You get What You Pay for: The Positive Side of Covid-19
All the Virus has Done is Shown each Country and Person its Achilles Heel
One lesson of these episodes of economic tumult is that those surprising ripple effects tend to result from longstanding unaddressed frailties. Crises have a way of bringing to the fore issues that are easy to ignore in good times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/16/upshot/world-economy-restructuring-coronavirus.html
Achilles was the bravest, handsomest, and greatest warrior of the army of Agamemnon in the Trojan War. As a baby Achilles was dipped in the waters of the River Styx, by which means he became invulnerable, except for the part of his heel by which he was held —the proverbial “Achilles’ heel.” He was finally killed by an arrow that was guided to his heel by Apollo, who was seeking revenge on Achilles for an insult to him during the Trojan war.
Each of us has our Achilles heel, the one weakness that will bring us to total ruin. So do countries. Here are several stories that make the case that the metaphor of a country being a `person` is helpful in this way: The virus only kills people who are already weakened by some other condition and countries are only “killed” [ie. economic and social damage] when they have systems in place that are being done ‘on the cheap’ by abusing a segment of the population which then spreads it to the rest of the population. So, in a very unfortunate way, this virus is doing us a favour: it is pointing out things we have to change in our society that will, in the long term, improve the quality of life for those currently abused and taken for granted. This is a harsh lesson to learn, but let us never forget that Nature is always harsh and we are still subject to her rule.
What can you do to improve your life using this idea? First, don’t be afraid. Second, actively look for opportunities to act in a positive way – remembering the old Chinese proverb that Crises = Danger + Opportunity. Third, be ready for significant changes in how we will live in the future. Nobody knows exactly what those changes will be, but if you have a state of mind where you see change as living-giving rather than as a threat you will be able to adapt and continue to live happily in the new world which is unfolding before us.
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”
Worrying Resurgence of the Covid-19 Virus in Singapore from the Country that Seemed to do Everything Right
Thousands returned to Singapore from countries which had not been as proactive – among them more than 500 people who unwittingly brought the virus back with them. It was by then mandatory for returnees to stay at home for two weeks. But other people in their household were told they could carry on with their lives, as long as no-one showed any symptoms. Prof Teo says it’s easy to say with hindsight that it was a mistake to not limit returnees’ interactions. But the reality is “right now, we know a lot more about the disease compared to back in March”.
“We now know that asymptomatic spread is entirely possible – it does happen and could be the main driver of transmission for Covid-19. But the alarming exponential rise in the last week has been around Singapore’s migrant worker population – the hundreds of thousands of men from poorer countries employed in construction, shipping, and maintenance. Singapore is utterly dependent on these workers to keep its economy operating, but they are jobs in which social distancing is all but impossible.
On top of that, the workers are required by law to live in dormitories – privately-run facilities which house up to 12 men per room, with shared bathroom, cooking and social facilities. It seems almost inevitable that these dorms would become clusters, and indeed they did. Close to 500 cases have now been confirmed in several dormitory clusters – one facility alone makes up 15% of all cases nationally. If it had been known earlier how quickly the virus could spread “I would have done things differently”, but that many workers continued at their jobs despite having symptoms. The fear is that in the next week or so, these numbers will explode. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-52232147
If they are not being included in the social safety net why should they obey the rules?
Morality was created not to be ‘nice’, but to allow a society to function by building mutual trust – trust that everybody would benefit from the sacrifices they made to work for the good of the others as we are all specialists and all dependent on others to provide us with the basics of life. We lost our independence but gained security, at a high price, which is only worth it if our society supports us in our times of need.
Many of our Leaders Have Failed “The Leadership Test”
Most countries don’t have leaders – they have followers, if you use my favourite definition of leadership:
“A leader bring a people to the place they would otherwise not go.”
When the situation is uncertain, human instinct and basic management training can cause leaders — out of fear of taking the wrong steps and unnecessarily making people anxious — to delay action and to downplay the threat until the situation becomes clearer. But behaving in this manner means failing the coronavirus leadership test, because by the time the dimensions of the threat are clear, you’re badly behind in trying to control the crisis. Passing that test requires leaders to act in an urgent, honest, and iterative fashion, recognizing that mistakes are inevitable and correcting course — not assigning blame — is the way to deal with them when they occur. https://hbr.org/2020/04/what-good-leadership-looks-like-during-this-pandemic?ab=hero-main-text
While Canadians may feel a bit smug about how our leadership is “so much better” than that of our dear friends south of the border the fact that Canadian leaders are only acting when they feel a big part of the electorate is ready to accept the changes they proclaim means, given the above definition of leadership, that they too are mere followers or at best managers. Nice managers, with nice hair, but still not leaders.
PRICE CRASH, PANDEMIC PUT FOSSILS IN PERIL AS INVESTORS GET NERVOUS
Apart from a bit of wishful thinking from a veteran oil and gas financier in Calgary, the North American fossil industry is being devastated by the combination of low oil prices and plummeting demand driven by the pandemic, with investors in both Canada and the United States becoming ever more skeptical of an industry that was in rough enough shape before the latest crisis hit. In Canada, the Globe and Mail points to a “hefty jump” in interest costs for Suncor Energy—the country’s biggest oil producer and refiner—as evidence that lenders “have become wary of the Canadian oilpatch as it struggles with the collapse of crude prices”. Overall, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) says the Canadian industry has lost C$6 to $8 billion in investment in the last three weeks. https://theenergymix.com/2020/04/12/price-crash-pandemic-put-fossils-in-peril-as-investors-get-nervous/
Without Cheap Foreign Agricultural Workers We Don’t Eat – Canadian farmers warn they may ‘sit out the season’ unless government aid guaranteed
The answer? Simple, pay farm workers enough that Canadians can do the job. Will that make food more expensive. Yes. Will it make us less “competitive” – only if you don’t think Food Security is not an issue. If you factor in risk and politics – being sure we can feed ourselves without external support – and that includes not bein as over reliant on California fruit and vegetables – then paying a bit more the “cheaper” choice because with out food security nothing else really matters.
Canadian farmers are warning that their fields could fall fallow and their crops left to rot this summer, resulting in potential food shortages and higher prices.
In a news conference Thursday, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture said farmers need reassurance that government financial aid is coming, or else many will abandon the 2020 growing season.
“This is a potential tragedy, one Canada cannot afford,” he agriculture sector is now at a tipping point, Robinson said, with farmers facing complications with migrant labour and unexpected costs for things like personal protective equipment. With all the uncertainty, some farmers are considering switching to growing soy beans for animal feed — which take less money and labour than, say, tomatoes.
“What we’re hearing some farmers say is: It’s too risky. I think I’m just going to sit this one out,” Robinson said in an interview. “If a cherry farmer has a COVID breakout on his farm the week before he’s meant to start harvest, and he’s invested millions and millions and millions of dollars in that crop, what happens to him?”
Why are there so many deaths in Old Age Homes?
They are unregulated. There are two main causes. One, older facilities have 4 people per room to save money. Second, the PSWs who work there have no full-time positions or benefits. They typically earn $20 an hour or less. Many juggle two part-time jobs to make ends meet. They get infected in one home and bring the virus to another.
At least 600 seniors’ residences in Canada have staff or residents who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 31 Deaths: Toll at Quebec Nursing Home in Pandemic Reflects Global Phenomenon. Investigators are examining accusations of gross negligence after dozens of deaths at a residence where health care staff fled amid a coronavirus outbreak. The deaths in Canada were discovered late last week at Résidence Herron, a private home for seniors in Montreal, after the local health authority, alarmed by staff shortages and the spread of coronavirus at the home, took control of the residence.
They found dehydrated residents lying listless in bed, unfed for days, with excrement seeping out of their diapers. Four dead had been dead for days. A skeleton staff of two nurses had been left to care for a private residence with nearly 150 beds, she said. The remaining staff had fled amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, leaving patients, some paralyzed or with other chronic illnesses, to fend for themselves.
What is One Punchline we can derive from all this?
You get what you pay for.
It Pays to be Moral.
Our Covid-19 crisis all about abuse.
Abuse of Nature.
Abuse of animals.
Abuse of People.
Abuse of the facts.
We are suffering the truth stated in the old adage “pay me now or pay me later”.
We have been trying to be cheap.
And now we are paying the price.
The Source of Recent Viruses – Chinese Live Wild Animal Markets – Must be Shut Down
During the SARS virus China shut down its live wild animal [wet markets] markets because it was clear that they were the source of the virus. It was recommended by some that they be shut down permanently as many experts were of the opinion that they would inevitable produce another deadly virus. So, if we see the SARS event as a warning that we did not heed, we have to accept that Covid-19 was our collective fault –because there was not pressure put on China to shut down their wet markets. As a matter of fact, they are already re-opening them in Wuhan!
The 2003 epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which killed 774 people, nearly all of them in mainland China, was traced to palm civets sold as exotic meat in southern Chinese food markets. The virus behind a deadly 1997 bird flu outbreak that fatally infected at least 18 people in Hong Kong is believed to have originated among fowl raised in southern mainland China — the source of virtually all poultry in the Chinese territory.
There are two reasons why China is the source of most deadly pandemics: international trade and wildlife farming/live animal markets. Trade is the main ‘vector’ by which the plagues above have spread, going back to the Roman Empire. While the same unsafe farming/live animal markets exist in Africa as China that continent has now, and historically, had much less trade and movement of people than across Asia. Furthermore, because of high population density, many epidemiologists point to some fundamental facts about China as being pandemic prone: the proximity of urban and rural dwellers and the slaughterhouses and urban markets where animals are freshly butchered. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/10/world/asia/china-epidemics-coronavirus.html
The dangerous cross species transfer of viruses mostly come from China because both today and historically they have farming practices that make this transfer almost inevitable. For example, the Guardian recently reported:
For the past few years China’s leadership has pushed the idea that “wildlife domestication” should be a key part of rural development, eco-tourism and poverty alleviation. A 2017 report by the Chinese Academy of Engineering on the development of the wildlife farming industry valued the wildlife-farming industry those operations at 520bn yuan, or £57bn.
Just weeks before the outbreak, China’s State Forestry and Grassland Administration (SFGA) was still actively encouraging citizens to get into farming wildlife such as civet cats – a species pinpointed as a carrier of Sars, a disease similar to Covid-19. The SFGA regulates both farming and trade in terrestrial wildlife, and quotas of wildlife products – such as pangolin scales – allowed to be used by the Chinese medicine industry.
“Why are civet cats still encouraged to [be eaten] after the Sars outbreak in 2003? It’s because the hunters, operators, practitioners need that. How can they achieve that? They urged the government to support them under the pretext of economic development,”
This begs the question, was Covid19 avoidable? Of course! Sars was the result of a similar cross species transfer of a virus from a wild animal to people in a ‘wet’ market:
“After the SARS outbreak in 2003, which was traced to a wet market in the southern Guangdong Province, a temporary ban on wet markets and the wild-animal industry were put in place. In July of that year, the World Health Organization declared the SARS virus contained, and in August the Chinese government lifted the ban. Wet markets are found the world over, typically open-air sites selling fresh meat, seafood, and produce. The meats often are butchered and trimmed on-site. Markets in China have come in for justifiable condemnation because of the way they’ve evolved, commingling traditional livestock with a wide variety of wild animals, including exotic and endangered species. Many are quite unsanitary, with blood, entrails, excrement, and other waste creating the conditions for disease that migrates from animals to people through virus, bacteria, and other forms of transmission. Such “zoonotic diseases” that have emerged from China and other regions of the world include Ebola, HIV, bird flu, swine flu, and SARS. The wild animals that mix with more common livestock — poultry, swine, and seafood — form a deadly combination. And, as has been well reported by Vox and others, wild-animal farming has a long history in China.
Here is a bit of background. Wild-animal farming has a long history in China, emerging after disastrous decades of state control of rural production under Mao Zedong. By the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, tens of millions of Chinese citizens had died of starvation under a system that could not produce enough food for China’s population.
Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, in the late 1970s lifted state controls on rural farming to allow peasant farmers to provide for their own sustenance. Rats, bats, civet cats, pangolins, and other wild animals became staples of rural farming. To acknowledge and even encourage this, the government enacted laws that protected “the lawful rights of those engaged in the development or utilization of wildlife resources.”
Over time, this led to the breeding and distribution of these animals, and small rural outposts developed into larger-scale operations. Add to this the use of wild animals not only for consumption but as the supposedly magic ingredients in tonics and alternative medicines, and it is obvious that what began as subsistence farming for the rural poor has developed into a substantial industry. There should be permanent closure of the wet markets, given the government’s obvious inability or unwillingness to regulate them. Such a comprehensive approach would be a reversal of decades of government policy and market practice, but when we get through this crisis and the toll it will take on the world, we will owe it to the memory of those we lose that there be a global, sustained push to see these practices ended, everywhere.
So, the truth is that without the worldwide elimination of ‘wet’ markets, including those in Africa, we are sure to have another outbreak like or [probably] worse than Covid19 . A final note – the Covid-19 virus does not compare to these viruses in terms of its death rate. It also rarely strikes younger, healthy people. The covid-19 death rate is estimated at perhaps 1% [we won’t know for sure until we have good data, which is hard to come by] while the black death killed up to 50% of people. So really, there is no need for most of us to panic. Let’s just follow social distancing and hand washing protocols and most of us will be fine. When we do this we are protecting the vulnerable – an essential act for a civilized society.
The Coronavirus Is Killing Globalization as We Know It
Because many people were already starting to feel that the downside of globalization was worse than its benefits our neo-liberal economy was under threat even before the virus. We needed to change. We needed to make people feel more in control of their lives. But we didn’t. So now are reaping the reward of our inaction. And it is probable that as an overly emotional anti-globalization response spreads around the globe because of the virus we will all suffer. But the fact is, we did need to change. Too bad we couldn’t do so rationally.
Well before a deadly virus began spreading across multiple borders, a world defined by deepening interconnection appeared to be reassessing the merits of globalization.The United States, led by the unabashed nationalist Donald J. Trump, was ordering multinational companies to abandon China and make their goods in American factories. Britain was forsaking the European Union, almost certainly reviving customs checks on both sides of the English Channel, while threatening to disrupt a vital trading relationship. A surge of refugees fleeing some of the most dangerous places on earth — Syria, Afghanistan, Central America — had produced a backlash against immigration in many developed countries. In Europe, it elevated the stature of extreme right-wing parties that were winning votes with promises to slam the gates shut. President Trump was pursuing the construction of a wall running along the border with Mexico, while seeking to bar Muslims from entering the country. The coronavirus that has seeped out of China, insinuating itself into at least 81 countries while killing more than 3,200 people, has effectively accelerated and intensified the pushback to global connection.
It has sown chaos in the global supply chain that links factories across borders and oceans, enabling plants that produce finished products to draw parts, components and raw materials from around the world. Many companies are now seeking alternative suppliers in countries that appear less vulnerable to disruption. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/05/business/coronavirus-globalism.html
Some countries will adapt and make the changes they need. Others will not. The differences will be obvious.
So, let’s make the changes needed that Covid-19 has made clear to us – our Achilles heel, and will be well.
written by Gordon Kubanek