terrible, but it has also provided an opportunity to reflect upon priorities and come to appreciate what matters most. Families are spending more time together, neighbors are looking out for each other, entirely new methods of communicating and caring for people have been created. Although most of us look forward to getting past this health emergency, what’s also true is that we have been able to take a look at some of our destructive habits and we have learned some valuable lessons. Let’s not forget them.
— The Sun Editorial Board