What could our post-pandemic world look like? It depends on you and me!

by Larry Powell

Like everyone else, I’m worried. But not just about the Covid-19 pandemic. 

It’s what the future holds once it ends that scares me, too. Man’s assault on our planet simply cannot pick up where it left off when the virus hit. It’s true that our economy cannot remain at this level of lockdown forever. But, if we just come “roaring back, full tilt” when it’s over, we’ve learned nothing. And civilization as we know it will resume its relentless slide, once again. 

So what have we learned?

Lives can be saved just by slowing the frantic pace of human activity. Pollutants spewing from industrial plants, ground vehicles, jet planes and ocean vessels have dipped dramatically due to the slowdown forced by Covid. And they’re not just greenhouse gases which are dangerously heating up the Earth, spawning violent storms, rising sea levels and devastating floods (think Fort Mac.) that have gone down, significantly. They’re also the kind that get into your lungs and kill perhaps a million or more of us each year -  with asthma, stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory diseases (source - WHO).  

Some are even saying that this “great cessation” may be saving more lives than Covid is claiming! 

Meanwhile, many wild creatures, historically under full frontal assault from humans who’ve either been hunting them or destroying their homes, are beginning to tentatively reclaim some spaces once overrun by us.

What else should we be learning? Well, it's been shown now - we can actually hold virtual meetings "in place," online, instead of boarding climate-destroying jets to the other side of the Earth for a meeting or convention. And, if we have to (and we are), we can actually survive without the Olympic Games, the World Cup, the NHL, NBA or the CFL for a bit! Perhaps when the smoke clears, we can actually "get by" with an Olympics every four years, instead of two and a World Cup once in four. 

Maybe minor hockey associations can even find ways of reducing the number of kids we load on buses, sending them on lonely and dangerous trips to tournaments far away. Maybe more games, closer to home might be in order? 

And maybe we don’t need to travel to a “sunspot” once or twice a year to bask on the beach or attend another “destination wedding.” Maybe a “staycation” or backyard event might prove just as enjoyable.

And only the dimmest among us will not know by now, how effective and deadly a role passenger jets and cruise ships play in spreading pandemics like this. The cruise line industry is probably one that could "go under" forever with no loss to our quality of life. These morbidly obese "tin cans" have been floating petrie dishes for way too long.

And here’s the most ironic lesson of all - one we should have learned long ago. You can’t force people to work in crowded conditions like meat-packing plants -  the very conditions livestock themselves are raised in - without consequences. Thousands of such workers in North America are getting sick - and scores are dying, of Covid. If this isn’t proof-positive that long-standing warnings about intensive livestock operations (factory barns) are valid, then what is? The WHO and the CDC (and many other health authorities) have been trying to tell us that, cramming large numbers of animals into big buildings where they can scarcely turn around, is an invitation to disease. 

Why should people be any different?

One needn’t look further than Manitoba to explain what I mean. It's been a terribly cruel and wasteful chapter in this province's history. *Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED), a highly infectious virus, invaded many crowded, intensive, confined, factory hog barns a few years ago, claiming the lives of many helpless piglets. I say “many” because the industry refuses to give a number and the provincial government says, it doesn’t know! This is in keeping with its “hands-off” attitude toward an industry that runs largely free of any rule that might protect you and me from serious harm. To Premier Pallister and his team, such rules amount to nothing more than “pesky red tape” that need, with Trump-like enthusiasm, to be done away with quickly.

A plethora of animal diseases kill millions of animals, worldwide, yearly - some directly - others through deliberate culling of healthy animals to prevent spreading. Sometimes, they spread to humans, too, with lethal results.

So we can’t be too smug about far away places that sell tame, wild and "farmed" animals, alive or dead - high-risk places for the spreading of disease. Surely we have our own form of “wet-markets” here in the west - where we do much the same with hogs, cattle, chickens and even wild “farmed” fish - cram them together for maximum profit. 

Finally, is it now as far-fetched to envision a future in which we all consume less (or no) meat, given the long environmental shadow that livestock casts over our world? Maybe now is the time for just such a momentous decision!

If we look upon our present, pandemic troubles only as something to put behind us, so we can take up business at the same, reckless pace as before, we are missing the point. This is, or can be, a golden opportunity to build a cleaner, greener, safer and kinder home - one we can share in tolerance and respect with both our fellow humans, our natural surroundings and all other living things. 

Like Covid-19, PED, too, is a coronavirus.