Brave new world
10 Feb 2022
This week: Navigating the certainty of uncertainty.
Omicron may have dashed hopes in 2022 for a snap back to normalcy (whatever that means), but nearly two years on from the first lockdowns, we’re learning to live in the not-so-normal-normal.
• Coronavirus is likely to become a persistent but hopefully manageable threat, reports the New York Times, as cases drop and mask-mandates begin to loosen. If a threat is manageable, is it still a threat? Anthony Fauci, the world’s most tired man, seems pretty optimistic. “Things are looking good,” he said. “We don’t want to get overconfident, but they look like they’re going in the right direction right now.”
• Ah, overconfidence. Like leaving your gym bag at the office in March of 2020, or thinking the supply chain issues as of late were just a phase. Courier’s 2022 trend report said it straight: "From manufacturing delays to bad weather, supply chain woes are here to stay. It's time to adapt.” Well, Domino’s has. (Yes, you read that right.) Purveyors of that good ol’ fashioned greasy delivery pizza will now pay you to pick up your own food because, you know, national labor shortages. Keep calm, and carry your pizza box home.
• Some small brands have found success in weathering the storm. In New York, home goods store INCASA pivoted to selling smaller, locally made items when fulfilling far-flung orders like large furniture became tricky during the pandemic. Appear Here partner The Good Neighbour Shop embraced the unknown with its roving pop-up model in neighborhoods around London. “Having that flexibility to easily extend or do two weeks or three weeks somewhere is a huge benefit for us,” founder John Wright shared.
From wrung-out healthcare systems, to food shortages, to your local cafe’s quarter life crisis (coins — we have none), wading through the muck of the last two years definitely won’t be a cakewalk.
But if these waves of unpredictability never end, we might as well grab a surfboard and try to find our balance again. Cowabunga?
LEMONS, MEET LEMONADE
Pandemic-related constraints have squeezed us, but at least we have something to show for it.
• For starters, ‘rona-scarcity has nudged us toward more sustainable habits. “In 2022, companies will be increasingly differentiated by how sustainable they are” or so says Wired UK. Local suppliers have come out on top, shrinking supply chains and carbon footprints alike. “Reports on both sides of the Atlantic have also shown that since Covid more people are now choosing to shop locally, and from small businesses,” reports the BBC.
• The pandemic showed us that human interactions > transactions, everytime. Marcus Books, a Black-owned bookshop in Oakland was able to keep its doors open because of the support of its devoted local community. “A lot of the sort of businesses that we're seeing today are successful because they're not [necessarily] scalable,” explains technology reporter Kevin Roose in an interview with NPR. “And that's a signal because what people are paying a premium for in those businesses is the handmade quality of these goods, the fact that they're not being churned out in a warehouse in China somewhere.”
• Ana Andjelic, who writes the Sociology of Business newsletter, arrives at a similar conclusion. “Recently, we have seen a shift in appreciation (of desirability and value) of artisanal items like cookware and homeware, antique furniture and vintage fashion, and hand-crafted objects like kitchen knives,” she observes. “Related is the rise in secondary marketplaces, where the story around an item, item rarity and the high of the hunt is deemed more valuable in value than its price.”
It’s been two years of pandemic pandemonium, and we’re all longing for the warm-and-fuzzies. But the brave new world keeps keepin’ on — and we know better than to get too comfortable.
Aldous Huxley said it himself: “Stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability.”
Words by Nicola Pardy, a freelance writer and producer living in New York.