What POST-COVID-19 lifestyles may look like? Identifying scenarios and their implications for sustainability

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The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply disrupted societys ́ priorities and individuals’ lifestyles with major implications for sustainable development. Economic shutdown and social isolation reduced society’s ecological footprint by lowering transportation and industrial activity while prompting families to engage in non-commercialized modes of leisure and social relations. Yet economic recession has intensified problems of under-consumption and poverty, while social isolation has worsened physical and mental illness.

The pandemic’s short-term effects are visible to everyone experiencing it, yet the global health crisis will also have long-term effects which are presently unknown but whose configurations can be spotted by identifying scenarios based upon individual relations with their material, symbolic and social environments. This perspective article reviews changes in two critical domains of practice: consumption and social relations, based on a theory of scarcity, and proposes an approach to foresee post-COVID-19 scenarios across several areas of social practice. The experience of scarcity in consumption and socializing redefines priorities and values yielding two ideal-types of responses for each domain: the assimilation of reduced levels of material wellbeing and social interactions or the drive for self-indulgence to compensate sacrifices in those areas.

Four different lifestyle scenarios are thereby generated based on that analytical framework, enabling the identification of long-term scenarios, beyond the simplistic old normal versus new normal dichotomy. Grounded in available secondary data and relying on the recent Brazilian experience, which can be generalized to other Global South contexts, this proposed framework illustrates distinctive behavioral patterns for each lifestyle across ten areas of practice.

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