For the last 7 months, I’ve isolated from the world’s current moment of chaos in a place majestic in its simple beauty. But while this place has offered safety and solace from a terrifying virus, its simple way of life provided separation from something more: the deeper fabric of a society that invites catastrophes like pandemics, climate emergencies, and other terrifying circumstances to explode and proliferate. It’s shown me not only physical separation from the pandemic itself, but the society that created it — and as we race eagerly back towards “normal” with the hunger for a previous world ignited in our eyes, a simpler yet fulfilling, different but deeply satisfying way of life over previous months makes me wonder why we don’t instead propel ourselves forward.
For a very small sum of us, “normal” was a waking dream, that beckoned an era of unprecedented luxury, endless consumption and living without limits. But as we’ve been busy living insular lives of supreme Earthly comfort, much of the world has lived through “normal” as a great planetary terror. “Normal” induced the violent exploitation of people and their environments, in tandem with their erasure from global discourse, as we are deceptively led to believe in this supremely misguided way of living and existing. It’s meant food insecurity, water scarcity, and soul-crushing poverty for billions, while a small sum of the world enjoys an extravagant standard of living. “Normal” brought unprecedented wildfires and hurricanes that worsen every year, the destabilization of an entire planet’s climate, and global pandemics that emerge from a society that rejects ecology and basic science. When viewed in contrast to the living ecosystems around us, that function as interconnected, balanced systems, our human ecosystem stands out dramatically — our existence is not “normal.”
Now, we find ourselves collectively humbled by the shared ecology that unites us all, haunted by the unsavory side effects of a life we’ve dared to call “normal.” We tried for decades to outsource the wicked externalities of our extravagant lifestyles somewhere “else,” but forgot that within an ecosystem, there is no “elsewhere” to other. The Earth can’t support our consumption and it’s not “normal” to offset the damages to someone else. Even so, our world leaders respond to this psychotic moment in time by rejecting movements for social and environmental justice. Governments “innovate” backwards in time by pursuing “recovery” rooted in developing more fossil fuels, and inciting further Ecocide upon us all (Thank you P.M. Scott Morrison.) The industries that have risen to incomprehensible wealth and power by pioneering us towards deadly absurdity want us to fear the transition away from “normal” more than the disastrous consequences themselves. What my own experiences have revealed, however, is that the alternative to their apocalyptic worldview is actually more enriching and beautiful than they have ever allowed us to imagine.
With traveling comes many new normals, but I can’t help but find myself deeply attached to this one. Here, nature rules — you can actually feel the presence of the world that we all live in and share. The simplicity, lack of cars, small roads, nonexistent reception and limited growth — it’s a shock to the Westernized vision of the world that views progress through a lens of exploitation and acquisition. What’s even more amazing to witness is how this connected, conscious way of coexisting, actually uplifts the overall condition of the island ecosystem as a whole. No wonder it’s such a highly desired place to visit. I wonder what the rest of our world could look like if it emulated the same — it could be the greatest cure of all, for a world that became sick within itself.