I nearly became a selfish panic-buyer at Countdown today.My limbic brain and my neocortex got into an argument, initially in the baking aisle, but once again when we got to pet food. The limbic brain is responsible for memory and emotion and often called our “mammal brain” because it evolved before our neocortex – responsible for logic and rational thinking and often called our “human brain,” because it enabled us to make all this “progress” that’s helped us stuff up the environment so royally.So I’m at Countdown this morning, doing my weekly shop and I’ve seen the sign about taking no more than 2 of any item, because hoarding is bad and selfish and if I take more than I need it means someone else ends up missing out. I’m going about my shopping (in a moment of absent-mindedness I got 3 instant popcorn packets at $1 because I could see a lot of family movies on the horizon – but the checkout chap let it go because he said no one was going to die from lack of popcorn). Things are going well until I get to the baking aisle. No baking powder. No baking soda. No PAPRIKA?! This was 9:30 in the morning. I was looking for iodised salt for my Mum when I saw that there was only one bag of coarse Himalayan pink salt left. I use this product because of the additional nutrients in the salt. This is when the argument started and here’s how it went:Larry Limbic Brain: “Argh! There’s only one bag of pink salt left, you need to grab it!”Arm: “Ok, hold my beer…”Nigel Neocortex: “Woah. Calm the farm. You don’t need any pink salt.”Larry: “Yeah, our grinder is nearly out bro.”Nigel: “True, but there is still half a bag in the pantry, that’ll probably last three weeks.”Larry: “But there’s only ONE BAG LEFT!”Nigel: “Jacinda said don’t panic buy. The supermarkets are staying open and there is plenty of food in NZ.”Larry: “So SHE says, but look: Those shelves are empty man, it’s not looking good. Empty shelves mean that there’s NO FOOD! If there’s no food that means you’re going to STARVE! And your CHILDREN are going to starve!! That means you’re going to DIE! You’ve got to take that salt!”Arm: “Ah..guys??”Nigel: “I know there are a lot of empty shelves and I know it’s really weird, and I know this has never happened before in our lifetime, but you know you can trust Jacinda. She’s been solid throughout a lot of serious shit. We don’t NEED the salt now. The supermarkets are not closing, they just need time to restock and we can come back for some pink salt when we are actually running out in about three weeks ok?”Larry, through gritted teeth: “Ok, you talk a lot man. But I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. It makes me nervous. I don’t like it….. Look out, human at 2 o’clock!”So it was round one to logic and rational thought and community and un-selfishness. This all happened in about one second of course, because we can think really really fast – way faster than we can speak, (and trust me, I can type).We made it through nappies, baby food, formula and eggs. Turned the corner and I was in the pet-food aisle. I’m trying to picture the pet food cupboard, I’m pretty sure we’re ok for cat food, and we’re definitely good for dog food although Pepper prefers the expensive stuff – I’ve told her we’re heading for a recession so suck it up, Princess. Then I saw that there was only one bag of Vitapet Harvest Rabbit and Guinea Pig Mix left….Larry Limbic Brain: “Argh! There’s only one bag of rabbit food left! You gotta take it, quick!Arm: “Ok hold my beer…”Nigel: “Again?! Really?! We’ve been over this.”Larry: “But there’s only ONE BAG LEFT! If you don’t get it, MAX is gonna DIE!”Nigel: “Look, I bought some last week, and there’s still have the tub left anyway. So that’s probably 3 weeks of food for Max there at home. And we’ve. Been. Over. This.” Larry: “Hmph.”Arm: “So that’s a No…?”And that’s how I nearly became a selfish panic-buyer. Panic is defined by the interweb as “sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behaviour.” That describes Larry to a tee. Every human has a Larry and a Nigel, or a Liza and a Nancy. The Larrys and Lizas of this world are why the shelves are bare. Right now, Larry and Liza are really afraid. Our limbic brains are really really old in terms of evolution, like pre-internet, pre-electricity, pre-factories, pre-agriculture even. They don’t understand things like “supply chains.” So when you see empty shelves, your limbic brain panics. Its job is to keep you safe by using the powerful tools of memory and emotion. But this memory predates even your first breath. It remembers famine and starvation. It knows these are serious things that threaten your life. Your limbic brain doesn’t know that in 21st century NZ, empty shelves don’t mean that there is no food, it means that our supply chains are just not working fast enough to get all the food that we DO have onto the shelves in time to meet unprecedented demand fuelled by these unprecedented times.If we are going to get through this momentous time in our lives with our dignity and community intact, we need to fight that ancient survival system with our modern brains and our modern information, and with aroha. So we need to stay informed (but not overwhelmed), we need to think of our community, not just ourselves, and we need to trust our fellow Kiwis – trust that our supermarkets and our Prime Minister are not lying to us. To paraphrase Mohandas Gandhi, the great pacifist, we have enough food for everybody’s need, but not for everybody’s greed.Larry, interjects: “What are supermarkets? Who is this Jacinda? She is not one of us… I don’t trust her…”We need to get our Nigels and Nancys on the job people.