Staying Connected During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Staying Connected During The Coronavirus Pandemic

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic and the rapid shift to physical distancing the Green Institute hosted a webinar on 19 March 2020 titled Staying Together While Keeping Apart. Green Agenda is now publishing transcripts of the speakers of the webinar. To start we are publishing the presentation from Holly Hammond, who argues that to get through this we need to stay connected – to our own selves, each other, reality and our values. You can find more of Holly’s work at The Commons: Social Change Library.


Thanks Tim (Hollo) and Elissa (Jenkins) for the invitation and the logistics that made this gathering happen.

I too want to acknowledge the Traditional Owners – for me here in Melbourne that’s the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation. I’d like to pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.

I want to acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and recognise that this pandemic represents a very real risk to lives and culture. The history of genocide in this country and current injustice means Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience disproportionate health struggles which are likely to leave folks more vulnerable to Coronavirus.

Viruses don’t discriminate – but injustice and inequality means that some will suffer harm more than others.

I also want to acknowledge People of Colour who have been targeted with racism due to misinformation and scapegoating in relation to the virus. We are seeing waves of this pandemic ripple around the globe and the first ripple that hit this country was the increase in race hatred.

And I want to acknowledge all 100 people on this call, all of us, as people going through significant change. We are not in the place we were at the beginning of this year, or even the beginning of this week. This time next week may look significantly different, and there is much with more change to come beyond that.

People are showing a lot of flexibility and ingenuity and willingness to connect with others while navigating change. But let’s acknowledge that it’s hard and tiring! People react to stress in different ways – some of the reactions we are seeing are very distressing.

We are all people who have already experienced significant change along the way in our lives.

People on this call have in our lineage experiences of surviving genocide, living through war, rations and curfews, closed and changing borders, incarceration, migration and severe hardship.

People on this call have been through the loss of loved ones, the ending of relationships, illness and injury, major campaign defeats, job losses and career change and many other big changes and challenges. I invite us all to reflect on this and find that strength within ourselves to go through more change.

The theme of this call is staying connected. Yes there are online tools and models for mutual aid and creative campaign tactics to stay connected – but tonight I want to encourage us all to:

  • Stay connected to our own selves,
  • Stay connected to the people we cherish,
  • Stay connected to reality, and
  • Stay connected to our values.

Staying connected to our own selves

This is about taking a pause to really check in and notice how we are feeling – emotionally and in our bodies. It’s easy to disconnect, especially at times of stress. I’ve been busy this week gathering resources for the Commons Social Change Library – spending a lot of time on social media, following the news, reading articles about Coronavirus constantly and trying to figure out how to respond. There’s been times when I’ve worked so single mindedly I didn’t notice I was thirsty, hungry, or needed to go to the toilet, I was so disconnected from my body.

When I took a pause and checked in with myself I could give myself what I needed. I also gave myself space to feel some of the big feelings in relation to this crisis: the fear, anger, sadness and compassion.

I recommend Rick Hanson’s 5 minute ‘meditation for feeling as safe as you reasonably can’. If you think you don’t have time to meditate, hey it’s only 5 minutes.

I also recommend having a check-in with someone supportive who will let you have your feelings. I had a cry with a friend this morning and afterwards I felt lighter – I wasn’t just trying to operate on top of my fears.

Those pauses allowed me to think more clearly and have more energy for my work and relationships. If you want to stay connected, take a pause for yourself.

For more see:

Stay connected to others

Check in with your nearest and dearests – especially those who are elderly or immune compromised, but from a distance if necessary. It’s a time to show love and care. Don’t let workaholism or other pressures get in the way of cherishing those people.

With partners and housemates who you may be spending a lot more time with – attend to those relationships. If you’re grating on each other now let’s see how you’re going after a month in close contact!

With colleagues try to work through anything that could make working together tricky – including over distance.

In general it’s time to listen really well to each other, not jump to conclusions, and not be quick to judge. Cut each some slack. Everyone is frayed around the edges, this is not business as usual. Our relationships are the most important thing that will get us through this time.

For more see:

Stay connected to reality

There’s a lot of information out there about the pandemic – and a lot of misinformation too. In the last week I’ve been surprised to hear people repeating some truly bizarre conspiracy theories – that they thought were true because they read them on the internet.

Progressive folks can get caught in our own echo chambers. Especially if we’re all relying a lot more on social media to stay connected – it can have a distorting effect where we start to think our newsfeed is representative of the broader population, of how things actually are.

There’s also a risk that we hold too firmly to outdated plans and view the world through ideological lenses that mean we don’t see what’s really going on. Some of us have lovingly crafted campaign strategies and might want to keep rolling them out, just more online. But the whole world has changed. The ground has shifted beneath our feet. The problems and solutions you are committed to might not fit this new situation. Be prepared to be flexible.

It may mean pivoting from your passion project to address pressing needs that emerge – like countering racism, authoritarian tendencies, and addressing increasingly stark inequality.

For more see:

Stay connected to our values

So be flexible about how you think and act at this time – but stay strong in your values.

At this time we have an opportunity to make some fundamental shifts. People are already open to being more collaborative and less individualistic. Care is upper most in many people’s minds.

Let’s go forward with clean hands and open hearts – together.

For more see:

Other COVID-19 related resources

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