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Virus Without Borders: Chapter Sixty-Five

Yenka and Adam in the mountains. Their immediate environment has sustained them during the pandemic. It's a protected UNESCO Heritage Site nominated for its biodiversity. Photo © copyright Zuleika Henry 2021


Sustainable Living in a Plague Year; A Love Story



We will never stop fighting, we will never stop fighting for this planet, for ourselves, our futures and for the futures of our children and grandchildren.


-Greta Thunberg


Take only what you need and leave the land as you found it.


-Arapaho Proverb



Yenka Honig and Adam Rose live in a modest house in Aramengo, a small village, pop 600, nestled in the foothills of the alps in Northern Italy. How did two Brits end up here? Both were born and raised in London; they grew up together, their doctor fathers friends since medical school. "I asked Yenka to marry me when we were both eight, but she refused," Adam tells me at the beginning of our recent Zoom call. Yenka, model beautiful with her long hair and make-up free face was in charge of the iPad, which worked fine, I assured her, even though they were sitting outside on their patio. I asked her to turn the camera around so I could see their vegetable garden, the hills in the background, and the darkening sky. "We're in the midst of a drought," Adam said. "Climate change, of course."


It was late in the day for them, early in the morning for me. I was grateful for the modern technology that enabled this visit, although it is oddly antithetical to how Adam and Yenka prefer to live each day: embedded in nature. And though Adam has been teaching on Zoom, it is also counter to his hands-on well-studied teaching method. In a recent video posted on You Tube, he is sitting on the ground next to a bed of wild violets explaining their sometimes poo-like odor to his invisible audience. He's a raconteur, Yenka quieter but thoughtful. I knew that their life journeys had taken them across the globe in opposite directions until 2012 when they found each other again back in the UK. "He walked in and a lightening bolt lit up my parents' house," Yenka said,  It meant a move from Los Angeles where she had been a Shiatsu/Seitai practitioner touring with rock bands, to Italy where Adam had already been living for a long time. Married to an Italian, he had two daughters, gotten divorced, and created Ecowise Italy, a company dedicated to immersing school children in the natural world.


Pre-pandemic the tours and classes were constant. Undoubtedly, they will continue apace as lockdown ends and vaccinations ramp up. The  27 member countries of the EU are behind as  distribution must be equitable, rich nations subsidizing the poorer nations, a utopian ideal realized. "We live in a community," Adam explains, "and most people here still live close to the land."  It's one reason, among many, Yenka says, she left the United States without regret. "I couldn't get affordable health insurance, for starters." Adam folded her into the business as a photographer and IT maven. The survivor of an aneurysm at aged 24, she is beloved for her courage, compassion and sense of fun. 


I thought of the move my husband and I had made from the city to upstate New York. Though our daughter and son-in-law had de-urbanized more than a decade ago, and we'd visited often, we hadn't changed our city ways. In our apartment water was plentiful and we ran it while washing dishes without thinking that it originated in the Catskill Watershed, and that it might one day run dry. The words drought or scarcity—of  natural resources—was  not in our vocabulary. But once we moved, we quickly adapted, paying rapt attention to the cost of our utilities, the shift to solar power on our daughter's property, and the reason for it. Now, when friends come to visit, we prevail upon them to take short showers and turn off lights they are not using. We hope that these admonitions will raise their consciousness and that they will remain our friends.


Many city dwellers headed north as the pandemic hit, bought up houses and rented apartments gentrifying the county. "We had the same situation here," Adam said. Will these opportunistic urban migrants return to the city with a new understanding of the amount of energy a city uses and other environmental degradations? Will cities eventually cease to exist and become artifacts of a dystopian age?


A sustainable planet begins with every individual, every family, every government, local and national. It includes universal health care, food and water supply, affordable housing, the protection of the bees that pollinate our flowering plants and the habitat we continue to destroy with our careless disregard.


For information about virtual tours, contact Yenka and Adam @  www.ecowiseitaly.com









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