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While the medical world needs more personal protection equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves and surgical gowns to work safely treating the Covid-19 patients, the rest of us are seeing shortages, too.

Panic buying wiped out all the toilet paper and disinfectant products pretty much around the world. Here it happened in mid-March, when there was a rumour that toilet paper (or its pulp) came from China, which was no longer shipping to Japan. LR41 batteries which power home thermometers are nowhere to be found.

Lockdown baking is currently causing shortages of flour, yeast, and other ingredients for cakes and breads. Japan is out of butter again as well, though we have an abundance of milk.

Coronavirus infections are shutting down food plants in America, including meat processors. That is starting to trickle through the food service systems; a fifth of Wendys in the US are out of beef for burgers. A friend reported that ground beef is $6/pound in her grocery store.

So this leads me to wondering two things: “What’s next” and “What do we actually need?”

The “What’s next” is really hard to predict. It seems like food is going to be a challenge for some places where transportation & shipping is impeded across borders (domestic and international). Add in plagues of locusts in Africa and climate crisis summer heat and we might be in for a much reduced pantry.

A rollercoaster of infections and deaths from this virus seems likely for quite some time to come. Even though we understand the math and science that could help us avoid that, the human mind and body don’t like to be in isolation. Opening up will mean we suffer this until we are immune or dead.

“What do we actually need?” can only have subjective answers. But I am thinking our modern world of online shopping and cheap everything has ill-prepared us for managing life without easy access to goods. And it has also left us swamped in single-purpose items that are not functional in a daily life where we must focus more on fundamental things like cooking, cleaning, and being safe at home without so much interaction.

When our grandparents and great-grandparents lived a “make do or did without” life in the 1930s, they had tools and skills at their disposal. They sewed their own clothes; had enough land to grow their own food; knew how to cook and entertain themselves in ways that didn’t cost them a monthly subscription.

We are all going to do our best. And that looks different in each and every household.