August 17, 2020 Comment, Forest Plans 2 Comments

The Covid19 Memorial Forest Fund has been accused (by some on Social Media) of elevating COVID-19 deaths above other deaths. We are told that we should not create a forest memorial to those who died from Covid-19 as people have also died from other things as a result of lockdown. Is that right? Should we forget about creating a memorial to the loved ones lost because of COVID-19?

Our view

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So, the title of this blog “is a death due to Covid-19 more important than any other death?” has come directly from the accusations and criticisms directed at us by some.

To be blunt. This is a ridiculous question.  The answer is obviously a big NO, NO, NO….
To state the obvious. Every human life is as valuable as any other.

NOTE: Keep reading to the end of this blog to to find out how we support the above statement and not only loss from the Virus itself!

However, just because all lives are equally important that does not mean you cannot focus on any one group who might need support, or a single event that demands attention and recognition. If we never did that as a nation we would not have war memorials, statues to dead heroes, and monuments to remember anything.

Is it right that we should never do anything to remember any significant event in our history just in case it offends another group who had also suffered something bad?

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That sounds quite a terrible world to live in. A world where we do not recognise diversity but believe everybody has to be, and think, the same. But also a world where we do not mark our history so that future generations can learn from it, understand what we went through, and ensure they don’t repeat the same mistakes that we (or our leaders) made.

Telling mourners they have no right to mourn – really?

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Telling anyone that they should not create a memorial to remember the over 41,000 people who have died in the UK because of Covid-19 has not been thought through by that person. It is like being at a (very large) funeral and saying to the mourners, “why are you so upset, this person isn’t the only person to die. Stop mourning and being selfish right now!”.

Well of course, the mourners know that other people have died in other places and at other times and they will probably feel empathy and sympathy for them as well. But, it’s a funeral for a specific person that these mourners have come together to remember, and maybe erect a headstone to them as a lasting monument.

By doing that those mourners are not lessening the lives of any other person. Another person saying that they should not come together to mourn their loved one just because other people have also lost someone would just sound ridiculous. Yet that is exactly what some people think it is OK to say on Social Media about the idea of planting a Forest for the loved ones lost to Covid-19.

That already should, I feel, make the point that planting a Covid-19 Memorial Forest is not lessening the lives of anyone else. It is about creating something that we hope will help people come together, grieve together, and mend together.  Something that will create a lasting legacy for future generations and show them who we were and what our nation went through.

Before you stop reading, there is more…

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The idea for the Covid-19 Memorial Forest is deeper than only remembering the loved ones lost with Covid-19 infections. Yes, it is for them, but so much more. Let me explain more to provide an understanding of this.

On the Social Media posts from the Covid19 Memorial Forest Fund we have been using a specific ‘Because of Covid-19…’ message. There is a specific meaning behind the choice of these words.
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Loosing someone directly from the COVID-19 virus is a sadness beyond words for the tens of thousands of people affected. They deserve everyone’s empathy and support. The sudden loss of life we have seen on such a massive scale is also such a significant and tragic event.  Any civilised society should surely be permanently marking and remembering it in some way. Creating a memorial to help and support everyone affected in shared grief seems a very human thing to do.

We believe that planting a forest as that memorial is fitting. A forest is a living, breathing thing that creates and sustains life. It helps fight climate change to protect future generations, creates much-needed wildlife habitat, and will be there for centuries to come as a lasting memorial. What could be more fitting?

It has however always been our intention that the COVID-19 Memorial Forest would be more than a place to remember all the loved ones our nation loses with Covid-19 infections during this historic pandemic.

The COVID-19 Memorial Forest is also being created to remember all of the loved ones lost because of COVID-19. Not only those that passed away with the virus.
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The true extent of those affected because of Covid-19

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From the outset the Covid-19 Memorial Forest Fund wanted to remember all those affected by Covid-19. Our sincere wish was that we could bring people together to support each other in some way and to create (for everyone) a lasting memorial to these historic and tragic times that have impacted us all. The planned forest is therefore about remembering those we have lost in our society (and are still losing) because of Covid-19.

It is reported that excess deaths in the UK for the 3 months up until June were 65,000.  That suggests that nearly 15,000 people died because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic who did not have a Covid-19 infection.

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Because of Covid-19 people are dying and suffering today. It seems likely that this will continue into the future.

  • NHS waiting lists are seemingly unmanageable due to backlogs of patients. Many of us will not have access to healthcare we require when we require it.
  • Mental health issues from the stress of worrying about the virus, isolation due to lockdown measures and people struggling with poor health whilst awaiting treatments are expected.
  • Domestic abuse levels have been reported as rising dramatically during lockdown.  We can only guess at the eventual toll this will have on the survivors.
  • Unemployment and the accompanying poverty that is already happening because of the lock-down measures will impact health and shorten lives for maybe decades to come.
  • Increased homelessness will be seen now that the restriction on landlords evicting tenants is coming to an end.
  • The education of an entire generation has been impacted and may limit their life-opportunities. There are clear connections between education, affluence, health, and longevity of lives.

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The consequences of the lockdown are becoming clear, and maybe always should have been. It is being suggested by some that the eventual impact of this time we are living through will be far greater than what we have seen this summer in COVID-19 deaths.

The Covid-19 Memorial Forest Fund are planting a forest with the aim of bringing people together to remember human loss on such an epic scale.  But also to remember those severely affected in other ways by the unprecedented social impact that we have experienced.  This is surely something that anyone with any humanity should be supporting, rather than trying to undermine?
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Let’s also celebrate the positives

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The time we are living through is also not only a time of sadness and loss that we should remember and mark for posterity as a nation. We believe that the purpose of the Covid-19 Memorial Forest could be much wider than that. It could also be a place to celebrate the positives in people we have seen (but we really do want feedback so we understand what people want the forest to be).

Because of Covid-19 we also saw extraordinary things during lock-down. Because of Covid-19 people put themselves on the front-line for us. They worked tirelessly to care for the sick, and to help us cope whilst we were unable to leave our houses. They put their own lives at risk, and many lost their lives because of their dedication to help us all.

Whilst there are lasting memories of the bad things because of lock-down, there were also positive stories.
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  • People came together as a nation. We all remember rainbow pictures by children, clapping for front-line workers, and neighbours speaking to each other for sometimes the first time. A sense of community became stronger for many when taken away from their normal busy lives.
  • Many families started to reconnect as many more began working from home and schools were closed. People started to realise what was truly important to them.
  • Pollution levels dropped as the air became clearer due to less travel.
  • We ended homelessness as a society (for a short while).  Nearly 15,000 rough sleepers were put into emergency housing, the ability to evict people into homelessness was stopped.
  • New hospitals were built in weeks rather than years and government support for the NHS had never been stronger.
  • The environment started to be supported by government policy such as cycling schemes and extended tree planting targets.
  • Politicians were even forced to engage with people daily to explain their actions.

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People and government came together to address problems of ordinary people and protect the vulnerable.  For a brief moment in time our society was united.

The idea for the Covid-19 Memorial Forest is also so that we can remember these good things, and encourage them to continue. We believe that the forest should not only be a place to remember loved ones lost. It should also be a place of tranquillity where people can reflect and gain support from other people’s stories and memories.

There are positive memories to celebrate. Stories of survivors, new birth, regeneration, and happiness. These stories should be part of the Forest as well as the stories of bereavement and loss. A forest that can bring people together to remember loved ones lost but also to celebrate the power of human spirit that keeps us all going despite the hardships we face.

Maybe the name of this Covid-19 Memorial Forest should be “The Forest of Memories”. Perhaps that is a better description of what we think it could be. But, what do you think?

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Please leave your comments in the comments section below. We really want to hear from you..

Written by Robert Streeter