Longtown’s new environmental group (LIFE) have written a letter to Jesse Norman MP along the lines of we shouldn’t “go back to normal” after lockdown (see below) and are looking for ways to spread this message.

HGN would love to hear what your message to our local MP’s would be at this time so send your ideas to admin@hgnetwork.org.uk and we will collate them into a joint HGN response. There were questions at the HGN Members Meeting last week about the best way to support Herefordshire Councillors to act for positive environmental change, so watch this space for more info.

With all the talk about ending lock-down, re-booting the economy and children going back to school, what is glaringly absent is any real reflection on the lessons that are to be learned from Covid 19 and the challenges it has raised. Before we try to establish a way forward, we surely need to look at the issues that have been put into stark relief by this virus: where is our society vulnerable; what are our priorities as a human species; who are essential workers and how are they valued; what turned out to be non-essential work; who was willing to volunteer, raise funds, take a pay-cut?

We must ask ourselves how we can build resilience, strengthen community and improve food security. People are instinctively prioritising growing food (garden centres have been overwhelmed by demand for vegetable seeds and compost); supporting small, local shops and businesses, helping each other out, sharing, using less, driving less, wasting less (indeed maybe needing less). We are valuing and re-connecting with nature; enjoying quiet time, recognising the value of this global Pause.

Of course there is the reverse too – the lid has been taken off domestic violence for example. Shouldn’t we take that seriously and ask what underpins it and what it reflects in our society? How come younger adults are suffering more mental health problems during the crisis? in what ways have they become more vulnerable, less resilient and how do current trends contribute to that? And how glaringly obvious is the unfairness within our system that we must no longer ignore.

And when we hear that our planet is benefiting too – air quality significantly improved; pollution down; increase in bird song (or maybe we are able to hear it more) and other wildlife; clearer skies; surely that’s a clear signpost to follow, not one to disregard. We hear too, that for the first time since Parliament began, ministers have stopped shouting and jeering at one another and instead can actually listen; that will surely lead to wiser governance.

Finally, and crucially, what sort of education do children really need to cope with this and other crises that will inevitably follow? It’s clear that the natural default of a human is towards compassion and co-operation and we will certainly need more of these qualities in the future. How are they developed during the school day and at what level of priority?

Jesse, we surely can’t advocate and celebrate a return to normal, can we? Normal doesn’t work. Normal is what got us into this situation and has the potential to create continuing and worsening scenarios. Let’s use this opportunity to start again and rebuild in a sustainable way. And let’s be wary – these are just words, ones we’ve all heard before.