Harper Stone

Harper Stone

Bellingham, WA

I'm the director of an organization called Majestic Adventures, that leads kids summer camps and after-school enrichment activities. So we've had to reconfigure our entire business to work online, while trying to prepare for a future that at some point would involve meeting in person again with lots more health and safety guidelines. It has been very difficult to plan anything at all, since there are so many unknowns. I've been in countless Zoom meetings and have definitely been feeling fatigued by the increase in screen time. I live in a small home and I actually thrive on having long periods of time at home without going to town; I'm an introvert with no shortage of creative projects, so I suspect that being quarantined is a lot easier for me than for others. I also have the fortune of having 100 acres of forest in my back yard so I can remain connected to nature without having to go to the parks which have been overcrowded recently.

I'm not too concerned for myself. I'm at a low risk, and since I live alone I can quarantine easily I'm not too worried about spreading an infection to others. I have some herbal antivirals, including some that are specifically effective against coronaviruses (like the Japanese Knotweed tincture that I made from a patch of that invasive plant that's growing on the land here). I am friends with a number of elders who are much more at risk and much more worried, and I know this virus represents a real danger for them. And I'm also seeing the effects that social isolation is having on a lot of people. We are social primates and many of us depend on social interaction in order to be healthy. I suspect there will be a great many side effects of the quarantine – addiction, depression, suicide, breakups, domestic violence, and a general numbness as the result of too much time on screens.

I'm lucky to live on a piece of land with several other people, one of whom has a nursery of plants and a lot of gardening knowledge. Normally in the spring and summer I'm too busy with camps to do any gardening, but this spring I planted several fruit trees and bushes, and began creating an edible forest garden. There have been moments of spaciousness since my workload has dropped, that have allowed me to slow down spend more time outdoors. These things are definitely part of my core values and often get eclipsed by the need to meet deadlines and pressures of work, and it's my hope that I will continue to prioritize them in my life even after things begin to return to normal.

The way our society was operating before the pandemic was wholly unsustainable and destructive in many ways. Many lives have been sacrificed to the gods of capitalism and consumerism, in a culture that time and time again has put profit before people and the planet. Never before have I seen our society willing to put the brakes on the economy for the sake of health and wellbeing, and it's remarkable that this little pause has allowed us to rediscover a little of what had been lost and forgotten during the mad rush of the daily grind. Whales are once again seen on our shores. Birds sing happily in the trees. Skies are clear over many cities, and people are seeing the mountains or distant landscape features, for the first time in their lives. Nature progresses through the seasons unabated, and is showing signs of resilience and recovery since we have slowed down.

Clearly, it's possible to stop the machine of capitalism in order to care for the health of people, and the world doesn't fall apart when we suddenly stop working so much. Just as the virus threatened to overwhelm the capacity of hospitals and we were advised to help "flatten the curve", capitalism and a rapidly growing extraction-based economy based on cheap fossil fuels threatens the carrying capacity of the ecosystems in which we live, and all the natural systems on which we depend. Clean air, clean water, healthy soil and biodiversity of ecosystems are all essential for human survival, and for all life on earth, and these things are all placed in jeopardy by the 'business as usual' before COVID-19. I believe it's imperative to shift to a resource-based economy and regenerative society that functions on permaculture principles. If we don't, this virus will just be a small blip before a much more devastating collapse.

-- Harper Stone

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