OK, first I want to state that I don’t want this post to get political or overtly religious. Let’s be real: heated debates on such personal and subjective topics serve nothing in the overall scheme of things. My intent is to get some of my thoughts out about this crazy time we’re all in the midst of. Maybe some of you have had these kind of thoughts as well?
I also want to state that I’m not trying to trivialize this crisis in any way. This virus is truly insidious in its contagion and people have died. I’ve been trying to keep up on the science in real time, as much as possible. And we can’t overlook the economic toll either. These times are unprecedented and folks are suffering. There’s just no sugar-coating it.
Disclaimer aside, I can’t help but feel like Mother Nature has us in the crosshairs. In no time flat, and at a global level, everything just got laid bare. In the raw mess are the flaws of our societies, gutted, wide-open, and glaring. The flaws of our economies, our healthcare systems, our inequalities, our divisions, our loyalties…so on and so forth. Literally. Everything. Is exposed right now.
I also can’t help but feel that this may be the only way the human race will make the necessary changes to keep this planet functioning and habitable for future generations. We’ve had years, even decades, of warning and progress has been painfully slow. Blame who or whatever makes you feel better about it but, as a species, we all failed.
So, now what?
While I’d like to say we all wake up and suddenly do better, nothing’s ever so simple (and people are complex, as are their motives). Especially when the catalyst is forcing sudden changes in ways people find incredibly uncomfortable. A lot of folks naturally want to run back under the blanket and go back to sleep. It’s less painful.
But there have been upsides to this disaster and I think we’d be remiss to ignore them or discount them out of hand.
Re-Connecting With Oneself & Loved Ones
Being stuck at home may be annoying to some, particularly if you’re very social. For others, it’s provided a perfect opportunity to get things done around the house, get to know your kids or spouse better, and even get in some solid introspection time. Some have even realized they prefer working from home or homeschooling their kids or cooking from scratch. The time just wasn’t there before, with all of society’s demands.
Re-Evaluating What’s Important to You
This is one of the things many people are currently reflecting on – how much those demands took away from the quality of their lives. It’s making people re-evaluate what’s really important to them. And, they’re adapting to meet the moment. They’re connecting digitally with loved ones, planning/starting businesses that make their hearts sing, and making decisions (lifestyle, financial, personal, etc) that are likely to have some real staying power.
The Correlation Between Reduced Human Activity & Reduced Pollution
After the initial shutdowns kicked in, it became apparent pretty quick how much our hustle and bustle contributed to pollution. With so few cars on the road in major cities, Nature showed us how fast the air quality could start to improve. The slowdown of consumer behavior demonstrates how little we actually need to survive and, perhaps, even how wasteful we had been up to now. Many people are making decisions now, based on this, pledging to buy/use less and save their money, rather than spend it. Our economies will have to adjust to this new norm, as people revert back to the frugality of their ancestors. Nobody wants to get caught with their financial pants down again. It just leaves us too exposed.
The Rise of ESG/SRI Investments
As some stocks took major hits, others held up better in the downward slide. Oil stocks, which were already on the decline due to mass divestment of it and other pollution-related investment products, got pummeled. Companies are shutting down or declaring bankruptcy, many in the retail and restaurant sectors. Many of these, unfortunately, are small businesses (which are our communities backbones). Several shut down where I live, including our favorite date night spot.
In the midst of this, some sectors of the stock market are holding up better than others. Among these are ESGs/SRIs – also called Environmental, Social & Governance and Socially Responsible Investing – and even the Marijuana industry (if you ask me, this one’s gonna explode in coming years, especially if legalized at the federal level). Personally, if I could afford to invest, these are where I’d invest and had wanted to years before the pandemic.
Maybe I’m biased but I have my theories as to why these areas are doing better: because the kind of people who invest in them do so out of principles, not profit. Sure, seeing a return is nice but consider that many of these investors bought in when it wasn’t a popular thing to do at all, and people were even telling them (in their “conventional wisdom”) that these stocks were going nowhere. They bought in because it was something they believed in. Hence, they didn’t see the fear-based mass sell-offs that helped speed up the crash of the markets when the crisis hit.
Now, mind you, I work part-time at a local bank’s investment dept. (in admin, not advising) and I see how many clients are still trying to buy whatever sounds good this week, only to quickly sell it off if there’s even a slight whiff of “so, this isn’t going to help me recoup every cent I lost immediately”. I’m talking a regular 24-hour buy/sell turnaround time here in some cases. It amazes me. Some folks do it out of the stereotypical stock investor mentality of short-sightedness and others do it because they truly rely on the income from their investments to live on (and things just got real).
I can’t help but feel disappointment that folks let themselves fall prey to the fickleness of the markets when they’re so vulnerable to its whims. I mean, it went from dire straits to “hey, we’re back on everyone!” just on the promise that the government might do something – nothing had actually been done at that point and stocks were back on the rise already. If that doesn’t tell you that there isn’t much propping them up, besides hopes and dreams, nothing will. More reason to invest where you really feel it, and hang in there over the long haul, in my humble opinion.
But I digress…my apologies.
My main point here is that, despite the awfulness of our collective situation, there are indications that things can get better from here. I feel good that they will, at least eventually. There are promising developments on a vaccine. People are re-connecting and finding their own versions of a new normal. Economic indicators are positively leaning in the direction of social responsibility, clean energy, and other burgeoning industries that can provide a lot of good jobs in coming years. In the meantime, we have to hang in there and get through this incredibly tough time. I’d like to see us all do this together and by looking out for one another (as much as socially distancing allows us to, anyway, right?).
I’d like to leave you with a song that helps me feel good – Resilient by Rising Appalachia – because we are resilient and we will get through this. Be well, all!