2020 Impacts on Our Lifestyles
January 28, 2021
2020 was a year unlike any other – the world’s events caused shifts in lifestyle, and changes in how to experience work, relationships, and life. The pandemic made many of us pay attention to science for the first time in years —and learn how to discern between fake news and real science. Stay at home orders, combined with limitations on travel, caused many to renew interests in things such as cooking, baking, and gardening, or even reconnecting with nature as we tried to get out of our homes in a safe way. Staying at home also gave us the extra time to become passionate about causes like climate change. Take a look at some of the major impacts the pandemic had on our way of life:
Connecting with Our Food Supply
In the early days of the global pandemic, the food supply was tested as supply chains worked to adapt to closures, shortages, diversions, and hoarding in order to avoid a global food crisis. Governments worked quickly to ensure essential agricultural supplies and inputs continued to move along trade routes efficiently. Regional agreements helped farm workers continue to move between countries and regions to support plantings, growing seasons, and harvests. Widespread restaurant and school closures meant quickly diverting food to different destinations. As livestock and poultry facilities were impacted by the pandemic, meat supplies felt mild fluctuations. Digital and precision agriculture tools became essential for monitoring crop health, while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Even as the global food supply stabilized itself, for the first time in generations, in some parts of the world, consumers faced food shortages and purchasing limits, giving them cause to take a moment to understand where food comes from — and to learn about the nature of agriculture and global supply chains. The pandemic helped provide consumers with a lens on how food is grown and what farmers do, and the real journey from farm to fork. What’s more, it helped people appreciate how essential and diverse those working in the food supply chain are — from farm workers to truck driver to grocery store employees.
Creating a More Personal Connection with Food
Worldwide, stay at home orders combined with widespread restaurant closures forced more to cook for themselves. For some, it was a chance to reconnect with or try new hobbies, like baking, cooking and even home gardening. Flour and yeast were in short supply, and social media was dominated with photos of people cooking gourmet meals. “Victory” gardens became popular as we tested out our green thumbs and tried being “stay at home farmers.” Gardens provided us with a miniature view of farming — and introduced us to some of the challenges, albeit on a small scale, of what farmers face, such as drought, pests, and weeds.
While many were producing and making more food from our homes, we also took a more local view on sourcing our produce. This was partly driven by necessity as panic buying and relying on long supply chains was initially a cause for concern, but also the growing desire to support local businesses suffering during the pandemic. This increased connection between the public and vital services, such as growing our food, was a running theme as we became more aware of the people behind the scenes working hard to make it all happen.
The pandemic made many of us pay attention to science and seemed to extend the pro-science movement that began several years ago. For many, lifestyle choices became rooted in science. What’s more, people began to search for and read scientific information, as well as discern between real and fake news.
Worldwide, there’s been a renewed reliance and respect for science — without scientists and researchers, we would not have developed vaccines so quickly. This past year, scientists became recognized celebrities, we routinely tuned in to reports from the WHO and national health experts, and science-based policy took a front seat.
The Positive Impact of Staying at Home on the Environment
As countries across the world entered into lockdowns, reduced global travel and a lack of everyday commuting significantly reduced climate change impacts. We were treated to a view of a world where humans were making far less of an impact on their environment: smog clouds cleared over large cities, animals made a return to urban areas and waterways that were previously inhospitable to their presence, and during lockdown, daily global emissions reduced by 17 percent compared with 2019 as surface transport reduced significantly. While consumer behavior changed, governments and multilateral organizations continued to progress policies and actions to mitigate climate change.
What remains to be seen is how pandemic habits that have reduced climate change will continue into the future. Will new habits and hobbies such as biking and walking continue past the pandemic and become a new way of commuting? Will we continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating commuting in the future? Will urban areas continue to welcome the biodiversity and wildlife that has returned these last few months?
Over the past year, the pandemic has changed our way of life, and introduced some new habits and ways of thinking. While many of these changes have been beneficial, it remains to be seen if these shifts will remain and we can continue to reap their benefits. Will new attitudes towards science carry over to other policy areas and decision making? Can we enjoy science-based decision making in different industries, including agriculture? Can we continue to deepen the public’s understanding of agriculture and what’s needed to feed the world? Can global food systems transform, build farmer resilience, and help achieve Zero hunger? 2021 holds the potential for a lot of positive change for the world, for our people and planet.