Sustainability
Opinion Article
December 22, 2020

Hopes and wishes for what comes next: Smart Green Lifestyles

Hopes and wishes for what comes next (2/3): Smart Green Lifestyles

 

The covid-19 pandemic rages on. According to the latest WHO’s covid-19 situation report #162 (WHO, 2020),we now have 10 185 374 people globally infected with a toll of 503 862 dead.This represents an increase of over 4 million infections and roughly 137 thousand deaths since my last blog post one month ago. Whilst expanding on the possibilities of where the current “path of change” is leading us, the objective of the present blog post (as the second of three brief opinion articles) is to continue contrasting the evolving grim scenario with the highlights of happier hopes and wishes for the future, that can also provide some ointment to the challenges and sacrifices that we are now doing in the present.

 

As a glimpse to the below, my second hope for the post-pandemic relates to the wish that some of the new behaviours being adopted in the wake of covid-19 find a way to adhere to the new normal lifestyle. Especially those that fully align with the aspirational and evolving concept of a “green good life” and that materialize the democratization of “smart green lifestyles”.

 

#2 – Smart Green Lifestyles:

 

My last blog post ended with the question of whether the current pandemic had the strength to persistently alter valuations and propel behavioural change towards more sustainable approaches. This is an important question, as behaviour is key to economics. Behaviour defines consumption patterns, which in turn shape aggregate demand that induce changes on the supply side. Behavioural change is typically driven by valuation (by desire or need), it often takes time to sink in and to be adherent it must be voluntary, not imposed. The current behavioural change witnessed in response to the covid-19 pandemic has been imposed, hence there is still significant uncertainty on whether some of the changes in behaviour witnessed in the recent months will adhere to the “new normal”.

 

Some of the recent covid-19 propelled behavioural changes denote however deeper underlying processes, related to the ongoing shift in our techno-economic paradigm (Perez, 2002).Indeed, the imposed confinement has changed our way of living towards an online life. Online working, shopping, studying, entertaining, exercising, have been tenets of the new normal. The new way of living has also extended to apparel and care, with masks and sanitizing gel standing as essential accessories when leaving home. But as the lockdown eases and the new normal finds its way in,some of the covid-19 driven behaviours will also be driven out. The use of masks will continue as long as the virus is on the loose. But wearing masks is fuelled by the momentary urge of the pandemic and masks will likely fall out of fashion as soon as the virus is controlled.

 

On the other hand,there are covid-19 induced behaviours that will find adherence to the new normal, as they relate to deeper shifts in evolving consumer demand associated to our current age of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT).  is likely to be one of such behaviours as it stands as one of the features of the aspirational lifestyle of our present ICT age: the “green goodlife” (Perez, 2018).Naturally involving a more intensive use of ICT in all aspects of life, other features of this “smart green lifestyle” include: (i) the focus on sustainability via the inclination towards natural materials, minimization of waste, promotion of reutilization and recycling; (ii) the focus on health andwell-being with exercise, fitness and preference for “…organic, locally sourced fresh foods rather than highly processed ones” (Jacobs & Mazzucato, 2016, p. 202); and (iii) the favouring of experiencing, access and renting in detriment to ownership.

 

The concept of “smartgreen lifestyles” also expands to the energy field, where the ongoing technological evolution of the ICT age is bringing a complete revolution to theways we use and manage energy. This revolution is happening inside our homes,where we are witnessing an increasing electrification of energy consumption(including heating and cooling), with ever more efficient electrical appliances, and where consumers now have the option to also produce and sell electricity. The democratization of power supply is also revolutionizing our neighbourhoods, where the technological advances that make grids smart will soon allow neighbours to trade electricity between one another, whilst the usage of public lighting will be more efficient by actively following movement in response to demand. Mobility is also an energy related area where the new technological frontiers of our ICT age are propelling intense innovation. The arrival of electrical vehicles and outlook of its fast deployment despite the pandemic (IEA, 2020)is one of the many expressions of such dynamism, along with the new, more efficient, data driven platforms for planning a trip, calling a cab, sharing a ride, a car or even a bicycle.

 

All in all, it is likely that after covid-19 the world will be somehow different. How different no one can tell. But what can be observed with confidence is that the new normal of the post-pandemic will entail a directionality towards smart green lifestyles, that in turn will have cross impacts across all aspects of life.Smart green lifestyles are welcomed, but they are not a panacea as their adoption will also bear negative impacts: e.g. the impact of being online on mental health and the over-exposure to ICT in early child development. As always, in periods of crisis and transformation, the role of governments is key to steer behavioural change, whilst promoting ways to mitigate the negative impacts of the change we are living in. What will be the government’s role after the pandemic? Will governments be able to find appropriate responses to the ensuing mounting social and economic challenges? What about the values of solidarity and community? Will they find a way to the new normal of the post-pandemic and continue being the glue of society? These are some of the questions to explore in the next blog post.

 

This content was originally published in "Bloco Zero"

João Nolasco

João Nolasco

Nova SBE Alumnus, João is an Energy Economist interested in topics related to public policy. During the last 10 years he has worked for international development organisations and for electric utilities, including the African Development Bank, the European Commission, and EDP. All opinions shared are his own.

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