It’s OK to have hope
My nomination for the sentence I’m most sick of hearing? “I can’t wait until things get back to normal.” The sentiment behind the words may be sincere — because, yes, we all want to be able to gather with family and friends, not have to wear masks, and be free to go to restaurants, plays, concerts, and birding lectures again.
But for me, the grating aspect of going “back to normal” is two-fold.
First, it implies that we’re willing to overlook all the people who have been lost in this pandemic, as well as the grief of survivors, the enormous job loss and business closings, and the significant mental-health impact endured by millions of people due to stay-at-home orders and the like. We cannot and must not forget the tolls COVID has taken.
And second, humanity’s “normal” pre-COVID life was driving nature off a cliff. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, cut down forests, pollute the oceans, and spray crops with neonicotinoids and other harmful chemicals, how will we slow the loss of birds and other wildlife that has been “normal” for a century or longer?
It’s somewhat ironic that because the pandemic forced millions of people last spring to stay home and slow down, more folks than ever developed a new or renewed interest in birds. That interest is real and has been sustained since the pandemic began. Birding organizations, eBird, and this magazine have all seen increased participation and web traffic this past year. My hope is that we do something positive with this new energy and forge a new, sustainable path that is anything but normal.
Matt Mendenhall, editor