Environmental Ponderings 18 – The “New Normality” – What will you make of it?

We have been pummelled in the Media by the so-called “New Normality” that appears to have emerged from Lockdowns associated with the Covid-19 Pandemic. Has it affected you?


Analysing the positive practicalities that have been experienced, I identified the following:


The forced “imprisonment” of families in their homes during Lockdown levels 5 and 4 forced families to associate more together. Please note that I did not say “talk” more because feedback from many households was that Social Media took the place of any face-to-face talking.


In some families, Lockdown resulted in the revival of activities such as reading and hobbies. This may have extended to a resurgence of “family activities” such as playing games together. Some families had topical discussions on conservation and biodiversity. Others were more active, catching up on the household and family chores that have been “promises” for longer than most would care to remember.

Ways of Life

In some cases, individuals and families revisited some cornerstones of their ways of life. Reports of families going back to basics and starting food gardens to augment food supplies. Stories abound of family members rediscovering the flora in their garden and the birds surrounding their homes.

New Normality or Old Normality?

If you sit down and think, you can probably add dozens more examples to the shortlist above. As you read this several months after the commencement of Level 1 Lockdown, how many of these activities have been sustained? Has the “New Normality” gone back to the “Old Normality”? Has life improved or regressed? Have you thought about why? If it has improved, will you continue the momentum to improve other areas? Or if it has regressed, are things on a downward spiral?

Gaia Concept

One of the topics that I thought about during the Pandemic isolation was the Gaia Concept. The Gaia concept was initially conceived by a chemist, Dr James Lovelock, and added to by microbiologist, Lynn Margulis. Lovelock proposed the hypothesis that living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet. Biodiversity is thus, a critical “maintenance” component of “spaceship Earth’s” functioning to ensure that the stock of genes is maintained to cope with changes that may occur which need rectifying to restore the equilibrium of the Earth. There are many arguments for and against the concept, but it does help to explain the interdependence of organisms and their physical environment. The Concept has been redeveloped and redefined by Lovelock himself, as well as other scientists and thinkers.

Zoonotic Diseases

Why did I go back to thinking about the Gaia Concept? It was primarily because of a piece written by Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist and “Gorilla” person. She was writing about what she called the “callous and immoral attitude” of humans towards Nature. She referenced the Covid-19 Pandemic and commented that it had been predicted by epidemiologists studying zoonotic diseases (i.e. those that jump from animals to people). She added, “…We have increasingly been creating conditions in which this can happen, including [animal] trafficking which brings animals together from different parts of the world, destined to be sold for entertainment or food…also the factory farms all over the world where we breed cows, pigs and chickens in the most terrible conditions…”

Other Pandemics

We are struggling, and have struggled, to find vaccines and cures for pandemics such as Covid-19, Hong Kong flu, Swine flu, Lassa Fever, Ebola and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Should we perhaps go back to basics and revisit the need for active and realistic biodiversity protection and development programs to protect current and future generations.

Does the “New Normality” include the forgotten thinking about Gaia and biodiversity and are we going to lapse back into the “Old Normality” of laissez-faire?

Arend Hoogervorst is an environmental scientist with some 35 years of experience in South Africa in environmental management and sustainable development in local and central government, commerce and industry and private practice.

© Arend Hoogervorst, 2020.