Pondering what a new normal might be like for us as society emerges from a period of radical slowdown, leads us to the same head scratching as our urban kinfolk are doing.
In so many ways, we are blessed with being different from them in that isolation is just the way it is for most of our activities on a ranch. We don’t see many people and our ranch jobs are undertaken with a lot of space around us which is unoccupied by other humans.
It is our social life that is the main concern along with our needs for input of supplies and a market for our products.
Much of our physical interaction on the business side has seen a replacement of in-person meetings and transactions with Internet activity.
Just this morning there was an update on CBC from an expert on the rural Internet. We are in the countryside, away from fiber optics and cell towers, experiencing download speed from the Internet about 10 times slower that those with better connectivity.
Routinely, I turn off the video upload so people in my Internet meetings can’t see me. That’s not so bad, because I can see them since downloading uses less bandwidth than uploading.
It is the general slowness and the interruptions — I was bounced from a “meeting” three times and it was a university online platform. So much for promises by Internet providers that they would “tweak” the satellite services so we could participate virtually within our social and business circles.
Promises, according to the report this morning, for the equalization of service to those of us more isolated is still out there 10 to 20 years.
Even if there are more opportunities with Zoom and other programs to meet on the Internet, there is a gap in the knowledge of us users in how to manipulate information and screens. For example, I was on a training seminar and there was a “Hand Up” button, but the IT back up to the lay presenters wasn’t monitoring. I could not find the answer to my technical question.
I am certain that all those trying to “work” this way will need to beg the organizers of these online events to provide the technical back up in real time. I am also certain that there is an uneven capacity to train and advise users on how to participate.
I spent an hour a few weeks back to get set up to use Skype for Business but when I went to use it, it wouldn’t work. Fortunately, there is a backup with a conference call phone which patches one into such a “video” meeting.
Communication challenges aside, our real issues are the instability in the global market place where our export-dependent economy relies on certainty in trade relations.
In the meantime, we have been able to get supplies and parts to keep the ranch running. We are an essential service after all.
A quick check of the Canadian Cattlemen’s website puts COVID-19 response up top of the screen and right up there is human resource management, a big part of which is managing people and self for mental as well as physical health.
This is a reminder of the times we live in and have come from recently. Stay mentally healthy for your sake and that of your family and the community. For my part I will stop and smell the roses! Take care.
David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.