Insights 05/06/2020

Silver Linings

Nick Dormon 

Never before in my lifetime, has the entire world’s population been so dramatically and profoundly affected by a single event. It is difficult to predict how long this will go on and what the ripple effects will be culturally, socially, scientifically or economically. Many people are saying it will soon be forgotten – but with that, we could also lose the resultant silver lining of our planet taking a chance to heal. We all know about WW1 but not everyone is aware of the ensuing Spanish Flu pandemic that wiped out 40 million people. That’s because it didn’t have the same dramatic stories and images that lodge the war firmly in our minds – just the pain and misery of thousands in hospital wards.

Stories and images have the power to move people to action – take the response to David Attenborough’s narrative in ‘The Blue Planet’ and the images of turtles strangled by single- use plastic. Plastic is a big problem but not on the same scale as climate change. Yet, it has been extremely difficult to get the response and behavioural change that climate change needs because it is so nebulous and intangible – maybe now we have an opportunity.

Whilst we may not want to remember the boredom, worry, grief and pain of COVID -19 there has been a benefit to all this, and it does have wonderful stories and images to go along with it. During this time of lockdown we have seen the natural world take a deep breath. Pollution has plummeted, waterways have cleared, and nature has been quick to reclaim urban spaces. I have so enjoyed the birdsong around my London home, no longer drowned out by the constant drone of traffic and planes. A daily walk round the park has become a precious event, and clear night skies a wonder.  We have had a taste of what the world could be like if only we cared for it more, but it will all so easily be forgotten unless we preserve the stories and images needed to keep it fresh in our minds. We need a ‘Blue Planet’ to share and remember this healthier place to live. David and his camera crews need to be scouring the world’s cities for their next series right now.

We will want to quickly get back to our normal lives after all this is over, but how can we maintain and build on some of the positive side effects to our health and the health of our planet? We will need images and stories to help motivate us. Can Venice better manage its boat traffic before the cruise ships return emboldened by reports of Dolphins in clear waters? Actually, this last point is fake news, but the fact that it has gone viral is further evidence of the power that these stories can have.  Can we restrain ourselves from shooing away wildlife when we return outdoors, now we have seen compelling images of deer roaming the streets of Nara, Japan and Barcelona’s Wild Boar and Adelaide’s kangaroos?

With nobody about, our streets are clean, and the air is clear. Now that we have a visual and tangible standard to work to, something we should not want to lose, is this not absolutely the right time to take action and ramp up environmental initiatives? Is it not time to make significant changes to our consumerist, jet-setting lifestyles whilst normality is being disrupted? We have glimpsed something better and new behaviour could more easily be adopted.  Could we, for example, move significantly and quickly to radically reduce single-use plastics through accelerated corporate initiatives, new legislation and bolstered recycling systems?

To avoid the economic slump predicted after the pandemic, we will all be working flat out to rebuild commerce across the world. From a branding and innovation perspective, we will be eagerly searching for new opportunities, tapping into a new, post COVID-19 consumer zeitgeist to find growth and competitive advantage. An already accelerating desire for more sustainable products and services will surely have been given a boost by this time of reflection and insight into what the world could be like if only we tried harder. Let’s ride on this wave while it is fresh in our minds, before it peters out and we go back to our old ways. Let’s celebrate nature’s comeback and support it by changing the way we do things for the better, forever, for now.

Never before in my lifetime, has the entire world’s population been so dramatically and profoundly affected by a single event. It is difficult to predict how long this will go on and what the ripple effects will be culturally, socially, scientifically or economically. Many people are saying it will soon be forgotten – but with that, we could also lose the resultant silver lining of our planet taking a chance to heal. We all know about WW1 but not everyone is aware of the ensuing Spanish Flu pandemic that wiped out 40 million people. That’s because it didn’t have the same dramatic stories and images that lodge the war firmly in our minds – just the pain and misery of thousands in hospital wards.

Stories and images have the power to move people to action – take the response to David Attenborough’s narrative in ‘The Blue Planet’ and the images of turtles strangled by single- use plastic. Plastic is a big problem but not on the same scale as climate change. Yet, it has been extremely difficult to get the response and behavioural change that climate change needs because it is so nebulous and intangible – maybe now we have an opportunity.

Whilst we may not want to remember the boredom, worry, grief and pain of COVID -19 there has been a benefit to all this, and it does have wonderful stories and images to go along with it. During this time of lockdown we have seen the natural world take a deep breath. Pollution has plummeted, waterways have cleared, and nature has been quick to reclaim urban spaces. I have so enjoyed the birdsong around my London home, no longer drowned out by the constant drone of traffic and planes. A daily walk round the park has become a precious event, and clear night skies a wonder.  We have had a taste of what the world could be like if only we cared for it more, but it will all so easily be forgotten unless we preserve the stories and images needed to keep it fresh in our minds. We need a ‘Blue Planet’ to share and remember this healthier place to live. David and his camera crews need to be scouring the world’s cities for their next series right now.

We will want to quickly get back to our normal lives after all this is over, but how can we maintain and build on some of the positive side effects to our health and the health of our planet? We will need images and stories to help motivate us. Can Venice better manage its boat traffic before the cruise ships return emboldened by reports of Dolphins in clear waters? Actually, this last point is fake news, but the fact that it has gone viral is further evidence of the power that these stories can have.  Can we restrain ourselves from shooing away wildlife when we return outdoors, now we have seen compelling images of deer roaming the streets of Nara, Japan and Barcelona’s Wild Boar and Adelaide’s kangaroos?

With nobody about, our streets are clean, and the air is clear. Now that we have a visual and tangible standard to work to, something we should not want to lose, is this not absolutely the right time to take action and ramp up environmental initiatives? Is it not time to make significant changes to our consumerist, jet-setting lifestyles whilst normality is being disrupted? We have glimpsed something better and new behaviour could more easily be adopted.  Could we, for example, move significantly and quickly to radically reduce single-use plastics through accelerated corporate initiatives, new legislation and bolstered recycling systems?

To avoid the economic slump predicted after the pandemic, we will all be working flat out to rebuild commerce across the world. From a branding and innovation perspective, we will be eagerly searching for new opportunities, tapping into a new, post COVID-19 consumer zeitgeist to find growth and competitive advantage. An already accelerating desire for more sustainable products and services will surely have been given a boost by this time of reflection and insight into what the world could be like if only we tried harder. Let’s ride on this wave while it is fresh in our minds, before it peters out and we go back to our old ways. Let’s celebrate nature’s comeback and support it by changing the way we do things for the better, forever, for now.