Pragmatic Optimism #3: Perhaps Covid-19 is the circuit breaker we needed to slow down how we consume

May 6, 2020

Pragmatic Optimism #3: Perhaps Covid-19 is the circuit breaker we needed to slow down how we consume


Hey everyone. Hope you're all doing well as well as can be. This is another of my pragmatic optimism videos, where I take a look at something that's happening in the world of the pandemic and just reflect on any potential optimistic takeaways that we could apply, whether as individuals, communities or businesses.

Around the world, it does seems that people are slowly starting to come out of lockdown. Even in Australia, we're already starting to hear that we might have a lifting of restrictions by the end of the week. And so at the very least, there's something there to be optimistic about. And yes, I'm aware that this might mean we'll see an increase in Covid-19 cases but we were gonna have to cross that bridge at some point anyway.

I think we're all pretty aware that there's no such thing as a return to normal anymore. Social distancing will be something that is going to be guiding a lot of our actions whether that's in the workplace, in a community space, or shared space. I think people will be careful of what they touch, of what they do, how they interact, and just more conscious of their actions. Part of that is going to suck, but on the other hand, optimistically, this could potentially be the catalyst that encourages us as a society to rethink how we consume.

So okay, hear me out on this because I'm drawing a little bit of a long bow here. Prior to the pandemic, there was a stream of discussion around this idea of sustainable consumption, and by that I'm referring to the entire spectrum of sustainability. We were buying things that we probably didn't need, at price points that had some pretty significant impacts on a global supply chain, both financially, economically and environmentally, and worst of all, there's a big debate around whether or not buying all these things actually helped us feel any happier.

Now I appreciate that is a pretty big generalisation but I'll be the first to put my hand up and fall on the sword of retail therapy and say that, yeah there's been a lot of times where I have bought some random gadget because it was cheap, I could just whack it on the credit card and let future me worry about it. Or all the times I'll get just lazy and order something on Uber Eats without giving a second thought to the minute margins that local restaurants would have to take from each of those orders.

And with the pandemic, I think it's become painfully obvious the impact that this has had on local businesses. I'm sure we all know local cafes and restaurants that have closed down and probably won't reopen. And we've all seen first hand, the impact that this has had, on our supply chain.

But there's also been some really positive news in here as well. Local farmers are seeing a five fold increase in food sales from local buyers who are willing to go to the farm and bypass supermarkets. Or incredible acts of generosity that are reported on the news, where an elderly couple chose to donate their entire $750 dollar stimulus check to a local café just to help them stay afloat.

And so putting on my pragmatic optimism hat, perhaps the pandemic has actually been the circuit breaker that we needed in order to slow down our lives a little bit and be a bit more conscious of what it is that we're consuming.

As individuals, I think we've all now seen first hand, that our lives can be a little less go go go, and that we can joy and fulfillment from spending time with family and friends. That we don't need to turn to fast retail therapy as some sort of bandaid fix for stress and relief.

As businesses, I think the reality is that we know we're going to have to tighten our economic belts a bit, but I'm also optimistic that I think we all know, we're in this together as well. And so instead of businesses looking to procure, purely based on price or transactional value, that we might be more conscious again, about where we source our goods and services from.

I think this is a time like no other, for businesses to think about local and to think about things like social procurement or social enterprise. For any businesses who are thinking a bit more about social procurement, please do check out Social Traders, Australia's leading body for certification of social enterprises.

My optimistic take away for the future, is simply this: We've talked about slowing down our lives and how we consume for ages. We knew it is unsustainable, from a financial, economic and environmental perspective and frankly it probably wasn't making us any happier either. Now with the pandemic forcing us to slow down a little and be a bit more conscious of our actions, perhaps this is a genuine opportunity for us to change the way that we consume.

So that's my bit of pragmatic optimism for the week. I'd love to get your comments and critiques. In particular, I am genuinely quite curious as to other people's perspectives on this because these habits are what will inform how our economy and society will function, post the pandemic.

As always, please stay upbeat and if our restrictions do lift a little by the end of the week, please stay safe, and I'll see you next week.

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