Earlier this week here in central Sweden it snowed and today has been a natural opera of huge billowing clouds, sunlight glinting on water and deep gusts of cold breezes with skies hinting at rain. We are past the intoxicating bloom of early spring and in the thick of the mercurial yet gorgeous daily changes of mid May.
I have procrastinated writing this Editor’s Letter for some weeks now and realized on my morning walk today that I needed to chomp down and gather the fragments of notes I’d been developing for this post and just write while it is indeed still Spring.
The pandemic is indeed, somewhat indirectly, part of why things have been fairly quiet here at Pacific Roots. I have hosted a few podcast sessions over the past month but otherwise am producing content at a much slower pace than usual.
There are certainly no shortage of issues to write about and interview people on. My perception is that the realm of media has been positively bursting at the seams these last few months. I, for one, am not complaining – there is so much rich content and thoughtful commentary emerging from this chapter.
But on a personal note and in terms of production for this site, I have had to take a pause to observe, let some thoughts percolate and just be.
In mid March I began a part time role as a Communication Consultant for EAT, a global non-profit based in Oslo dedicated to transforming food systems. As we all know, the pandemic was headlining news by then and in fact our neighboring countries here in Scandinavia had begun to go into lockdown. I was grateful for work I found to be purposeful and that also kept my mind busy (i.e. not consuming news for most of my waking hours).
However, as many people worldwide have experienced, the pandemic has also had an affect on my work life and my contract time was reduced. During my several weeks with EAT however, I produced this article on the pandemic’s affect specifically on chefs and restaurants worldwide
I had already been covering issues of food here at Pacific Roots – chefs focusing on plant-based cooking, features on farmers and related agriculture themes. My brief stint with EAT enriched my awareness and understanding of the spectrum of people, organizations and businesses that form food systems worldwide. I ended my role there with a truly fortified interest to focus on the “invisible hands” of the food system as well and to continue to prominently feature vegan agriculture as a core theme here at Pacific Roots.
A continuous theme and mantra throughout many commentaries and conversations these past few months has been ‘the New Normal‘ that we as a species need to face and create. I interpret it as not a suggestion but an imperative.
As lockdowns worldwide drastically reduced human activity, news started emerging of air and water pollution reduction and other environmental “benefits” that could easily be observed as a result of a drastic change in human activitity.
Over this span of time, I have heard more than a few messages cautioning against “celebrating” some of these effects . The idea is that we should be cautious about being too positive about this due to human sufferings and hardships right now.
I have thought long and hard about how to express my own thoughts on this. But, simply put, I do believe that we should absolutely be positively vocal about the relief entire animal habitats and ecosystems are experiencing right now with a pause in what is otherwise relentless human activity as well as often exploitation. Not wanting people to do so, for fear of causing discomfort or insult to humans is, I believe, still a continuation of an extraordinarily selfish and human-centric approach. We are in this current situation due to human insistence on animal use exploitation. If we as a species cannot express solemnity as well as regret for our actions, we have a problem.
There is indeed a way to talk about this all whilst also being aware of human hardships due to the pandemic and having a sense of gravitas for many communities and people’s suffering. Indeed, another thing this pandemic showed so clearly is how vulnerable we all are. While some communities might suffer more than others, at the end of the day no single person is above being affected or truly safe. Environmental degradation in another region or continent might seem like a distant issue but this pandemic has truly brought home how interconnected we all are as well as the seriousness of the impact of our behavior on the environment.
We inhabit Earth. We do not own it. We also share this communal space with millions of other species and my hope is that this pandemic also restores a sense of humility in all of our actions and hearts with respect to this reality.
We are experiencing a global pandemic, species and ecosystem loss and damage all in large part due to human’s broken relationships with nature. Part of my mission in founding this site was to highlight stories and issues I want to spotlight as well as organizations and people working to affect positive change in relationship with our local communities and environment and planetary health. That mission remains.
I feel privileged to be able to say I have been using this time to think and also to work on areas of my life that need improving or that just simply called for more engagement and love. With privilege comes responsibility and I accept that with purpose.
I have been enjoying a great deal of the journalism emerging the past couple of months about the recent surge of interest in gardening as well as community supported agriculture. Indeed, my own household decided to sign up for a weekly service which includes a bounty of vegetables, largely grown at the Scandinavian farms the service operates from. The past several weeks I have rediscovered the goodness of regular exercise as well as the pure joy of cooking and learning about ingredients.
This is a time, for me, of going deep into source. For the spiritually minded, I translate that to deep and sincere engagement with spirit. Learning to pay attention to our soul response to situations and align our actions accordingly. My hope is that even amidst all the strange situations we are crafting our new normals and finding our way both intuitively and practically.
Scenes from life: A recent train ride to Skåne
The national rail company SJ has initiated a number of changes due to the pandemic, including a guarantee that when you buy a ticket, the seat next to you will be empty. So for my family of 4 we occupied a column of 8 seats. It’s wonderful to see and experience the prioritization of comfort and safety of passengers.
There is no shortage of news about Sweden’s approach to the pandemic. I write this from the land-of-no-lockdown and myself have gone through many stages of emotion about it. However, I have mainly sought to maintain an “observational, not opinionated” stance, with the knowledge that we are so deep in uncharted territory.
Like most, we have stayed put in our city of residence, cancelling all personal and business trips over the past few months. Yet recently we decided to journey to Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city and the urban hub of Skåne (the ‘Swedish South’) for a long weekend.
My father is from Malmö and it was to this region that my NYC born mother and my brother moved after my parents married. My brother was 5 at the time and though they didn’t stay long, he still has a Skåne accent (that Southern twang!) until this day when he speaks Swedish.
This time has been thick with memories as well as ideas for the future. For my husband and I, a return to that region where my parents both lived together before deciding to move (back) to the United States, has been an idea percolating for awhile.
I have been to Malmö easily a couple dozen times thus far in my life, so it was truly a surprise to feel such wonder arriving in the city, such gratitude to be there. Perhaps it was that fresh Spring energy, the gorgeous lighting everywhere, the joy to be experiencing it with my husband and children. You engage with a place in a new way as a parent. I felt truly ‘nyförälskad‘ (newly in love) in the city- a wonderful feeling to have, especially for those who treasure curiosity and continuous discovery of place.
Here’s to open minds and collaborative energy crafting the path forward, a focus on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, a readiness to discuss problems- not for debate but to discover solutions, action and resolve. Here’s to the beauty of the season and finding moments of refuge, energy and motivation in the daily landscape of our personal “new normals” as well.