Reflections on the parallels of physical training and the required practice, endurance and effort needed to build a better world.
I am not one of those people who enjoys running. I get why some love the activity; it’s freeing, accessible and mobile. I just hate it.
I am running because of the pandemic. Because the gyms and pools are closed and because I live near a park. I am running because it is spring and because I have to do something. I am running with plenty of distance from other walkers, runners or cyclists – I mean a good 10 metres.
After twenty-eight days in isolation, I have concluded my anti-depressants have stopped working. It seems obvious to me now as I pace my apartment, flitting between couch, armchair, bed and, even more briefly, my desk, searching desperately for a place that can conjure a sense of determination, an excitable rush that characterised my experience of Toronto before quarantine. Now I cannot reliably distinguish between my movements and rest, abbreviated and laid atop each other by the smallness of the apartment—a smallness becoming one with my body—leaving me unsure of whether I am sleeping-while-awake or waking-while-asleep.
[Marius Gulbranson Nordby] Wednesday, April 8, 2020
The last few weeks have given me a crash course in many things digital, particularly the different platforms for video conversations. For example, I hosted a digital book launch on Zoom. It was for a book about environmental ethics seen through the lens of Jurassic Park. It is quite wonderful.
Perikles, killed 429 BC by the plague in Athens, now being disinfected Picture by Stavros Papantoniou (facebook)
James Meek, author of a recent novel about the great plague, predicts history will “bifurcate: in one version the epidemic will have changed everything – social histories – and in the other it will be an awkward sidenote interrupting a narrative of wars, national rivalries, rulers and dynasties.” But we should not leave meaning-making to future historians, much depends on the meaning we make now.
On one day last week, I conducted 53 interviews with potential students interested in starting our LL.B. Global Law. The interviews are the conversational equivalent of a hit-and-run, limited to +/- 10 minutes by the sheer number of registrations. The applicants came from all over, with every continent represented, although European students dominated that day. In order to provide structure, we ask the applicants in advance to identify a global challenge that speaks to them. We also ask them to think about what it is that makes this challenge global and what law might have to do with it. Pretty standard stuff.
Whether I open a newspaper, go online on social media or have real-life conversations – wherever I look, Corona is there. How can it be that, suddenly, my mental, academic, and even physical horizon has been reduced so thoroughly to one single topic? This often induces an overwhelming feeling of anxiousness, and a certain claustrophobia in me. But yet I can’t evade this topic; I should neither try nor would I succeed to escape it. It is simply the reality that we live in.
In the wake of the pandemic, democracies worldwide are witnessing the rise of emergency politics. What started with the closure of borders to prevent the spread of the virus, is now creeping into the very infrastructure of domestic legislation. The decision of Hungary’s parliament to grant Prime Minister Viktor Orban the right to rule indefinitely by decree is one (admittedly extreme) example. Will other democracies follow? In Israel, currently subsumed by a constitutional crisis, these questions are ever more pressing. The state’s newly-introduced emergency regulations were extended last week (31/3) until the end of April.
“Did you see that article about how blue the clouds are now in China because of corona?” asked my friend on a virtual hangout. As an environmental justice scholar, I found something deeply troubling about all the news stories and posts celebrating clear, blue skies – all with some flavor of “hey, at least we are giving mother nature a break.” Firstly, surely reduction in traffic and industrial activity explains the dramatic fall in No2, but climate science is much more complex. A few months of lockdown cannot undo three decades of unequivocal anthropogenic warming. The hoarding of toilet paper and panic-buying show that our consumerism and overconsumption reflexes are much more deeply entrenched.