Day 2 - Inadvertent degrowth

— 4 minute read


I woke up around 7, cleaned a bit, and started work.

I’m working on an article now on Covid-19, and I’m trying to piece together some ideas on the systemic changes that the crisis might be able to trigger, to pave the way towards our collective survival against climate change. It’s a great opportunity to think through some issues that have been floating around in my head, which I haven’t been able to pin down completely.

We are living in exciting times indeed. We are being called upon to withdraw ourselves from economic life, when most of our lives we’ve been told to consume (or how we should consume) or be worth nothing. Buy a car, buy a house, buy a dress. Go for a trip, climb that career ladder, renovate your home. Get as many things as you want, as long as you don’t put them into a plastic bag. Plastic straws are out, paper straws are in. Go vegetarian, have an Impossible Burger. Go minimalist, throw things out that don't spark joy, buy new things that do.

In contrast, the current rule of how to be a socially responsible person is so simple that it is almost unreal. Stay at home. That’s it. But with this simple rule comes a very interesting consequence. Spending shrinks. Years of preaching on sustainable consumption has culminated to nothing, and the economy is brought down suddenly to its knees by an invisible but formidable enemy.

What they told us that they cannot do? Well, now they're doing it. Restricting travel, suspending non-essential production, keeping home millions of consumers. Not for the long term, of course - many people expect this to go back to business as usual within a few months, if not a few weeks. That seems overly optimistic. Experts are saying that we may be looking at a global depression so bad that we may return to the GDP levels of the 1990s. Many businesses will die. But for the long term, is it such a bad thing to let "non-essential" businesses go? Think branded goods and luxury cruises. Who needs them anyway? Not poor people.

The coronavirus is going to break the world as we know it. How do we build back better? Reorganise to focus on economic sectors that actually matter, such as food, health, education, renewable energy, etc. Don't bail out the businesses that deserve to die, provide instead support for the people (they are more than workers). Put in place social safety nets for everyone, including gig economy and other informal workers. Regain the trust of the people in institutions working for the public good (e.g. national health systems and professional journalism), get rid of inept politicians (ok this is probably a tall order).

There are so many opportunities, and we need to snatch them up before the rich and powerful move in with their disaster capitalism.

Anyway, Day 2 has gone by without a hitch and I am rushing to finish this post so that I can rest and continue writing my article tomorrow. I have not been given a deadline but it has to be done "as soon as possible".

We stayed home the entire day today. I made noodle soup for lunch, and pasta for dinner, which probably means that our low carb diet is dangling outside the window. So far I've not had cabin fever, but I do have a craving for eggs, so tomorrow we may go and shop for some in the morning.

Life is peaceful and normal except for that one police car that cruised by announcing the movement restriction this evening, and the neighbourhood mosque that delivered a similar message this afternoon through its loud speakers. Today our number of cases increased to 900, and people are starting to get afraid as cases pop up randomly. Someone from the market a friend's mum visited this morning, someone manning a highway toll booth, and someone from the same office as another friend.

It is not a laughing matter. Stay home, stay safe.