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Pandemic brings us back to our human priorities

Some of the questions people are raising about this pandemic are answerable, and some aren’t.

Some are exaggerated based on assumptions, and some are genuinely concerning.

Some are on the verge of conspiracy, and this whole situation is so surreal no one can be sure there isn’t conspiracy all wrapped around it.

What I do know is that New York is one of the hardest-hit places on Earth. There are bodies stored in refrigerator trucks and people are still dying in large numbers.

The U.S. has not fared well in all this. Regardless of how it got here (it is at least six to 10 times more deadly then the flu from the different numbers I have seen, even incorporating error), it’s real and it’s here.

If you believe in survival of the fittest, this is simply a “cleanse of the weak,” sure. If you are OK with sacrificing weak in your family and circles (those who may not survive if all gates are opened), well, that is you, and that’s a hard one to even consider or talk about, and definitely not the view of many who are not willing to sacrifice those most at risk from this virus.

It’s a really hard time to be an elected official right now, just simply because of how hard these decisions would be to make.

I think a lot of people are grasping for answers right now. I get that. There are way more questions then answers, and us humans want to understand. We are often in search of someone or something to blame, and it’s our human nature.

What I do know is humanity has been living well beyond its means for a very very long time, and while all this is hard and surrounded in questions, I truly believe that we will come out of this stronger, with more stable economies (not so reliant on the world market and based in industries that are resilient and sustainable).

From a Hawai‘i perspective, we were functioning well above capacity for wayyyyyy too long. Our economy since the ‘70s has become completely tourism-dependent, and we have known for a long, long time that something would happen that would cut this line and we would be screwed, but most people in government didn’t make any adjustments for this reality, and now we are in the situation we are in.

It’s a crazy situation, but it is one that puts us back to our priorities as human beings. Food and clean water instantly more important and more valuable then oil and gas, for example.

We have been destroying our climate, ruining our fresh water, pillaging our resources, living above capacity, waging wars, bathing in gluttony, rejoicing in the collapse of our environment for the basis of profits and valuing things and statuses that aren’t real (false gods, dare I suggest?) for so long. Maybe all this is God checking us before we destroy the home we were given to steward.

I have a ton of questions, too, but I am only trying to answer the ones about what we do from here and what I possibly feel like I could have influence on. I’m not looking right now at how we got here, and I’m not looking at the fear and assumptions about what is going to come in the future, because how we got here is still ironing out and is so vast, and the uncertainty of the fears of what is coming so intangible. Instead, for me, the urgency is in the restructuring of our economy and society, and there will be many “rights” to fight for in the coming years.

For many reasons, protesting the stay-at-home order was not the right thing for me to do, while I strongly support the right of everyone to protest. I see it as a way of protesting the very thing that has worked for us. I see this as the thing that worked, and why Kaua‘i has no deaths from COVID-19 and very few cases at all. We took action immediately. We are a small community. We buckled down and we crushed the curve. Has it been hard? Yes. Has it been worth it? I say yes. As of yesterday, restrictions have started to ease, and I assume will continue to.

Right now we are in the emergency, and in my opinion it’s not the time to focus on the assumptions of why we are here and who’s fault and conspired plan it was to get here. We all need to do what we can to get through it as a society and look at how we support each other through all this instead as we move forward.

It’s a time to focus on unity, especially as a small community, and focus on compassion. Let’s not break people down who are struggling to get through this and understand this (like those protesting), and let’s not break people down who are following the guidelines and taking it seriously (like those wearing a mask everywhere). Everyone is doing the best they can and what resonates with them as right and pono.

Let’s do what we can to lift each other up and work together to shape the future from here because, one way or the other, the world as we know it has changed.


Fern Holland is a Kapa‘a resident, ecologist, environmental scientist, advocate, community organizer and manager of Tahiti Nui Restaurant in Hanalei.
Source: The Garden Island

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