Clear skies and no traffic during the COVID-19 lockdown

Let’s keep cleaner air and stronger communities after COVID-19, say charities

Survey finds most people want society to look different after the pandemic has passed.
20 April 2020 , Katie Coyne

Campaigners have urged the government to implement lasting social and environmental change following lockdown end.

Almost everyone has seen some unexpected positive personal and social changes they wish to hang on to post COVID-19, a YouGov survey has found.

Appetite for change is being driven by better air quality, more wildlife, stronger connections with neighbours and friends and family, and increased appreciation of food and food workers according to the survey.

Carried out on behalf of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and the Food Commission, the survey found that 84% wanted some of the changes to remain after the pandemic is over. Just 9% said they wanted everything to go back to how it was before.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, said: "The lockdown is far from over and it’s right that the immediate emergency is the priority, but two things are important to note: firstly that the end of lockdown is ever more likely to be phased than a single event, which will take time to pass; and secondly that, amid the awful news and general doom, we must use this time to imagine a better future.

“This poll shows that the British people are increasingly aware that the health of people and planet are inseparable and it’s time for radical environmental, social, political and economic change.”

The fragility of the food chain and the importance of food workers has also been highlighted in the crisis. Sue Pritchard, director of the RSA’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission said: “It’s taken a pandemic to reveal just how fragile our food system is.

“Anyone in the food industry is now a key worker. National food security is a government priority. Yet while many people are going hungry, our dairy farmers can’t sell their milk, and healthy vegetables are left unharvested in the field.

“This research is showing that important changes are starting to take hold which government must use to guide future policy.”

Some of the results from the online survey of 4,343 adults, which took place between 7 and 9 April, looking into food poverty were published last week. These results found three million people were already going hungry due to the lockdown.

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, a charity that campaigns for a sustainable food system, said: “The same poll that revealed this appetite for social change highlighted an alarming and worsening food insecurity crisis, with three million in Britain going hungry since lockdown began. These figures create an imperative for reshaping the food system post-COVID-19 so that it delivers healthy diets for everyone, regardless of how much they earn.”

Food poverty was a serious issue prior to the pandemic, and the crisis is deepening the problem.

Appetite for change post COVID-19:

• 27% said they noticed more wildlife
• 51% said they noticed cleaner air
• 40% feel a stronger sense of local community
• 39% are more in touch with friends and family
• 42% say they value food more
• One in ten has shared food or shopping with a neighbour for the first time
• 38% (19m) are cooking from scratch
• 33% (17m) say they are throwing less food away
• 6% (3m) have tried a veg box scheme or ordered from a local farm for the first time

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