“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
-Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Life has a funny way of creeping up on us when we least expect it. Remember 2019? when we were planning vacations, weddings and all those wonderful New Years resolutions to mark the start of “the new you” for the new decade. Convinced that this time we’d actually stick to our resolutions at least till the end the of the year. Little did we know what was actually in store for us.
How about an unprecedented global health crisis and a worldwide economic slam-dunk that brought all our wonderful goals, plans, resolutions and basic daily life as we knew it to a screeching halt.
THE CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC
Suddenly the whole world became a post-apocalyptic landscape with abandoned streets and police checkpoints at every junction. People in gloves and masks scurrying around to stock up on food, supplies and toilet paper of course. And dooms-day theorists going, “yup! this is it guys,” as though the daily news wasn’t dreadful enough already.
No doubt, 2020 has been a scary, if not an exceedingly difficult time for a lot of us. Over-and-above those who were directly affected by the virus, the crash in the market lead to the demise of many small businesses and un-employment for millions of minimum wage workers who travelled a wretched journey from cities back to their villages. All the while, the rest of us locked up at home, unable to unite with friends and family and no clue on how and when things would let up and what that would even look like.
For the first time in history, the world was physically switched off and virtually tuned in. Netflix parties and zoom meetings are trending. People on the go suddenly found themselves with the unfamiliar luxury of time to explore new hobbies and ways to keep life interesting to avoid death by lockdown lethargy, let alone a virus.
And finally, the earth had a chance to heal.
A CRISIS OR A WAKEUP CALL
This was one of many forwards circulating on instagram highlighting and celebrating the positive effects of the pandemic on the environment. We could finally catch a glimpse of the magnitude of the environmental impact of human activity including industries, transportation and air travel as global air pollution levels dropped drastically after just 2 months of a pause.
New York; Just the daily traffic of the commute to work and back accounts for 50% of their Co2 emissions. Venice; Aquatic life, such as jellyfish are now visible as the water canals clear up. India; As the smog in the air lifts, the villagers of UP and Bihar joyfully witness the majestic sight of the Himalayan mountain range which was never visible due to the growing haze, ever since the first automobile or airplane.
On one hand a global economic crisis and on the other a global ecological dream come true. So, where does this leave us? Climate change activists around the world are screaming warnings of a carbon budget that gives us maybe 10 more years at our current pace before we are faced with more devastating global ecological issues, the likes of which we cannot even imagine. Extreme heat, floods, drought and poverty will make the COVID-19 pandemic seem like a small bump in the road. Is that what it would take to start moving towards a cleaner, greener and a more sustainable economy? Or would it be too late by then? Can this be our wakeup call?
IWAS PRODUCTS IN LOCKDOWN
As upcyclers, sure, we create quality products out of seemingly useless materials. But, what we really do, is we see opportunity in crisis situations. Where everyone else sees a problem, we see solutions. And we do this in a pretty radical way, if that’s not obvious enough. As being reliant on Goa’s tourists for its supply of raw materials such as wine and beer bottles, the business had to shut down for almost 2 months, with the unquestionable responsibility of looking after our labour-force with minimum wages, rations and medical assistance. IWAS Products, a company that’s deeply rooted in its ethical and ecological policies took a serious hit during this time as well. But it was the upcycler’s perspective that dodged its bitter end. The time we had on our hands was an opportunity for us to re-vamp our processes and scale-up production 10 fold. We had our game face on. Thanks to our diligent and committed team in India and Belgium and a clientele who supported the cause by buying Upcycled glassware, candles, and other products even during an economic crisis. Because of you, IWAS has risen out of the ashes like a phoenix through this pandemic and we are so grateful.
We know, not all businesses have shared the same fate. After nearly months in lockdown, the global economic crisis continues to affect the lives and livelihood of many. With no vaccine in sight, the world is now in this precarious position where the only option is to turn a blind eye to the existence of a lethal virus amongst us and resume our economic duties, while taking precautions and keeping our fingers crossed. That being said, the question is, whose running the show? Our planet? Our humanity? Or the economy?
“The climate- and ecological crisis can no longer be solved within today’s political and economic systems. That’s not an opinion. It’s just simple maths.” – Greta Thunberg