Now that we are in corona quarantine, our lives are spent mostly indoors. Geert van Zandbrink is staying at home too, but he still gets some fresh air with a walk round the block.
My home in Wageningen centre, where I am temporarily quarantined, is just a few paces from the market square. After a quick look to the left, I walk through the Hoogstraat. One or two individuals have taken to the streets to buy a book or something else to pass the vast amounts of free time that has unexpectedly become available. Consumer society has ground to a halt. In a boutique window, a poster advertises a 50% price slash on every second article; directly next to a note stating the shop is closed until 31 March.
During market on Wednesday however, the square was bustling with activity. People suddenly have all the time in the world to select their bread and vegetables from various stalls. In fact, it provides an excellent pretext to leave the house. A brief estimate shows the limit of one hundred people was nowhere near kept, and neither was the social distancing requirement of 1.5 meters. Every detail of the virus keeping us all on our toes is discussed at length. Apparent facts are defended with false claims and vice versa. The acquired fresh groceries (free of plastic wrapping) are just an extra bonus.
Just around the corner in the direction of the Walstraat, students play with a ball and water-filled plastic bottles. Their boisterous laughter reaches as far as the crossings, where normally only the sound of traffic is heard. But there is hardly any traffic; most parking lots are empty. In the distance, on the field surrounding Duivendaal, a couple plays badminton. Although it’s not entirely windless, I can’t blame them. The playing students remind me of children on a French camping site; they exude such peace, such playful joy and carelessness.
As my stroll continues through the park behind Junushoff, it suddenly hits me: we can do this. We can let go of our urge to consume; we can focus on the here and now and let go of stress. The coronavirus is forcing us to behave more sustainably, and we are becoming aware this is actually possible. Of course, it’s only temporary; most of our ‘regular’ lives will return after this crisis. But every child learning to walk must take its first baby steps. After that, it may be falling and getting up, but the pressure is gone. Although this is the result of fate, and our actions are involuntary, we can do this. The future is ours.