Bowles & Wyer

No Pain, No Gain

Written by John Wyer

In his latest blog, John Wyer discusses how society needs to change following the worldwide pandemic – with pain or without pain…

Anyone who has ever trained for anything understands the ‘No gain without pain’ adage. At least, when I’m feeling a bit stiff after a training session on my bike, that’s what I tell myself in consolation.

And this is the conventional wisdom on climate change as well. We consume too much, and especially too much of the wrong things – meat, air travel, big cars, fast fashion and so on. If we don’t reduce these things, then the situation will go from bad to worse more and more rapidly. The problem is that it’s just too nice. Nobody really wants to stop doing nice things – like going on holiday to exciting places, or buying new clothes. And if somebody tells you – with the best intentions and backed up by impeccable science – to rein back… well it’s easier to pretend you didn’t hear, or justify your behaviour by what others are or aren’t doing. Except of course, that it will all end in tears.

The last twelve months have clearly been terrible. But one of the interesting things about it is that a lot of ‘conventional wisdom’ about work has turned out to be wrong, or at least not quite as wise as we thought. Like the fact that all meetings need to be happen with everybody in the same room, or that we all need to work in the office all the time.

And what we really value has turned out to be the same as it always was – our health, our friends and families, and the simple things in life – including a good dose of ‘nature’ as often as we can. And if this is true, then surely it follows that one of our Government’s first obligations is to help deliver these things – health, security, job prospects, and a way of living that doesn’t harm our future? But for this to work, that future must look more promising, more hopeful, more satisfying to us than the present. Otherwise, it will be more of the ‘La-la-la – not listening’.

There has been a lot of talk of reset, and ‘Build back greener’ – all of which is vital for achieving a viable future. But alongside this there is also now an opportunity to redefine this particular debate and the contract between people and their government to reflect what we actually value. Because we really do need to find a way of wanting the change, pain or no pain.

April 6, 2021