One of the things the human species does well is adapt.
This is not to say we like it, so when a politician smiles and tells you “change is your friend,” a perfectly reasonable instinct is to check whether your wallet is still in its proper pocket. Still, when reality hands you the Darwinian ultimatum — “adapt or die” —adaptation isn’t just the better choice; it’s the only choice. Unless you like courting death.
One of the most depressing aspects of the Coronavirus pandemic has been how many people declare a preference for enhancing their risk of death rather than adapt of a life-saving regime of vaccines, masks and social distance.
What makes it worse is that their declaration in favor of what they call “freedom” imposes dangers on not just themselves, but anyone around them. The mask and vax-resisters undermine the adaptations, the sacrifices, the rest of us are making to protect ourselves and the public health.
The fact that the unvaccinated are dying at five or more times the rate of people who got jabbed is the shortest-term evidence they are losing. The pandemic isn’t through with us yet and life after COVID-19 has receded is still undefined, but long-term, bet the metaphoric farm on Darwin. The people and institutions, the systems and markets that adapt best to post-pandemic changes — in family life and employment and choices for consumption — are going to be the winners, the happiest survivors.
Some who have already reconsidered their lives before the pandemic, who are adapting to working old jobs from home, or new jobs or new directions sense they may already be better off.
And just as old jobs, or old commutes are rejected as “unsatisfying” or “inappropriate” or just “broken,” so, too, old systems that had once been so defining they had become invisible, are now seen as candidates for change.
One of them is the food system, done in by disruptions from the pandemic, the size and complexity of its components and their supply chain. It’s been plagued by breakdowns, empty shelves, product shortages. Just as people went from complaining about their jobs to quitting them, a focus on supermarkets without reliable supplies of meat, milk or toilet paper, widened to consider two more food-industrial failures, providing healthy foods and benefiting local ecosystems.
Consumers and communities, pushed by the stresses of the COVID crisis, seeing how resistant the food industry is to change, are adapting their own food-buying habits, and our guest today, journalist and farmer Dean Kuipers, says this might be another Big Win for Darwin and for us, because adaptation may be bringing not just change, but progress.
You can read Dean Kuipers’ reporting in The Nation. His most recent books are a memoir, The Deer Camp, and, with his wife Lauri Kranz, the how-to A Garden Can Be Anywhere. They live in Los Angeles.