Saturday, May 8, 2021

Learning and Working and Volunteering, Oh My.

What's changed the most where you live, work, play, and learn since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic?

I started writing this article after the onset of the pandemic about how quickly our lives changed. Life immediately turned topsy turvy for all of us, and these thoughts slipped through the cracks just as promptly as they came.

A year later, and having just read Bill Gates' How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, I'm reminded of the relative nature of these thoughts, and two from Bill that coincide.

The first relays the importance of getting from 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases (the total our world adds to the atmosphere every year) to zero. Citing numerous sources, even those addressing scientific uncertainties, Bill notes there are two key areas we need to address in order for progress to be effective:


We can try to minimize the impact of the changes that are already here and that we know are coming.


To have any hope of staving off disaster, the world's biggest emitters—the richest countries—have to get to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Middle-income countries need to get there soon after and then the rest of the world following suit. There's more to the book and these notions than addressed here, but, just as Maya Wiley reminds us during her campaign to be New York City's mayor, ‘To change everything, we need everyone’.

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The second specific thought Bill brings was a summary point under one of the final chapters, 'Why Government Choices Matter'. He writes that when we focus on technology, policies, and markets simultaneously,

We can encourage innovation, spark new companies, and get new products into the market fast.

Business models of yesterday have attempted these actions independent of each of other, their industries, and especially globalization efforts, and many today are doing better. However, if industries driving the world of commerce, and the infrastructure built around that effort, coordinate work with progressive governed policies, effective change can be within humanity's grasp.

For myself, and through continued conversations with others at work, at home, and through community action in the last couple of years alone, I hear how the new busy-ness of the pandemic is exhausting. I couldn't agree more. This circular dialogue accomplishes little to none and frustrates more.

So, how can each of us do better in every aspect of our lives?

Employers: Whether you're speaking with people working from home, in the field, or in the office, do not give them extra work for fear of loss productivity. People already working from home have developed remarkably effective strategies to find balance. Trust them, listen to them, and don't add work.

Parents: Speaking as a parent, a former public school teacher, and as a global citizen, kids always need to be in the know. We need to give young people reasonable breaks, even extended ones. Yes, we continue to find ways to incorporate at-home learning before going 'back to school', but we need to alleviate stress, for them and us, by not applying undue pressure, at home or for their education specifically.

Educational Institutions: Offer more, expect less. So many students, and parents, had difficulties before the pandemic. And there continue to be so many misconceptions about what's applicable to all. Municipally governed entities, in particular, need to remain sensitive to this, even long after we start to recover from the pandemic.

Organizations: Where volunteers are concerned, don't see this as a time to deploy new strategies or you very well may face burning out your existing base and overreaching as other organizations seek new opportunities as well. For people already facing a multitude of hardships in this moment, volunteers need more of a respite than ever before.

Life is already stressful, and adding additional, un-manageable workloads, for students, employees, and volunteers alike, is unnecessary provided that we stay focused on the future. In fact, as Bill notes, we should spend the next decade focusing on structural changes to put us on the path to eliminating greenhouse gases by 2050.

It's hard to think of a better response to a miserable 2020 than spending the next ten years dedicating ourselves to this ambitious goal.