Survival of the Fittest, or of the Most Sustainable?

The days appear all alike. Under the advice of André Kuipers, a famous Dutch astronaut who compares our current situation somewhat to making a space journey, we incorporate a fixed rhythm at home. Getting up, exercising, getting dressed, having breakfast, working, taking a break, working, playing games, cooking, eating, relaxing, sleeping. The highlight in the weekend is a trip to the supermarket and cleaning up parts of our home. And since I’m on a space trip, I should – as long as I’m healthy – make the most out of it.

Rarely have I been so fit, my house so well organized, did I enjoy extra writing inspiration for my dissertation, with an empty inbox, starting a vegetable garden, my work schedule on time, and my children disciplined and full of creative ideas. All of a sudden I realized how much time it takes to engage in social life, to direct that of my children in a positive manner, and to run from one place to another. And despite the lack of my friends and favourite workplaces, I decided to embrace this period and use it to read, make plans, and come up with new concepts, but for what kind of future?

A partner at hetkanWEL (translated, ‘It Can Be Done’), a positive news platform, I read as much (inter)national media as possible. Usually that gives me new and often interesting insights, but nowadays it only it results in confusion. The sustainable frontrunners see opportunities in this crisis, and now seems to be the right time to invest in sustainable solutions and collective awareness. On the other hand, I read the doomsday scenarios of economists, philosophers and other thinkers, who expect that this crisis will further fuel protectionism and conflicts between countries and cause mass unemployment and poverty. 

At hetkanWEL we have decided not to become paralysed by what may await us and not to worry unnecessarily about the budgets of our clients, who will face certain pressure. We will continue to do what we always do: write daily articles on positive change, work on our book that will be released this October, talk to our readers about what they need, and generate enough money to guarantee our existence. As a company with ideals, this tension always exists between its mission and making money. This is no different at this moment. Flexibility, perseverance, cooperation, creativity, and a long-term vision will pull us through. And we see that same issue with others as well.  

Think of the sustainable companies that created an extra service in a very short period of time, making different products than normally, acting in a collective manner to protect local entrepreneurs, giving discounts to people in essential professions, making their products or services available for free, or helping in another fashion. Whichever way the future goes, these companies will manage, because they are used to swimming against the current.  

And whether we finally pick up steam after this crisis, whether we will continue to fight for a sustainable future, time will tell. In any case, this space journey–and my tightly packed exercise workouts–will prove that it is not the survival of the fittest or of the most sustainable, but that the two must join together in the future, one that I would like to contribute towards.

Asceline Groot is ondernemer bij hetkanWEL, schrijfster van ‘Het Nieuwe Groen’ en PhD kandidaat aan de Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. In haar columns schrijft zij over (start-up) sociale ondernemingen en trends en ontwikkelingen op het gebied van duurzaamheid.