It’s time to look back at 2020 one last time. What do you associate with 2020? Crises, social distancing, lockdowns? Looking back can cause pain. It can – but it doesn’t have to.
In addition to all the difficulties that society was confronted with in the past year, there were also positive developments. Some of them resulted as side effects of the crisis, some simply happened but got lost in the flood of negative news, despite sitting right under our noses and having a direct effect on our lives. Let’s revisit 2020 and start to appreciate them.
1. People see their immediate environment in a new light
What do you do when you can’t really do anything? Cinemas are closed, so are pubs, eating out is not possible and even cosy get-togethers with friends at home are not possible.
Mankind experienced a situation which was almost unthinkable before the year 2020. And people got creative. They came up with various coping mechanisms that helped them to endure the lockdowns. After endlessly watching television, surfing the internet for hours and baking banana bread, which eventually loses its appeal, people were drawn out of their homes – keeping a safe distance, in most cases at least. They spent their time going for long walks, exercising and doing whatever was allowed in the fresh air. They explored streets in their own neighbourhood that they had never noticed before. They moved from shop window to shop window and looked at the goods on display with decelerated, juvenile curiosity. In this way, people got to know and appreciate their immediate surroundings again – with all the possibilities it offers them. We hope that this new bond between people and their immediate surroundings will sustain after the pandemic.
2. Cars in a new guise: do we like it?
Cars have been a major problem in our society for decades. In the era of lockdowns and social distancing, the car suddenly took on a completely new role. Along with walking and cycling, it was a safe alternative to public transport, in which people get from A to B in close proximity to each other. Those who wanted to significantly reduce the risk of infection preferred to grab the car keys – even if, according to studies, public transport was not as big a source of danger as was first assumed. Another plus point: the car also brought us safely to various hiking destinations in our leisure time.
Cars are omnipresent in our society, they convey status and stand for a self-determined lifestyle. Unfortunately, the public discourse on motorised individual traffic is often conducted from extreme viewpoints: Freedom-loving individualists versus renunciation-glorifying ecologists. The pandemic has taught us that we might want to change this debate. We should not ban cars from roads. Rather, we should talk about more efficient and fair use. That’s why we think that shared mobility – i.e. car sharing, rental scooters, city bikes & co. – will gain significant popularity in the medium to long term as a result of the Corona crisis. In terms of sustainability, we should carefully consider in the future whether every household really needs its own car – in 2019, Austria counted to 566.1 cars per 1,000 inhabitants. The new motto is: sharing instead of owning! Because it’s the same with public transport: if you follow hygiene and distance rules, you don’t take any additional risk when using shared mobility offers.
3. Crisis as a springboard for new visions
Even as the first lockdown hit society badly, visionaries, start-ups and companies have begun to learn their lessons and use the crisis as a launchpad for new developments and more sustainable actions. For example, digitalisation in the retail sector has advanced strongly in the last year – numerous businesses that had previously not been represented online have set up their own online shop or offer their goods/services on an established platform.
Other companies are considering using the crisis to optimise corporate mobility – to find out more check out this blog article.
We have noticed that the crisis has also had its positive sides, especially when it comes to long overdue changes. Old routines have been broken, entrenched systems were redesigned and reinvented. With a little courage, modern, innovative solutions and concepts that have been waiting in the drawer for some time can be introduced right now.
4. America is great again
Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, or completely neutral about politics in the US, there’s one thing (almost) all non-Americans agree on: Trump as president has been a disaster. Most recently, he has proven this through his poor conduct with regard to Corona – the impact of the pandemic in the US was as bad and severe as in almost no other nation.
We also remember, among numerous other escapades such as calling for a run on the Capitol, that Trump initiated the withdrawa of the USl from the Paris Agreement, the most important agreement towards climate protection on earth.
The Trump “era” is now over – and with Joe Biden, a successor has taken office who wants to reverse the withdrawal from the agreement on his first day in office and even strives for climate neutrality with the USA.
5. China to become CO2-neutral in 2060
Not only the new US president has big climate goals. China as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (responsible for a quarter of global emissions) has also set a target date for climate neutrality. At a UN General Assembly, President Xi Jinping stated that he wanted to achieve this goal by 2060 – the turning point should be no later than 2030. From then on, emissions will decrease steadily.
There is criticism that the decarbonisation of the Chinese economy is not being shifted up a gear immediately. In view of the devastating climate scenarios we will all face in a few decades, China cannot afford to continue with business as usual until 2030. China should take its cue from the EU member states, who have agreed on climate neutrality by 2050. However, it remains to be seen whether the EU will actually manage to lay the necessary foundation for complete decarbonisation in the coming years.
6. The crisis welds us together – regionality is booming
ho would have thought that before 2020 you would ever be celebrated for using a delivery service? That’s how times change. Because the crisis has made people much more aware of the topic of regionality. It was suddenly important to support local restaurants, shops and producers – because without the income from take-away and delivery services, we would have seen a much bigger wave of bankruptcies than we have unfortunately seen in some areas. 2020 was a disaster for the retail sector, but the change in thinking compensated for the damage to a small extent. In the long term, the sector will profit a lot from this.
And also in the interpersonal area, the crisis has welded us together – there were relief actions, donations and mutual support in the most diverse areas, neither politically nor economically motivated. And that is a good sign: When cohesion is what society needs, the people make it happen. We help each other without expecting something in return.