Human misery may spread like a virus itself as economic consequences unfold
In all the wide, wonderful, bizarre world of the internet, the last place I ever thought I’d find myself gravitating to in the morning is a global death-count one, updated every few hours. But then again few of us have ever lived through a pandemic of this magnitude before.
The coronavirus itself is definitely unsettling, particularly the way it has spread so far and so fast and so thoroughly (French Polynesia has 3 cases, the same as Monaco?). From a human well-being standpoint though, the economic consequences may be even more devastating, and for a longer period.
That’s of course not to downplay the significance of the deaths, it goes without saying that those are tragic. But we are about to see people’s lives turned upside down for an unknown period of time, which could impact global incomes particularly in places that have few other options.
Consider the growing number of cruise ships parked until at least mid-summer. From a typically westernized perspective, we may simply chalk that up to one less holiday option. But consider all the direct and indirect incomes that will disappear because of that. Hundreds of thousands work on cruise ships directly. At each port that these behemoths stop at, well-fed customers lurch ashore to buy shot glasses and straw hats and tee shirts and meals and lord knows what else at markets that have built up around the cruise business. The entire process is a completely visible wealth transfer from well-off cruisers to every point of land contact.
On top of that, airlines are seeing their business dwindle to nothing, which impacts not only their direct employees but hotels, Uber drivers, and the general hospitality industry built up around each.
All of those functions and activities, and countless spin offs, are grinding to a halt. What will happen to localized economies that are built on tourism, in otherwise not-wealthy regions? Can we even begin to calculate that? Who will provide the safety nets? What will happen to the health and well-being of families impacted whether or not they ever get near coronavirus?
Beyond the spread of the virus itself, the unravelling of life as we know it, even if only for a relatively brief period of time, is a reminder of the interconnected web of our way of life and how critical each strand of that web is. Energy advocates speak of this endlessly, how we take for granted these basic channels of industrial activity that keep our world humming the way we want it.
Now we are getting a glimpse of what a major disruption to that world looks like, and in some ways this disruption is relatively benign compared to what some would like, those calling for a relatively quick rewiring of the world’s energy infrastructure. It’s not going to happen. We simply can’t change course quickly when entire nations have been developed around certain human activities and distribution systems, including fuel systems. We simply can’t, and to watch the effects when we are even partially forced to is devastating.
Help promote rational energy dialogue based on knowledge – not on fear, not on environmental indifference, and not on ignorance. Pick up “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” at Amazon.ca, Indigo.ca, or Amazon.com. Time to take back the narrative.
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