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LETTER: COVID-19 provides opportunity to advance 'a truly progressive agenda'

Concerns around climate change and societal inequities can be addressed, says letter writer
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BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at news@barrietoday.com. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter was written by Gary Machan on behalf of Just Recovery Simcoe. Machan is working with several community health centres to address climate change with a focus on health care and health equity. Previously, he served as the Health Promotion lead for the Association of Ontario Health Centres.
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At a time when our country is bracing for the second wave of COVID-19, which by many accounts may very well be worse than the first (never mind that many of us are still reeling from the first wave), it is all too tempting to lose sight of the big picture and fall prey to the growing angst and despair gripping our communities.

While in no way wanting to minimize the tremendous upheaval incurred by the global pandemic and the enormous toil it has taken on us, I believe it is vitally important to recognize the enormous opportunity it presents in terms of advancing a truly progressive agenda such as is articulated in the Just Recovery Simcoe movement — be it addressing the spectre of climate change, or the gross inequities unleashing havoc in our communities.

Bear in mind, if there is one thing I have learned during my time as a social worker, it is that very often it is the things we most resist that carry the seeds of our own transformation, whether this is some type of major loss involving a job, marriage, or worse. No sane person would ever willingly inflict any of this upon themselves, and yet I have often heard later from people that their ordeal was one of the best things that ever happened to them.

In a similar way, I believe the same holds true for our communities now, whereby the adversity we are experiencing has the potential to usher in great change; albeit with the one caveat that enough people need to be able to see the silver lining hidden in the dark clouds of uncertainty circling overhead.

This can only happen when there is a bold and compelling alternative to the old, tired script trotted out by defenders of the status quo, who would have us believe that forever increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the only proper goal, even while it ruins our planet and insists that we give it all our time, which we could otherwise be spending with those we love.

Granted, there are no guarantees when it comes to navigating through the treacherous waters that lie ahead. This is a make it or break time if ever there was one. And yet, odd as it may sound, I am far more optimistic now about our odds of not just surviving but even thriving than I have been in the past. This is precisely because what seemed impossible just a few months ago is fast becoming not only possible, but even probable.

In the last few months we have seen a regional collaborative, Just Recovery Simcoe, bring together citizens, organizations, and businesses in the belief that we can seize this moment to create a better Simcoe County and beyond. But we need many to seize this unique and decisive moment to make it possible. Carpe Diem!

For more information on Just Recovery Simcoe, click here

Gary Machan
Oro-Medonte Township

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