Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people.
In the first few weeks of lockdown, as conferences and travel were being cleared from my calendar, the two-hour wok commute wiped from my day, meetings at coffee shops and catch ups at bars no longer viable, I felt what many have found confronting to express: relief. I was being told to panic, to feel uncertainty, to feel like the whole world had fallen apart, but I didn’t. I felt permission to get off the treadmill, to narrow the lens with which I viewed my life, and to finally give contentment a chance.
I want to acknowledge my context here, as I know this has been a difficult and tragic tie for many. I live with my partner in a house that has a large, productive garden in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. We, and all our loved ones, have been healthy over this period. Although my partner lost his work, he’s received government support, I’ve retained my salary, and our landlord halved our rent without a stipulation to pay it back. We don’t have kids. We also don’t have relatives nearby – his are in Brazil and mine in Western Australia – and we’e felt that separation hard.
It’s from this position that I’ve been able to look up during the Great Pause, and let go of some of the excess that is perpetuated by being ‘out’ on the world. Being home, I’ve been able to work according to my own rhythms: I’ve noticed my nervous system is more steady, and remarkable, I’ve been more productive. Without forcing it, my orientation has shifted to what is proximate and essential – and I’ve been able to create a routine from that place, rather than one dictated by the Growth Machine. My partner and I have learned new skills like preserving olives, we’ve brought chickens into the backyard and built garden beds on the street verges. In just a few months, the household feels less like a place I come to recluse from the world, and more like a thriving sustaining world of its own.
Not surprisingly, our greater household too has benefitted from less feet on the pedal. Global CO2 emissions have dropped by 5.5 percent on last year’s figures, ecosystems have come into balance, and air pollution has reduced to such asn extent that people in India are seeing the Himalayas for the first time ever. This is valuable information. We know that the planet regenerates when we’re not running all over the place chasing empty fantasies. We know that there is greater wellbeing when we are more connected to our local environments. How do we then bring these learnings with us into a post-COVID world?
For this issue of Dumbo Feather, we’ve been in dialogue with some remarkable humans who have looked at their dependence on the global economic systems head on, and pivoted dramatically to form local, decentralised structures that build resilience, and put the wellbeing of people and planet first. The work they’e done in their communities – re-imagining everything from education and food production to economics and governance – is inspiration for all of us to being into our own communities, especially now. We’re incredibly grateful to Helena Norberg-Hodge and her team at Local Futures for helping us curate the edition and learn from the people who are bringing about the new world order that is rooted in what makes life meaningful.