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Our loss is the Earth's gain

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Wednesday, Apr 15, 2020

Earth Week begins and runs for a full seven days. Throughout the world “Earth Day” which has been celebrated for the past 49 years, has gone digital for the first time. Visit www.earthday.org for a whole world of digital events to join in on.

Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish environmentalist may be seeing some of the results she has been dreaming of in her battles to reduce green house emissions worldwide.

The world demand for crude oil has declined dramatically. The air pollution index in China and major cities of Europe and North America have improved many fold. Highways and streets are today empty of bumper to bumper traffic. This can all be attributed to the Covid-19 virus.

As we remain cooped up in our homes, with malls and retail stores closed, our lifestyles have changed dramatically. Many today are working from home. Those with children are acting as teachers helping the students study using computers for learning as never before. Our entire way of life is being upended.

Jorg Ruppenstein who runs the Fort Frances Power Corporation has advised me that power consumption has declined by seven percent in Fort Frances. All power is now being billed at off peak rates and the province had expected that demand would grow with more people being in the household. The reduction in demand could also be a consequence of so many retail offices and businesses being closed.

I wonder what this means for the future of work and learning. Will more businesses turn to having employees work from home instead of requiring more office space to house employees? Will the e-learning that is being used to teach students be adopted more fully? Will doctors and nurse practitioners continue video conferencing and telephone calls to meet with their patients?

One of the surprises of self isolation has been the decision of many to begin “Victory Gardens” like grandparents and great grandparents did during the first two world wars. Stores with garden supplies have had a run on seeds, soil, fertilizer and potting pots. Whole new blogs have been started telling first time gardeners how to turn grassy lawns into gardens growing lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes beans and peas. We, as a society, are looking to depend on ourselves to be inventive in this crisis.

The Independent Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted a decline in the production of oil by 450,000 barrels for this quarter. In late 2019 IEA had projected that the world would require an additional 825,000 barrels of oil in this quarter. Today that means that there are fewer transports bringing fruits and vegetables into communities. It means that there are fewer aircraft flying exotic fruits and vegetables to North America. It means that there are fewer ships crossing the Pacific and Atlantic oceans bringing manufactured products in containers to North America. And the reduced number of containers has resulted in fewer trains moving through Fort Frances.

Who would have believed that yeast and flours would become scarce items in our grocery stores? How many of us have taken up bread making, searching our recipes on Google and watching videos of making and kneading dough and then watching the miraculous rising of the dough that is cooked into fresh bread. It too is an old skill that is being relearned by today's generation. But that simple task is reducing the number of trips to the grocery store to pick up bread items.

What skills will we continue to use? Will we continue to spend more time for families? What technologies will be expanded for our use and learning?

Column:

Jim Cumming - From the Publisher's Pen

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