Thursday, May 21, 2020

Climate and COVID

The writing life continues, as I prepare to send off a manuscript on the climate crisis to my publisher.

One of the things I'm struggling with is how to integrate the pandemic into my writing.  There are clear conceptual connections between how America is dealing with the pandemic and how we've dealt with climate change, ones that seem obvious.  Like, say: 

How we ignore science, and reject expertise as elitist or controlling.  How we create false narratives to support our ideological biases.  How we value the immediate over any long term vision.  How deeply we're willing to steal from our future to satisfy our desires in the now.

But making that connection isn't easy now, because most of the impacts of this pandemic are yet to come.  Looking at the most likely probabilities, our next four to six months are going to be rough.  

We are moving to reopen, which seems viable after months of semi-quarantine.  The success of that reopening feels deeply unlikely.  Yes, it could work.  It could definitely work.  I buy that.

To make it work, we'd need to be doing the a nation, all together...that would make success more likely.  Testing, tracing, and quarantining are the three keys to this.  You test broadly across a population to detect any new outbreaks.  You trace contacts so you can map the possible impact of any resurgence.  And you locally quarantine based on your testing  and tracing, so that the system more broadly can continue functioning.

If you do those things, the odds of a successful national reopening are vastly improved.

We are doing none of those things.  Testing is sporadic, inconsistent, and limited.  Contact tracing?  Sweet Lord Jesus no.  There's nothing in place nationally.  Nothing.  And quarantine efforts are a splattered, sloppy mess of conflicting local and regional recommendations.

There is a slender chance that providence will smile on our foolishness.  What is considerably more likely is a significant COVID resurgence, a second wave of this outbreak that matches or exceeds the first.  We are that villager who decides to take a long walk when the eye of the hurricane passes over, sure that the worst of the storm is past.  

By the time my book goes to print in 2021, the impacts of our decisions right now will be clear.  It is most likely that they'll offer up a painful parallel to our inadequate response to climate change.  

But as I don't know that for sure, it's kinda hard to write that into a manuscript.