This article originally appeared on inciteHEALTH in February, 2009, coincidentally just weeks before the H1N1 flu began to appear in the news. Bill Carrol on Newstalk 1010 only hours ago described government handling of this pandemic as a “complete and utter travesty”. In light of the upcoming Copenhagen Conference on global warming next month, a fresh posting of this article seems appropriate.
Countries have different opinions about exactly which pending apocalypse they should be forestalling with vast sums of money or other resources. The hands-down favourite world-wide catastrophe for many nations, particularly those in North America and Europe, is Global Warming. Other countries, such as China and certain developing African countries, apparently think their top priority lies elsewhere. The government of the former is afraid of mass uprising, the population of the latter faces mass starvation — both attributes of the apocalypse, Totalitarianism, a much more “now” cataclysm.
Nuclear Annihilation was what I lived with as a young man in Canada. Perestroika has now taken this as the primary apocalypse off the table, at least in my part of the world. Global Warming has been slipped in by the growing environmental movement. It probably all started with Rachel Carson and pollution back in the 1960s. Pollution was never really big apocalyptically so it was mutated with the help of Hollywood science fiction, departing species, photographs of retreating ice fields, and rafts of speculation, conjecture and computer projections.
That’s not to say that one shouldn’t be concerned and proactive facing this threat but is Global Warming really our most pressing apocalypse? Cataclysms come in many flavours from Asteroidal Collisions to Homicidal Nanotechnology. All of them are possible. But if your country is going to dig deep into your pockets and appreciably impact your way of life, you should expect that they will get the primary apocalypse right. Cash has become a most precious commodity in this recession.
Strange isn’t it, that we seem to only be able to focus on one apocalypse at a time? Yet all of them are possible. True, Alien Invasion is a remote one but from the attitudes expressed in many parts of the world on genetic modification, you would think Bad Biotechnology has excellent probabilities. Maybe we should be spreading our money around, hedging our bets on which apocalypse is most likely. But if we have to pick one, then I have problems with Global Warming.
Some of my concerns for Global Warming holding top spot include the “sensitivity” of our environment, the time frames being used, and the dismissal of additional strategies. Computer projections must assume a range of levels of environmental sensitivity to increases in the factors causing Global Warming. What if those sensitivity ranges turn out to be much lower? One hundred year time frames are popularly used for human action to save the planet. However some scientists say go slowly and more carefully now and increase our preventative actions later when we have gained the knowledge and tools to most effectively address the issue. Others say it’s already too late. Geo-engineering is adamantly dismissed as tampering with Mother Nature yet civilization has been doing that for hundreds of years.
So if Global Warming should not be our primary apocalypse, what should? I think that honour should go to the Plague. Contagious diseases have a deadly history and now they have been enhanced with modern “super bugs”. Best known of the pandemics is probably the Black Death. Mortality rates in Europe from this pandemic have been estimated as high as 60% of the population. The Black Death started about the year 1350 and by 1700 was the cause of over 100 epidemics.
If my government is going to dig deep into my pockets, then I want the primary targeted adversary to be the Plague. Global Warming is a problem because of government dishonesty. Suppose government added a dime a gallon to gasoline as carbon tax. Such taxes have been added to gasoline in the past for road maintenance only to end up in general revenues. Candidness is also not an attribute of government. In the past few months, we have been told by the feds that our banks are a model of safety and stability for the rest of the world. Yet the big banks in Canada have deemed it necessary to raise capital with new stock issues, an action for shareholders that’s tantamount to our fed cranking up the printing presses and diluting the value of every taxpayer’s savings.
We need transparency in government. With the Internet, dissemination of detailed information has never been easier. But that’s not likely to happen any time soon and for that reason focusing on the Plague makes more sense. To be prepared for an epidemic, our governments first have to improve the healthcare system. The present practice of filling hospital hallways with patients because rooms are not available, doctor shortages, long waiting times in emergency rooms, nurse layoffs and delays of months to see a specialist just don’t cut it when a country is preparing for an epidemic. The beauty of Plague preparations is that as we use the healthcare system, we can see for ourselves how well many preparations are progressing. We don’t need to rely on political drivel.
Don’t underestimate the need for immediate preparations. Fixing the system, recruiting, training, preparing and executing national emergency plans, etc., when the Plague strikes is much too late. The Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 killed 50 to 100 million people worldwide in less than six months. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians became ill. As any modern combatant will tell you, wounding is preferable to killing an enemy. Three or four troopers are taken out of combat to take care of each wounded man. A pandemic on a similar scale to the Spanish flu would bury the service providers in our present healthcare system.
Sure, addressing Global Warming is important but time frames for that disaster are measured in decades. Plague could strike next month. In 1918, the Spanish flu spread like wildfire around the world. It killed a fit and healthy adult within 48 hours. Future pandemics are a dead certainty.