By Jamie Etheridge
On the way to the office this morning, I stopped at the mini jamiya (co-op) in Nuzha to pick up some necessities (chocolate chip cookies count, right?). In front of the shop were the usual gathering of delivery trucks, mostly young men in trousers and t-shirts unloading boxes and crates full of bread, chips, milk, rice, canned goods and other items. I sat watching them for a few minutes, thinking about all the invisible hands, the work that happens daily just to keep our world running smoothly.
I’ve never stopped to think about these delivery guys. When I visit the grocery store in the early mornings, they are often there, clogging the aisles with their carts and trolleys and boxes, stacking the shelves with fresh supplies, unloading vegetables and fruit and refilling the coolers with cheeses and yogurts. More often than not, I’ve felt annoyed at the way they take up all the room in a grocery aisle, forcing me to squeeze past or back up and take my shopping cart the next lane over.
Today I felt only grateful to see them busy restocking shelves, refilling the supplies of food and groceries, replenishing what we have depleted over the course of a day and night. There might be a pandemic ravaging the globe, economies may have slowed down and people may be fearful, sheltering in their homes and trying to flatten the curve, and still these delivery guys got up this morning, went to work, stocked their vans and trucks and headed out, delivering to each stop on their route like any ordinary day.
At the co-op in Nuzha, I stopped one to ask how he was feeling – how things had changed for him since the start of the pandemic. He didn’t speak much English but we chatted for a few minutes. Ahmed, in his mid-30s, says not much has changed. “We have more deliveries. Food is important. We load the trucks…deliveries. There is more pressure, more rush now because of the curfew,” he explained.
After a few minutes, he finished his cigarette and nodded toward the truck, politely letting me know he had to go. I was headed to the newspaper and needed to get there and home before the pre-curfew rush, so I thanked him for his time and waved as he drove off.
As I got into my own car and headed toward Shuwaikh, I couldn’t help but think about the idea of replenishment. As the coronavirus pandemic has taken over the world, leading entire nations to stay at home, triggering lockdowns and the cancellation of thousands of commercial flights daily as well as much less road traffic around the globe, we’ve seen a remarkable change in the conditions of the environment.
The videos of dolphins in Venetian canals may have been fake but there’s no dismissing the better air quality in Kuwait. The local NGO, Green Kuwait recently commented on the remarkable improvement in air quality as registered by
the US Embassy air quality monitor (https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.global_summary#Kuwait$Kuwait_City). China, Italy and New York City have all seen significant improvements in air quality with lower carbon monoxide emissions as the traffic levels have declined.
Typically, when I think about the environment, I focus on the well-worn phase: Recycle, reduce and reuse. But maybe the pandemic and the resultant curfews can also refocus the world on the idea of replenishing as well. My family and I do recycle and try to reduce and reuse where we can. But we’ve never thought about replenishing the earth.
This planet supports more than 7.7 billion human beings and imagine if we are all taking from the co-op every day but no one is replenishing what is taken? I’m not sure what that would take or how it could be accomplished, but it’s becoming clearer to me that this needs to be a major part of our lives moving forward.