Spring is a good season for renewal and reconnection with nature, and with each other, In Real Life (IRL). As the snow melts and the ice thaws, and we find surprises underneath—detritus and hibernating plants to learn from [1]— I generate new thoughts and ideas for business and personal renewal too. This winter felt longer than it did last year, and lately, I have been oscillating between feeling eager to embrace spring, and feeling discomfort as I adjust to the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. I wonder, will it ever stop being necessary to label our times, and to seasonally adjust our behaviours, according to the will of COVID-19? 

In Fall 2020, my article, Planning in an Age of Overwhelm was published in Y Magazine; it was about coping with COVID 19, while it still felt new. In the article, I described how “[r]isk habituation manifests over time, when the human brain, faced with multiple stressors, cannot sustain the protective flight or fight alert response system indefinitely. Consequently, the human brain, in order to focus on everyday needs and to sustain its energy, gradually reduces its alert responsiveness to previous, and in some cases, never (or not as yet) realized threats, such as those associated with COVID-19.” I noted how risk habituation affects everyone. 

All the actions we have undertaken collectively to manage the virus and the uncertainty over the past two years kept us apart from each other, and yet, connected at the same time. As we emerge into this new season of spring, and into the next phase of COVID-19, and as we begin to gradually reconnect with each other IRL, we will still rely on collective kindness and public health measures to keep our communities as safe and as engaged as possible. 

The change in season from winter to spring, and our emergence from what was deep uncertainty and overwhelm with COVID-19, provide us with new opportunities and invitations to “reconceive and remake ourselves” [2], not just to redesign societal, governance, and spatial systems, that planners and policymakers are accustomed to doing.

Adapting and evolving as an individual and as a society, as difficult as it can be at times, are part of my approach to life and living. So, as we enter into yet another new reality, what paths and possibilities are opening for you?

Further Reading:

[1] Montgomery, Beronda L. 2021. Lessons from Plants. Harvard University Press.

[2] Bratton, Benjamin. 2021. The Revenge of the Real: Politics for a Post-Pandemic World. Verso.

Artwork by Leela Viswanathan