Editor Tom Hodgkinson muses on the potential for social revolution in the midst of a global pandemic
The other day the papers reproduced a map of China which showed a drastic reduction in pollution, caused by people staying at home and not doing anything. According to the Guardian, the NASA map showed a “drastic reduction in industrial activity”, i.e. in doing stuff. This had the welcome effect, we hear, of reducing levels of nitrogen dioxide.
The FT agreed, writing: “China’s coronavirus-related slowdown has wiped out the equivalent of the UK’s carbon emissions over six months, according to a new analysis that underscores the effect of the outbreak on the world’s second-largest economy.”
Already people are talking about Idler type policies like travelling less and working from home as a way of containing or avoiding coronavirus. According to the FT, Lockheed Martin workers are “teleworking” at Italy’s Cameri plant – it assembles F35 fighter jets. Why suffer the health hazard of the London underground or local bus service when you can stay in bed with the laptop (not nurses and dustmen though)?
The capitalists are getting worried because if we all sit at home doing nothing (apart from important things like reading the Idler and learning more about Jane Austen), then share prices will drop [this happened a few days after this piece was written]. The FT says that all stocks except utilities have already slipped, and that Virgin Atlantic has seen a 40% drop in demand compared to this time last year.
The prophets predict a slowdown in growth: Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF’s managing director, said global growth was now expected to dip below last year’s rate of 2.9 per cent due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Well, we have always maintained that the key to saving the planet and dismantling the power of Mammon is to do very little. It is getting and spending that exhaust both our spirits and our resources. It would be strange if coronavirus had a greater effect that either Extinction Rebellion’s or indeed the Idler’s own efforts to get people to slow down a bit.
After all, “Idler told you so”: in Idler 38, published in 2006 (that’s 14 years ago), scientist Stephen Harding, ecologist at Schumacher College, introduced an essay titled “It’s Easy Being Green” with the following prescient words:
“Our climate is changing, and if we keep destroying wild nature and emitting greenhouse gases into the air there will be dire consequences around the world.”
Harding went on to say that the solution was to stop doing things. “The most important thing we can do in this regard is to develop the Gaian art of doing nothing… I am talking here of the urgent need for all of us to uncover our deep indigenous connection with the earthly community of rocks, atmosphere, water and living beings – with the animate earth that enfolds us – for this will give is the energy and insight to do less to save the planet.” Harding recommends that we get Gaiaed – go outside and lie on our back in a field or forest, and merge with the cosmic oneness of the universe.
Suddenly idling looks the act of a highly responsible human being, rather than mere self-indulgence, as our enemies maintain.
Consider the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin.
These comments were mailed to us after the above piece was sent as a newsletter. We like to publish a selection and reserve the right to edit them for clarity. Feel free to drop us a line with your thoughts.
Isn’t it great? The corona virus is one of the best things that could have happened (to us). It’s truly a wake-up call and a slap in the face of global society to make us question what we’re really doing, amongst other things, with globalisation. And l also see it as nature flexing it’s muscle and showing the gig economy and it’s hangers on who the real boss of the planet is.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that nature comes through, mass production ends and that people wake up to ideal idlerism.
Great piece! You even seem smug. I do think it is going to have a lasting effect on lifestyles. And I will be able to do more idle fishing.
I understand the spirit of this article but it feels a little bit in bad taste, what with the fears around coronavirus, and the current and potential worldwide deaths.
I don’t really associate idling with the elderly being locked down in their homes, city-wide quarantines and no food on the shelves!
Not that I’ve missed the wider point being made which all makes sense.
Other than that, keep up the good work!
Coronavirus scaremongering is alive and well here at our new home on the West Coast of Ireland. We have been notified of four local cases as of yesterday, holidaymakers returned from Italy. They’re in Galway now, with Will and Kate. I will do just as you advise, nothing.
I was waiting for someone to get round to pointing this out. Keep up the good ‘work’.