Interviews and Photos: Reef Gaha | A New Years Vox Populi |
In 2018, Caramel Animals began an annual series of vox-pop interviews, seeking predictions from Sydneysiders on what the coming new year would hold. Prognostications were sought, fortunes told, and general portents decided. As we spoke, recurring themes of conflict, resolution and the culmination of a decade became apparent. We remarked on the pervasive cultural influence of world affairs on this small nation and found that even though our respondents seemed to share strong interest in the urgent geopolitical and environmental crises our planet was facing, they also shared an almost universally optimistic outlook; cautiously hoping that society and their own lives would change for the better. This year, we’ve taken to the streets again, this time to ask ‘What will 2020 be about?’
Over the 2019/2020 holiday and new year period, we roamed inner Sydney searching for answers. It’s important to acknowledge that at this time, much of Australia was in the grip of a worsening bushfire crisis that has so far seen thousands evacuated from their homes, with 500 homes lost entirely. At printing, 19 people have tragically perished in that fight. Deaths among the animal and wildlife population are estimated at over half a billion.
As we recorded the following interviews and snapped photos, Sydney was veiled by an almost perpetual smoke haze, filtering sunlight into a darker hue and seeming to keep issues of environmental management and climate change foremost in people’s minds.
Whereas last year’s responses were broadly optimistic and upbeat, this year’s answers were still hopeful, but tempered with a slightly more nebulous and foreboding tone.
Of course, none of us know with certainty what 2020 will hold but once again, rather than consulting astrologers or soothsayers, we present you with a round of educated, speculative and candid guesses from those friends and strangers brave enough to give an answer for these pages. We’ve also re-visited a few of the folk who were kind enough to participate in the 2019 story last year, and asked them to remark on the predictions they made back then. Much like the new year, hindsight is supposed to be 20:20 (ouch) right?
What will 2020 be about?
| Elle Hunt|
Globally, I think 2020 will be about being more responsible. I think I’ve seen this change a lot in 2019. Not just in small stuff like decreasing the use of plastic bags, but in people individually trying to make a difference with the environment, and with one another. So, being kinder to one another and the planet because, especially here in Australia, the massive effect we’re having is obvious at the moment; we need to lessen that [effect]. It’s about responsibility and accountability.
How about for you personally?
For me personally, I hope 2020 will be more about family. Seeing my family more, whether that be my close friends or my immediate relatives. You see, 2019 was a big year of study and focusing on myself and that’s very draining. I’d like to focus on others.
You did this interview with us last year and talked about what 2019 would be about. How do you now feel about what you said this time last year?
I definitely fell into a whirlwind of education. I learned a lot about myself and about other people. I met new people and made new friends, which is amazing [if you can do that] in any year. Personally 2019 was a really great year, but a lot of hard work as well. Globally, I talked about resolution to rights for people, but I don’t think I’ve seen that locally or globally as much as I’d hoped, though I guess progress has been made, a little in the USA and a little with youth climate strikes all over the world. There has been change, but I’m not going to say that there’s been resolution. We’ve definitely had more of a say.
The best predictor of the future is the past. Hopefully things don’t get too much worse before they get any better though, because without proper leadership (which is something that a lot of us in the Western world are lacking) it’s going to get really, really bad.
I’ve been thinking a lot about where I was in 1999 and 2000, and thinking a lot about what I thought; not just about what I’d hoped, but expected 2020 to be like. When I think about 2020, I can’t help but look back and contrast the way the world is now with the way I thought it would be or, hoped it would be. And when I do that, I feel a bit disappointed.
But when I think about 2020 I also think about how fatigued we all are, and how fatigued I am with all the noise, drama and bad news. I think there is a groundswell of energy now among a lot of people to do something, to change things. We are now 20 years into this millennium and we’re not happy with where things are, and we’re not going to put up with it anymore. I wonder if this year (or maybe 2021) is going to be the year with the generational change, with generation Z emerging (as we’ve seen with Greta Thunberg). Maybe this is the year when we see a crack in the veneer of the assumed normality with which we’re all so dissatisfied.
You were kind enough to do this interview with us last year at this time. In retrospect, what remarks might you have about the forecast you gave for 2019?
Yeah. I said that ‘19 was going to be a year of change and I think, a year of change it was.
I remember you saying things might have to get a little worse before they can get better.
Yeah. When there’s a change in a system, it often needs to be destabilised first. You need to rock the boat a little bit so there’s room for new ideas to come in. When everything’s crap but stable, it’s really hard to inject a new good idea in, because it’s all just fitting together in a crap way.
I think the world is pretty shaky at the moment, or at least I think it’s safe to say just about everyone thinks the world is less stable than it either was or should be. And that feeling of instability is the opening for change.
For you personally what might 2020 be about?
I’m feeling a bit more fired up this year to pursue a couple of projects that were more embryonic in 2019. So, I’m going to try to carry that energy and momentum to do some big things. The last few years were about getting some stuff sorted out, experimentation. I found some stuff worked, some didn’t. I had a couple of really amazing experiences that have opened new doors and so this year, I’m going to try to reach forward and do some big things.
Hi, my name is Eva. I’m from Germany, and I’ve lived in Sydney for four weeks.
Awesome. Welcome to Sydney!
So the question I’m asking today is, what will 2020 be about?
I think it will change a lot, because people aren’t that selfish anymore. I mean, a lot of people have taken to the streets for climate change and things like that. But at the same time, I think there will be a lot more trouble because of new problems (or are maybe old problems) because of displaced people. I’ve seen people take the [refugee] problem to make more trouble out of it, which is not necessary.
For example, in Germany it’s like many people have taken to the right side of politics because of the refugees. But because of that, there are many people have come out against them, and the atmosphere has changed. People aren’t relaxed. I think the people are, I don’t know how to say, they want to change things but there are many conflicts that may arise out of that.
So the things in general are becoming more political?
Yeah, for sure.
Okay. How about 2020 for you personally?
Oh, I think that’s about change too, because I am 19 years old and just finished my school, and now I can start with real life! I want to study in Germany, but before that, I’ll travel around Australia. I think it’ll make a change in my personality; I’ll experience something that I had never experienced before. I’m curious about that.
Any specific plans for study?
Yeah, I want to study ethnology.
| Bud Petal |
I think the main issue is going to be the climate change emergency, and I think more activism will pop up in many other areas of society. I think more high school kids will get involved, and more university students and older people. I think it’s going to get bigger, into a groundswell hopefully, that will get more people involved in trying to make a change around that issue.
Awesome. What about you personally?
I guess that’s the same as always. I have a handful of ongoing projects. We’re still doing some new Bud Petal music. I’m working on a novel, set in Sydney, that I’m trying to finish at the moment, and then some academic work.
You were kind enough to do this interview with us last year. In retrospect, what remarks might you have about what you forecast for 2019?
I guess the main lesson from this past year for anyone on the left is, many people have lost the illusion of being able to change the system from within the system, for example, with the election here and Labor losing, then Labor in the UK also losing. I think people have finally understood that the problem is not going to be solved by voting or organising within the system. The problem is structural, within a capitalistic economy. That is the cause of the problem.
I think that’s why a lot of activism is now happening outside of electoral politics and why all of this climate action is happening, organised from below.
That’s the main lesson from this past year; that it’s an illusion to think we can change the system from within. Because people in power are not going to give that away without people outside forcing them to do so. The challenge now is just getting people to understand their own agency and to understand that change is really easy in wealthy places like Australia. That’s the main issue I think now.
We actually can change things?
Yeah. There are studies where people have looked into this. One of the main aims of the capitalist media is to remove a sense of agency from the mass population, to have them…
Yeah. Passive receptacles for propaganda, thinking the only agency they have is in consuming and voting while the rest of the time, they’re not allowed to be engaged in society. The main thing we need to bring back into society is [the idea] that people can easily connect to change. There are so many opportunities for action in a free society like Australia. On the climate issue, there are organisations you can get involved in. You can join your union. You can start going to protests. You can organise in your community and have veggie patches. There are endless opportunities here. It’s not China or Siberia or whatever. Yeah.
| Sophia Grant|
I think for 2020, I mean, I live in the UK and the end of 2019 for a lot of people was pretty deflating, with the results of the election going so heavily in the direction of the Tory party.
I guess since 2016, Brexit has been looming and even in the run up to this election, there was this hope or tiny possibility that it wouldn’t happen, and that we could still be part of a wider community; that we could still be more international rather than, a ‘little England’ of isolationists, looking inwards and othering foreign people. I guess being an immigrant myself (I’m from New Zealand and Germany) it’s like you’re an outsider, even though the overt racism isn’t directed towards people like me, because I speak the language as a native.
With 2020 for us, there’s the difference that Brexit is happening, but there’s still the old uncertainty about what that will actually mean. For me as someone who has recently bought a house in the UK, I don’t know if that will spell disaster for the economy? Will that mean that my house price will completely drop through to the floor? Will the pound completely tank? There are all these different considerations that you think about if you’re not based in the country for the rest of your life.
More generally for 2020, I hope it will be a year where people wake up and smell the coffee in terms of climate, and in the event that Brexit does bring disaster for the economy; I think my dad spoke about… It was like Turkeys voting for Christmas. I guess if people realise that all the things they were promised aren’t materialising, maybe they’ll need to believe in something else.
Yeah… what’s it going to be?
Yeah. What’s next? What is post-Brexit? With politics in the UK, it’s always framed as ‘left versus right’ and ‘socialism versus something’. Today, it’s not so defined along ideological terms anymore. If you think about what we need in the future, there’s all this technology, people losing their jobs, and actually there’s a lot of opportunity too. New jobs are being created, like by the green economy. There are more creative jobs because machines can’t do those jobs. There will be all these areas of opportunity that we could be moving into.
How about for you personally?
For me personally, there’s a lot of optimism for 2020.
2019 really laid the foundations. I achieved some things and I want to hold onto some successes. I guess there’s this personal optimism, but you have to balance that with concern for wider society because of the way politics has gone in the UK; that the party who got in doesn’t tend to be concerned for wider society, they’re more concerned for their own social class.
Especially where I live in Glasgow, which is a city that has a lot of deprivation. Money and deprivation kind of side by side. How can I make sure disadvantaged people aren’t being left behind?
| Ian Watson |
I hope that 2020 will be about finding a bit of hope and you know, meeting in the middle. Compromise and getting somewhere, because I think 2019 has felt a bit bleak at many points and people get tired of that after a while. I mean, even as much as we love the angst, hopefully people get a bit tired of it and move on. Perhaps I’m just being hopeful? I don’t know.
Sorry? You’re talking about resolution?
Yeah, resolution of differing camps, I guess. Hopefully without anybody getting into any serious strife in the meantime. Definitely, the last year for me personally has been a bit turbulent. I’ve come back [to Australia] from the UK and you know, they’re going through a bunch of stuff over there at the moment.
And I suppose personally so am I, because we’re relocating and trying to work life out. That’s kind of thrilling for a bit, but you get tired of it after a while and you want to get on with things.
That’s fair. So for you on a personal level then, what will 2020 be about?
I’m hoping to do all the things that I never did because I had something else to do – which is quite a lot of things! I probably won’t get them all done. I suppose in 2020, I’d like to get things a bit better sorted out with how much work I’m doing; with how much is for work, and how much work I’m doing for myself.
I’d like to shift the balance towards ‘me’ work as opposed to demanded work. That’d be nice. At the same time, I’d still like to get paid. It’s all about finding the balance.
| Erin Webster |
I’ll sound very pessimistic and I’ll say much of the same as 2019 was. I was thinking about it last week and looking at who’s in power, looking at how they act. I don’t think they’re going anywhere. I think we’ll just keep hearing about ‘get Brexit done’ and it was ‘make America great’, but now it’s ‘keep America great’ because [apparently] they think they’ve made it great already. I don’t think we’ll see anything new and radical. It’s going to be what it is for the next year. Who is running the world and how do they run it? They don’t want it to go anywhere. They’re pretty much settled in.
We’ll keep hearing about climate change. We’ll keep seeing protest about climate change. There might be something small done about it, but yeah, I’m very pessimistic. I’d like to see something done about it. It’s just that the people who can make the choices, decisions and changes haven’t made them yet.
You’re a realist.
Globally, as much as I’d like to see change, I just can’t anything great happening.
So moving more specifically, what about you? What will 2020 be about?
Less about me I hope. I tried to get into some volunteering last year but got halfway through the process and didn’t find anything, which was probably a bit slack. Maybe Meals on Wheels deliveries once a week or volunteer at Ted Noffs. I’d like to do something like that regularly. I’d also like to get my motorbike license.
| Jacqui Munro |
I think 2020 holds the promise of a decade. I speak to people who are really optimistic about, not just the next year, but also the years to come. And for me, that inspires a great sense of work ethic and hopefulness.
Do you see certain things moving toward resolution or perhaps toward conflict in 2020?
I’m not sure that there is ever an end point in resolution and conflict. I think there’s always change. Part of that means working together to address problems, and being able to see lots of different ways to address problems. Because there’s never one answer to a challenge and we all have a part to play.
Do you see any hot button issues in the next year?
Climate change is clearly an issue that we need to address, individually and as a society at large. And politics has a really important role to play in that, in my opinion.
How how about for you, personally?
I have some challenges ahead in politics. I need to challenge myself to be more aware of issues. Including climate change, where the detail is becoming more and more important. It’s not enough anymore just to hold an opinion casually. I think it’s now the time that I have to take responsibility to understand those issues more deeply, so that I can speak with more authority, and also converse and understand the opinions of others with more clarity.
I guess that you’re saying that on a personal level because that’s what you do for work?
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s also something that’s valuable for lots of different issues. It’s not just climate change. There are local issues around me here in Sydney and Darlinghurst, to do with drug and alcohol rehabilitation in particular. I think that there is a lot of hopefulness for people to start this decade and year. Part of that means being able to offer services that are useful for people who are seeking help.
It would be nice if we had governments that were a little bit more focused on social safety net, rather than social and fiscal conservatism, and that kind of thing?
Well, I have to say that I think we have a reasonably good system. And I think systems like the NDIS are being rolled out with care and things don’t always go right immediately. But seeking to improve systems is very important to me. Not throwing out the baby with the bath water. For me, I think liberalism and economic liberalism is quite important. That means being efficient, but being able to be effective with those services, so we’re able to give as many people as possible the help that they’re seeking.
| Angus Cornwell |
What will 2020 be about?
I think that there’s a tendency among people of our age or milieu, to believe that it’s going to be quite a starkly apocalyptic. And I don’t think it necessarily is; I think it’s going to be banally apocalyptic. I think we’ll probably continue to develop and improve the technologies of evil in such a way that we can practice evil without necessarily noticing that we’re doing it, ever increasingly, more intensely and faster. And I suppose, in Australia you might think that would manifest itself in terms of the erosion of civil liberties and the rule of law to which we’re acclimated. I think we’re very badly prepared for what reality could look like when those freedoms are gone.
We see it. We see our footprint at home and overseas. As Australians overseas, you might think about it as something like the way we treat asylum seekers who are intercepted in the water when coming to Australia by boat. In the past, even holding people in tropical prison camps on Nauru and Manus Island, at least those people were afforded some freedoms. But now we have about 50 people in Papua New Guinea who don’t have any contact with doctors or lawyers. They’re forbidden to have mobile phones. This is a very extreme kind of control, which I hope (but doubt) that 2020 will reflect very poorly upon.
So things are going to get worse, rather than better?
But they’ll get boringly worse, not interestingly worse.
Okay. Now how about for you personally?
I have a stack of boring business development goals. But to be honest with you, I think in the last year (and hopefully this will just be in perpetuity now) I’m quite happy with the person who I am. I like myself and I’ve made peace with myself. I feel like I want to keep a respect in the way that I talk to myself, the way I think, and the way that I talk to other people; here I want to keep doing more of the same.
| Alex Staples |
I think 2020 will be all about climate change and the environment, and hopefully taking action. I mean, I see a bit of a new revolution, a bit like how people are protesting a lot lately. Sort of like a resurgence of what was kind of happening in the 70’s.
For me personally, I think a career change in 2020.
Moving apartment but staying in Sydney.
Did you consider leaving Sydney at some point?
I mean, I was thinking about moving overseas, but I think I’ve made the decision to stay.
| Anna Blum |
Well in the US, I think it’s going to be very politics heavy in 2020. I think there’s going to be a big focus on the November election and whether Trump will be re-elected.
I think climate change is going to be a major talking point and focus point in the world. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that; I don’t know if it’s going to be too little, too late.
For me I hope it’s going to be about finishing my thesis. It’s in applied ethics. I’m looking at new technologies, how they should be brought to market, what the clinical trial landscape should look like, and arguing for the inclusion of vulnerable groups into research. So that’s my focus. I hope there’s going to be a place for that, and I hope it’s going to make an impact in the world.
| Will Gilbert |
Every year starts with setting new goals, hitting some of them and getting close to others while totally missing a whole bunch of them as well. But it’s nice to set them and try to find directions you want to go in, and how far you want to push what you’re already doing. And that’s always an exciting time, trying to think about what’s what’s possible in the next year. But, more broadly?
Globally? I think it’s been fascinating being in this sort of ‘post-truth’ era of global media and politics. I think 2020 might be about moving into an era of acceptance of that media landscape. Different sorts of communities and publications, and people finding that they can do their own thing, find their own truth and activity, and progress away from the bigger media movements. It’s very interesting seeing the social media landscape, which… puts people in political bubbles, and which can end up being quite isolated. I would hope that 2020 is going to bring some changes to that landscape and people are going to start realising that they have to break out of those roles.
Maybe more people learning how to research stuff by reading actual scientific journals?
Uh, yeah. Yeah.
Yeah, too optimistic, I would say. I think there should be at least be a better kind of public awareness of the way that all of those things are working and how to deal with them.
| Minh Tran |
In general, I feel like in 2019 people were starting to realise that they do have a voice, and that they can be a reason for change. I think now with 2020, people are going to use that power, hopefully for good, to make positive changes. I think now people can see that they are supposed to challenge things, question things and hopefully they can exercise that power however they see fit.
How about for you more specifically?
I guess in 2019 I took some chances and I took risks I didn’t think I would ever take. 2020 is all about seeing how it’ll unfold. I’d like to think that these risks will lead to good things. We’ll just see if that’s what will actually happen.
What kind of risks are we talking about?
I guess just stepping out of my comfort zone and just being more open.
[Humorously] I mean, last year my favorite fast food chain came out with a limited-edition burger, and I was a little apprehensive that it might not meet my expectations, but I gave it a try and it was actually really good! I’m hoping they bring it back again this year! [Laughter]
So there you have it.
Prognostications sought, augurs consulted, fortunes told and general portents decided. For the second year running, we’ve seen recurring themes of conflict, resolution and the turning of corners, with hope for the beginning of a decade and the undeniable weight of political and environmental issues both at home and abroad. Similarly to last year, it’s worth noting that all our respondents share a strong awareness of the urgent geopolitical and environmental crises our planet is facing. This time however, the almost universally optimistic outlook of last time has been tempered with a stronger sense that we need to do even more to urgently change for the better, and avert the possibility of impending cataclysm. Again, on an individual level, although most here acknowledged that the world is in the midst of an ‘almighty shit storm’, all appear to be maintaining focus on their own trajectory whilst working toward fulfilling their own goals.
Though only the next 12 months can truly answer us with certainty, we’d like to thank everyone who has generously thrown their hat in the ring and participated in this little discussion, and for providing us with a remarkable round of well-informed contemplation and homespun futurism.
May we all in good health enjoy the ride this year will offer.
Happy New Year from Caramel Animals.
Links to some of the wonderful people in this article:
Elle Hunt: https://www.instagram.com/smellydemon/
Tim Dean: https://twitter.com/ockhamsbeard/
Bud Petal: https://www.instagram.com/sandwich.mcneil/
Erin Webster: https://www.instagram.com/studioeau/
Anna Blum: https://www.instagram.com/blumin_anna/
Minh Tran: https://www.instagram.com/antiquitease/
Jacqui Munro: https://www.instagram.com/jacquifunro/
Reef Gaha: https://www.instagram.com/caramelanimals/