Like a modern-day Rip Van Winkle, I woke up on a beautiful spring day in 2025, after a deep 5-year sleep. The Pandemic of 2020 had long ago ended, and a new era had arrived. Opening my eyes, I found that the world had changed dramatically. The streets are filled with people. There are many fewer cars on the road, but great numbers of people are riding bicycles.

Once shuttered strip malls are now filled with locally owned businesses. Many parking lots are replaced with public garden space, with trees, flowers and benches. As people are reducing their online buying from international conglomerates and have started supporting local merchants, factory workers and warehouse packers discovered new skills and opened unique neighborhood businesses and services. Small cottage industries flourished.

In addition, the early 20th century pushcart is bringing a dazzling variety of fresh foods to our neighborhoods. Along with neighborhood farmers markets selling local fruits and vegetables, people are eating food that is healthier and fresher than ever.

Though people still eat meat, the shift to much smaller portions has turned the mega meat industry back to small farmers. The amount of animal methane is very low now. In fact, all pollution levels are at their lowest in 75 years.

Large factory bakeries had long closed as people buy their bread from nearby neighborhood bakeries. Many people now bake their own bread. Most big box stores have closed, and their spaces are converted into libraries and bookstores. Others are cleverly converted into affordable living space, surrounded by greenery, where before stood parking lots.

People are reading books again. Day care centers are combined with retirement homes, giving joy and meaning to the elderly and loving mentors to a generation of toddler. As people have turned away from passive entertainment, their imaginations returned to pre-internet levels, spurring a renaissance of art and ideas. Small publishing companies are flourishing and poetry writing has replaced video games as an international pastime. Urban and local newspapers have begun to flourish again. Paper for printing is only produced from sustainable forests and recycling. Front yards and sidewalk parkways have become botanical gardens, overflowing with vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers.

The past 5 years has seen a revolution in the apparel industry. We are no longer driven to fashions dictated by massive PR campaigns; people dress according to their intention and style, which has resulted in a cornucopia of colors, textures and styles evident everywhere. Clothing has become a way of expressing individuality and each person is considered an artist by what they wear. Huge clothing companies have been replaced by thousands of small cottage industries and co-ops. where people earn a good living through creative design and quality fabrication. Yardage shops have sprung up everywhere. The huge suburban malls, those not changed into creative and attractive office space, have been filled with independent shops offering a variety of products we could never have imagined before. Each store is different.

I woke up to find my neighborhood dotted with independent cafes. Visiting different neighborhoods is fun and stimulating. Along with cafes, that often host poetry reading, neighborhood theater and musical venues have had their renaissance as well. High-priced public concerts and theatrical productions are mostly gone now, but our talented actors and musicians are now able to earn a healthy living by working locally. A career in entertainment is no longer considered a one-chance in a million pursuit. There is a big demand for performers since people now prefer frequent intimate gatherings to occasional mass production.

Sustainable energy is powering almost everything, and the skies are blue all over the world. Plastic pollution is practically zero. Nearly extinct animal species are regeneration, the oceans are getting very clean, and fish populations are rapidly increasing.

The pandemic of 2020 was frightening at the time, but it resulted in saner, friendlier, cleaner, more sustainable and more creative for all mankind.