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Lessons from 2020: Re-imagining a more sustainable, resilient, and empathetic future

“There’s a common saying among us Inuit, Tamanna Anigutilarmijuq, which means “This too shall pass.” I took solace in this thought. And in the belief that these moments, when life seems to be breaking down, often signal that we are on the edge of a breakthrough in our lives.” ―Siila Watt-Cloutier, The Right to Be Cold

This past year has been nothing short of an unpredictable rollercoaster, it challenged the entire world to re-evaluate not only the way we live and work, but also how we value and cherish our communities and environments. Through our hardships and adversities, 2020 has taught us that now more than ever, we need a breakthrough – to adapt, take hold, and reimagine our new normal for a better, brighter future. 

As 2020 comes to an end, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on what lessons it has brought us.

Lesson 1: Find your voice

Perhaps one of the most powerful movements of 2020 has been the emergence of entire groups raising their voices and fighting for justice. The killing of George Floyd in May sparked waves of protests and support for #BIPOC and radical change in the way our societal systems operate. We’ve seen a rise in the #LandBack Movement such as the Mi’kmaq communities fighting for their right to lobster fisheries and livelihood on their lands, and the nationwide call for solidarity from land defenders across Canada. We’ve witnessed one of the most historic #USElections with record voter turnout to make their voices heard. 2020 has taught us to rise together to inspire global change. 

Lesson 2: Slow down, and reset your priorities

2020 put everything into a grinding halt with the pandemic lockdowns restricting travel, mobility, and non-essential business. This has given us a chance to slow down and reset our priorities – taking the time to work on ourselves, our mental health, our relationships and get creative with how and where we spend our time. In the world of business, we have begun to dismantle the way we perceive productivity and the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to workflows – urging us all to start taking a more human-centered empathetic approach in our organizations and leadership. Taking this time to slow down has given us a chance to reflect on our lives and listen more deeply to one another.

Lessons 3: Parks and Greenspaces are vital

With many of us staying at home this year, we have seen dramatic changes in our environments and the way we value them. In fact, during the first half of April, global CO2 emissions fell by nearly 20%, revealing to us just how reactive our natural systems truly are. The pandemic has also exposed the importance of access to green space and nature for physical and mental health – highlighting how many communities have inadequate access to high-quality green space.

In Canada, over 13% of households reported not having a public park nearby, many of which are located in marginalized communities. As a result, it has made it increasingly difficult for these communities to have equitable access to mental and physical health resources during challenging times. Now more than ever, we are being taught that greenspaces and our environments are essential to sustainable health and resiliency in our communities. As we look to the future, we must consider the value of green space in our ever-evolving urban fabrics and its importance for all neighborhoods. 

Lesson 4: We are all intrinsically connected

Finally, perhaps the most critical lesson, is that we are all intrinsically connected. And by that, I mean we are not only connected to each other, but also to our entire earth and natural systems. This pandemic has shown us that something that may start in one little corner of the world, can inevitably create a paradigm shift in another. As such, it is important to recognize that we live in a circular and reactive system. When we work together, we can begin to mitigate not only our human traumas, but also our environmental traumas. And it is that reactive balance, that greatly depends on our responsibility to each other and this planet. Whatever we do to ourselves, we do to the rest of the world. The balance of the planet lies in our hands, and it is important to recognize that in order to create meaningful change.

If these hard-won lessons of 2020 have made us realize the undeniable reality of systemic oppression, care more deeply about our planet and relationships, as well as find empathy for those around us – then it can surely help us re-imagine a more sustainable, resilient, and caring future.

Has 2020 taught you any lessons?

Desiree Theriault
Environmental Planner and Landscape Designer at Narratives Inc.

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