We should “social distance” more often

A few weeks ago, I asked my friend, fellow writer and environmental expert, Shannon Brescher Shea of We’ll Eat You Up We Love You So, how COVID-19 was impacting our world. Over Twitter, she shared with me how the factories closing in China had significantly reduced pollution in that nation and improved air quality. I’ve heard many there are starting to see stars in the night sky for the first time in ages.

It’s almost as if this Coronavirus pandemic has helped the planet get a much need breather and chance to recuperate.


On a personal level, my family has driven far less these past couple of weeks, is spending more time exploring in our own yard/street, and simply doing “less.” I will admit, our use of paper and other consumables is up, but overall, I believe we and other families have reduced our carbon footprints in a big way.

The Earth isn’t the only thing getting a chance to breathe and recuperate.

We are as well.

Without my kids on their usual school schedule, I have been able to sleep in more, stress less about getting them ready, and been able to ease up on the usual regimen. I’ve enabled my children to take the lead on their own learning, and have been amazed with the results. My seven-year-old, for example, now spends a few hours a day writing and reading on his own, all without any prompting from me.

As a family, we are enjoying quieter, simpler activities together, no longer rushing from one activity to the next.

I have also witnessed a higher level of connection with friends and family. I find myself checking in (and being checked on) more than ever. As if, being forced apart has brought us even closer.

It’s nice. It’s necessary.

I wish it didn’t take a global illness to do it.

The sudden thrust into this new normal has hurt many physically, economically and mentally. Families are agonizing over how to feed their kids, small business owners wonder if their companies will survive this setback and hospitals are overrun with sick patients.

Still, I believe this experience is a way to show humanity how vital it is to slow down and breathe collectively.

So, what if we did it more often?

But, not like this.

Not with a global pandemic forcing schools and businesses to shut down with little notice and healthcare workers being stretched to the brink.

No, what if we actually took the time as a country, as a global community, even, to intentionally, thoughtfully and carefully slow down?

In Israel, for example, every seven years, all agriculture stops in order to abide by the ancient ritual of shmeta, which requires farmers to let their land “rest” every seven years.

This rest period is practiced to allow the land a chance to rebuild and nurture itself. Though it may be from the Bible, it still has merit.

The land needs to rest.

And, so do we.

What if we could collectively slow down for a period of time and have our kids home, spend time with our immediate family, not force factory workers and others to be on the constant wheel of production, close businesses and classes so we wouldn’t need to drive everywhere, but still ensure that everyone is still earning a fair and living wage?

It’s a radical concept, and rather impractical.

We have grown so accustomed to our lives, the meer idea of being home and doing almost nothing is impossible for many to grasp.

We have trouble just “being.”

And, we need it.

The Earth needs it.

I have the privilege of being in a family where the primary earner can work from home and I am able to educate my kids outside of school. I am hesitant to even use the word “struggling,” when others have it much harder than we do, and certainly don’t need a lecture on the greater purpose of this whole mess.

But for those who are able, I hope they can see that some good can come from this.

We are socially distancing to save ourselves from a disease, but we can also social distance to save our planet from ourselves.

We should do this again.


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