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As is the slogan for the current state of the world, these are ‘unprecedented times’ in which people all over the world have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. With currently 5.4 million cases of Coronavirus around the world, according to Google’s COVID-19 report, many countries have completely ‘locked down’, urging citizens to refrain from leaving the house unless essential.
Given the worldwide impact of the virus, it opens up the opportunity for comparison. Many people are questioning the response of countries worldwide to the virus, and this has exposed both Prime Minister Johnson and President Trump to heavy criticism on their slow and relatively relaxed strategies.
It could be argued that both the U.K. and U.S. leaders’ approach centres on the responsibility of the individual to protect themselves, which matches the neoliberal sentiments evident in the policies and values of both governments. However, what has become increasingly apparent throughout the pandemic within wider society, is the value of community and collective care and responsibility.
Channel Mum conducted a study of 2000 U.K. adults, which demonstrated that while we social distance, it is reported that a quarter of adults have spoken to their neighbours whom they previously did not interact with. Nearly one-third of the participants have said they had offered to get shopping for those who were unable to leave the house. Siobhan Freegard, the founder of Channel Mum, believes that the Coronavirus pandemic has “kick-started a wave of kindness around the country”.
Financial markets are crashing, and the capitalist systems of countries around the world are in crisis, and countries are finding themselves relying less on the material, and instead of the importance of collective community action. For the U.K. this ranges from the heroic efforts of the National Health Service, to the support of families, friends, and neighbours. The scale of the effect of the pandemic has brought into question how we prioritize, both as individuals, and also as a community.
As Vice stated, it took a crisis that cuts across race, class, and geography to unveil how we view money and services. One person who has been promoting somewhat anti-capitalist sentiment and community thinking for years before the pandemic is Roy Finley, who dubs himself ‘the Gangsta Gardener’.
Finley encourages the community to be educated and self-sustaining through gardening, stating that “building your community, sharing knowledge” is what is true ‘gangsta’. From 2012, Finley has been focused on turning food deserts into food forests by planting community gardens around Los Angeles. Not only has Finley used his gardening skills to build the community, but it has also proved useful within the pandemic. According to The Guardian, since self-isolating from 11th March, Finley has left his property once, as his backyard ‘jungle’ produces enough to live off. Finley told The Guardian that he believes gardening is part of “cultivating ourselves… learning how to take care of things… learning that nothing is instantaneous”.
Finley’s outlook particularly resonates during the current climate of Coronavirus. With many countries on lockdown or with an increased restriction on freedoms, a slower pace of life is inevitable. In a society where we have become so accustomed to the instantaneous, where we are encouraged to prioritize our happiness rather than the collective, market ourselves as profitable, and value ourselves based on our productivity, something is grounding about Finley’s approach to community sustainability and simplicity through gardening and growing your produce.
In an ideal world, communities will reflect upon this time as a chance to redirect our future, into one which celebrates compassion rather than the politics of individualism which the U.K. government, and many like it, bombard us with.