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Worried by Price Rises?

Prices are Rising! Are you worried?

I know the media is prone to create headlines that induce worry into its readers, but the prediction of increases in the cost of living are probably real so I think we need to get used to it. Is it such a bad thing?

The current and predicted increase in cost of energy has prompted calls for government intervention to try to keep the cost of energy down. Why? Surely, an increase in the cost of something would increase in most people’s awareness of the cost of that thing, and might lead to some behaviour that led to a positive change? At the same time I completely understand, supporting those who have no option than to bare the brunt of that increase.

During the first pandemic lockdown, there were massive queues to get into supermarkets. At that point, people stopped and considered if they really needed something in the first place, or at least plan their visit better. People also became creative and enjoyed the simpler things, like baking bread or going for a walk. There were people who went into panic mode and tried to stockpile things like tins of tomatoes and loo roll, but overall I was surprised to discover people were really enjoying rediscovering long-lost activities like jam making. Even in my tiny kitchen I discovered the joy of creating meals from whatever I had around me, including jams from whatever I could forage. I also learnt how to brew things!

Now this isn’t heading to the suggestion that we all need to go back to cavemen days, but a realisation of just how wasteful we had all become along with the expectancy that we should be able to get whatever we wanted whenever we wanted it, no matter the energy required (including car journeys) to get it, at the cheapest possible price.

Growing up in the 70s I still remember my parents telling me to turn the lights off if they weren’t needed. Electricity was expensive back then too, but my parent’s instructions led to a life-long habit of turning lights off if they were not needed. Even with the advent of efficient LED lighting, I still turn things off if they are not needed. I am saddened how many young people can’t be bothered to turn lights off – partly because they have never been told to, and partly they don’t care about their own energy usage. I wonder how many parents will be made aware of the need to turn lights off when the electricity bill goes up as much as it is predicted.

A load of rubbish.

When I grew up, I would get a good telling off if I dropped the smallest piece of rubbish, even if I did so accidentally. I grew up being told it was wrong to drop litter. Today, it is saddening to see the volume of litter almost anywhere and particularly young people’s attitudes towards litter. The sides of most roads look like rubbish tips and I dare say the council can’t keep up with the amount of rubbish thrown out of car windows.

I remember sitting in ‘The Square’ at UEA, surrounded by some of the UK’s intellectual high-fliers, wondering why on earth they dropped so much of their crap and didn’t put it in a bin. More bins didn’t change that attitude either as it seemed students became increasingly rebellious against the University ‘authorities’ desire for them to clean up after themselves. It is often the case the behaviours and ideas that start in universities work there way down to the general population quite quickly.

So, if council tax doubled to pay for more street cleaners and rubbish collectors, perhaps people would consider dropping less litter or generating less rubbish in the first place? I suspect not, quite the opposite might happen when people feel entitled to drop their litter anywhere since they know they are paying for it to be collected.

Increased Prices – All Bad News?

I completely understand there are people who are living in old draughty damp houses whose bills will skyrocket leading to some difficult choices. I remember what it was like as a student in 1988 living in such a house where dampness was part of life and the heating seemed almost pointless. Yet even back then I learned the cost of energy – and the choice it created to waste it or value it.

I suspect in 2022 when the price of things goes up, a higher value will be placed on them. There will be some that do so out of necessity, and those who choose to.

Perhaps people who are accustomed to leaving the lights on will start to turn them off? Perhaps the environmental cost of their car use, their consumer habits or the rubbish they create will enter their thinking for the first time?

Food Glorious Food

Food prices will rise. Will that be such a bad thing? Whenever I look around a typical high street (not something I do much nowadays), would people eat less if the cost of food doubled?  Would obesity decline? Would people be forced to consider their eating habits and begin to eat more healthily at a lower cost?

The level of food wastage in the UK is disgraceful. If the value of say, a chicken triples, would people value chicken more? Rather than buying it once a week, would people buy a better-quality bird once a month and ensure every part of it is used? Would the increased cost of chicken lead to creating other meals from other cheaper ingredients, including more plant-based ingredients?

From Empire to a National of Consumers, and Beyond.

I think in the UK we’ve gone from being an industrial powerhouse empire to a nation of shop keepers, then descending further to a nation of consumers under a free market economy increasingly devoid of any objective values. Perhaps people have become so accustomed to consuming so much cheap stuff that the thought of prices going up seems horrific. However, if it leads to people consuming less and valuing more the things around us, including our own environment, then maybe price rises can be a good thing?

When I consider the amazing engineering of the Victorians then consider the hopeless output of many companies contracted by government bodies (think roadworks) I conclude we are living to a completely different set of values today.

For example, the roads in Norwich are appalling, yet hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on schemes that are a complete waste of money. Roads are falling apart, and even new roads (think the NDR) are so badly designed that despite their compliance they are leading to huge increases in accidents (NDR roundabouts). It saddens me just how much money has been wasted on producing such fundamentally flawed (but completely compliant) outcomes.  

My girlfriend often says with affection that I am one of life’s optimists. I love that about her. I think she says that because whilst everyone is moaning, I am trying to see beyond the difficult times to what is better ahead. However, like now, I too moan. I am realistic enough to know that moaning doesn’t really get very far, but the positive change in the future that I see isn’t going to come without first the required change going to be very, very hard.

However, I see that every struggle, particularly if we face it together, will lead to something better than what was there before.  There are times when this only happens when our back is against the wall when we have no choice but seek opportunities for positive change

January 2022