Pandemic 2020: Silver Linings?


Author’s note:  This is a lightly edited version of a post I originally published a few days ago—to address the charge that I don’t give a fig about the planet.  (I do.)


Is this the real life?

Is this just fantasy?

Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.

Those three lines aren’t my own.  They’re the opening words to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

But with the pandemic blotting out life as we knew it, they sum up pretty well how I feel.

Some mornings I awaken convinced that it’s all a bad dream.  I tap the Globe and Mail or CNN app on my phone, yearning for headlines dominated by the inanities of politics or the insanities of Hollywood.

But no such luck—each day generates another grim avalanche of pandemic reporting.

There’s no escape from reality.

For my dogs, however, the new reality is awesome.  Life has never been better.  No more long hours waiting hopefully for their humans to reappear from work or school or activities: my four children are always home, along with my wife or I (and occasionally both of us).

With unlimited attention, unlimited affection, and not a care in the world, the two mutts are living the life of Riley (literally, for one of them, given that her name is Riley).

Their unbridled happiness is a small silver lining to the pandemic cloud hanging over our lives.

Another silver lining: I doubt that our collective derrieres have ever been so sparkly clean.

The Great Toilet Paper Run of 2020 crammed massive stacks of two-ply into the shelves, closets, sheds, storage rooms, attics, and bedrooms of folks sheltering at home.  Never again will our backsides enjoy a more generous wiping.

Sadly, all that wiping hasn’t made any a–holes disappear.

Consider the claptrap being peddled by some “environmentalists” regarding the pandemic’s salutary effect the world: Mother Earth is “recovering”, we are told.

Skies have cleared from Shanghai to New York to Paris to London as economic activity grinds to a halt and buses, cars, airplanes, and factories cease their belching of planet-killing carbon dioxide.

Birds have returned to downtown cores.  A coyote was spotted on San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge. Mountain goats are roaming the streets of a town in Wales.  Lions are sunning themselves on deserted highways in South Africa.

(Roughly three percent of the world’s surface, it’s worth noting, is covered by urban areas.  Which means that—setting aside the many parks and green spaces and wildlife habitats incorporated into cities— 97% of the globe is unoccupied by humans and available for the birds and coyotes if they wish to shun our company.  Which they mostly don’t.)

Christiana Figueres is one of the architects of the Paris climate accord.  In a New Scientist article (published, appropriately, on April Fool’s Day) she announced that the pandemic crisis has gifted us with “moments of opportunity”.

“To tackle climate change,” she wrote, “we as individuals need to change our diets, consumption patterns, ways of interacting with one another and how we travel.”  Thanks to the pandemic, we now know that this “can happen quickly”.

Enviro-activist authors Charles Komanoff and Christopher Ketcham, writing jointly in The Intercept, chimed in, declaring that COVID-19 is finally doing what “Greta Thunberg couldn’t”.

“Is it cruel to point approvingly to the steep reduction in carbon emissions now unfolding, given the skyrocketing deaths, lost livelihoods, and widespread privation?” they ask.  “And won’t the reductions be negated as the virus is tamed and emissions come roaring back? No and no.”

Indeed, they proclaim, the “avoided emissions are a permanent balm.”

(Try selling that “balm” to the thousands of families grieving loved ones lost to COVID-19.)

These people are nuts.

Even the pope is infected with common-sense-scrambling eco-virus.  The Covid-19 pandemic could be nature’s “response” to climate change, he pontificated last week, seemingly unaware that pandemics have been with us for eons.  The Spanish flu, the last great lethal iteration which killed off 5% of the world’s population, occurred more than 100 years ago, many decades before climate change became “a thing.”

I would point out to the Pope Francis that most contagious viruses don’t circulate as well in warmer temperatures, a fact we count on to slow most viral epidemics (how COVID-19 will behave remains unclear).  Global warming would be a friend in this fight, rather than foe.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s head is buried as deeply as any other in the bible of climate change religion—so deeply that not even the pandemic could dissuade him from doubling the carbon tax he’s convinced will save the planet from ruin.  With the country on lockdown and almost everybody at home, the only people for whom he’s managed to increase taxes are the hospital staff and other essential workers who actually are critical to our survival—in the here and now.

In the halcyon days of late 2017, when lethal modern pandemics were happily confined to the silver screen (Outbreak, Contagion, Pandemic)—and when I wasn’t divining silver linings to a real-life pandemic—I published a blurb to my blog wherein I listed, satirically, “a suite of concrete, practical solutions whereby we can mitigate the myriad destructive aspects to our sooty presence on this blue planet.

Chiefly and briefly, these were:

Get rid of carbon-spewing automobiles;

Cease all air travel;

Stop eating meat;

Put your pets on a plant-based diet, too—better yet, get rid of Fido altogether and erase four carbon paw-prints;

And limit yourselves to one child; or, if truly enlightened, have no children at all—best to consign child-rearing to the great carbon-bin of history along with pet ownership.

I quoted one Ed Salisbury, who staunchly advocated for such measures in a letter to the New York Times: “None of these adjustments represent hardship, only a shift in our existing attitudes. Individually and together we can defeat the enemy, which is us.”

Thank the Lord for COVID-19: it’s taking out the enemy.

Of course, in those pre-pandemic days no-one—certainly not the sage Mr. Salisbury—foresaw COVID-19 as the solution to the planet’s ills.

In all seriousness:  Do those who are celebrating the revival of our planet really expect us to live this way?

To borrow from Greta: “How dare they?”

Greta seems to be laying low after recovering from COVID-like symptoms last month.  Perhaps she’s finally gone back to school—in Sweden they’re still open, apparently.

There’s been dead silence from her and the rest of the eco-nuts, predictably, with respect to the vital role of fossil fuels in the war against COVID-19.

Take, for instance, N95 masks—those critical protective barriers for front-line medical workers tending to COVID patients.  A frantic, gargantuan push is underway globally to churn them out by the hundreds of millions.  Melt-blown plastic polymers— a product entirely dependent on the petrochemical industry— are key components.

Add in gloves, face masks, breathing tubes, syringes, ventilators and so on—all of them dependent on petrochemicals for manufacture.

You can bet your bottom pre-pandemic dollar that none of the preachy, hypocritical eco-wackos will turn down any of that life-saving equipment if and when COVID-19 dumps them gasping for breath into the nearest hospital ward.

Most of us are completely on board with responsible stewardship of our planet.  We celebrate the constant innovations that allow us to generate energy more cleanly.  Chief among the innovators, incidentally, despite constantly and despicably being painted as the devil incarnate, are Alberta’s oil sands companies.

But we haven’t got much patience for the eco-nuts,  who splash mindlessly around in the same shallow end of the intellectual pool as the anti-vaxxer crowd—whom you can bet would be jostling to get to the front of the line tomorrow to receive a vaccine against COVID-19 if one suddenly became available.

One thing is certain: there’s not enough toilet paper in all the Earth to handle the collective bullshit of these people.


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