The ‘What is Essential’ Challenge

by | Mar 30, 2020 | Questions |

We went for a family walk yesterday for some exercise and a change of scenery. We’re in a tiny hamlet so we stuck to back roads. In our loop, we passed by houses of people we know. One family was out in their garden playing & working. Their 4 year old daughter was in my daughter’s nursery. Pure joy erupted on their faces when they saw each other. Thankfully there was a fence between the two girls otherwise it would not have been possible to keep them apart. For them, interacting with other children their age seems quite essential.

In our local town, many of the local shops and businesses have come together taking over an empty shop. We can order from all the local shops and then they put our order together in one group in the empty shop for pick up. But is a bookshop less essential than a food shop? Or what about a hardware store. Is it less essential than a food shop? And then of course, is a bookshop less essential than Netflix, Disney, or Amazon? Does our answer change if we are sick in bed?

And then there are our farms. Growing food seems like a basic necessity to keep going. But farms rely on shops and services to keep going. They are not self-sufficient islands. Animals need feed, plants grow from seed, medicines, fertiliser, fencing, posts, machinery repair, and so on. So are all the services and shops part of the supply chain of a farm essential?

Essential is a relative. How it is defined in an urban context is likely quite different than a rural context. People living with mental health challenges (of all sorts) will likely define it different than those who are not. And in our inter-connected world where we rely on service specialists, having one blanket, clear definition of ‘essential’ is likely impossible.

And one more ‘essential’ challenge. How does the future fit into the definition? It may not be viewed as essential for the farmer to access seed, compost, fertiliser today, but the knock on affects of this are that there is no food 3-6 months from now. Or no one to. harvest it. And does the same logic apply to the bookshop? Who, if she doesn’t keep selling books now will close forever in 6 months?

Photo by Kyle Ellefson

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