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Challenge in the face of change

We are living through a global crisis. With the declaration of a ‘pandemic’ in March, and the resulting lock downs, we are experiencing the many effects that this is having on our lives – socially, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Businesses are shut, people are without jobs, governments are making orders, and we are staying inside until it is safe to go out again.

With the crisis, came the crash of the stock markets – the global measure of economic prosperity that drives big business. The question many are asking is will the stock market recover after this event? Finance experts will tell you that there have been crashes before, and each time there is a crash, the market rises again, usually to a level that is even greater than the one before. The question I want to ask is, how do we want it to grow? Will it be a repeat of the past where big business and the wealthy few are in the driver’s seat, influencing governments, exploiting the environment, and taking what they can at all costs?

I have come to see “big business” as an organism that requires a diet of growth and expansion to turnover a profit, and ultimately pay dividends to ‘shareholders’ – the people who have a stake in the stock market. As an employee of a company listed on the stock exchange, I am reminded regularly that our company’s sales figures need to continually grow, and grow bigger each year. When growth doesn’t happen, we stop being effective, i.e. the mission of the company is compromised, and ultimately, shareholders to do not receive the dividends they expect.

As humans we should inherently know that growth cannot be continuous forever. Nature provides us with the most obvious insight into this phenomenon. An observation of the seasons is a case in point. With every upward trend, there is an equal and opposite downward trend. Growth and decline are constant, yet businesses (and the people who run them) seem to think the only way is up, and up, and up, and in this way of thinking they have not planned appropriately for when things go down. And they are going down now in a way that many of the CEOs, CFOs and boards of management had possibly never imagined.

Usually in down times, businesses go into damage control - streamlining, cut backs, restructuring, forced redundancies, less people doing more work in a shorter space of time, and – something we see a lot of in Australia – outsourcing of jobs to overseas markets where labour is cheaper. A blatant exploitation by companies on the circumstances of others to improve their bottom line. Of course, there are two sides to every story, and the counter argument is that this is helping bring people out of poverty, and in some instances, corporate social responsibility is being used to guide this process.

Today, without a doubt, things have changed. You may be in a worse position than you were before – out of work, no income, struggling to pay the rent or mortgage. Perhaps you are still employed but the way you work has completely changed. Maybe you are still employed and are yet to experience the effects that this crisis will have on your job or the business you work for. Who knows where we will be in six-months’ time or even a year? The future is very uncertain, and we are all in that boat, even if the view is slightly different for each of us.

For many, we feel like things are out of our control, and have been for a long time. The people with wealth have the most power, and use it to their advantage. They are the ones on the boards of big businesses and the ones with the most influence on government decisions with their lobby groups shouting in the ears of policy makers, and making donations so things go their way. They are pulling the strings to make their bottom line bigger and drive profits up, with little regard to the effect on the health of our society and the environment.

For the majority of us going about our lives, trying to make ends meet, it’s always been a case of how can I influence the government to do what I feel is right? Voting at election time is obviously one way to do this, but with elections every three to four years, is that an effective strategy? Starting or signing online petitions, donating to worthy organisations, participating in protest groups and rallies, or putting pressure on companies that contribute to the problems, are all useful ways to get the message across too. But a revolution is needed, and this crisis we are going through might be the catalyst we have been waiting for. I believe it is the catalyst that mother nature has been waiting for. We all know that our government was never going to take the environment seriously and adapt, even with all the science pointing to an inevitable climate crisis (and that crisis is still on the horizon). One of the most amazing things that has resulted from the global shut down is the dramatic decrease in pollution levels across major cities around the world. How wonderful is it for so many people to be able to breathe clean air and see the sky again?

So, will the global economic machine restart and try to fool you into thinking everything can go back to ‘normal’? How many of you will allow the indoctrination to seep into your psyche because the fear of uncertainty is so much greater than just going back to what was ‘normal’ and what you had before? Perhaps some of you have been actively protecting yourselves from these messages for some time, wanting to forge a different path by avoiding the influence of big business, with some measure of success.

So, what is the solution?

I truly wish I knew, and this is where I am asking for your help, dear reader, to think and

share your ideas. How can we navigate this new path forward, where there is darkness an inch in front of us? How can we use the power that we have as individuals to collaborate and make a better future for society and the planet? How can we protect the environment that we need in order to survive? Will we simply allow the government to direct us into doing what we must to ‘stay safe’, without questioning the loss of personal freedom? Will the collapse of so many businesses (big and small) open pathways for new, more sustainable ways of doing business in an uncertain world?

I know you have ideas and I am asking and encouraging you to share them so we can discuss and learn from each other. Perhaps you’ll leave a comment here, or be inspired to share your thoughts with your community and sphere of influence. We are on the brink of a new way of being. It’s time to rise to the challenge and get uncomfortable, and take action for a better future, for the planet and all that live on it.

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