Our priorities shift when the wolf is at the door, Iona Murphy writes about the impact of the current crisis. It’s quite understandable that people may not have the headspace for sustainability right now. Nonetheless, we’re currently on a hiatus from consumerism—will it last?
Back in the beginning of March, which feels like a lifetime ago, there were signs that the British public might be living more sustainably. 1 in 5 people who fly abroad, commute by car or eat meat were planning to cut back, and expected reductions for clothing and plastic packaging were even higher.
To state the obvious, a lot has changed since then—many of us won’t be driving to work anytime soon, and holidays abroad are off the cards. Our priorities shift when the wolf is at the door, and it is quite understandable that people may not have the headspace for sustainability right now. Even the zero-waste influencers buy plastic in a pandemic.
But there’s reason to think we might act differently when once the dust has settled. We are most likely to change our behaviours during a major life event, like moving house or having a child; COVID-19 imposes such an event on everyone. Change is not always unwelcome; polling for the UK Food, Farming and Countryside Commission found that 6 in 10 adults want to make changes in their life once this is over, whereas only 33% want their life to go back to how it was before. That means almost twice as many adults want change, than don’t.
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