When you buy from, or work for, a company, you are effectively voting for them. And you’re changing the world.
The pandemic shook the whole world. Between critics of the sanitary measures put in place in other countries and conspiracy theories (each crazier than the last) it has become difficult to sort the truth from the fake news, but the pandemic accomplished a remarkable feat: seize the attention of the entire globe, which apparently even the destruction of our planet (a subject which could seem relatively important) couldn’t do. The pandemic is bad for business, and has an immediately recognisable effect on people’s lives, so it’s been a priority for those who can solve it, to do so. But the destruction of the planet is seen as something that happens to other people and other places.
The governments and people, especially of developing countries, want to prioritise jobs and economic development. Even some developed countries are covertly lobbying to underplay the urgency of the need to move away from fossil fuels.
The leaders of Russia and China won’t even be attending this week’s COP26. Implementing an effective climate policy is seen as bad for business. Why this short-sightedness? Because people are thinking about the need to put food on the table today. Most people have limited knowledge of what is happening to our environment and they don’t know, or perhaps don’t care, about what they can do to change the course of the very dangerous path we’re on.
It’s taken the confinement of almost the entire population to reduce the global carbon footprint, and leave space for wildlife. Venetians discovered the real colour of the lagoon on which they live and have been reacquainted with their closest neighbours, dolphins, who took advantage of the absence of human activity to reclaim their territory. Recently, the Italian government decided to ban cruise ships of more than 200 passengers from sailing close to the city, following Unesco’s threat to make the city a threatened world heritage site. The impetus behind the decision wasn’t the magical blossoming of an ecological conscience on the part of the government, but rather locals being fed up with tourists disrespecting the environment. Despite the obvious economic advantages of a liberal approach to tourism, the Italian government bowed to local and international pressure to protect the environment. So while the decision may not have been an entirely altruistic one, if it leads to a step in the right direction, who am I to judge? Public opinion is paramount. The ones who hold the power are you, the buyer, the chooser, the speaker, the decision maker.
We’ve had the opportunity to be more aware of our choices recently. The endless, and often hypocritical, office discussions, like pretending to care about Caroline from accounting’s kids, require immense energy and a significant supply of caffeine. At home, not only can you avoid these ‘mmhmm…ah?’ chats, you can choose whether the coffee is fairtrade and from sustainable sources, or not. It is the accomplishment of a dream: being able to spend your afternoon in pyjamas, a cup of coffee — fair-trade of course! — (or a glass of organic wine, why not?) in your hand (to savour the time to its full potential, the addition of a blanket and pair of soft slippers is recommended). Instead of spending an hour on the train, you can choose to spend that time calling your mum and catching up on family news. The repeated lockdowns allowed many of us to get to know our loved ones better. Although some workers now want to keep working remotely because of the freedom it offers, even the most asocial among us has discovered a passion for human contact.
The pandemic allowed us to question many ideas and behaviours. Spending more time at home has made us aware of our own personal account: we know better how much we personally consume and waste. We have a better idea of the value in our lives: the people we want to see and those we don’t. We appreciate our local environment more than ever before, while being aware that we can connect to each other all over the world, within seconds, if we wish. Where for some this change in work/personal life organisation is seen as positive, others view it as evidence of deterioration of our society. In any case, it has made us realise that what happens in one corner of the world concerns everyone.
Time is a limited account for all of us. How do you spend yours? Learning something new? Communicating more with your friends and family (albeit through technology)? Let’s be more honest with ourselves and each other. Our choices affect us all. We can spend this time to appreciate what we have, and decide if we want to keep it.
We believe that two of the most important things in life are learning and communication. What are your priorities? How will you spend our time?