On the off chance that you haven’t been paying attention, the world changed recently. Actually, it’s changed rather dramatically. As happened in September of 2001, the world in which we live saw a seismic shift take place in March of 2020, a shift which the collective consciousness is still attempting to wrap its mind around. This is not a completely bad thing, especially if we take some time to consider some of the embedded lessons of the situation.
In this article we take a look at seven truths that have come into focus as a result of the 2020 Corona / Covid / Wuhan virus…
Instructive Truths From a Disease Gone Viral
Truth #1: The world is a much, much smaller place than it once was. With global travel at everyone’s fingertips, where someone can quite literally be on the other side of the globe within any given 24 hour period (with proper motivation, means and opportunity), we can no longer rely on the isolation of distance to shield us from problems. It is truly mind numbing to think just how quickly a virus that sprang up within a community in China was able to spread unchecked throughout the nations of the world. Whether we like it or not, what happens in the most remote places on Earth can impact our lives, both in good ways and in bad. As the ride at Disneyland was trying to tell us back in the day, “it’s a small world after all…”
Truth #2: Important things tend to rise to the top of the heap during a time of crisis. Just consider that when the proverbial poo hits the proverbial fan, we immediately look to shield our kids and our elderly from the effects. For problems like a virus, the elderly are clearly among the most at-risk segments (if not THE most at-risk segment) of our population. We instinctively move to protect them. All of a sudden work and school and the mundane activities of everyday life recede to a respectable distance, becoming background noise as the importance of health and life take center stage. Most of our true needs suddenly become easily identifiable. Just refer back to what was indicated by people’s purchasing decisions during the initial stages of the shut down. The first things to go missing from grocery store shelves during the virus induced shelter-in-place order? Toilet paper, water, latex gloves, and disinfecting wipes. When push comes to shove and people hunker down to protect their families, needs become crystal clear and highly focused.
Truth #3: Self reliance begins to look more and more like a very good thing. When things begin to get squirrelly, the less one has to rely on heavy, unwieldy systems and mechanisms the better. When life begins to feel like it’s reeling out of control, it’s good for people to want to take control of whatever portions of their lives they can. This desire can manifest itself in a number of different ways, one of the most obvious being renewed interest in growing food in a home garden. And what’s the first thing a person needs to begin their home gardening adventures? That’s right, seed.
All of a sudden seeds begin to fly off the shelves of organic seed companies, As Gretchen Krusyman, one of the chief executives at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, says of what she has been seeing in terms of seed orders, “Every day it just increases. We think it’s going to slow down, and there’s no sign of it slowing down.” George Ball, executive chairman at Burpee Seed Company, echos Gretchen’s observation. “We’re being flooded with vegetable [seed] orders.” Indeed, increased concerns about Covid saw greenhouse growers and bulk seed suppliers scrambling to keep up with increased product demands. So-called “crisis gardening” is nothing new: so-called “Victory Gardens” played a vital role during both World Wars. In 1944 an estimated 20 million Victory Gardens were producing roughly 8 million tons of food, more than 40% of the fresh fruits and veggies consumed by those living in the United States at the time. Not too shabby.
We here at Silicon Valley Seeds continue to make headway towards the establishment of a sustainable south bay seed library system called SaLSA (Seed and Library System Access). Stay tuned for more upcoming announcements…
Truth #4: Our food system is not what it should be. In its drive to become beautifully streamlined and hyper-efficient, the food system that we depend on has ended up becoming brittle and non-resilient. There is little to no redundancy in today’s system, making for a supply chain that teeters on the brink of disaster. A case in point: in late April of 2020, soon after the government’s initial response to the Covid virus, Tyson Foods (the second largest meatpacker in the United States) warned everyone about the looming meat shortage that would result from the forced closure of meatpacking plants, plants that were particularly hard hit by Covid-19 due to the nature of working conditions at those plants: zero social distancing, the need to work swiftly and in close proximity to others, etc. The result? The President felt compelled to invoke the Defense Production Act, declaring meat to be a “scarce and critical material essential to the national defense.” Could a disruption in the processing of farm crops result in the same declaration? Probably, and it’s an unfortunate consequence of our living under food policies which favor the production of calories rather than healthy diets. If nothing else, we should take this opportunity to consider the implications of the decisions past leaders have made in shaping our food system, and whether that system is in need of adjustment.
Truth #5: Plans must now be kept extremely flexible. No, it’s not easy. And no, the flexibility requirement does not come without a cost. In fact, a good many small businesses, the lifeblood of the American economy, have been side swiped by the shutdown order, and many have been unable to weather the financial storm. In mid-May The Washington Post reported that more than 100,000 U.S. small businesses had already closed forever as a result of the pandemic because the flexibility to not earn money for an extended period of time was never made a part of the business plan. It’s true that “the best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray”, which turns out to be especially true during a pandemic induced lock down. Still, the ripples of Covid-related policies impacting the American economy cannot be understated. Whether we’re considering disruptions in our supply chains, restrictions to travel, slowdowns in the retail and services sectors, or the inherent volatility brought to the financial markets, the long term impacts of Covid will be, well, long felt and highly impactful.
Cancellation of Little Sprouts day camp…
Silicon Valley Seeds was all set to host its 2020 summer garden day camp Little Sprouts, a program for youngsters in grades 4 to 7. Daily schedules were finalized, instructors were enlisted, materials were purchased, insurance was obtained, and advertisements were distributed. Everything looked good. Then Covid showed up. And the rest, as they say, is history. We hope to be able to make use of the work that’s been done at some point in the not-too-distant future, but as small operations across the country can explain, the uncertainties are truly maddening.
Truth #6: Community remains key. Throughout this period of shutdown it’s become abundantly clear that dispite thoughts to the contrary, we actually do need each other. Yes, we need to operate in community. Yes, we need to support one another. And yes, we are all in this together. All of a sudden the communication technologies that keep us connected take on new significance: cell phones, tablets, laptops, instant messaging, virtual online meetings, they all serve to bind together people who have come to realize that community in any form is much better than the alternative of isolation. A new day has dawned, one in which telecommuting to work doesn’t seem like a bad idea, one where distance learning becomes of benefit to those who now have access to the best teachers. Are social norms needing to adjust? Yes. But do those adjustments come with certain benefits? Absolutely. We should keep this in mind as we navigate the new social landscape.
Truth #7: A planted seed will still produce a miracle. Lest we begin to believe that life’s uncertainties have taken control, we need to step back and remember the lessons of the seed. These too are important lessons that serve to instruct and encourage. They are lessons of hope, lessons of faith, and lessons of wonder. In today’s crazed world, where more often than not it looks as though things have begun to go off the rails, the lessons of the seed are more important than ever. Why? Because folks have begun to pay far too much attention on those things which divide us or bring fear to our lives, and far too little time considering the foundational things at the core of who we are. Because the simple things often go unnoticed or are taken for granted. And because these too can be found in the lessons of the seed.
We are definitely living in interesting times. We are being called on to adjust the way we live, work and learn. These seven high-level truths are but a few of the lessons learned from Covid, tidbits brought to us at great cost by a disease with the ability to teach us a thing or two, if only we are able to pause, reflect, learn, and adapt. Stay safe, and remember: this too will pass.
One of the co-founders of Silicon Valley Seeds (along with my better half Rachel, who provides the actual gardening and canning know how). I act as the self appointed editor-in-chief (and gatekeeper / wordsmith) for the website. If something in our web pages doesn’t look right, act right or read right, I’m to blame…