Action Zones 

Is God pointing us to a better future?

16th March 2020


Robert Ashton reflects on the days when ‘Corona’ had a very different meaning, and wonders what the current crisis can teach us about our modern lifestyles

How times change. As a boy, I used to look forward to the Corona man calling to deliver our next week’s stock of fizzy drink. Now, everyone lives in dread of finding themselves with a dollop of 21st century coronavirus
A friend recently said on Facebook, admittedly tongue in cheek, that the virus, together with the recent storms and flooding were God’s response to Brexit. I like to that God has better things to think about than a petty European turf war, which will inevitably be resolved when a reformed EU emerges from the chaos that a new generation of politicians will invite us to re-join
Times change, words acquire new meanings and our changing weather provides a stark warning that it is time to rethink our dependence on oil and gas. Coal will shortly no longer be available to buy for your living room fire. International travel is rapidly losing its appeal and slowly but surely, people are rediscovering the joy of getting to know their neighbours, working together to open community owned shops and take over flagging community centres
As is so often the case, the first signs of this new age are appearing not in the UK, but on the continent. The Merwede district of Utrecht is being redeveloped with 6,000 homes, with high quality parkland and rooftop gardens, and roads designed for pedestrians and cycles, not cars. Little parking is included in the scheme as people who live there will not need cars, as all they need will be close to hand, and public transport will take them to other places they need to go, for work or pleasure
Also in the Netherlands, in the new city of Almere on the reclaimed Flevoland polder a few kilometres west of Amsterdam, the vision for what they’re calling ‘regen-villages’ is taking shape. Here people will live in groups of timber and glass houses that need little if any heating, and have around them community land where vegetables can be grown and chickens kept. These low energy, self-contained communities will in so many ways mark a return to the self-sufficient, self-contained communities that were the norm across the UK for centuries, until things changed in the second half of the last century
So while Corona was made in South Wales and shipped nationwide, tomorrow’s soft drinks will be locally made, by people you probably know, and will once again be delivered to your door, along with locally grown vegetables, eggs, bread, and yes, even locally farmed meat
God may not be behind the current wave of natural disasters, for these are largely the product of man’s folly. However, I would not be at all surprised to learn that He is guiding the hands of those pioneers who are gradually emerging to show us the way to a better future

 this article also appeared on Network Norfolk


Robert Ashton is an author, publisher, social entrepreneur, and Quaker. He has recently published a book exploring the subject of homelessness, called Any Spare Change?: One man's quest to understand rough sleeping


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