COVID-19 and activism opportunities

The highly significant social, cultural, economic and health impacts of COVID-19 on society are hard to overstate. Those who haven’t felt the brunt of this horrible disease are few and far between – I personally know many who have lost relatives, and still more who have been hard hit financially.

But without underplaying these negatives, it’s important, as it is in any time of crisis, to see the glimmer of hope on the horizon, the silver lining accompanying the great, big, ghastly cloud. That is how opportunists work: when the rest of the world is grieving, their heads down, they seek out the opportunities the rest of us miss and capitalise upon them.

That is how my colleagues at Worldward work. They are so incredibly capable and adept at spotting opportunities and making the best of a bad situation. How else could we have become an international organisation with over 100 members in a mere matter of months, with a website, social pages, a wealth of resources and more besides?

Lockdown gave us the perfect opportunity to brainstorm, recruit and spread the message of climate restoration to many around the world. The virtual nature of many of these initiatives actually benefited the international format of our organisation: indeed the increased prominence of Zoom and other virtual formats allowed us to connect with a far larger cohort of people than we ever could have done even one year ago. It would be safe to say that we could only have become the organisation we are today because of this pandemic.

These principles are not simply limited to Worldward however. Months out of school, university and work have led to many finding themselves with much spare time on their hands, allowing them to capitalise upon long-dreamt of projects which they simply had never had time to approach beforehand. Anecdotally I’ve spoken to several people who’ve been inspired to join an activist circle or even to create their own, such as the Zambia-based ‘Action for Nature’. Communities like Worldward have also grown exponentially – it’s truly refreshing to see some new faces.

I hinted earlier to how much the advent of virtual technologies has helped us to expand internationally, and I believe that in time the activist community will reap the benefits which have come about as a result of their increased prominence. Everyone has Zoom, and everyone is now used to the concept of meeting face-to-face from all corners of the globe. This conceptual barrier has been crossed, and with it opportunities for vastly distant communities in many respects to reach out to each other and work together have proliferated. Truly innovative indeed.

Absolutist lexicon resides in our media and society as a whole, now more than ever: but as tempting as it is to succumb to classifying things as ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’ we must resist. Notions are complex, multi-faceted even, and happenings and events have mixed impacts. Viewing the pandemic with this mindset will do everyone feeling down a little good. It’s hard – but that’s what differentiates the pessimists from the opportunists. Which one do you want to be?

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