How to be brave in the face of the storm?
“Now is the time, when the whole world is distracted by the storm of covid-19, to really push through and position ourselves to have the advantage. Are we going to be the people who rowed through the storm or who rode out the storm?”
- Mel Poulton, Special Trade Envoy¹
We are all in uncharted waters right now. A global pandemic on the scale of Covid-19 is beyond what we could imagine, yet here we are. For some, the scale of the uncertainty this brings will cause them to pause and put on hold any decisions. But being in uncharted waters is not new for humankind – we have always set out on adventures to discover new lands (or been put on a boat and told to relocate to a different land), new universes, or a new life in a different country. We’ve decided to change career mid-track or to change our life partner. In all of these situations there was uncertainty, but we went ahead – and sometimes it didn’t turn out. Many adventurers never returned home, however lots of wonderful discoveries did happen – discoveries about new lands and about ourselves as people.
With Covid-19 at Regen we had to change how we work, by staying home and keeping connected via Zoom. This has got harder as time goes on – even for a group of people who were used to spending all day barely talking to each and sending messages in Slack; we all are starting to miss the human interaction. So when we do catch up we are starting to talk more about how we ‘feel’ and our personal perspectives on what is unfolding. One comment that struck home was that in the face of such a catastrophe it is reassuring that we all as people have been doing our part - staying home to keep us all safe.
As we look ahead, how do we reconcile these threads? We are naturally adventurous but to survive this pandemic we have to be very insular. We must make decisions about how we move forward – every decision brings a choice. We can make choices that are conservative and pull us back to what was our old normal, or we can be bold and take this opportunity to change normal to be more human; to be values led not money led. We have already started this by all signing up to stay home and be safe – for everyone’s benefit even though it may have been to our individual detriment. So how do we continue?
For New Zealand, the Covid-19 pandemic has presented us with a massive opportunity to amplify our positioning as country that is the definition of safe, pure and healthy. Currently in New Zealand the focus is on how the rest of the economy gets through as best it can and the primary sector will keep on producing food as it has done and the exporters involved will be doing their best to juggle short-term market and logistic challenges. The time will then come to re-imagine a different future, a future where we leapfrog over the debate on where alternative protein will fit, veganism and who has polluted the water.
This is an incredibly exciting time to be part of the primary sector. We have the opportunity to lead New Zealand into a new future that is human led, values centered and based on how we nurture the earth for our children and their children. This means leaving behind the petty arguments because we actually want the same thing. We all want to be producing top-quality food that sustains the health and well being of millions of people, and we want to produce it a way that not only has a light touch on the earth – it sustains it.
So how do we do this? How do we reach over the past squabbles and create a community to address creating an economy that is founded on the resilience and honesty of food production sustained by a commitment to respecting Papatūānuku (mother earth). We do this by setting out on an adventure, with optimism and open minds. We understand that to succeed we must be focused on building community good not on individual benefit. We learn how to value assets that are not currently measured in dollars. These are all things we have been learning over the past couple of months – we have shown that we can do it.
Let’s be bold and brave as a sector and lead the way in creating an economy that sustains.