My COVID Times Diary – The Slow Motion Apocalypse
I’ve thought about the apocalypse a lot in my life, for a time I was even the editor of a dystopian website. One of the things that you always think about when you contemplate the apocalypse, is that it will be some disastrous event. Basically that the apocalypse will happen quickly. This is what we see in dystopian films, the asteroid coming to hit the Earth, the aliens arrive, a virus takes over and 28 days later has infected the entire world.
I have to admit almost six months into our COVID times lives I’m really starting to wonder if we’ve had it wrong all along. Maybe the apocalypse isn’t like what happened in Pompeii, maybe it’s a slow motion event, or series of events. Which of course leads me to wonder are we living through the apocalypse right now?
At this moment, in the bay area, it especially feels this way. Right now we are living in the middle of a pandemic that has killed almost 200,000 people and has made over five million people sick, many who will suffer long-term or life long impacts from having the disease. In the bay area nearly one million acres have burned in the last couple of weeks. Which has meant that the skies have been smoke filled for that entire time. Over the first two weeks of school our district has closed campuses 4 out of 8 days due to poor air quality.
Due to the coronavirus virus outbreak, we have had weekly unemployment filings of over a million people, all total this numbers over thirty million people on unemployment. For the most recent financial quarter our economy saw the largest drop in quarterly GDP in the history of America. And likely the worst is yet to come as evictions begin to pile up and the long-term economic implications of the virus sink into our economy in a real way.
The true slow motion apocalypse, climate change is here. In the 80’s scientists first started putting out the warnings of the impacts of climate change. Yes, that’s right, we’ve know about it, been warned about it now for forty years! The models of climate change impact predicted arctic ice melting at a massive rate, higher intensity storms and more global infectious diseases. These at one point were all theoretical concepts of what will happen some day. That is no longer the case. We have seen record losses of ice on the Greenland ice sheet. We just this past week we watched a hurricane go from Category 1 to Category 4 in just a couple of days due to record high temperatures in the water of the Gulf of Mexico, we’re now frequently see this happen. This short time span of extreme strengthening leaves people far less time to prepare for major hurricanes. With Laura the coast got lucky that the potential horrific storm surge didn’t happen. Trust me, within the next few years we are going to see a massive tragedy and high loss of life due to this pattern. Finally, new and expanding ranges of existing diseases is obviously here. Not just that a novel coronavirus has erupted, we were overdue for that. But think about Zika Virus, about the range of yellow fever and malaria expanding.
I have gauged the level of public fear during the pandemic by the length of lines at the local gun store. I live in one of the most liberal and gun averse areas of America. But in April, I watched huge lines form daily outside of the gun store for weeks. The lines began to abate as the deaths from COVID started to fall. Then, as the rates started to bump back up, as bay area counties went on the statewide watch list, the lines started to grow again.
I wonder how the fear, the pressure, the stress and the actual impacts of the slow motion apocalypse will exacerbate our slow motion apocalypse. I hope that the optimists are right. I hope that a vaccine will be perfected in the next year, that it will be widely distributed and effective. I hope that people will embrace it and that it will allow life to not just get back normal, but that the experience will spur people to a higher awareness. That people will be kinder and more aware of the future and the implications of our actions. But I also know that hope, is a four-letter word. I’m afraid that once we get past the pandemic, people will ignore the long-term thinking necessary to impact the larger issues. That we will just return to selfish actions and short-term thinking and like the frog in the pot, sit their while the water is slowly warmed until we boil. Let’s hope not for the sake of our children and grandchildren. ~ Michael A Kane