The past few months has been a lot to process. From bushfires to a global pandemic, it seems that the level of volatility and uncertainty is neverending.

It is clear that this moment in history could be monumental. Our habits, what we value, who leads communities and the effectiveness of our systems have all been thrown into question. Currently, these questions and conversations are an opportunity for us to reshape our future trajectory. However, these are not easy conversations.

Firstly, is it time for a planet B yet?

They say there is no planet B. What if a planet B actually means regenerating our current Earth with a plan B? It could reshape our planet to one that focuses on regeneration, equality and trust.
But before we jump into solutions, lets have a look at some of the big questions and what we have learnt. I don’t have any answers really. However, I do have some questions and reflections that I hope will be the start of a long term meaningful conversation that leads to action.

Does one person really make a difference?

In everyday ‘normal’ life, it was easy to defer action or procrastinate from making positive changes. Maybe it was procrastinating from switching to a clean energy provider or leaving your reusable bags at home. We would justify our actions as there was no immediate consequence. We formed habits that didn’t necessarily align with our values or the positive change we wished to make as there was no sense of urgency.

However, in the past few months we have seen that habits can form quickly if we are consistent and disciplined. Washing hands, social distancing, changing fitness routines, varying our diets and using digital channels for meetings and communications are just a few of the habits we have been able to form. Which other habits will be carried over? How can we keep the level of urgency of behaviour change for things like climate change? That is a bigger curve we need to flatten.

Why did so many people panic buy?

There are likely many factors that contributed to this phenomenon. Psychologists shared that it was driven by fear and uncertainty. When we don’t know what tomorrow will hold or if our supply chains will be able to deliver us what we need, the response was to stock up. However, there is a more interesting undercurrent here that stems beyond our innate response to fear and uncertainty.

Last year, Australia’s Loneliness Report found that 47% of Australians have no neighbours they can call on for help.

Not having a local security net that you can tap into feeds a sense of individualism. A sense that I need to look after myself because no one else will. The social fabric of our communities require attention to ensure panic buying and isolation don’t manifest. However, in this time of isolation there are pockets of social connection that are happening. I’ve noticed people are out in public spaces more, often walking or kicking the footy. This has opened up new ‘distanced’ relationships and a friendly hello when walking past is a small way to build community trust.

Why are our systems failing and what do we need to make them strong?

Financial, housing, political and employment systems all have one thing in common- people. A system is merely an organised set of people who make decisions that have an impact. During this crisis, it has amplified many of the loose links and structural challenges associated. Many of these systems were formed in the industrial revolution and are antiquated. This historical shake up provides an opportunity to shape the systems to meet our current and future needs.

Progressive governments and businesses are the ones who are responding fast to these global challenges with fast thinking approaches for long term policy. Many of these governments have been fast to respond because their culture, mindset and values recognise the importance of balancing economic growth within the boundaries of people and planet. The City of Amsterdam recently announced their plans to bring doughnut economics into their policy and strategy. Read more about Doughnut economics and its ability to bring balance to profit, people and planet here.

Milan and Paris

Others including Milan and Paris are reshaping their cities to more sustainable forms of travel.

  • Milan recently announced that 35km (22 miles) of streets will be transformed over the summer, with a rapid, experimental citywide expansion of cycling and walking space to protect residents as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. Read more here.
  • Paris also announced their plan to roll out emergency bike lanes for the use of key workers and others during the lockdown. 650km of cycleways—including a number of pop-up “corona cycleways”—will be available for May 11 when lockdown is eased in France. Read more here.

So what’s next?

Let’s start a conversation. We know that our society can be a powerful force for change when we have an urgent matter like a pandemic. Using this time to think about the future we want, the lessons we’ve learnt and the questions we hold will hold us in good stead as we transition into our next phase.

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