We swam with seals in a cold, green sea, walked to the waterfalls in the drizzle, and ate hot fries on a harbor wall in the setting sun.
The weather might not have been exactly tropical, but after months of confinement even a week in Northumberland was extremely exotic, which under the circumstances is probably just as good. A summer of camping, balaclavas and stoically eaten beach picnics behind a windbreak is inviting a lot of people, now that ministers are finally making it clear that any travel abroad in a pandemic is a gamble. And while my heart goes out to anyone whose Spanish vacation has just gone up in smoke or whose work in tourism is now on the line, at the very least, a summer at home is a chance to appreciate the beauty of that which. has always been. our door. The pandemic is shrinking horizons even faster and more bewilderingly than globalization once widened them. The question is whether this will have consequences far beyond the holidays.
Is living, socializing, and generally staying closer to home than we have been used to becoming not an insect but a deliberate feature of a post-pandemic world? This idea is at the heart of the 15-Minute Urban Movement, which advocates for the elimination of unnecessary car trips and the fight against climate change by ensuring that city dwellers can work, do their shopping, take children to school, pass by. time in the park and generally manage their daily life within a 15-minute walk or bike ride of their front doors. Melbourne has been experimenting with something similar for years now, while in Paris the pursuit of the quarter of an hour city was a feature of Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s re-election campaign last month. Variants of the same idea have appeared in cities from Ottawa to Detroit.
But it was the degraded vibe brought on by living with the coronavirus that really sparked interest in the idea of cities as a chain of self-sufficient neighborhoods, each with their own thriving shopping streets, affordable housing, jobs. , green and even communal spaces. vegetable gardens. The idea resonates with commuters, who have grown to enjoy working from home during the pandemic, but also with people who have enjoyed getting to know their locked-out neighbors better or who feel a new wave of loyalty to the local stores that serve them. have argued in the worst. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has already endorsed a post-Covid-19 recovery strategy devised by the group of C40 mayors around the world, which includes 15-minute cities among his ideas. Even Boris Johnson’s new anti-obesity campaign, which places more emphasis on walking and cycling, is nodding in the same direction, albeit for different reasons.
It’s not about confining people to narrow, parochial lives – city dwellers will always be drawn to where the action is – and it’s also not as difficult as it sounds. If you live in the village of Dulwich or Didsbury, you already have the artisanal meats, the leafy grounds, and the cafes full of freelancers hunched over laptops, meaning a true 15-minute strategy would focus more on the regeneration of more grainy neighborhoods so lacking that a decent supermarket. As you level up, you might call it. Yet instead, the PM is begging commuters to pick up on their old lives and return to their downtown offices to help save jobs at Upper Crust or Pret a Manger.
To be fair, the government has good reason to fear the economic consequences of an urban exodus. The middle-class fantasy of never having to return to the office too often ignores the consequences for lower-paid workers whose jobs depended on sustaining these now undesirable lifestyles. It’s not just cafes and sandwich shops – quit a desk job and you save on everything from costumes to train tickets, from babysitting to after-work drinks. Multiply these individual cuts thousands of times and there must be consequences, not just for jobs, but for public services. (How long would some bus and train lines across the country remain viable, devoid of passengers during rush hour?) But as long as the fear of infection persists, Downing Street is fighting an uphill battle. Rather, he should think about harnessing the new localism for the good of the planet, while helping businesses recover the money from the suburbs and towns.
Because after months with nothing to spend it on, many higher earners have money burning a hole in their pockets. The difference is that they will be drawn to spend it on services that go with the grain of their changed lives: workspaces in the poles, where single home workers can rent an office next to others, or Comfortable neighborhood seals that make them comfortable to go out. eat again. They say that all politics are local. Doing business in a post-Covid-19 world can also depend on understanding life today.
• Gaby Hinsliff is a columnist for The Guardian