WHAT IF…

What if this was her way of talking to us? Scratch that. What if this was Mother Nature’s way of screaming at us whilst violently shaking us and intermittently slapping us in the face?

Her hope would be that many of us might start to consider the weight our individual, routine, daily actions.

Because if we don’t, there’ll be a price to pay.

COVID-19 has carved a path that will remain engraved in our collective memories for centuries to come. As it travels through our planet, we either wait in paralysing anxiety, or we are witness to the destruction it has left behind.

These aren’t the brightest of days; times are strange. I’ve never read the bible, let alone sought solace from a biblical quote. 

However, when I look at what is transpiring around me at the present moment, there’s one particular sentence that seems… good;

…where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy…

While the vision of humans scurrying into our homes, chased by a novel disease seems ominous, the result of our social confinement and economic standstill, has had an impressively positive effect on the environment.

Let’s look at cruise ships. First off, they’re gone – thank fuck for that. Cruise ships have a tendency to burn the dirtiest grades of fuel (24 hours of the day), quite literally emitting emissions equivalent to 1 million cars per day. By stepping foot onto a cruise ship, you’re electing to triple your carbon footprint.

Venice is a popular destination for cruises. Unsurprisingly, the canals of The Floating City are the cleanest they have been in recent memory, according to locals. The canals have turned from a murky-green to blue, with swans, fish, and other wildlife returning to the waterways their ancestors used to call home.

Opposition to these vessels of indolent gluttony isn’t new, locals have wished for their eradication for years now. In Venice, the hope is that the current lockdown will be an opportunity to reflect, to re-organize how in the future, the tourism industry can harmonise both their interests and the interests of the City.

Poignant images are those of the deserted corners of Times Square and the barren streets of the Champs Elysées. Venice represents a microcosm of similar cases throughout the world experiencing a re-generation in the desertion of human activity.

However, what if the problem isn’t actually in the ‘cruise ship’?

It was in November of 2019 when I first heard of the ‘case against having kids’ – through the radio, of all platforms… What if it’s no longer ‘moral’ to have kids? What if COVID-19 represents the new normal? What if there’s a second coming of Smallpox? Why bring them into a world that doesn’t plan adequately enough to protect them during moments of health crises, or give them universal and equal access to health care. One less mouth to feed, less unemployment, less congestion, the list goes on. Some academics truly believe that we ought to trend towards a path where the world’s population drops to zero. I am not a proponent of this notion, I am more on the side of those that believe that more people means more ideas, and those ideas become the fuel for progress. I am however, a proponent of the idea that families who procreate as if women were procreative serfs – to borrow a term I quite enjoyed reading – much like the farming families of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, or the Duggar’s, should kindly cease to exist.

We, as humans, just don’t seem capable of stemming the slow destruction of our environment. What if now, Mother Nature is rolling up her sleeves, and is preparing to take matters into her own hands?

What if, like all of her creatures, Mother Nature too has defence mechanisms? Why is it that viruses seem to emerge from the most densely populated corners of the world? What if, much like Venice’s canals and stilts holding the city together, the Earth has a maximum to its human capacity – and what if we’re actually at the tipping point?

I understand that there’s no proof that a virus jumping from a bat to a human is scientific proof that Mother Nature is curbing our population growth because her shoulders are getting a little tired by the weight of our existence. At the same time, I can’t say that it’s not. After all, don’t those that believe in a religion suspend everything that is true about the scientific method?

I believe this is an opportunity to reflect on our life choices. Every decision has an outcome. Whether we see them or not, they exist.

I’ve often wondered how our current pandemic will reverberate throughout the psyche of our humanity. How will this change our values and commitments to public health? To environmental commitments? Will we remain static and march on as if this was a one-off? Will we learn from this and evolve into more forward-thinking people? What if now was the time to trade in that minivan for the electric car you were thinking of getting? I know for a fact this will change my behaviour moving forward, and I can’t help but remain optimistic that I’m not the only one.

Examples of Earth’s regenerative capabilities are not only comforting to see, they serve as motivation, to continue to act in a manner that better match the rhythms of the natural world.

How can I carry a bit more of the weight resting on Mother Nature’s shoulders? Among many, one of the most immediate and easily attainable is to consume more mindfully.

I guess this has been a long-winded way to explain the fact that my blog will be shifting its focus to promote and celebrate producers that hold the health of their environment as a central pillar of their organization. Biodynamic farms, natural winemaking techniques, regenerative organic practices, sustainable agricultural practices – the wines I choose to spend my money on, as well as write about, will engage in any or all of these activities.

I hope you’ll stay tuned.

4 thoughts

  1. I often embark on long-winded rants about how the earth is already overpopulated, that we are growing the population and consuming the world’s resources far faster than the earth can reproduce them. It’s my number one back-pocket argument against having kids each time my mom nags me about it. But when I reach the end of my rant about how the future is bleak and we’re all screwed, a surprising number of people have replied to me: “The earth will be fine. It’s us humans that won’t.”

    It’s so true. The earth has regenerated and preserved for billions of years. Species have gone extinct on the regular.

    We often lull ourselves into a belief that because we are human we are superior to other species as far as existence goes – but biologically we are just another species. And all species are subject to disease and death and even mass extinction. It’s a cycle that repeats.

    Biologically, the world is going to do what the world is going to do, and we all just have to face whatever situation comes our way. That’s the physical reality of it.

    Socially – this is where it gets interesting to me.

    As unemployment rises by the day, and spouses of colleagues continue to be let go from their long-time jobs, I think we can collectively feel he weight of this situation increase (add to that the compounding negativity of the news and it becomes really intense).

    We’re also all living in a heightened state of anxiety, stress and fear – maybe not for ourselves, but for our loved ones who are perhaps in far more vulnerable positions.

    On top of the threat of this virus – we can’t ignore the mass deaths that have stemmed from every major economic collapse in history. We’re doing our very best to protect one another by shutting the world down, but are we simultaneously teeing up an existential crisis each day that the world economy moves closer to mass destruction?
    The situation may be a biological inevitability, but socially it’s an unprecedented shit show.

    So – where do I stand? To me, the point of this is not to get out ahead of one another – it’s to come out of this together. Full stop.

    That’s why I say to those with the cushy, secure-as-all-hell jobs: check yourself, count your blessings, show gratitude for the position from which you’re operating, and work for that income to give back and help someone, or some business, or some charity, get through this.

    I revert to my point above: biologically, we’re all just recycled bags of atoms bouncing around on the earth for the time we’re given. Help your fellow atom bag.

    I digress.

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  2. There is a lot to unpack here, but your “long-winded rant” certainly reflects what must be going on in the heads of millions, if not billions of people around the world at the present time.

    One particular piece stood out to me however: where you turned to a “biblical passage” that describes the seemingly but falsely antithetical relationship between hardship and contentment.

    This is actually not from the Bible, but from a modern interpretation of the words of St. Francis of Assisi, born not far from Venice, nor from the Lombardy region that is currently being ravaged by COVID-19.

    Francis was the son of a wealthy silk merchant and lived a life so opulent and partied so raucously that his example could stand as an apt analogy for the Western world and its wanton destruction of the natural environment over the past century or so.

    In 1202 he joined the military in an effort to build on his glamour and prestige and outfitted himself with the best equipment money could buy. However, Francis was captured and spent a year in captivity and fell ill. (Think of it as prolonged non-voluntary self-distancing). Over the course of his long illness, he re-evaluated his priorities and his life, and emerged very much a changed man.

    This is obviously a truncated version of a very interesting life that included inventing the Nativity scene, negotiating peace with an Egyptian Sultan, forming a religious order, receiving the stigmata (!), and obviously being canonized a Catholic saint, but the most salient point to this discussion is the fact that a year of illness and captivity led Francis to become one of the earliest and strongest proponents of nature.

    He gave up all of his worldly possessions (which were numerous) and dedicated himself to a life of poverty, peace, and love, preaching that nature was the mirror of God and that all creatures should be treated as brothers and sisters and that we all have a duty to protect and enjoy nature as stewards of creation. He is the patron saint of ecology and animals.

    My point is not to encourage wholesale adoption of the extreme approach St. Francis took towards asceticism in his life, but rather to point out the parallels between his life and the crossroads we stand at now. This great illness and long self-imposed captivity could stand as a moment where humankind recognizes the disordered priorities of our world and recognizes that the luxuries and extravagances that we have indulged in are not necessary or even edifying ends to pursue. It is undeniable that the current world order works for only the very few and that we are on a course charted for destruction. We don’t need to go live in a cave or shave our heads into funny haircuts, but collectively huge changes need to be made in order to give humanity a chance of surviving long into the future.

    My hope is that what comes out of all of this is we as a society realize that we can do without a lot of things and we can make do with a much simpler approach to life. We don’t need cruise ships. We don’t need a new set of plastic trinkets every holiday. We don’t need to endlessly consume disposable goods. Conferences can be done by video. People can work from home. Spare time doesn’t need to be spent wandering around an IKEA or Costco or mall or on Amazon, buying some shit that we don’t need.

    My hope would be that a period massive inconvenience may just convince us that it is possible to re-order our priorities and that mthere is so much more that we can do than just giving up drinking straws.

    But if your quarantine calls for you to become an environmental hero like St. Francis of Assisi, that is ok too.

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    1. “But if your quarantine calls for you to become an environmental hero like St. Francis of Assisi, that is ok too.”

      I just want to make it clear that by no means am I declaring myself an environmental hero. I merely mean to communicated the fact that I think it’s time to roll up my sleeves a little, and do more for the environment. As someone writing about the world of wine, I’ll aim to carry forward my consuming habits in a manner that takes into account the impact winemaking practices have on the environment.

      I appreciate, truly, the background on St. Francis of Assisi. Even though I didnt quite do my homework on him – as you’ve pointed out – it turns out to be a fitting example.

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  3. Haha. I just meant if someone out there (not you specifically) felt called by humankind’s current predicament to go live off the land, that is ok too. Whatever steps anyone takes, including your personal commitment above, are laudable and in the right direction.

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