Earlier this week, a good friend sent over a recipe for chocolate fudge. An homage to Cadbury's chocolate, it sounds like the best concoction EVER! Take some chunks of Dairy Milk and melt them into some condensed milk, butter and vanilla. Pour into a tray. Mix in Crunchie bites. Put Flake bites on top and cool. Yum! Being in my current frame of lockdown mind, this got me thinking. What if this amazing recipe wasn't the only good thing to come out of the exceptionally weird times we're currently living through? What if we could change the world for the better? After canvassing a few people for their opinions, here are a few ideas about what we might do.
As coronavirus has taken hold, many people have come to realise that the value of work has been calculated wrongly. While those of us who sit behind a computer have retreated to the relative safety of our homes, others have taken on the mantle of keeping the country going: the NHS staff in all their guises; carers; cleaners and shop workers; delivery drivers; food growers; and many more. Often, these are the lowest paid employees, with the hardest working conditions. One outcome of the pandemic should be a proper recognition of the value these people add, to our lives, to our health, and to our economy. And that means more than a clap once a week. Let's demand increased wages AND shorter hours for all these amazing key workers.
For those of us who are now working from home, or furloughed, we can start thinking about how we want to work in the future. What's becoming clearer to a lot of people is that outputs are a more effective way of measuring your work than hours spent. This should mean much greater flexibility in when, where and how we carry out our roles. Responsible businesses will be those who recognise and respond to this shift in focus, those who value positive mental health, and those who accept their impact on the climate and change to do something about it.
The #stayathome message has become the main feature of our lives in the past few weeks, with most of us spending much more time in our own houses than ever before. This has been tough for a lot of us - even me, a certified hermit. For those people who live by themselves, it's a self-imposed isolation from the world. For those who live with other people, we're sharing this space with family members who we would normally only spend a fraction the time with. And while for many this will be difficult - and for some, dangerous - there have been some positives, too. We're reaching out more, making more of social media and video conferencing technology to keep in touch with people we might normally only see occasionally or speak to on the telephone. Many of us are starting to realise that family comes before career and - hopefully - that parental and other caring responsibilities are valuable jobs in themselves. We're making connections in our local communities, looking out for those who might be in greater need. The importance of good mental health is being more widely recognised. And we're starting to appreciate the sights and sounds of nature as we head out for our daily exercise.
I've never been one who sees shopping as a hobby, so this aspect of lockdown hasn't come as much of a hardship to me. It has, though, forced me to think more about where the stuff I buy is coming from. This has been a great opportunity to find out about local and ethical producers - and not just for food. Reliance on the supermarkets has become much less and we've switched instead to our village shop (always amazingly well stocked), a nearby farm shop, and deliveries from non-high street retailers, like the Hive book people, Who Gives a Crap, Big Green Smile, and Naked Wine. We've also upped our game on food growing, planting seeds for everything from broccoli to tomatoes. And we've done a wee bit of foraging, mainly for wild garlic but soon for the flowers, berries and hedgerow herbs that will start popping up.
The focus on only essential deliveries - and the additional time to fill - has pushed a lot of people into more traditional hobbies, like knitting, sewing and woodwork. This could also be positive. Mending what we have instead of buying new, and repurposing everyday items for other jobs, will put much less of a strain on the environmental costs of production, as well as saving a few pennies and pounds. Sharing what we have might encourage people to make more use of the tool libraries that can now be found in a lot of places. And you might find a new hobby, to boot. If everyone who can afford it makes a more conscious choice about what and when they buy, we'll all be in a better position.
Finally, I've been thinking about how our role in society might change for the better. We've seen a massive rise in mutual aid, as communities come together to support each other. And there's been a steadily growing thread across the social media channels comparing governmental responses to the pandemic, some handling it really well while others have been characterised by mismanagement and misinformation. As citizens within democratic countries, we can do something about this. We can demand better government. We can vote for better politicians. And we can call for more decisions to be made locally, collectively or by people we trust in our communities.
How to make the change
It's all very well pointing out what's wrong with the current system, but how can we go about changing it? I think it's up to each of us to challenge it in our own ways, but here are a few things that might get you started:
If you're struggling to get the recognition you deserve at work, join a trade union and become active in it. If there's no union representing the work you do, stand in solidarity with the union movement.
If you want to make a change at home, start small and grow in stages. Focus on what's good for your own mental health first.
If you want to become a more ethical consumer, decide what's most important to you. Is it local fruit and vegetables? Is it ethical fashion? Start with something that you buy a lot of and do your research to find an alternative. Remember to look close to home, to support local producers and makers.
If you want to start a new hobby, go for it! You can try lots of different things very cheaply before deciding on one you want to hone in on. And don't buy all the kit until you know you're really keen!
If you want to start to re-use more than re-cycle, do your research online. There are loads of - usually small - businesses and social enterprises that will help with resources and ideas. Check out 'circular economy' in your search engine.
If you want to become a more active citizen, get volunteering, support mutual aid, sign petitions, join or support the trade union movement, and talk to your friends about they type of society you all want to live in.
And remember, we might be physically separate from each other just now, but we are all in this together. That doesn't mean that we're all experiencing it the same - the situation out there is far from it - but it does mean that, when lockdown restrictions start to ease, we can hopefully find ways to help each other - and the planet - that little bit more.