Before we start, let me preface this with the certainty of knowing we’ve had a torrid time. People have died, livelihoods lost, businesses have failed, mental wellness has suffered and a lot of money has been lost both now and in the future in our pension plans.
That said, we’ve had a lot of good things happen, and it’s important to realise this – and wonder why we weren’t able to enjoy this during normal times:
- Quieter roads and neighbourhoods The island’s roads have been almost deserted. The silence was marked. We could actually hear birds. Air quality was improved.
- Free music from Indie discos to 24 hour house music marathons Although the underlying reasons are deeply concerning, particularly regarding the survival of venues and sustenance of music professionals, the availability of free music has been astonishing. That availability has been converted to financial aid in the form of donations. A recent 24-hour DJ marathon by United We Stream raised over £100,00 and attracted over 4 million visitors.
- Realisation that art forms a real benefit to our well-being From free music from music stars and DJs to major releases that would otherwise be trapped in cinemas going straight into people’s homes, the industry has reacted to consumers’ needs and people have realised that art (music, film or drama) can provide immense benefit to one’s mental wellbeing and forms a vital role in society.
- A realisation we don’t need to be in an office to work Every morning, thousands of people head off in their car to central business districts to be in the same room. The costs to the planet are immense in terms of travel, power, air conditioning requirements and compromise to formerly green areas. Although co-location has massive benefits, we saw that it isn’t needed.
- Support networks being established, reconnecting with our neighbours Back in the day, we used to know our neighbours. We were concerned if we didn’t see them for a few days. During lockdown, we were helping with shopping, keeping in contact and reconnecting with the older generations.
- A material decline in CO2 emissions We’ve seen a marked reduction in CO2 across the globe, which is what we need to realise for climate disaster to be averted.
- Reduction in use of cash A lot of businesses started to accept cards and the contactless limit was increased to £45. This will hopefully increase the speed of acceptance of cards and reduce the friction merchants needed to go through to have their own card payment options.
What can we learn?
It would be nice to think we can develop these lessons instead of picking up where we left off.
- Quieter roads and neighbourhoods The change for the island’s road was transformative. Suddenly they became safe. It became easier to recognise true trunk routes for traffic and those that became trunk routes through laziness of drivers from going round the block. Neighbourhoods divided by roads can become one again, by reducing traffic flow. Our children could play out again (were they allowed to).
- Recognise the arts It’s easy to forget the value of the arts, but we’ve all collapsed in front of Netflix (or whatever) after a day at work. Music plays an integral part in helping our mental wellness. We’ve all got favourite tunes that “lift us up”. Both we as consumers and the publishers need to realise that the landscape has changed. Streaming has to benefit both the consumer and the artist. Studios need to publish their content into the home. There is still a place for cinemas, but their role will inevitably change away from the box-multiplexes we’ve suffered of late.
- Reliable and robust internet During lockdown I had to ask my family not to use the internet for streaming. This despite supposedly having silly expensive broadband which is shocking in quality and reliability. The internet can replace cars, offices and anachronistic business practices if it’s invested into. Roll out of fibre is an excellent first step but this has to be universal and affordable.
- Be human We were suddenly all facing the same problem: how to stay safe. We were facing the same problems before (how to pay the mortgage, what food to buy, how to educate our kids, etc.) but somehow we didn’t recognise our mutual struggle. Let’s build on our new relationships and respect for each other, including those working to help you such as shelf stackers, etc. Tesco employees were just as essential as NHS nurses in the shakedown.
- Use this time to build on our sacrifices and get CO2 down We sacrificed a lot during lockdown, not least of which was our ability/right to individually contribute poisonous gases into the air within a metal and plastic box because we didn’t want to walk. Our relationship with food stores changed, suddenly they started coming to us. It was the bus equivalent for food: One van to many people instead of many cars to one shop. But, the drop we saw above is already being reverted by countries on their way out of their own lockdown, for example, China. The curve is on the way back up.
There’s a lot of Socialist ethos in my ideas, and I am no Socialist. However, I recognise that the free market has created a lot of insular selfishness within people and a more egalitarian structure to society, with climate as a driver, could offer real benefits. If it took a global pandemic to get here, so be it. It should be easy:
- Replace cars with more public transport, more buses, more frequent
- Increased home delivery options from food upwards, but we need to address the Amazon problem
- Reduced global travel and holidays, staycations are perfectly fine
- Focus on local where possible, buy local, stay local, recirculate money
I know I’ve been exceptionally lucky, I have friends and family who have supported me and my family and been considerate in our support for them, where we can. Everyone’s struggle is different and personal. The New Year is just an arbitrary point in a solar calendar, but it is a line in the sand that we can look forward from. So long as the authorities don’t screw it up and people don’t get daft,