My wife and I joined many in the UK last week in the difficult ritual of supporting one of our children (we have three daughters) through the anxious wait for A Level results. It was particularly stressful this year - with no actual exams and then what followed. I have been involved with schools as a governor for many years and education is a passion of mine, so I was very concerned about the consequences for all students. It prompted me to reflect on how something as important as our education system could so easily be sent into turmoil by COVID-19.
How to survive is understandably the main priority for hard-hit businesses as they salvage what they can from the wreckage of lockdown. But those which go on to thrive will have used this unique moment to invest in changes to their business which hardwire in resilience to future shocks.
This week I was lucky enough to get my hair cut, in a real hair salon, with real people and everything! Aside from having my temperature checked before I was allowed in, hand sanitiser bottles everywhere, gaps between seating and hairdressers in plastic visors, it felt like a just a little bit of ‘normal’ after months of upheaval.
When I started out in my career as a chemical engineer, personal protective equipment, or PPE, was what we wore in the lab when conducting hazardous experiments. After joining WRAP in 2007, PPE meant the steel toe-cap boots, high-vis jackets and hard hats of waste transfer stations and anaerobic digestion plants. I never imagined that one day I’d be wearing a mask to do something as everyday as popping to the shop or catching a bus.
It’s sometimes felt as if life has been put on hold while the world tried to hold the onslaught of COVID-19 at bay. But, thankfully, some things have continued. Sometimes against all the odds. So, parks are still being kept tidy, streets are cleaned, and our bins are being emptied.
Life in the UK feels as though it’s moving to a new normal, with the reopening of non-essential retailers in Northern Ireland and England and the resulting queues on our high streets. But with socially distanced shops and empty football stadia and Royal Ascot stands it’s clear that this new normal is going to feel very different from the old one.
WRAP has long known that interventions are most effective when they are rooted in evidence, and when they are collaborative. The past two months has only reinforced this. At the same time, more people are recognising that our global food system is harming our planet – and us.
Like everyone, I’ve been adapting to my new life in lockdown. With continued concerns about loved ones combined with entertaining an energetic toddler whilst working from home, it’s not been without challenge, but now that we’re in week eight of this new reality I’m starting to find some kind of rhythm.
The global economy normally works like a massive flywheel. Finely tuned, it is optimised for ‘just in time’ delivery. Of course, it goes through cycles in which activity runs too hot, followed by periods where things take a turn for the worse.