tree path 13May20

What next? Mankind has had a shock. It is not certain yet what will be worse, the virus, or the actions taken to address it. What is clear though is that our world has changed. We are currently trying to go back to the way things were, spending to boost consumption and production. Yet what if we were to take the opportunity to embrace the change? A society where you have to keep growing to succeed is not sustainable in a world with limits[1]. The game is zero sum and if something is won something is also lost. Many people were starting to realise this. Changing what we do though is difficult. Each of us is wired to behave in a particular way, and to do something different requires an enormous, unnatural, and quite possibly impossible, effort. That is why we seek to address issues such as climate change or inequality without really giving anything up. We are not wired to bring a “worse” life upon ourselves[2]. The current virus induced shock represents an opportunity. Our environment has changed and our natural behaviour in this new environment can lead us down a new path. That new path appears to be pushing us to be more local than global, shrinking not growing. It looks to include fewer new immigrants, tourists and students, fewer new buildings, fewer opportunities to spend. Perhaps we should embrace it? We will still all be the same and act the same as previously, but the impact of our actions will be more circumscribed. After all a bull in china shop does less overall damage if it is a small one in a small shop.

[1] Raising living standards by increasing productivity requires ever larger markets to soak up the resultant production.

[2] We are what we are. 90% or more of our actions may be governed by our unconscious (Hoffman,2019).

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