Let’s reset, not restart

Stefan Riedmann
7 min readMay 19, 2020

Where was I? Right, ten thousand kilometers away from my real home, in quarantine, with a business in emergency mode, living with my family in lockdown, trying to stay sane and supportable, and pulling all my strings to keep looking forward, to give some kind of confidence and trying to find some sense in all of this.

It’s becoming hard to stand everything that’s weighing in, and on top of all this health crisis. I will not tag this post with COVID, because I’m just tired of it. It’s really amazing how humanity, at least the part that is connected to the internet, is so focused on this now. Of course it’s a threat to our lives, and a lot depends on the decisions that politics are taking, and who influences them. And how we keep social distance, and if and how we protect ourselves on the streets, and what do we allow ourselves to do and what not…

But well, no matter where and how this came from exactly, it’s not an enemy, it’s a virus. One virus. One of many — and one of the many illnesses that threaten us. And one of all the other threats to our lives, like cars and guns.

The real interesting part is how this is driving us so crazy now. For a good reason for sure, but still… there’s a lot of different reactions to it. I know people who are really afraid and scared. And also people who just look up to the authorities, waiting for them to tell them what to do, trusting in them. I think that’s a good choice. But there are also people that are stone-cold realists — saying ‘Well, it’s very likely going to hit me. I believe that I’m going to go through it like most of the people, being really sick for a while, and then it’s done. And if I die of it, it was meant to be. I can also get killed by a car anytime.’

So far so good. But then, there are also the ignorants. The ones that just see some kind of conspiracy, and expect governments to just let it go. To end the quarantines and go back to normal life. I’m sure a lot of the hysteria is produced on purpose, and for different reasons. But it’s still the wrong way to just ignore this situation.

Despite all of what I’ve said — what I want is to ask is why don’t I hear anybody talking about this from a higher perspective? For me personally, all this fits pretty well into my recent history of life. But still, it seems so obvious that this is a lesson in the ongoing class of human history and humankind. In humble words, this is a sign of nature. A big slap in our faces. A big scream, asking the real questions.

Why are we so greedy? Why are we so selfish? Why do we consume so much? Things and food and travel and movies and products and services? Why can’t we be more thankful for what we have? How much does it take to step down a bit, to lower our expectations a little, and be happy with fewer? We are exploiting Pachamama since the beginning of industrialization, several generations ago. Sounds a lot but it has been SO FEW TIME!! In just 200 years we managed to pollute our long grown atmosphere in record time. We made lots of species extinct. We became people who mainly consume industrialized and fabricated products. From food, to clothes, to tools, to toys for our children, up until the water we drink. We burn oil and coal — limited resources mother earth gave us for free, after growing it for thousands or even millions of years. And it’s not enough for us! We’re even doing fracking to get out more of it. To pump earth dry. To burn even more of it in our engines, and houses, and weapons. We even eat it, while plants are growing for us in real-time. But even those plants, we can’t accept them as they come. We manipulate their DNA, we generate perfect seeds for higher yields. We produce millions of tons of fertilizer and poison every year. We kill insects for optimized grains and monocultures, we destroy habitats for beauty oil production, cut down forests that clean our atmosphere, and provide oxygen. We hunt down fishes while polluting their water with thousands of tons of plastic every single hour!

Yes, I’m a hypocrite. I’m a consumer. I have a hundred thousand miles of credits in my airline account. I’m buying in the supermarket and I have a lot of electronic devices. I’m using the internet right now, just hoping to be heard and to get some answers. The list goes on.

But I’m also thinking that this crisis can really teach us something. We don’t have to become nomads, hippies, vegans (even though that’d be good) or preachers. We don’t have to change our lives from one day to the other. For those of us that are in quarantine, this is not the moment of breaking down our whole life. This moment is to hold on, and to hold still. And to listen to what life is telling us. To value what we have, and to realize that we manage pretty well with less shopping and luxury.

As a start, let’s try NOT to think so much about how the economy can recover. I know, for those that lost their jobs this sounds like a joke, but going back to normal won’t solve anything. Believe me, as a founder I’ve also got a big setback because of this. But when OPEC decided to ‘produce’ some millions of barrels less per day, when Apple sells fewer phones, and airlines fly fewer miles. When fewer cars are being shipped, and fewer travels are booked —every news I heard just reports this news as catastrophes for the economy. What? Noone considers this a great win for nature and the planet? Since we’re doing so well in our developed countries, and since we overcame the daily struggle of finding food and shelter — isn’t this exactly what common sense expects us to do? To control our consumption, instead of believing in the continuous growth?

Neither does it help us to discuss how can we push our kids through the school exams right now, considering the lockdown. The future does not lie in our perfected system, and that our kids follow our well-prepared plan of academic careers, expensive faculties, and well-paid jobs after graduation. The future does not consist of money and titles and insurances and houses. The future depends on our planet, that we treat her right, and don’t violate her anymore. These are the true values for what we should live, this is what we should teach our children. We did not listen to Greta Thunberg, nor to the thousands of Fridays for Future. We do not listen to climate change, or at least we don’t take the appropriate consequences.

But now we’ve been gotten an even clearer sign. A new virus appeared — a small thing that is not even intelligent or alive. But still it’s able to tear down our system and way of life. We are pretty helpless and forced to adapt. Is it possible that even now, we just think of getting back to normal, recover our money system and go back to full production? Can we really be so dumb?

Again I say — I don’t think there’s a need for all of us to radically change our lives right now. But let’s use this incident to put seeds in our minds, and in those of the others. To grow a new vision of our world, the one we want to leave for the next generations. We don’t want to be remembered as the generation that didn’t listen to this, but instead have put our heads in the sand and wait for it to pass. I’m sure it will pass. In a year or two, it will all be a bad memory. We will have found a way to live with the new illness, the same we did with the flue or aids.

Well, so far I just offered phrases. I know that just trying to change our thinking won’t change much. But it’s the first step to do actual changes. There can’t be a generic todo list for everyone. Instead, everyone has to find their own way and priorities. I mean things like less driving, more bike. Less traveling by plane, but focusing on the place and country we live in. Less fast food, but more cooking. Less meat, but organic meat. Less virtual reality online, but more real communication. Less sharing of pictures, but more breathing and being conscious.

A few months of radical quarantine in many places in the world already show strong positive effects on our air and animal life. Imagine what we can achieve in the long term if everyone just makes a small, but a consequent change in their life. But to get there, we have to use this exact moment, while we’re still very aware of the situation and the danger, to reflect and to think deeply about this. Now we can take it more seriously than when life got back to normal. If not it will not stick, and have no long term effect — neither for ourselves, nor for the planet, nor for the future.

If we can’t change now, we will never be able to. And probably we will live long enough to receive the next big sign, one that is probably even more perceptible.

Reset, not restart