There Is An Upside To The Coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic was an eventuality. The scientists have always known something like this would come, and it did. Note that I’m not downplaying the suffering of real people with real feelings over this disease. I just got over the flu myself last month and I’m still recovering. But as long as we’re here, let’s see what we can do to make it through the pandemic. Let’s see if we can find a way to better ourselves in the face of this scourge.
The first thing I noticed is this picture of the 405 Freeway in Southern California at rush hour, just two days ago:
And in the Salt Lake Valley where I live, the air is crystal clear. Normally we have an inversion that traps all the smog here. Not today. The policy decisions that have been made by the government and private enterprises in response to the threat of the coronavirus have had a significant and positive impact on air quality here.
I’m working from home now, as I’m sure many thousands of people in the valley are, too. I love working from home. No driving, no packing lunch, the restroom is right next door. I work in my sweats. I can shave or not shave. I just need to be there on my computer and helping our customers, all day, from the comfort of my home office. I think I’ll upgrade my connection to a gig, too for another $17 a month. That’s less than what I pay for the gas in my car for a month even when I was working in the office.
I note also that Google has asked most of their staff to work from home until April 10th in response to the threat of the coronavirus. Google is a giant company, so if they can pull this off, they can model how it’s done for everyone. Fantasy: what if we became a work from home nation with a nationwide community broadband infrastructure? Say goodbye to Comcast, and hello to Utopia and millions of other municipal and cooperative broadband organizations.
There is currently a price war ongoing in the oil markets with Saudi Arabia trying to undercut Russia and frackers here in America. Gas prices are down considerably for this time of year. Oil prices are depressed. With more and more people working from home, that will further depress gasoline prices. If working from home becomes the norm, that’s better than a million electric cars for the environment. And that cratering of oil prices is going to adversely affect the leverage that the oil industry will have on our politics. Hello Green New Deal? Can you hear me now?
Airfares are down, too. Heck, the whole stock market is down a full 20% from the all-time highs just a few months ago. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was near 30,000 before, now it’s about 23,500. Someone is taking a haircut and since about 85% of equities are owned by the top 10%, most of us aren’t really affected much. I look at my 401k and wonder why the economy isn’t resilient enough to sustain a pandemic. And I think the reason why is that it’s not designed to, and that design is intentional.
I also see that Tom Hanks and his wife were in Australia when they came down with coronavirus. In Australia, testing is widely and freely available. It was easy for them to get it checked out, check-in and get well. They will be OK. Most Australians will be OK. They can get tested and treated early and get well again.
That positive story in Australia is absent here. In 2018, the Trump administration fired the entire pandemic team that Obama built just because Obama built it. Now they’re scrambling to put it back. Very few people have been tested. Testing kits are hard to find. Our private insurance system could very well require a bailout if too many people get sick, are not tested early enough and eventually wind up in an ER needing help.
What kinds of concessions can we get from the health insurance companies if they need a bailout? How about a permanent salary cap of $1 million for employees and the C-Suite? How about a permanent ban on contributions to political campaigns or SuperPACs from insurance companies?
I believe that there is leverage to find here. Political leverage. This pandemic can help to make the case for universal health care. It’s making the case for universal health care already. And Trump has promised the full power of the federal government to fight the coronavirus. That would be a wonder if he finally figured out that universal healthcare could be a solution. Nah, that would never happen. Mike Pence is VP and he’s about as antiscience as anyone could get. Still, there is hope.
I see also that the NBA season has been suspended. Tech events are being canceled all over. There is a lot of big event cancellation going on out of fear for the coronavirus. That might make virtual meetings a norm. that might further erode the economy, but that would also force us to adapt to a new reality. We may have to finally acknowledge that our technology is making us sick.
Not too long ago, I published, “Nano-Plastics Could Make The Zombie Apocalypse Real”, an article about how nano-sized plastic particles could make us very sick. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the tiny plastic particles we ingest in our food and our water could compromise our immune system. The environment breaks everything down, including plastic. Plastic is very durable and it can break down into sizes approaching a billionth of a meter. That’s small enough to breach the blood-brain barrier. And that can impair the functioning of our immune system.
The current pandemic could arise from numerous sources of pollution: plastics, CO2, pesticides in our food. We really have no controls to determine the sources of weaknesses in the human body that make it susceptible to the virus. But we have computers and we can collect data. The coronavirus could put the test to humanity for how to deal with pandemics and we could come out better, stronger, more compassionate.
I’m an optimist. I’ve tried the other way and found it wanting. I believe that we’re ready for this challenge from the coronavirus. I believe that we can survive the coronavirus and be stronger. But to do that, liberals, conservatives and everyone in between, we’re going to have to compromise and work together to get it done. We could learn a lot from this virus if we work together. Humans are built for cooperation. I have faith in humanity.