It is 2022 and war in Ukraine returns mainland Europe into unprecedented times in today’s world. Even rarer given Europe is no longer the cluster of individually nationalistic countries it was 80 years ago and we have been living in a time of unprecedented global and regional collaboration.
The world is smaller, we can have regular conversations with distant relatives and colleagues, in lifelike quality, multiple times a day. We can be in NY struggling with the snow one day and in Bali on a tropical beach the next.
For the last two decades the narratives have played out to the tune of collaboration. Nothing and no one is set in stone. The number of global restrictions for travel have reduced (discounting for Covid). The world is what we make of it. We have seen talk of collaboration and consensus on a multitude of issues across the world, from funding space exploration to tackling environmental issues and climate change.
Yet just one physical event can have the dramatic effect of polarising the actions of nearly half the world, strengthening collaboration and forcing further action faster than any conference, meeting or summit.
Human suffering & terror is front of mind
The last few weeks have seen little else discussed in the media and on the streets, beyond the war in Ukraine.
Whilst the media have chosen to showcase the humanitarian crisis, the fighting and the Russian & Ukrainian rhetoric, little has been mentioned about the lesser everyday concerns of European’s regarding a war on their turf.
What might this mean for European’s outside of Ukraine? What do they feel the foreseeable future holds for them, and what fears, or concerns do they predict will affect their everyday lives?
Lesser publicised concerns for everyday livelihoods
Covid, what covid?
As few as 3 weeks ago European nations were still in the process of easing their Covid restrictions. With many countries having successfully turned the tide of the latest variant & possibly the disease itself. However, European’s remain vigilant having been bombarded by little other news in recent years.
Despite mass concerns for the ongoing humanitarian crisis unfolding along the EU’s boarders, some overly concerned netizens have begun to vent frustrations that lack of government attention and an unchecked migration will give Covid a new foothold.
Many showcase frustration at the lack of media attention the illness continues to get, with regular jesting that concerns about a ‘mild invasion’ seems to grasp more concern by the media than a ‘deadly disease’. Whilst this appears to be the voice of a small segment of the online community, the volume of these voices is growing and their reach increasing.
Wheat as a weapon
Whilst spiralling oil and gas prices have been top of mind for many as the highly fluid pricing structure has an immediate implication for those refuelling their car. Concerns over food price rises have yet to be fully felt as food production companies and supermarkets are able to smooth price rises due to buying power & overstocking.
However, one key staple is soon to be causing global ramifications, wheat. Ukraine & Russia export nearly 30% of the world’s supply.
With Ukraine halting exports of key food stuffs from corn to chickens, the rising cost of bread, pasta and other staples will have a huge impact on the everyday ability for families on the breadline to feed themselves.
With summer drawing closer and prices set to sore, wheat shortages will hit the pockets of ordinary European’s in another less publicised way, your BBQ.
Wheat is a major component of alcohol. Not just Beer, but Vodka, Gin, Whisky and even neutral grain spirit which is used as the primary base for liquors, RTDs and even Chinese Baijiu.
Policy makers may not yet have passed comment, but could Russia turn this against the west this summer. Just as consumers turn off their heating for the summer and gas demand starts to ease, if instead, Russia were to turn off the beer tap, summer will look very different this year.
It wouldn’t take much time to overhear the following right now “and now Ukraine, it’s all too much”. The former coming across as the overwhelming sentiment of Twitter goers since the day of the invasion, with a 46% rise in mentions over the last 3 weeks.
Mental health organisations and campaigners have seen a flurry of calls over the last month as one form of bad news gives way to another. Even school children’s mental health, which is at an all-time low after 2 years of Covid restrictions, has reached new levels of anxiety as their understanding of the situation is impacted by their grasp on the complex issues at hand.
Top mental health concerns rising from the war range from fears of all out Nuclear attacks, the oppression of the Russian people’s voice, to the rescue of captive animals in Ukrainian zoos. Many even raise concerns about children fleeing the country falling victim to human trafficking and prostitution.
Sadly, for many it may be that the war in Ukraine is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, with the concerns often too numerous to vocalise fully.
Despite the worries and anxieties faced by ordinary citizens, this may well become a force for change as a coordinated effort has joined likeminded people together in a new cause to fight for.
We may not be seeing the end of the war anytime soon, but at least for the foreseeable future the peoples of Europe are united behind a cause, united as a continent, and as one people.
Research for this article was undertaken using social media scans provided by Quantum’s Digital Listening team. Scans seek out real consumer voices online to understand the everyday concerns or aspirations they have, and plot emerging conversation themes and trends.