The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing environmental destruction and the deterioration of social and cultural systems into sharp focus. But we can learn from this.
In addition to great concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, I'm also disappointed.
Bolster basic medical care<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg4Mjg0My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzkzNDAwNH0.Csod1_as6hZo7W5-tK_ZgQoVPVuov3ivjy1CkwfrGFk/img.jpg?width=980" id="5c062" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="19a6b032a2c102b990dec355ab433b6f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="coronavirus doctors" />
Credit: New York National Guard<p>It is convenient for progressives to blame the COVID-19 disaster in the United States on the spectacular incompetence and corruption of the current Republican national leadership. Yes, it has turned away from science, and worked hard to speed the demise of civilization.</p> <p>One of the Republicans' many steps in that direction was to destroy the global health security and biodefense directorate that the Obama Administration created to help prepare for emergent diseases. Americans are now likely paying with their lives for Trump's move there. </p> <p>But the basic problem dates much further back and is bipartisan. After all both parties have been supportive and remain supportive of the growthmania that has been the basic driver of environmental destruction.</p> <p>Rather than dwell on the past, however, let's look at what the U.S. should be doing about the epidemiological environment starting right now. The U.S. has long stood alone in failing to supply all its citizens with health care, an error <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/mike-davis-covid-19-essay/" target="_blank">COVID-19 has highlighted</a>. Changing that, however it is done, should be top priority. </p> <p>Besides the obvious ethics and justice reasons, people without basic medical care exacerbate public health problems, especially pandemics, in ways that threaten even senators and presidents. </p> <p>A comprehensive national health program should also remove incentives for infected people to go to work sick and for keeping businesses and other entities that provide essential services functioning. </p><p>Plans and equipment should be put in place to greatly increase the capacity of the medical system to deal with large surges of victims of epidemics. </p><p>Programs are needed to keep both the plans and essential supplies up to date. A provision for quickly establishing unified leadership in disasters is essential.<br></p>
Climate change and biodiversity<p>U.S. security in a globalized world demands leadership in dealing with all aspects of the world's epidemiological environment.</p> <p>In addition to rejoining the Paris agreement, America should demand greatly increased ambition in replacing fossil fuels in energy systems so it will have a better chance of ameliorating the building climatic catastrophe and reduce the likely huge refugee flows that will transform the entire global epidemiological environment. </p> <p>The U.S. should aid China to reduce that nation's huge pig-duck-pond-wildlife market, which is a lethal virus manufacturing machine. Putting pigs and ducks together with ponds is bad in itself, but adding wildlife markets to the mix makes it worse – and it's an important factor in the global epidemiological environment. </p><p>America and China could lead a civilization-wide program to halt the destruction of biodiversity – another factor which negatively impacts that environment. </p> <p>What I'm basically saying is that the U.S. should fix the epidemiological environment by taking the obvious steps to solve the human predicament – to avoid the collapse of civilization now entrained. </p>
Teaching planetary literacy<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg4MjkxNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTYzNjQ0Nn0.Jnnr1x3yJgBUGGvZqHh17GNUhTXaShFHQzsQOJwe_OY/img.jpg?width=980" id="26127" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="254179c99b756df6f11f3c0313f22e4f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Credit: JR P)<p>This seems wildly optimistic in a world that has not even recognized its problems of overpopulation and overconsumption or the impacts on health and well-being of socio-cultural regression: rising xenophobia, racism, religious prejudice, sexism, and, especially, economic inequity.</p> <p>What explains this? </p> <p>There are the causes usually noted, such as the power of money, not just in politics but in global culture as a whole. But a major element is widespread ignorance, partly due to broken educational systems – allowing, for example, mobs of innumerate economists, politicians, and decision-makers in general to believe in perpetual growth in population and consumption. </p> <p>The widespread inability of "educated" people to think is frequently underlined by statements on how "we don't have a population problem, just a problem of too much consumption." </p> <p>Can't they grasp the not-so-difficult idea that a billion people are likely to consume more than a hundred? Case in point on the ignorant "educated": Donald Trump got a B.S. in economics from the Wharton School of my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania.</p> <p>To overwhelm this vast ignorance demands resuscitation of our higher education system. Universities and colleges remain stalled in a 19th century Aristotelian state. They have given up any goal except turning out people who will be financially successful in a deteriorating culture -- oiling parts of the engine with never a thought for where the train is heading. </p> <p>And that "education" clearly doesn't even give its products a grasp of such concepts as exponential growth, as the response of Trump and many others to the <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13412-011-0006-3" target="_blank">COVID-19 epidemic have shown.</a></p> <p>Educational systems have given up any pretense of supplying leadership to society or informing people about what is coming down the track. Faculty members discuss "sustainability" in major universities that will not even divest from fossil fuel stocks. </p> <p>Can the absence of a draft alone explain the difference between the ferment in universities during the Vietnam War and the quiet today with the situation a million times worse? </p> <p>Once again, population size and growth are major factors in this human dilemma – maybe <em>Homo sapiens</em> shouldn't have tried to organize itself into groups exceeding the Dunbar number, which anthropologist Robin Dunbar showed was about 150 people, the size of hunter-gatherer groups. He also showed that's roughly the size of groups in which human beings are comfortable today.</p>