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Outside » Outside Features

A Climate Advocate Considers COVID-19

Let's do what needs to be done. Let's stay at home

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I walked through the quiet airport and my footsteps rang through the nearly empty terminal. The usual hustle of travelers was absent. The emptiness was eerie. 

For the three weeks prior to my arrival at the Houston airport, I had been on assignment with my business partner deep in the Brazilian Amazon. We were working on a story about the increased deforestation of the rainforest and its impacts on our world's climate.

Hanging up the boots. It's what we can do right now. - LEOTO, PIXABAY
  • leoto, Pixabay
  • Hanging up the boots. It's what we can do right now.

The work was intense. My business partner and I recorded interviews and sought different perspectives of the complex situation, and by March 11 we had gathered rich material for a compelling story. We had compiled potent discussion points involving the multi-layered issues of greed, poverty, violence and social inequity and how they fuel the multi-layered conflict. We said goodbye to our guides and interpreters who had helped us safely navigate a complicated and controversial landscape. We said goodbye to the risks of malaria, dengue, yellow fever and leishmaniasis. And we looked forward to the relative ease and predictability of home's familiarity. But in the short time we had been in the Amazon, the landscape at home had changed dramatically. 

We had been reading reports on COVID-19, its spread across China, its arrival in Italy, and its emergence in Washington state. From deep within the Amazon, it had been challenging to tell what was really going on. Was it a crisis that would quickly blow over? I thought back to swine flu and H1N1. Would COVID-19, like those other viruses, soon become yesterday's news? Or was this something different?  

Getting home from the depths of Amazonia takes a long time, and during this time we were bombarded with the unprecedented news reports that were ricocheting around the world. The World Health Organization labeled the coronavirus a pandemic. President Trump suspended travel from Europe to the U.S. The coronavirus was declared a national emergency. New disruptive developments were unfolding hourly.

I arrived home in Bend on March 16, just before a federal plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic warned that it could last 18 months or longer and could include multiple waves of infection. Italy reported 475 deaths that day. It was clear that this was not going to blow over and be forgotten.

Here we are a week later. 

All of my work is on hold. My wife and I are self-isolated. And the pandemic updates from around the globe continue to be grim. With rare unstructured time on my hands, I've been able to dive into the work we did in Brazil. From afar it is easy to see how need, social equity and lack of knowledge combine to result in a disregard for the rainforest. Like so many problems, tracing the thread into the knot is much easier than unraveling it. But as I have attempted to do so, I keep being pulled back to our current reality and how many parallels exist.

Just like those who live in the rainforest, we here have an important choice to make. Right now. We get to choose whether we band together and work to break down the barriers of social equity, or choose to focus on "us and ours." 

I propose we band together. I propose we look after each other. I propose we do the right thing.

This doesn't need to be revolutionary and it doesn't have to be hard. 

It is as simple as staying home. It is a simple as taking one for the team and not going out to Smith Rock to climb. It is as simple as choosing to stay home instead of driving to Bishop, California, to climb and hike. 

It is as simple as looking after our fellow citizens by just staying put, reading a book, doing some pushups. Creating physical distance is our primary tool for reducing the impact of COVID-19.

Do you have friends or family at risk due to health or age? Reach out. See if they need supplies dropped off. 

Check in with the restaurants that you like, order take out or delivery, keep your distance, and tip better than you have ever have ever tipped in your life. 

In Brazil, a disregard for others is a major contributor to the demise of one of the world's ecological wonders. Right here in Bend, a disregard for others can be deadly. Let's be an example of what we want the world to do. Let's do this right. Be kind. Be fair. 

Stay home.

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