The question many people are asking as we enter the next lockdown here in the UK is what did we learn last time? And, thinking to the future, what do we want to prioritise if we want to recover better? These were the questions posed by each of the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity Advisory Committee at the event ‘Thinking about Recovery’ chaired by Professor Tim Jackson.
The Advisory Committee included Professor Henrietta L Moore, Founder and Director of the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) and aimed to share perspectives on recent debates about wellbeing, societal transformation and sustainable prosperity in the wake of the pandemic.
The chain interview started with Simon Sharpe from COP26 highlighting how Covid-19 responses have exposed just how much power the state has to act if it wants to and how important state power is in shaping the markets for renewable energy solutions. Jeremy Oppenheim from SYSTEMIQ also reflected on the intersectionality of social justice and environmental justice. He talked about the need to rediscover indigenous knowledge which offers a much more holistic view of the worlds systems. He pointed out that billionaires have been adding trillions to their pockets throughout the crisis and poses the question – ‘are we really going to embrace that in the context of rebuilding what we need to build?’
‘We don’t need to build back better, we need to build forward better’
Professor Moore recognised a perceptible shift in the expert and public opinion about rethinking capitalism, pointing to a whole-system change, starting locally. She stressed that an urgent part of this change is addressing unsustainable farming practices and the fragility of our food systems, that we don’t need to build back better, we need to build forward better. Professor Jane Davidson at the University of Wales argued for the importance of place-based responses and thinking about future generations. She pointed to Wales’ Wellbeing of Future Generations Act which is the only of its kind in the world that protects future generations. She said that the concatenation of events we are faced with today are the result of previous generations and politicians pushing down stream issues of climate and social injustices.
Katherine Trebeck of WEAll reflected on the issue of conditionality for businesses receiving government bailouts to shape the types of businesses we need for a sustainable future. Alice Bell from Possible highlighted how Covid has shifted our relationship with community, space and nature and how this momentum could be utilised to address the problem of poor homes. She also mentioned she was buoyed by the fact that environmental issues have not been side-lined during the pandemic.
Oliver Bettis at the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries said that our appreciation of risk is low – that even though the information on the threat of a pandemic was out there people did not take it on board. He discussed how change does not happen in a straight line and Covid-19 shows how rapid behavioural, social and economic change is possible. Sian Ferguson at Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts mentioned how connections with nature is something fundamentally human and that place-based arguments need to be at the heart of future planning.
Finally, Professor Camilla Toulmin discussed how the Western world has a lot to learn from the successes in the Pan-African response to Covid-19. Pan-African responses saw a common approach to procurement of drugs and PPE as well as sensible public health measures. She said post-Covid, we may see a shift to greater self-reliance between countries in the continent building local supply chains and becoming less dependent on international imports – asserting their role in trade over exports in raw materials.
The style of webinar and range of insights and learnings was very rich and engaging. You can watch the full webinar here.
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