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Nice Summer Coming, But
Big Action Is Still Needed
To follow up on my previously explored worries (COVID Ends with a Shrug), I want to share this episode of The Big Story, a great Canadian daily podcast about current events. In this episode, host Jordan Heath-Rawlings interviews Dr. David Fisman, epidemiologist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, again to ask: is it over? The answer is a relief, and it’s a good discussion.
The short take is that yes, things seem to be winding down in terms of global death rates, and COVID looks likely to become a seasonal thing that only emergency wards have to really think about. It sounds like this will be a great summer here in the northern hemisphere, and I hope to enjoy the vague, undefined sense of relief and outdoor socializing: I want to visit my family, to see an outdoor movie in Toronto, and to be bothered by drunks at Cherry Beach. I trust this source, and feel relieved to hear this, and will soak up all the relief I can.
How Will We Use the Reprieve?
But it isn’t all good news – sorry. The second half of the interview is an iteration of a conversation I can’t stop hearing or having: we haven’t learned the lessons, even though they’re clear, and will not be ready for another pandemic. Factory farming and continual degradation of the natural world will make pandemics more and more likely. Never mind that disease is now a divisive issue and entire industries are based on spreading the opposite of truth. We no longer have a sense of a common good, on a day-to-day basis.
From the conversation’s transcript:
Fisman: But frustratingly for me, I feel like the major lesson I’ve learned from this pandemic, living in an affluent country that has a lot of infrastructure and tools and which I thought had a pretty decent commitment to doing the right thing –something I’ve learned during this pandemic is don’t count on goodness saving you, don’t count on rational action and foresightedness saving you. Human beings just don’t seem to be capable of acting collectively in the face of predictable threats to mitigate the threats before they’re actually upon us. We seem to be an incredibly reactive species, and that’s pretty depressing. (my italics)
Heath-Rawlings: Yeah, that’s an analysis I could literally apply to any one of the next, I don’t know, six stories that we have lined up for the podcast.
That’s the convo I keep hearing, everywhere I listen to smart people talk. It goes:
Q: Are you hopeful?
Like Heath-Rawlings says, it applies to almost all of the important stories in our upcoming and current lives. Last week I heard hopeful, positive Douglas Rushkoff (of the Team Human podcast and many great books) say that he was striving to learn to live without hope. It hurt to hear, despite my own fatalism.
When I’m not indulging my fatalist side, and when I am indulging my imagination, I wonder what we can do about this. I’ve been wondering what seeds we could lay now that might pay off in the future; my friend Matt calls this “inceptioning,” which I love.
I can picture a future where Canada really steps up like a grown-up and takes charge in the inevitable future that contains millions of climate refugees. If I were in charge, I’d start sharing the idea that Canada needs to prepare the next generation to welcome the influx of people – an influx like we have never seen – into our country. It’s going to happen, and we can prepare for it with positivity, or let reactionary junior-adults like Pierre Poilievre scare the fuck out of everyone and turn the situation into a Children of Men-style hell.
It could be a real moment of cultural evolution. Canada could admit that:
the capitalism we have is a deadweight
industrial behaviour that kills is stupid and evil
rigged electoral systems and opaque bureaucracies allow the rich and the old to protect themselves at the expense of the young and the future
Indigenous insight and stewardship is EXACTLY what we need right now
I would be so PROUD to be part of such a country – and I am so ashamed by the opposite behaviour Canada shows right now. Imagine being the country who stepped up and got its shit together and did whatever it took to save as many people as possible! Those people would all become Proud Canadians, and some of them would solve carbon capture and create sustainable technologies, and some would create a new music made of the whole world’s music, and Canada could lead the world in a new way: non-extractive, non-exploitive, genuinely democratic, with love at our centre. That could happen.
Um What Should We Do? Um
Look, here’s what I’m saying, to tie it all together: we adults are all, metaphorically, cops wearing body armour standing outside a school of children who are being murdered, and we are all looking at our fucking watches, and at each other, going “Um, I’m thinking we should wait and see.” We know what we have to do, and we are being the world’s worst cowards by not addressing what’s going on. This week my blood is boiling at this image – I know what I would do if someone was shooting children, by the way, and I am weak, unarmored, and gunless. Fuck those police – I am disgusted.
We Are Those Cowards
But those cops are US, those cowardly cops. They’re us when we reelect a stupid gangster like Doug Ford in Ontario, or when we keep buying bottled water and letting Nestle buy our aquifers, or when we “just worry about immigration, um,” or when we don’t defund the RCMP or even really pay attention to their crimes, or when we reelect Trudeau after he betrays his own promises of transparency, reconciliation, and justice, or when the best evidence, looked at by the best minds, says, “We have 12 years to address an existential crisis” and we do not act.
Those cops are US when we don’t change behaviours that we KNOW will kill our children, whether that be over the course of the next hour or the next century. We’re standing outside the school, with the body armour and the advanced weaponry and the training, and we’re listening to children being fucking murdered by another child.
Imagine the shame.
We Don’t Have to Be
How can we fix this? We’re capable. We’re the richest, luckiest humans who have ever been. We have the best resources and tools. How can we get to a Canada 2067 celebration where we could all proudly celebrate the difficult, amazing, brave thing we’d done?
How are we going to do it? Comments and suggestions desperately welcome. If you don’t have an idea yourself, please pass the question on to somebody.