What will the world look like in a year from now? Sarah Daniell asked great "thinkers" from around the world - film-makers, authors, scientists, academics and musicians - to speak of their hopes, the folly - or otherwise - of making predictions.
And the forecast for next year is ...David Mitchell
"There are two kinds of forecasters," wrote economist and diplomat J.K. Galbraith, "those who don't know and those who don't know they don't know." I aspire to be the former type, so I need to tinker with my assignment and change "What 'will' the world look like one year from now?" to "What do you 'hope' the world will look like one year from now?" It is too true that no kinder, fairer, saner world was ever ushered into being by hope-power alone but it is also true that no kinder, fairer, saner world ever came about *without* it being wanted by a critical mass of people. In this spirit, then …
One year from now, I hope we remember who got us through the lockdown. Doctors, nurses, paramedics and police, yes. Also, hospital ancillary staff, cleaners, supermarket staff, warehouse workers, drivers, couriers, postal workers, refuse workers and, not forgetting the farmers who grow our food and the (usually) immigrant pickers who pick it. I hope the idea that these people should be paid, valued and protected properly is never again some whack-job Marxist pipe-dream.
I hope we are still keeping a friendly eye out for our neighbours. I hope we don't revert to being indifferent to thousands of fellow citizens sleeping in doorways or under flyovers, just because they are no longer possible vectors for a killer virus.
One year from now, I hope that advocates for government being cut "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub" (thank you Grover Norquist, US lobbyist) have reconsidered the desirability of an impotent state. I hope that more voters understand that impotent states revert to plutocracies in democratic rags; and that unless you're one of plutocrats, or a rival nation, plutocracy is bad for your health. At the other end of the spectrum, I hope that regimes seeking to use Covid-19 as an excuse to discard civil rights are being checked.
I hope more people recognise that reality is complex; that knowledge requires effort; that conspiracy theories are the junk food of the mind – salty, sugary and addictive, but lacking any nutritional value. I hope that more of us note that if prayer was effective in averting epidemics, epidemics would not exist. I hope that more of us recognise that the loudest attackers of the "fake media" are shysters seeking to kill trust in *any* media not supportive of the shyster's interests or beliefs. I hope we continue to value expertise, and not belittle it or vilify it.
This should go without saying, but I hope there will be no scapegoating of Chinese people, overt or covert. Beijing's initial handling of Covid-19 was poor, but a population of 1.4 billion cannot sanely be blamed for its government's shortcomings, especially when none of those 1.4 billion is permitted to vote. I hope we'll remember that many governments took early refuge in denial. Let us not forget the daily S***-Show Royale presented by the Very Stable Genius at the head of the free world.
One year from now, I hope that our economies are adjusting to the financial shock of Covid-19. I hope we can once again browse in shops, meet in cafes, go to the cinema, take holidays and enjoy a few of the good things in life, while redefining what a "good thing" is. I hope that we tailor our consumption to what we truly need, not what we are told we need or persuade ourselves we need. I hope the idea of living sustainably is never again mocked as "green s***" but valued as common sense. I hope we nourish the tentative gains made by the natural world during the lockdown. I hope we think of clean air as a human right. I hope we live long enough to consider the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 both as the beginning of an end and the beginning of a beginning.
David Mitchell is a multiple-award-winning author, who has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Utopia Avenue, by David Mitchell (Hachette, $38) will be available on July 14.
Small steps, big targetsDr Ocean Mercier
He iti mokoroa, ka hinga puriri
Although the caterpillar is small, it can fell the ironwood tree
This is my favourite whakatauki (proverb) to show students an example of how mātauranga, Māori knowledge and science are embedded together in these little pearls of wisdom. Here, we are introduced to mokoroa, the name for the larva or caterpillar before it metamorphosises into the puriri moth. Another species from Tane's domain is specifically named – puriri. Settlers called this tree "iron wood": its heavy, hard wood was used to great effect in pā palisades and railway sleepers. The whakatauki alludes to puriri wood's density. Māori materials physics, anyone? It also alludes to the ecological relationship between mokoroa and puriri. Whakatauki provide astute observations of the natural world, and they also have a social message for us humans.
One interpretation of this whakatauki is that you don't have to be great, to achieve great things. There are many Māuis, Davids and Gretas that have tackled seemingly insurmountable obstacles in spite of humble origins. Small things can have big impacts, and small, co-ordinated steps toward big targets, such as elimination, eradication, net-zero emissions or 1.5C warming, can achieve their ends. But it's not just the targets that need to be there, it's clear and agreed strategies. Lately in Aotearoa we've seen effective leadership and good communication encourage us to trust that radically changing our own behaviours will "save lives". Can we do the same for protecting Papatūānuku?
Besides Covid-19's global impacts, we've got other urgent crises and big mountains to scale – planetary health, social injustice, green jobs, attention to maximum wages as well as living wages, emotional, mental and spiritual resilience, the list goes on. The palpable pandemic-induced will to do things differently, in 2021 I hope will translate into coordinated plans and fresh actions that empower individuals to feel like what they do, makes a difference.
Like many whakatauki, "e hinga puriri" has multiple interpretations. The message of "we can do anything" that is there, sits alongside one of "we can wreck anything". We might feel relatively insignificant as individuals but we have a huge collective impact on our environment. We draw voraciously on an Earth with finite resources. Our numbers and our patterns of consumption are putting the whole puriri tree at risk of complete collapse.
We have power, either way, as individuals. We can either bring about catastrophic changes through selfish individual actions, or we can make small and co-ordinated steps towards ambitious, positive targets that together amount to a metaphorical bringing-down of Goliath. A year from now, I hope that we've captured what's been good about lockdown. I expect to fly less, to be more active locally, to travel more consciously and wisely, cook more, and take action to reduce the other wasteful impacts of human life. In lockdown, my husband and I started using te reo Māori while solving our crosswords. In 2021 it will be normal to hear te reo in our home. In 2021 our home will continue to be a place of exchanging ideas, learning from each other and working together.
How can each of us respond as individuals and smaller communities such as households and whānau? My wish-list is of small, co-ordinated convictions and actions but they add up to a bigger whole. Actions that are informed by science and mātauranga, governed by Tiriti principles, will help us move, even if only with baby steps, together into a healthy future.
Dr Ocean Mercier is a senior lecturer at Te Kawa a Māui, where she teaches Te Pūtaiao Māori/Māori science and cultural mapping.
Thoughts from an itinerant musician during lockdownDelaney Davidson
I am most comfortable on the road. Even if I am at home I pack the suitcase and leave it behind the door. Ready to go.
I am a zealous believer in the small, intimate concert. Being able to eyeball each person in the room. Getting up close and reaching out to connect. I recently toured Japan and was amazed to see the small concert being something celebrated in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Venue capacities set at 8 people, and people enjoying evenings of connection and participation, coming to stay for the whole evening.
I played some small events in tiny bars where space is a premium. Venues with one man selling tickets, doing the sound, operating the lights with a marionette set up, and serving drinks. People gathering to make a night together, not just there for the consumption til they drift off to the next distraction.
In Kyoto I went to a Buto performance in a small room with a seven-person audience smeared round the walls, the performer coming down out of the rafters to dance in the middle of the room. It was the final nail for me. I was converted. The power of the show was a huge feature of the event. I left the small theatre with my head on fire. I had always preferred small events both as an audience member and as a performer but this gave a whole new validation to my gut feeling.
Back in New Zealand I organised a small towns tour of the South Island eager to explore this new angle. Twizel, Oamaru, Wanaka, Ophir, Stewart Island, Peel Forest, Invercargill, Port Chalmers.
This tour was a casualty of the lockdown. So was my exhibition in Dunedin and my tour of the United States. Getting back to how things were is a big question mark in the future.
I tried out my first online show and found I really enjoyed it. People could buy a ticket at Under the Radar, tune into delaney_davidson on Instagram and see me performing old songs, a handful of new ones and even a story for the more adventurous viewers.
I found myself at the end of it, standing in my lounge room all dressed up, feeling post-show elation and staring at my couch. I ended up sitting on that couch until 4am, trying to comprehend what this meant for me as a touring performer.
With only my phone and a little set-up time, I could simultaneously broadcast a show to viewers in their houses in evening New Zealand and the breakfast crowd of Denmark and Germany. It still had the intimacy I liked, performing alone in my living room - and it was the most geographically stretched show I have ever done.
What do we take out of these ashes? Nurturing the embers to keep the flame alive takes the most attention and care, once the fire is roaring we can leave it to warm us through.
Delaney Davidson is a New Zealand musician who has been named as a finalist with Barry Saunders, in the Recorded Music NZ Te Kaipuoro Tuawhenua Toa Best Country Music Artist Country awards. For info on his next show, Saturday, May 30, see: undertheradar.co.nz/ticket/12173/Delaney-Davidson-Live-Online.utr
Light a candleGuillermo Arriaga
There is a Chinese proverb that says: "Don't blame darkness, instead, light a candle." The question now: are we going to be able to light candles after this pandemic?
Beyond the severe damages to the health of millions of people and the death of thousands, this virus bared the gigantic failures of the economies of dozens of countries, among them mine, Mexico.
In many nations we had been divided in two: the ones who have the privilege of locking down and the ones who, due to their basic economic needs, can't. It is shameful.
The trickle-down economy, that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher tried to convince the world was going to be the remedy to all our problems, only created greater voids between social classes.
It is funny how the first nations that recently oppose globalisation are: England and the United States. In the 80s I heard time and again from pompous British and American economists that the integration of international economies would save the world from poverty, from inequality, from hunger.
Just a few years before Mr Corona appeared in the form of a killer virus, globalisation began showing its cracks. Brexit became the poster boy of this sinking boat.
The privatisation of health services, the "thinning" of the "deep state", the savings, the defence of corporations, showed the limitations of the world economy.
Slavery is now disguised as cheap labour. Desperation and frustration became fertile soil for drug addiction and alcoholism. Third World countries fuelled the substances and provided the business killings necessary to keep this merry-go-round working.
In countries like mine, the lockdown created more chaos. The cartels, used to trucking loads of money coming from the gabacho, suddenly saw their profits plummeting.
Murders, kidnappings, extortion, on the rise. Yes, we have been exposed by the virus.
After a year, things will come back to normal and, believe it or not, this is an optimistic view. We are not coming out of our houses to see a world destroyed by a war, with crumbled buildings and handicapped people and widows and orphans and blood and destruction.
We are coming out to a world still standing. We will slowly shake hands again, hug again, drink and eat at restaurants, enjoy a film. The economy will run smoothly again, with angry workers all over the world watching fewer and fewer people getting rich, workers who would vote for the extreme right, thinking the enemy are the migrants who escape from nations that had been predated by an insane world economy.
We will hear the same political speeches, we will see how the wealth of a few grows, we will use technologies never imagined.
In other words: in one year we will be the same. And in 10 years a new pandemic will come and we will be as ill-prepared as we are now and we will be again bared by a strange virus, hoping that we will learn the lesson we didn't learn a few years before. And then, maybe then, we can light a candle.
Guillermo Arriaga is a Mexican author, screenwriter, director and producer. In 2017 he won the Mazatlan Prize for Literature for The Untameable. The Untameable, (Hachette, $38 ) is available July 14
The Notebook Martin Wilkinson
We are in the midst of a pandemic. People are dying, societies are locked-down, economies are in free-fall, the state has massively expanded its powers. The world is going to change. We might see a permanent collapse in tourism, the death of the office, and a new-found respect for government. Or not. What will happen? I don't know. My balls are hairy, not crystal.
That's an aphorism I first heard when I was 18. I thought it was just funny then. Now I think it is profound. After years of listening to my family, my friends, my colleagues, my bosses, people in pubs, and media pundits, I believe:
1. People think they know what's going to happen
2. But they are often wrong
3. When they are wrong, they don't admit they were wrong.
Why don't they admit they were wrong? Sometimes they forgot - or maybe just "forgot" they made the prediction. Sometimes they forgot what they predicted and think that they did more or less predict what happened. They are like gamblers on roulette who bet on 23 red and say they almost won because 22 or 24 came up (or 8, or 10, which are next to 23 on the wheel – one can be almost right in so many ways). I used to think that most people were lying weasels about their predictions but perhaps they just have some unconscious hindsight bias, where they genuinely believe that they knew what happened before it happened.
I have my doubts when people say they knew it all along. So I have been keeping a small book in which I write down my friends' and colleagues' predictions. Some predictions, or lucky guesses, have come true enough (level 4 would last for five weeks), others have been way out (level 4 wouldn't end until next year). I wave the book at the ones who were wrong. I have fewer friends now, but my family weren't allowed to leave at level 3.
When I was asked to write this piece, I was invited to tell you my hopes as well as my beliefs about the future. I hope the economy will bounce back, but in a green sort of way and with the benefits more fairly shared. But it's risky mixing up what we hope will happen with what we think will happen. You might want Donald Trump to lose the presidency but whether he loses has nothing to do with your hopes. Hopes should not affect predictions. And yet some people are pessimists and their predictions are corrupted by their gloom. Other people are optimists and their predictions are corrupted by their wishful thinking.
I am not saying we should not predict. I am not saying our predictions are always unreliable. I am saying that we could do with more humility about our predictions and the bigger the prediction, the more humble we should be. Remember this: the reason this series of thought pieces was commissioned is because of a pandemic that no one knew would happen.
Martin Wilkinson is a professor of politics and international relations at the University of Auckland
To sleep, perchance to dreamArielle Kilker
As we adapt to life in quarantine, we can't help but notice its many revelations. Grandparents are good at using Zoom, parents are bad at teaching maths and every day is Thursday. But perhaps the most startling has been the conversation surrounding dreams. We seem to be dreaming more often and more intensely. It makes sense – with the outside world off-limits, there is nowhere to go but to sleep and dreamscapes have become the only place for our hungry minds to explore.
Of course, there are logical explanations for this phenomenon: changes in sleep patterns, increased anxiety, the extra pour of whiskey we now require. But correlation does not equal causation and it's hard to ignore the feeling that something bigger is happening. These are no ordinary dreams. They're the kind of dreams that haunt you, that threaten to change your life.
Change is always scary and these dreams are often disturbing. However, there is some comfort in their being shared. Though we may be separated, there's a sense that we're in this together, sleepwalking hand-in-hand. But to the extent that we're sharing a dream, what is the dream we share? The sweet dream of utopia or a dystopian nightmare?
Eventually, this quarantine will end. We'll have to wake up and get to work rebuilding the world. It'll be up to us to decide what we want it to look like – a version of the old one or an attempt at something new. As we can now see, technology alone will only take us so far. To make lasting improvements to society, we must all first make a great change within ourselves. Perhaps these quarantine dreams are a signal, an opportunity, to start that long, hard process.
Just as we dreamed collectively, we'll have to wake collectively.
Arielle Kilker is an LA-based film-maker, who developed, produced, co-directed and edited the smash hit Netflix documentary, Cheer
You are here nowMike Joy
Now that we have reached May 2021, it is easy to see that Covid-19 was our wake-up call. People of all nations took note that it was only the countries who trusted independent science whose lives and economies were saved. So what else has independent science been telling us lately?
We emerged from lockdown newly able to appreciate the multiple warnings given by tens of thousands of scientists: "If we don't act soon, there will be catastrophic biodiversity loss and untold amounts of human misery." Most of the global population now understood that Covid-19 was just a gentle warning. Climate change would be far worse: biodiversity crash, antibiotic resistance, soil loss and new viruses released into human populations as animals were forced to mingle with us due to habitat loss.
New Zealand 2021 is a completely different place. Kids have taken back their streets from cars. Pedestrians and cyclists have priority cars in urban areas, cycleways are bigger and better maintained than roads. You rarely see single-occupant cars since the tax tripling their price unless they were purchased by community groups as share cars. All public transport is free and electric-powered. In cities cars are banned except on arterial routes, and deliveries happen at night only.
Streams and rivers are already noticeably cleaner now we've solved the run-off problem in urban areas. Carparks and footpaths have had millions of holes drilled in them so water can soak into the ground, where the pathogens, sediment and metals it carries can be assimilated and neutralised by bacterial action in the soil.
In rural areas streams are running clearer now clear-fell forestry on hills is banned. Almost all steep land is being planted with natives, with permanent forest carbon sinks driven by the rising carbon price, currently at $200/tonne. Streams are healthier because stocking intensity is falling, due to the ban on artificial fertiliser and imported feed like palm kernel. Soil health and water-holding capacity is rapidly improving, negating the need for irrigation. Soil carbon sequestration is rising as agriculture moves into regenerative mode and horticulture transitions to permaculture. Antibiotic, pesticide, and herbicide use is dropping drastically. We just no longer need them.
With the power-hungry drainage pumps shut off, wetlands are recovering all over the country. This has already increased biodiversity, and it will help reduce the flood flows from the intense new climate change storms.
Home and business power bills have dropped drastically now all power companies have been renationalised into the NZ Electricity Department. People soon got used to having the washing machine not available immediately but turning itself on for off-peak pricing hours. Most houses now heat their water with subsidised solar panels and provide much of their own electricity with photovoltaic panels.
Water-bottling by international companies ended when the government followed the Waitangi Tribunal advice and gave the ownership of water back to Māori who immediately placed a big charge on commercial water takes and made water free to all New Zealanders.
New Zealanders feel so much better already and the future looks bright and the young ones wonder why we took so long to wake-up.
Mike Joy is an environmental scientist and ecologist.
A brighter futureTheresa Gattung
It's a challenge all right. How to take the best of this enforced reset and not simply hurtle back to what was "normal".
How to shape the future while many are in survival mode.
How to maintain an attitude that everyone matters.
How to be thoughtful about what our attention has been drawn to in this situation and what may be able to be achieved by us collectively. Because it is never just about the Government, it is also - and mainly - about us all and what we choose. It seems to me that we do have an opportunity to reimagine a brighter future.
New Zealand's population of around 5 million seems to be about the right size to effect change if you look at similar countries of the same size - Denmark, Finland, Norway. What about a coalition of these countries? And what would it be like if we are able to extend to a transtasman bubble and take on board the nearly 20 million Australians? Could we potentially have nearly 50 million people, certainly enough to reactivate the planet in a different direction.
So what does this look like? It has to start with alignment on two or three frameworks and goals. Any more than a couple and it will be like New Year resolutions, you make several on New Year's Day and they are all dissipating by late February.
For New Zealand, it is important that we start from our own unique history, the Treaty of Waitangi, Te Tiriti O Waitangi.
Could we get agreement on our two goals for the next 10 years, as we go through whatever recession is caused as a result of this virus (remembering that the Treasury says that 10 per cent unemployment rate in New Zealand is likely the best case) and through and beyond that to the creation of a new normal ?
Driving growth and accelerating climate transition - thriving in balance. Think Kate Raworth, Doughnut Economics, who spoke at last year's Auckland Writers Festival.
Easy win – video conference; Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Webex are the new cool kids. The quality is excellent. Let's commit to 20 per cent fewer face-to-face meetings. In other words, one day a week working from home.
Equality and support for the most vulnerable. Digital literacy for all children. Easy win – ramp up professional learning in this area for all teachers and continue roll-out of devices and internet connectivity to families who don't have them.
"Fix" family harm. We are lauded internationally for many things but family harm is our secret shame, New Zealand's shadow side. Let's accelerate breakthrough thinking like Gandi Nivas - gandhinivas.nz- the demonstrably effective programme where the man leaves the family home and is provided with a place to go and wrap around counselling to address the cause not just the outcomes of family violence.
Theresa Gattung is a New Zealand businesswoman, philanthropist and author.