The silence in our cities is eerie, beautiful – and a call to care for others

The silence in our cities is eerie, beautiful – and a call to care for others

By Shachi Kurl, Executive Director

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but I find the silence deafening. I went for a walk this week (maintaining appropriate distance, of course), at rush hour, along Georgia Street, one of the busiest routes through downtown Vancouver. I did not hear the roar of vehicles or the groans of buses hitting their air brakes. I did not hear the usual fevered verbal exchanges between cyclists and pedestrians. Absent of all this on a near deserted thoroughfare, I did hear one thing: the trills and cheep-cheep of birds, doing what they always do this time of year: making their nests.

An optimist would focus on the beauty of this. Indeed it was beautiful. It was also eerie. I could only focus on the fact of what the silence represented: an unsettling new normal wherein yes, I may have been working from home, but many – nationally, tens of thousands – are simply not working anymore.

The layoffs on the west coast have been staggering. Thousands who hub out of Vancouver International Airport are no longer taking to the skies for grounded airlines. Retail, restaurant, tourism and hotel workers, are all at loose ends as visits dry up and cruise ships stay away. One province over, in Alberta, the double hit of less demand in oil because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a spat between Russia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over oil process (remember that? Simpler times!) has shredded an already frayed economic situation.

Worse is coming, and it will cascade across the country like water, as will more cases, and sadly more deaths from a strange killer that, in the space of two weeks, has almost changed almost everything about the lives we have known. As scientists race to learn more about this novel coronavirus, Canadian mindsets have shifted from curiosity in the first weeks of the outbreak to laser-like clarity around what we are in for. In the last six weeks, polling from the Angus Reid Institute shows the number of people worried about personally becoming sick has doubled (from 30 per cent to 57 per cent). They’re even more worried for friends and family (three-quarters are) and are especially concerned about their own personal economic circumstances (two-thirds are feeling this way).

For the rest of this piece, please view it on the Ottawa Citizen’s site where it was initially published.

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