Let’s do better than a return to normal

The coronavirus has thrown much of society and the economy into chaos. We don’t know what life will look like on the other side, how much will return to ‘normal’ and how much will be changed forever. For some of us – those who recognise the climate emergency and the depths of inequality – there is a hope that we can do better than a return to ‘normal’.

How did we ever tolerate an economy that rewarded the richest with more while the poor never had enough?

What was normal about an economy that pursued the logical impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet?

Should it ever have been normal to pay young men hundreds of thousands of pounds a week to run around after a football, while nurses and carers and hospital cleaners were miserably underpaid?

Normal meant ever rising global carbon emissions, and ever declining biodiversity. It meant air pollution and deforestation, the ongoing erosion of the natural systems that we all depend on.

Normal, if we’re honest, was insane. It was pathological. It was suicidal.

God spare us a return to normal.

We can’t stay where we are. We should not go back to the way things were. How do we move forwards? The next few months are going to be crucial, and there is a vibrant discussion around a fair and sustainable recovery. We face a moment of real possibility.

It may not last long, and we should not be naive about that. ‘Normal’ worked very well for those at the top of the tree, those with the money and influence to keep the wealth flowing upwards from the rest of us, and then outwards to those offshore accounts. There will be real pressure to restart economic growth, aviation, fossil fuel extraction, infrastructure and house building, to try and pick up where we left off. The same people who were in power before the crisis are in power now, with the same priorities. There is no guarantee of lasting change.

But some are taking the opportunity to make real change. Priorities are being reset. Governments and businesses are taking stock and making courageous decisions.

In our last series of case studies, we investigated businesses with fairer and greener ways of operating. Those examples have now been collated into the Green Shoots report. Our next series of case studies will look at post-COVID recovery, with examples of governments that are choosing just and sustainable ways forward, and choosing a ‘better normal’.

We’ll start posting case studies next week. If you have ideas that you would like to see featured, get in touch or leave a comment below.

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