As I watch the Australian skies blacken, the news channels go ticker-tape orange or decide whether or not it is smoke-safe to take my children outside, I feel the shift.
As I talk to people in the street, in my office, on the phone, on Facetime, at the Post Office or in the coffee line, we feel the shift.
During these first days of the brand new decade, society is at a standstill to see if it will still stand.
Do we need to stay the same? Busy, organised and important? Trading marbles and building card houses? Competing and comparing? Or do we just need to focus on staying indoors? Securing water and our windows? What matters now? We don’t know.
Behind the glow of our TV screens and smart phones, we are watching the tumbling destruction of a future. We are seeing the evaporation of nature, cuddly koalas, entire species, ecosystems, and the flora and fauna that supports us all.
And then up pops a Sponsored Ad.
“Be Gorgeous This Summer in Florals.”
A girl with perfectly placed teeth under a perfect sky with a fake laugh and a polyester Panama-appropriated straw hat.
Um. What the.
Who even is this woman and what is she doing.
Suddenly, these images feel very foreign even if we don’t understand why. There is a distance between us and the world these images live in now. Something doesn’t connect where it once did.
Maybe she makes us feel naive and silly? Maybe she looks like the epitome of all the privileged values we let create this mess? Maybe she just misses the mark.
We may not understand why we no longer want to be her, or to look like her, or to buy from her. But we do keep scrolling.
I had coffee at the beach with my friend the other day. While we sipped from our ceramic click cups we started chatting about one of our favourite topics. Homes. Otherwise known as real estate. We have both long been looking.
She told me her focus had shifted. They are now looking for a place out of town. Somewhere self sufficient. Where they can be ready to grow their own food and filter their own water if they ever need to.
This friend is not one of my Climate activist contacts. She is a top professional, Sydney eastern suburbs, private schooled person. She is the consumer demographic chosen by many Facebook boosted posts. And she too keeps scrolling.
All of us, regardless of our silos, are constantly inundated with reminders of both our collective complacency but also of our power to turn it around.
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We know that we need to change what we buy, how we buy and who we buy from. The genie is out of the bottle.
And it’s working. Every dataset and statistic shows that positive social impact projects and businesses are absolutely skyrocketing.
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Some pretty graphs that are also factual and prove my point.
Take me for example. Despite my (timid) efforts, I can not grow my own food, or make all my own things. I am short of time and have babies to care for and entertain. I still need to spend some carefree time with my husband and friends. I still need to laugh. I still need to feel safe. I still need to feel loved. I still need to feel hopeful. I still need things. To survive, but also make it worthwhile.
So you can still sell to me. Absolutely. But you will not catch me, my heart or my cash by making me feel small. Your ads about luxury and and short-term delights will no longer make me blink. They feel strange and outdated.
If you look closely, I am no longer trying to climb up the rungs of an unstable society. It seems a little creaky. I am looking to climb off it, outside of it. Change it, fix it, rebuild it, maybe even help fortify the new one.
I am not looking to the skies for a sign that anything is possible for me and I can be whoever I want. I am looking to the skies and seeing that everything is going dark and I need to do whatever I can. Life is no longer a Typo Tea-Cup.
If you are trying to solve my problems with your product, you have to recognise my biggest problem. Because it’s a global one.
Social impact is no longer an empathetic side-note. It is core value proposition. My biggest problem is not a lack of gorgeous floral outfits to wear to the next party. My biggest problem is uncertainty about the future. But I also happen to have a party to go to. What can you sell me?
If you want me to stop scrolling, you need to explain to me how we are going to help each other. My money is my time and I am starting to think a lot more seriously about how to spend both.
I need to know what sort of world you believe in and how you are helping to build it. I need to know how you make the things you make. Where it comes from, who makes it, what it changes for us. Do you leave waste behind?
Eventually, I will want know about your business plan. Now and into the future. Have you moved your shareholders and investors away from extraction and resource exploitation? You will lose me quickly if I find out you’re not made of conviction.
Unfortunately, I really do not want to know how you help on the side. In your margins. I don’t really care what percentage is for charity, otherwise known as your outsourced story to tell. This used to be enough, I’m so sorry. But now I need to see it in your spine. Especially if you want mine to shiver.
Otherwise you are just white noise to me. Drowning in a sea of self-impact, dressed up as social-impact. And I can see it the difference.
We all can.
We know the difference between floral and flora.
You might be thinking this all sounds too hard and I can just keep my money and you will sell to someone else. But I assure you, I am far from alone. I have never been an early adopter. I’m not starting now. I am the quintessential trend follower. At best, I am an early majority.
I have shifted because we are shifting. Things within us all are changing. Faster than the skies. Faster than the seas. It might not work for you and your Facebook ads right now. But it could just be what saves you.
By Matisse Walkden-Brown.