Looking back at the Acorn Study; Part 8.1: And then COVID happened

March 11, 2021

The Acorn Study began in the autumn of 2019. As often happens, most stories were collected in its early days in the flurry of sharing that followed its release. As the initial flood stopped, stories kept coming in, slowly but steadily, until the collection was closed down at the end of 2020. In between those two dates, something changed. The theoretical possibility of a pandemic arriving sooner or later became a reality. Even though COVID-19 wasn’t the Black Death in terms of mortality, it was more than enough to shut many of us in our homes, make more of us feel unsafe, and reveal underlying faultiness that we had papered over. Perhaps, if we are lucky, it has been enough to change us. This and next week’s blog post will look at the direction of some of these changes.

But first, a clarification on statistical validity is necessary; we are not comparing like with like in terms of numbers here. As I said, most stories were collected in the earlier days of the collection, and what came afterwards was a steady trickle, but a trickle nonetheless. This means that the collection before March 2020 (the date I have selected as the cut-off point) consists of 341 acorns, while after March 2020, we only get 32. Yet, the patterns shift so strikingly that not exploring them as an indication of a larger shift would be a missed opportunity. It is also useful to remember that the whole sample is far from representative of the world – even if we had statistical validity, we would still be looking at shadows. As ever, this is not the whole story.

Moreover, in such a fast-moving world, this isn’t live monitoring either. These patterns are out of date, in a sense. Still, they are an introduction to the things we can do differently.  

Let’s start with the potential for positive change, a pattern that you will have seen a lot of if you have followed this series from the beginning:

Before March, our pattern formed three nearly equally-sized clusters emphasising individuals, governments, and the combination of all potential sources of positive change. After March 2020, stories associated exclusively with the individual have all but disappeared, emphasising the other two clusters. So we see a steep reduction of faith in the individual and an increased emphasis on governments. Coming out of a period that has seen a great need for large-scale, coordinate action, it is unsurprising that people might expect more of governments. 

The shift away from the individual and towards collective continues when we look at responsibility:

Collective action post-March 2020 shows up much more substantial than before, with both individual behaviour and the interaction between collective and individual having diminished. Given some circulating narratives during the pandemic around personal responsibility and its role, this is a particularly startling pattern.

Finally, let’s close with a couple of stories from those newly-dominant patterns:

Decision to push for reopening the schools in USA will alienate majority of school age kid, regardless schools are reopened or not, regardless the reopening will have negative impact or not. These school kids will sooner or later realize that they were a political pawn, their health and health of their elders were put at risk. I think this is significant, as kids will grow up to be cultural, political, business and, military leaders of USA, which will be a world superpower for years to come.

The current Convid-19 situation is forcing people via their Governments and social pressure to stop flying, pausing industries are and thus co2 emissions as well as other air polluters are reduced significantly than before the C-19 crisis. That is a big pattern interruption of behaviour in the world, at least temporarily. The social pressure to conform to Physical (Social) Distancing has the side-effect of the reduced emissions.

The municipality of Nantes (france) decided to redirect the use of public space into growing vegetables as associations reported that in the mist of the Covid more people were turning to them for food. The idea came for employees of the municipality. It is a large scale response, on 50 sites in the town, aiming to provide 25 tonnes of veg.

Next Series: Part 8.2: And then COVID happened

Previous Series: Part 7: Hope, loss, and sacrifice

The second part of the COVID series!

And as always, don’t forget our ongoing climate change MassSense, which has never been more relevant to this series of posts.


Mask image by Raul Baz on Unsplash


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