Sunday, March 29, 2020

God Or Trump? You Decide

Your Sunday afternoon (rueful) smile.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Imagining A New World

Having the underpinnings of our daily lives so radically altered is immensely unsettling. The things we have always taken for granted, be it a daily walk, a quick trip to the store, a handshake with a friend, a rubbing of the eye, all of these and many more now come with the whiff of lethality. The new normal is egregiously abnormal.

We are all in mourning for the routines that until now gave structure to our lives.

But I also know I am but one among many who look for the good that can ultimately emerge from this crisis. The radical, unprecedented and immensely uncomfortable shift in living we are all experiencing has given us the opportunity to reflect on our lives, our values, and our ultimate fate as a society and as a species.

What might have been important to us such a short time ago now seems far less pressing: social status, getting and spending, ideologies that impel us to snipe at our political opponents - none have the urgency they might have held but a few short weeks ago. As Ben Jonson so aptly put it,

"Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

Assuming we are spared the noose, what is it we want the world to look like when Covid-19 abates?

The Star's Rick Salutin offers his thoughts. Succinctly, he asks a fundamental question:
"Does the economy exist to serve people or vice versa?"

If you choose option 1, you pursue it, closing the economy till the plague passes, or settles into normal patterns, like the flu, which can be handled in normal ways (vaccine, built-up immunity) instead of people bringing out their dead as they did of old.

Another angle: Choose the economy, and — consequently — people die, they’re gone forever. Choose people, and the economy doesn’t die. It gets mothballed, put into a coma, to be revived. People die. Economies, which aren’t alive, can be put on hold, then come “roaring back.”

Because the economy isn’t a living being, you can tuck it away awhile.

In that case, the economy gets subordinated to human well-being. Rent, mortgages, debt are forgiven or delayed though money must still be found for repairs etc. Only governments can finance these dislocations. Private businesses can’t because they’re under constraints like competition.

Where will government find the money? .... Governments always find the money when there’s a war to fight.
I will return to the above question in a moment, but Salutin goes on to talk about this remarkable sight:
A remarkable thing about this debate, or nondebate since leaders have overwhelmingly opted for the people choice, is the range represented. Canadian right wing austerity buffs like Jason Kenney, François Legault and Doug Ford leapt in enthusiastically, alongside Justin Trudeau.
So much for the ideological divide. It is clear that Canadian leaders are opting for the people. But what about each of us and the innate power we have but too frequently fail to recognize? So we return to the writer's question about where government will find the money.

In the short-term, it will obviously borrow it.

Later, opportunists will no doubt try to foist austerity upon us as the price for today's spending. If we let them get away with that, we will have learned nothing from our current circumstances. No, if the world is to have a real rebirth, real, adult and difficult choices have to be made, including serious discussion around that always fraught topic, taxation.

Simply put, when this is over, many of us will have to pay more taxes. There will need to be special levees to reduce the deficit and the debt, because the old saw about growing the economy to pay for programs will not work for a long, long time, if ever again. Now, I am hardly the only one who enjoys a comfortable retirement, and the thought of paying more bothers me not in the least. As well, the corporate tax rate, when things stabilize, will have to be raised. And if there was ever a time for a financial transaction tax, it is now.

The weeks ahead will continue to be a crucible. We have already begun to reappraise our values as we recognize the things that connect us all. We cannot help but grow in appreciation of the people we rely on, be it the grocery clerk, the garbage collector, the pharmacist, the doctors, nurses, the tireless journalists bring us the best information they can. Equally, our empathy cannot help but increase for the more vulnerable among us: the precariously employed, those living from paycheck to paycheck, renters facing eviction, the homeless, those who rely on foodbanks. Platitudinous thoughts and prayers will not cut it. Programs like a basic income will. And we all must be willing to pay for them.

Fate has delivered to us an unprecedented opportunity to change the world's trajectory. But time is short. When Covid-19 abates, will we emerge healed from our petty obsessions and become participants in creating a new world? Or will vital lessons be quickly forgotten and see us return to our old modes of thinking, modes that are directly responsible for the sad state we are in today?

Now is not the time for us to be anything other than apt students.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Glaring Omission

Anyone who may read this blog regularly knows that, for a number of reasons, I am not a fan of Justin Trudeau and his government. However, I give him top marks for his consistently calm and measured demeanour during this crisis. And the financial measures announced thus far, with some caveats, seem good.

He is, however, totally failing our mainstream media.

Due to declining ad revenues, media organizations have been struggling for years to survive. Now that we are in the grips of a pandemic, many face extinction. Thus far, the federal government has announced $30 million for a Covid-19 ad campaign that will do little to keep them alive:
Beyond the ad campaign, the lack of an emergency cash infusion for the struggling industry came as a disappointment to John Hinds, president and CEO of News Media Canada.

“We hoped he was going to announce something new. Instead, what (the government) did was rehash a couple of announcements that were very good with dealing with the crisis we were facing a year ago, but have nothing to do with the (pandemic-related cash crunch) crisis we’re facing today.”
When we need sources of responsible reporting now more than ever, they are drying up:
The state of print and digital news media made headlines this week when SaltWire Network said it was laying off nearly 40 per cent of its employees — about 240 people — and suspending all weekly newspapers in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador for 12 weeks.

In Quebec, 143 jobs were lost across a co-operative that owns daily newspapers outside of Montreal, including Le Soleil in Quebec City.

In an open letter to readers, SaltWire Network CEO Mark Lever said the business lost nearly two-thirds of its revenue because many advertisers ceasing operations temporarily.

“Like many industries and businesses, the economic ripple effect of COVID-19 has hit our local newspaper media industry faster and far more aggressively than we could have ever planned for or anticipated,” Lever wrote.
Those who think news is free and can be cherry-picked off the internet need to read this piece by The Star's Irene Gentle, who reminds us how, now more than ever, it is vital to stay informed.

The newspaper is doing its part in a number of categories, bringing readers the most vetted and most important news and views on an ongoing basis. And out of a sense of civic responsibility, it has removed its paywall on stories about Covid-19.
It is the right thing to do when the actions of every one of us impacts all of us.

Doing the right thing always feels good. But such are the times that doing the right thing now can harm our future viability. The media industry is in a deep financial crisis that has only worsened with the outbreak. Journalism can be staggeringly expensive, and responsible, exclusive, accountability journalism is the most expensive of all.
I add bold-type to this part of her message:
For those who can find it in their budgets amid these very difficult times, please consider subscribing to ensure public-service journalism that’s there for you can continue to exist. The need for local, responsible, compassionate, aggressive, in-depth reporting that demands accountability is clear in times like these. Subscription by some helps ensure vital information can be available to all.
Time for all of us, both as human beings and as citizens, to put on our thinking caps and keep them on, even after this crisis passes. But thinking caps need nourishment. I can think of no better a nutrient that responsible journalism.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Thank You, Corona Virus

A friend sent the following to me this morning. It is quite powerful, and reflects the kind of thinking I and I'm sure countless others have been engaged in of late.

May we truly take some lasting lessons from this ongoing catastrophe.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Time For A Massive Reorientation

It is perhaps to state the obvious that a crisis of the scale the world is currently experiencing is also an opportunity to reorient our perspective and our society. As many of us are now acutely aware, and despite the 'social distancing' we are observing, none of us live in isolation. Let us take this new understanding to heart.

Two letters in today's Star, I believe, effectively convey this.
For years, we have been encouraged to be isolated, as in caring only about ourselves, focusing only on our own well-being, which we are told is solely in our own hands.

We have been encouraged to think of ourselves as islands, our health, happiness and prosperity are independent of the larger community, society or country, never mind the world.

This way of thinking has naturally led to constant arguments against having efficient and caring governments, paying taxes, and public funding even for health and scientific research.

It is unfortunate that it takes something like COVID-19 to convince us, hopefully once and for all, that as human beings, we can never be independent of each other, and our health, well-being and prosperity is very much in each other’s hands.

COVID-19 once again shows the importance of our collective thinking and acting, of the importance of paying taxes and a fair tax system, of good governments, of public funding and of science and research.

It is not the corporations and the myth of trickle-down economics that can save us from common threats, but good governments, public health systems and collective support.

With individual and collective responsible spirit and actions, we can prevent the spread of the coronavirus and eventually defeat this pandemic.

Maria Sabaye Moghaddam, Ottawa

Twenty years from now, we will look back and say, “Thank goodness for this coronavirus!”

What we are witnessing is the beginning of a complete and far-reaching restructuring of life, business and communication.

COVID-19 has removed 80 per cent of the vehicles from the streets in a manner that no environmental activist could. It has removed 90 per cent of the people from buses, trains and subways.

What caught on as a convenience has now become the only way business can be conducted during this period of social distancing.

We are talking about working from home. It is safe to estimate that half the labour force can and is now working from home at some level and to some extent.

The big question is how entrenched will this practice become post-coronavirus.

This is as good at time as any to think carefully about what our priorities should be in the future.

COVID-19 gives us an opportunity to break away from business as usual. It gives us the ability to embrace of new paths; more sensible paths. A possible path that could see us reducing vehicular emissions so much that Greta Thunberg would be proud of us!

The curse of this coronavirus becomes a blessing for those who would use this opportunity to be courageous.

Greg McKnight, Brampton

Friday, March 20, 2020

A Big Fall

The Greeks were well-familiar with the concept of hamartia, which can be defined as follows:
The term hamartia derives from the Greek ἁμαρτία, from ἁμαρτάνειν hamartánein, which means "to miss the mark" or "to err".[1][2] It is most often associated with Greek tragedy....
In literature, it is usually associated with the protagonist's tragic flaw, which often manifests itself as hubris, a kind of exaggerated pride or arrogance, and it never ends well.

Unfortunately, hubris is not a mere literary construct. Its presence is increasingly evident in the world today, and it is fueled by a massive error in our character, our collective tragic flaw: the belief that we are somehow above, not part of, nature.

The result, if you will forgive a cliché, is that the chickens are now coming home to roost.
... a number of researchers today think that it is actually humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19, the viral disease that emerged in China in December 2019, to arise – with profound health and economic impacts in rich and poor countries alike. In fact, a new discipline, planetary health, is emerging that focuses on the increasingly visible connections between the wellbeing of humans, other living things and entire ecosystems.
Our aggressive, heedless thirst for greater and greater economic gain has resulted in widespread habitat destruction, with dire results:
“We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbour so many species of animals and plants – and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses,” David Quammen, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic, recently wrote in the New York Times. “We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.”
While we have always had a certain number of viruses that originate in animals and infect us, such as rabies and plague, up to now, with modern medicine and detection, the threat has been manageable.

Not anymore.
Research suggests that outbreaks of animal-borne and other infectious diseases such as Ebola, Sars, bird flu and now Covid-19, caused by a novel coronavirus, are on the rise. Pathogens are crossing from animals to humans, and many are able to spread quickly to new places. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that three-quarters of new or emerging diseases that infect humans originate in animals.
Kate Jones, chair of ecology and biodiversity at UCL, says the emergence and spread of these bugs
... are linked to environmental change and human behaviour. The disruption of pristine forests driven by logging, mining, road building through remote places, rapid urbanisation and population growth is bringing people into closer contact with animal species they may never have been near before, she says.

The resulting transmission of disease from wildlife to humans, she says, is now “a hidden cost of human economic development. There are just so many more of us, in every environment. We are going into largely undisturbed places and being exposed more and more. We are creating habitats where viruses are transmitted more easily, and then we are surprised that we have new ones.”
Disease ecologist Thomas Gillespie, says that things will get much worse:
Wildlife everywhere is being put under more stress, he says. “Major landscape changes are causing animals to lose habitats, which means species become crowded together and also come into greater contact with humans. Species that survive change are now moving and mixing with different animals and with humans.”
Human activity is at the root of this multi-faceted problem. Habitat destruction and the world population explosion leads to other sources of infection, not the least of which are markets that have opened up to feed an increasingly hungry world:
Here, animals are slaughtered, cut up and sold on the spot.

The “wet market” (one that sells fresh produce and meat) in Wuhan, thought by the Chinese government to be the starting point of the current Covid-19 pandemic, was known to sell numerous wild animals, including live wolf pups, salamanders, crocodiles, scorpions, rats, squirrels, foxes, civets and turtles.

Equally, urban markets in west and central Africa sell monkeys, bats, rats, and dozens of species of bird, mammal, insect and rodent slaughtered and sold close to open refuse dumps and with no drainage.

“Wet markets make a perfect storm for cross-species transmission of pathogens,” says Gillespie. “Whenever you have novel interactions with a range of species in one place, whether that is in a natural environment like a forest or a wet market, you can have a spillover event.”
The acute crisis the world now faces is clearly one with many origins. No amount of hand-wringing will alter that fact, nor will self-pity change the trajectory of Corvid-19.

And no one likes having a finger pointed at them, particularly during a global crisis, but that is precisely what Mother Nature is doing.

We ignore Her at our ongoing peril.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

You Really Don't Need Me To Offer Any Comment Here, Do You?

The Reverend Kenneth Copeland is up to his usual mischief:

About That Other Crisis

As we remain fixated on the immediate, acute crisis that has engulfed the world, it is easy to lose sight of the other crisis that continues to engulf the world:
Last year’s summer was so warm that it helped trigger the loss of 600bn tons of ice from Greenland – enough to raise global sea levels by 2.2mm in just two months, new research has found.

Unlike the retreat of sea ice, the loss of land-based glaciers directly causes the seas to rise, imperiling coastal cities and towns around the world. Scientists have calculated that Greenland’s enormous ice sheet lost an average of 268bn tons of ice between 2002 and 2019 – less than half of what was shed last summer. By contrast, Los Angeles county, which has more than 10 million residents, consumes 1bn tons of water a year.

Glaciers are melting away around the world due to global heating caused by the human-induced climate crisis. Ice is reflective of sunlight so as it retreats the dark surfaces underneath absorb yet more heat, causing a further acceleration in melting.

Ice is being lost from Greenland seven times faster than it was in the 1990s, scientists revealed last year, pushing up previous estimates of global sea level rise and putting 400 million people at risk of flooding every year by the end of the century.
Isabella Velicogna, a professor of Earth system science, has more bad news for us:
More recent research has found that Antarctica, the largest ice sheet on Earth, is also losing mass at a galloping rate, although the latest University of California and Nasa works reveals a nuanced picture.

“In Antarctica, the mass loss in the west proceeds unabated, which is very bad news for sea level rise,” Velicogna said.

The research has further illustrated the existential dangers posed by runaway global heating, even as the world’s attention is gripped by the coronavirus crisis. Crucial climate talks are set to be held later this year in Glasgow, although the wave of cancellations triggered by the virus has threatened to undermine this diplomatic effort.
Yes, we are right to be very alarmed by our current pandemic; however, we must bear in mind that the other one is going to ultimately cost countless more lives, and act accordingly.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

From The Ministry Of Truth

Pay no attention to the left side of your screens. Goldstein has been very busy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Some Gallows Humour

For technical reasons related to the site, I can't put up the cartoon here, but if you click on this link, you will see something from the Far Side's Gary Larson that is both funny and relevant in a macabre kind of way.

Monday, March 16, 2020

A Larger Perspective

In these uncertain times, we are all seized by concerns about Corvid-19. The prospect of death invariably focuses the mind, especially in the short-term.

Facilitated by fossil-fuel propaganda and an often uncritical media, it is unfortunately easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, one that we have been warned about for a long time - climate change. The following letter, from the print edition of the Sunday Star, strives to achieve a perspective all would be wise to adopt:
Don’t let deniers frame way we talk about climate crisis
Toronto Star 15 Mar 2020

Unconscionable dithering on climate action and on Indigenous rights has caused immense and wholly needless pain, conflict and disruption for Canadians in recent weeks.

It’s 2020; scientists say we absolutely must transition to safe energy as quickly as humanly possible, just to give humanity a decent chance at a future (not to guarantee a livable future, which is already out of reach).

Despite this, multiple levels of government, and three different self-styled progressive parties, are prepared to trample the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), to force through yet another pipeline on behalf of brazen and unrepentant fossil fuel profiteers. All in the middle of a climate crisis. Worse yet, in a flailing attempt to shore up their transparently myopic stance, fossil interests, and their allies in politics and the media, are blasting out vicious invective to confuse and divide Canadians, with a wilful and criminal disregard for any resulting violence. We need look no further than recent propaganda from fossil fuel companies and their allies, including endorsements of sexual violence against teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, and acts of brutal physical violence against earth protectors.

Moreover, this petro-cabal has gleefully spread outright fabrications to vilify Indigenous protectors and their allies, such as claims of “paid protestors” and epithets like “thug.”

The fossil industry pours huge amounts of cash and effort into convincing the public that “energy” means only fossil fuels, that “jobs” must be fossil fuel jobs, that safe alternatives do not exist, and that regular folks acting out of concern for their children and the planet are funded by foreign interests, hell-bent on destroying all that is good in the world.

We do not need to argue that this is a grossly irresponsible invitation to violence; we can point to several examples where earth protectors, merely repeating science and/or defending UNDRIP, have been threatened, intimidated and attacked by people who have been made angry and confused by fossil propaganda, specifically designed to make us angry, confused and divided.

It’s time that the industry, politicians and the media renounce this dangerous disinformation.

The future of all life on earth depends on it.

Patrick Yancey, Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

Kenneth Copeland is on the job!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

When Is Discrimination Not Discrimination?

Answer: When it occurs in Quebec.

Question #2: Where is teaching tolerance, respect and understanding considered contrary to the public good?

Answer: Quebec

It would seem that in La Belle Province, a little learning is a dangerous thing:
Since 2008, elementary and high school students in Quebec have taken a mandatory course aimed at cultivating respect and tolerance for people of different cultures and faiths.

But after years of relentless criticism from Quebec nationalists and committed secularists who say the ethics and religious culture course is peddling a multiculturalist view to impressionable young Quebecers, the provincial government is abolishing the course.
Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge and his colleagues see a course aimed at fostering “the recognition of others and the pursuit of the common good” as contrary to Quebec values. Ardent critics of the course
have long described [it] as a type of mental virus, contaminating a generation of young people by making them amenable to Canadian multiculturalism and other pluralist ideas.
Oh, the horror of promoting a pluralistic society.
Nadia El-Mabrouk, professor at Universite de Montreal’s computer science department...suggested in a recent interview the course is partly responsible for the fact that, according to polls, young Quebecers are less likely to support Bill 21, the legislation adopted last June that bans some public sector workers, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols on the job.
Others within that 'distinct society' see this for what it is. A teacher of the course, Sabrina Jafralie, says it
...explains to students that Quebec is filled with people who have different driving forces. It doesn’t teach young people to be religious, she said, it simply explains why other people may be.
The course exposes students to religions from around the world, and according to the teaching guides, “attention is also given to the influence of Judaism and Native spirituality on this heritage, as well as other religions that today contribute to Quebec culture.”

“But what the government is trying to do,” Jafralie said, “is in fact replace the ability to investigate and explore religiosity, with their own new religion — which is secularism.”
In any other jurisdiction, such an agenda would be denounced as blatant discrimination and racism. I guess the special status that Quebec occupies within our confederation spares it that opprobrium, however.

Vive la difference, eh?

Friday, March 6, 2020

A Missing Sense Of Urgency

After taking it out of the library twice, I have finally mustered the psychic strength to begin reading Bill McKibben's Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? A grim read, its central thesis is that things are very bad, but it is still not too late to do something about it. That is, if we can muster the will to tackle this massive threat to our existence.

On a related note, the other night, while watching the ongoing perfervid coverage of Covid-19, the coronavirus now sweeping the world, I couldn't help but wonder why, if governments can so quickly mobilize in the face of immediate threat, they can't seem to muster the same resolve and resources to combat the much greater dangers posed by climate change.

Of course, part of the answer lies in the economic treadmill no one wants to exit from, as well as the fact that humans have a great capacity for cognitive dissonance, refusing to acknowledge, despite all of the meteorological evidence to the contrary (floods, droughts, wildfires, intense storms, soaring world temperatures, etc.), the dire peril we are in.

Serendipitously, yesterday I came across a piece by Owen Jones entitled, Why don’t we treat the climate crisis with the same urgency as coronavirus?
More than 3,000 people have succumbed to coronavirus yet, according to the World Health Organization, air pollution alone – just one aspect of our central planetary crisis – kills seven million people every year. There have been no Cobra meetings for the climate crisis, no sombre prime ministerial statements detailing the emergency action being taken to reassure the public. In time, we’ll overcome any coronavirus pandemic. With the climate crisis, we are already out of time, and are now left mitigating the inevitably disastrous consequences hurtling towards us.
Despite rising sea levels, Arctic wildfires and increasingly common killer heatwaves, to name but three manifestations of climate change, we still lack a sense of urgency. What if we did finally come to our senses? In Britain, it might look like this:
What would be mentioned in that solemn prime ministerial speech on the steps of No 10, broadcast live across TV networks? All homes and businesses would be insulated, creating jobs, cutting fuel poverty and reducing emissions. Electric car charging points would be installed across the country.

A frequent flyer levy for regular, overwhelmingly affluent air passengers would be introduced.

This would only be the start. Friends of the Earth calls for free bus travel for the under-30s, combined with urgent investment in the bus network. Renewable energy would be doubled, again producing new jobs, clean energy, and reducing deadly air pollution. The government would end all investments of taxpayers’ money in fossil fuel infrastructure and launch a new tree-planting programme to double the size of forests in Britain ...
Owen Jones concludes his piece with this:
Coronavirus poses many challenges and threats, but few opportunities. A judicious response to global heating would provide affordable transport, well-insulated homes, skilled green jobs and clean air. Urgent action to prevent a pandemic is of course necessary and pressing. But the climate crisis represents a far graver and deadlier existential threat, and yet the same sense of urgency is absent. Coronavirus shows it can be done – but it needs determination and willpower, which, when it comes to the future of our planet, are desperately lacking.
The pessimist in me says that nothing will change, and the world will continue its headlong plunge into the climatic abyss.

The residual optimist in me, a very faint presence nowadays, hopes I am wrong.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

It Makes Perfect Sense

While many bemoan the fate of the Teck Resources Frontier tarsands project as yet another example of restrictive regulatory measures, others, as the following letter from the print edition of the Toronto Star suggests, say its death makes perfect corporate sense.
Free market now realizes carbon reserves best left alone

Re Regulatory process blamed for oilsands mine’s end, Feb. 28

Canadians who haven’t followed B.C. Premier John Horgan, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau down the rabbit hole understand that the collapse of the Teck Frontier proposal is a positive indication that the “free market” is functioning as it should.

Corporations, investors and shareholders are belatedly coming to realize that it is in everyone’s best interest that most of the world’s carbon reserves — include Alberta’s oilsands — be left in the ground.

Only in Wonderland would politicians employ massive taxpayer subsidies to subvert the marketplace and promote uneconomical, climate-destroying fossil-fuel projects; $16 billion to buy and build the Trans Mountain pipelines, plus $6 billion to construct Coastal GasLink.

The truth is, pipelines don’t end at a terminal. Every pipeline is a conduit to the sky, ultimately dumping its carbon into a dangerously overheated atmosphere.

Only by changing the ways that we produce and consume energy can we hope to avert climate catastrophe.

Mike Ward, Duncan, B.C.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Silver Lining

While the world's unease continues to grow over the spread of coronavirus Covid-19, there is a kind of silver lining for that same world. In China, where the bug originated, air pollution is vanishing in its industrial heartland.
Satellites operated by NASA and the European Space Agency have detected significant drops of major airborne pollutants above vast swathes of the country.

Before-and-after images show how nitrogen dioxide levels plummeted in February compared to pre-lockdown January of this year. Nitrogen dioxide is a noxious gas emitted by factories, motor vehicles and fossil fuel-powered electricity generation stations.

The country's strong corona containment measures are largely responsible for this dramatic drop:
Researchers say China’s pollutant levels normally decline in February as factories pause for Lunar New Year celebrations, when the world’s largest annual mass migration occurs. But the usual rebound in pollutant levels did not occur last month, helping to illustrate the vast scale of shutdowns in the world’s second biggest economy.

“This year, the reduction rate is more significant than in past years and it has lasted longer,” Liu said. “I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimize spread of the virus.”
Although such measures are taking an economic toll, not only in China but throughout the world (cancelled flights, reluctance to 'shop til you drop', stock market corrections, etc.), the natural world is in fact benefiting.

Homeostasis is a self-regulating process by which biological systems tend to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are optimal for survival.

I can't help but wonder if Covid-19 is part of nature's efforts toward that end.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Maybe We Need It After All, Eh?

In traditional conservative thought, the role of government is pretty narrowly defined; with the emphasis placed on individual liberty, government must minimize its intrusion into that liberty, providing only the necessities that promote security such as armies, police forces, and prisons. Taxes are bad, except as they support that security. The rest of life's activities should be largely self-regulating, the wisdom of the market prevailing in the bulk of those activities.

In her column today, Susan Delacourt says the times we live in challenge that notion.
If there is any upside to the ongoing blockades, strangled rail lines, the threat of a virus pandemic, even the struggle between environment and economy in Canada these days, it is this — very few people are arguing for the government to get out of the way.

Smaller government hasn’t looked like the answer to any of the problems besetting Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in early 2020. Less politics, maybe, but not less government.

Even that ardent Conservative, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, was musing this week about getting the government involved in financing the oil industry.
We have been hit hard lately, with crises ranging from the Iranian downing of a passenger jet killing many Canadians to the corona virus spread to rail blockades. None of those situations evoke cries for the government to mind its own business. Indeed, we look to government to address these issues and protect us from the vagaries of the world.
...the federal government has been very active this year in countries outside its jurisdiction — flying Canadians out of virus-affected spots in China and elsewhere, assisting families of the air-crash victims on the ground in Iran.
As well,
[i]t turns out ... that we do need the federal government to keep the rails running, or so Trudeau’s critics have been saying.

This past week, we learned that the federal government had been working quietly behind the scenes to get CN trains running on rival CP tracks, in a bid to avert total paralysis of train transportation. It would have been interesting to see the reaction if Transport Minister Marc Garneau had simply shrugged in the face of the blockades and said this was a matter for the private sector to settle.
The fact is, we do look to government not only for protection, but also reassurance: the virus in China has been morphing into the threat of a global pandemic, pressure is building on the federal government to protect citizens. The markets may be freaking out, but the state is expected to be calm and non-panicky — and watching out for us. Rugged individualism is all well and good when we’re faced with paying our taxes, but perhaps not entirely our approach when it comes to safeguarding our health and lives. Questions are beginning to be asked as well about how the government will act to shore up any economic havoc wreaked by the virus scare
Delacourt's conclusion?
Government is based on the premises that citizens need the state. Sometimes it takes a crisis or two to remind us of that simple idea.