Looking back, 2019 might go down in the history books as the year of the “agitated citizen.” From the yellow-vested protesters in France to the near-daily demonstrations that occurred in Hong Kong, the year was marked by a flurry of protests, demonstrations and social justice activations.
And while the causes ranged from fighting against climate justice to fighting for political freedom, the underpinning social theme was one of a pushback against authority and the status quo. And in many instances, global citizens are increasingly “voting” with their spending to support social causes or to simply make a statement. That means supporting a brand they see as doing good (such as Patagonia) or to protest against an entire industry because it is viewed as harmful to the planet (meatless Mondays, anyone?).
Here’s a look at some of those movements, and their impact on spending, the economy or fashion:
One of the ongoing and seemingly endless protests in recent years are the demonstrations in Hong Kong. The anti-government movement gained steam over the summer and has disrupted business and commerce. Even through the Christmas holiday, protesters were out en masse, marching and clashing with police.
The protests were initially against a law allowing extradition of citizens to mainland China, but have now grown into a call for more political and social freedom. And while the stock market there is expected to end the year on a high note, economists say the six-month-long demonstrations have cast Hong Kong into a deep recession.
Formed in the fall of 2018 as a social movement to address climate change and environmental threats in a non-violent and civil disobedient way, Extinction Rebellion staged many protests in the U.K. and in the U.S. this past year. Through weekly meetings, the group continues to grow. And what sets it apart from other organizations is that anyone can stage or organize a protest in its name — as long as protesters follow the model, and the guiding principles, which are anchored by “non-violent direct action.”
After signing a “rebel agreement,” protestors can download a “Rebel Starter Pack” from the organization’s site, which includes perspectives on the movement and how actions can transcend politics and effect change.
Extinction Rebellion actions in 2019 have focused on shutting down malls in Paris, staging fashion week protests and identifying the fashion industry as the top global industry harming the planet.
Against Fast Fashion, Over-consumption
A recent Barclaycard report found that more than 60 percent of consumers plan on buying less stuff as a way to mitigate the environmental impact from the overproduction of goods while 67 percent said they expect to buy less fast fashion. Analysts are calling it “conscious consumerism.”
And while that term may be somewhat new, the concept dates back to the Sixties and early Seventies. It was spotlighted in the 1970 book, “The Greening of America” by Charles A. Reich. The author urged readers to take on counter-culture values that included anti-materialism. More recently, Millennials and Generation Z shoppers have taken a closer look at how and where they consume and have turned to reselling goods and “thrifting” to lessen their environmental impact.
Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, named by Time magazine as the “person of the year,” exemplifies this movement. As a teen leading the fight against climate change, Thunberg said on an episode of Democracy Now! that she doesn’t buy new clothes. Her apparel is either hand-me-downs or purchased secondhand.
This past year also saw major protests and uprisings in Iran and France (over skyrocketing fuel prices) as well as Algeria and India (in response to needing greater political freedom). In Lebanon, ongoing protests have been in response to a stagnant economy, austerity and political corruption.
In India, the unrest has been fueled by the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). This week, leftists in the country are calling for a nationwide protest from New Year’s Day through Jan. 7 as well as for a “general strike” to take place on Jan. 8 – all against the CAA as well as the National Population Register and the National Register of Citizens.
Gerald Celente, the publisher of the Trends Journal, said in his most recent outlook report that 2020 will see even more uprisings such as those in Hong Kong, India and Europe. Celente has tagged it the “New World Disorder,” which will likely have consequences on spending and on local economies. “Uprisings and revolutions are sweeping the world,” Celente said. “It’s out of control. What’s next?”