Alone, Together: how Greenpeacers are finding hope and connection amid a pandemic

March 23, 2020

Focus on the beauty around you. It’s there if you look for it, even in the tiniest things. Flowers bursting from the ground this spring, the chorus of birds singing in the trees, even the way the light streams in the window. Know that humanity will get through this, hopefully emerging into a world that is better because we can refocus on what is really important.

© Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

These are unsettling times for all of us—even more so for those of us who may be working with fewer resources, have limited emergency funds, work as first responders, or are in high-risk groups. As with the climate crisis, we are all facing a life-changing threat. 

In these early days, we asked Greenpeacers to share what’s on their mind and how they are coping—good, bad, and in between. We strive to be transparent with you in all we do, and this one way we can remind each other of the many ways we are connected—not just for a common cause of saving this beloved earth, but in the challenges and joys in this strange time.

Annie Leonard, Executive Director

My daughter is home from college. She thrives on social contact so has organized with her friends group baking sessions (they made chocolate chip cookies yesterday in 5 states simultaneously), group exercise classes, and group study classes.

I am also thinking about how we—we who are such believers in the power of collective action—can continue to advance work for a country that provides real security for everyone in this moment. I have come up with a new term, inspired by my daughter: alone-together.

While in mandatory stay-at-home, they can bake cookies alone-together. We can push for climate solutions, a robust social safety net, access to health care, and all the things we know the world needs alone-together.

My 88 year old mother is in Seattle. All three of her kids are in the Bay Area. Do we bring her here? Is it safe for her to fly? She suggests driving, but that is a long drive. Does one of us go get her? These questions are just a microcosm of what people around the world are grappling with.

I am grateful that we have roofs over our head—more than many people have. Hard to concentrate on battling the climate crisis and more while worried about my mother, but the climate crisis threatens to upend society just like COVID-19 did.

What can we learn from our societal response to this? As a country, we are going to have to spend big to help get through this—how do we ensure those expenditures move us towards a safer, more fair, more prosperous world for all?

Calvin Tran, Development Operations Assistant
I’m twenty-two years old and live with my family just a metro’s ride away from our DC headquarters. Beyond the global pandemic happening before us, I’ve found exciting opportunities in working from home and adjusting to a socially distanced lifestyle. During the work hours, I’ve found new ways to keep in touch with my friends and coworkers digitally. I’m also spending more quality time with my family, which is all the more significant and valuable in these turbulent times.

In my spare time, I’m rediscovering my creative side! I’ve picked back up my guitar and harmonica, and my journal is filling up with new poems and entries. My evening jogs have gotten surprisingly more pleasant too as the weather is warming up and there are less cars buzzing by. We don’t know when things may return back to normal, or if they truly ever will, but the sheer amount of solidarity and humanity that I’ve witnessed is enough to keep me going.

Jen Fela, Global Engagement Lead, Plastic Free Future

I work on a global team, which gives me an interesting perspective that has helped a lot. Many of my colleagues in Asia, especially China and Hong Kong, started feeling the panic and anxiety from this crisis several weeks ago. Over time it changed to grief and isolation. And then their focus seemed to shift to creativity, hope, new ways of connecting with each other, and noticing the beauty that is all around us, even in the simplest things—maybe especially there.

That journey is one that gives me a lot of hope, knowing that we will pull through these dark times. And it is described really well in this TEDx Talk by Chris Jordan. My colleagues in Europe are feeling the panic and grief now, but there are moments of beauty and stories of connection emerging. And here in the U.S., of course, we’re starting to feel it too. So my advice: focus on the beauty around you. It’s there if you look for it, even in the tiniest things. Flowers bursting from the ground this spring, the chorus of birds singing in the trees, even the way the light streams in the window. Slow down, breathe, cry when you need to, laugh, tell your friends and family you love them. Hug your pets, cook something, read a great book. And know that humanity will get through this, hopefully emerging into a world that is better because we can refocus on what is really important.

David Pinsky, Senior Plastics Campaigner

I’ve started or restarted text loops with friends, family, and co-workers. We share how we’re doing; sometimes that includes sharing upsetting articles and our challenges and fears, and other times it’s funny memes or jokes or special memories. So far, I’ve been Rickrolled (yes, it can still happen in 2020), learned that one of my friends had absolutely no idea who Idris Elba is (what!?!?), enjoyed beautiful song and the Macarena in Italy, and watched Mel Brooks and son call for social distancing. I’ve shared free online workouts with friends and colleagues (Planet Fitness does one daily, the one and only Yoga With Adriene, and PopSugar’s upbeat cardio and strength training sessions).

I’ve also watched this handwashing video sooooo many times and filmed a version with my spouse, though it’s not quite ready for a public debut just yet. I’m also appreciating the love and kindness of adorable animal friends.

When I get overwhelmed, I give myself permission to be overwhelmed. I check-in with my spouse, friends on those text loops, and try to take some time to do whatever I need to, knowing that those feelings will pass and they will no doubt return and that is okay. I’m trying to remember to breathe and breathe deeply and take breaks from the endless news cycle and distract myself. I’m reminded that, more than ever, despite our differences, we are in this together and we are interconnected. We can and must come together, look out for one another, and fight for a more peaceful and just future for all.

So, please, please, please wash your hands, practice social distancing, and take action in your networks to encourage people to stay healthy and safe and able to navigate this difficult time. In closing, here’s something special. I hope it brings you as much joy as it did for me.

Lisa Ramsden, Senior Action Campaigner

I have a few friends who I normally exercise with. We go to yoga classes, take long bike rides, and run. In order to keep ourselves motivated and healthy, we’ve created a “Flatten/Strengthen the Curve(s)” challenge. Every day, we are challenging each other to do 200 crunches, 100 squats, and 50 push-ups.

Kaitlin Grable, Social Media Associate

One thing that always helps me in stressful and uncertain times is the creative process. I recently taught myself how to bead, as a way of connecting with my Indigenous culture. Right now I can only make earrings, and each set takes me a few good hours of work — but the repetitive nature of stringing the beads together in beautiful patterns is sacred, soothing, therapeutic, and teaches me new depths of patience as I go. I’ve also been able to dedicate more time to writing, something I usually struggle to find time for.

I’ve been turning to the outdoors whenever I feel my mood dipping downwards — whether that’s in the form of a hike with my dog, hammocking in my yard, or sitting on my porch and meditating. Being with the land and being nourished by the sun is one of my favorite methods of recentering and recharging, and is really helping me through these turbulent times.

Katie Myer, Digital Content Strategist

Uncertainty is not easy for any of us. In the last week, I’ve felt everything from crippling fear to sheer joy. As much as I crave our routines, I find myself appreciating these moments of unexpected delight: My five year old, living her best life, flying by on her new pedal bike, proclaiming, “Mom, I’m so happy!! And PROUD!” A family walk in the National Arboretum, admiring the stunning cherry blossoms and magnolias, moving our bodies, and feeling the sun on our skin. My one year old, giggling and pushing a cart around the living room as she gets ready to walk. Smiles exchanged with a neighbor, both of us enjoying the quiet in our typically busy neighborhood. Spring in DC is always glorious, but this year, its arrival—its promise—feels more meaningful.

It feels like this will last forever because we don’t know how bad it will get or when it will end. It will be hard to watch statistics be instantiated as people we know and love. We may get sick ourselves. The unknown—from mundane issues of supplies to the constant worry if I did enough to protect myself and my family—is unnerving at best.  I look forward to embracing my friends again, to watching our kids play together, and to moving about the world with less fear. Those moments feel far away right now, but they are coming. For now, my husband and I are taking a cue from our children, trying to be fully present in this moment. And then the next. And then the next.

At the same time, though it feels things are somehow on hold and spiraling at the same time, we cannot let up. We cannot, collectively, take our eye off of this administration, nor the corporations who ravage our earth—not for a moment. We will continue to push for immediate relief for those who need it most. As always, Greenpeace is here for the long haul, and we hope you are, too. Amid the chaos, take time to pause. To feel the sun on your face, even through a window. To appreciate the fresh air. In a time of isolation, self-care and connection are more important than ever. We are here, both with you and for you.

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