Tag: pandemic

It’s snowing!

Together with the entire population of Launceston I was amazed to wake up to a serious covering of snow blanketing our back garden last week. It was short-lived, lasting just 24 hours in most places, but it certainly provided some respite from the relentless and cheerless COVID-19 news that looks set to dominate the media for the foreseeable future.

Della dog was certainly nonplussed at seeing snow for the first time, and was very hesitant about negotiating it on our early morning walk.

Whether it’s print, TV, radio or digital, the media is filled with little else but stories that are in some way associated with the virus. The issue is of course dominating our lives. How can it not when so many people around the world are restricted now in how they are able to live. Here in Tassie there’s no doubt we’re existing in a bit of a bubble, protected from the worst health fears, mask-free – at least for now – and able to move about quite freely. Albeit slightly more physically distant than we were a few short months ago, and with considerably cleaner hands.

So for now our island state is in a safe state of isolation. Before COVID-19, this was considered a disadvantage, economically speaking. Perhaps more than any state or territory Tassie was regarded as a drain on the country’s coffers, the prodigal that always needed a hand up and a handout. It’s a view that has probably been revised, and not just because we appear to be virus-free, but also because our economy is chugging along better than it is in the mainland states. Certainly there are many people who’ve lost their jobs here as well, and/or are relying on JobKeeper and JobSeeker, but on balance our state economy is doing OK. Tasmanians do seem to have answered the call to support local businesses, and have enthusiastically embraced the idea of ‘holidaying at home’ grabbing the opportunity to visit our iconic tourist spots that are currently free of overseas and interstate visitors. My hope is that for some this will also spark an awakening to just how precious these places are, and a greater appreciation and understanding about why they must be protected from inappropriate commercial developments.

The unexpected snow played its part in Tasmania’s unique point of difference. It might have been a 24-hour wonder, and while not quite the clichéd once-in-a-hundred-year event – as it was ninety-nine years, almost to the day – the snow certainly helped to showcase Tasmania’s magical aspects, and perhaps gave more locals a clue about why the island is regarded by so many people as special. There are now calls to use this pandemic as an opportunity to reshape Tasmania’s future economic prosperity. It’s to be hoped those calls are heeded.

Cost of COVID-19

There’s no denying the world has changed forever this year, and there’s no going back however much some people hope and believe it might. The past is now a different country; we’ve gone through the back of the wardrobe (with apologies to LP Hartley and CS Lewis), to enter a world that’s similar, but is also radically different. There was no choice about passing through the COVID curtain, and there’s no certainty about our future either, if indeed we have one. The harsh reality is that millions won’t, because this virus shows no signs of abating or even slowing down, and we’re all at risk. COVID has shown no respect for age, ethnicity or bank balance, and that’s the scary part. This deadly genie is out of the bottle, and it’s quite possibly our fault; we’ve collectively allowed it to happen through selfishness, arrogance and greed.

Whatever the origins of the virus – and theories abound – it couldn’t have spread so easily and rapidly if our species hadn’t also been multiplying with alarming thoughtless selfishness and greed, and at an unsustainable speed.

In the plant world, the marine world, and the animal kingdom, scientists know that disease is likely when environments are out of balance. Farmers know when single species of trees, grains, fruits or vegetables are grown in a concentrated or confined area, they will attract pests and fungus diseases that have to be controlled. Usually by chemicals or poisons that just cause further harm to the land, or to other insect or wildlife, that then result in other manufactured products designed to restore environmental and ecological ‘balance’. It’s a vicious cycle that rarely works, and will never result in a ‘normal’ environment. Similarly when marine environments change due to interrupting the food chain through the over-fishing of certain key species, for our consumption, jellyfish blooms and predator species then proliferate, so ocean ecology and biodiversity is disrupted and the number of ‘dead zones’ expands.

When humans deem a species has become a ‘pest’ or ‘feral’, as is the case in Australia with out-of-control populations of kangaroos, and parrots, or wild pigs, horses, and camels in northern parts of the country, or cats, rabbits, cane toads and foxes that have been unwisely introduced – or misguidedly released – steps are taken to cull their numbers and stop their spread. Mostly with limited success.

The jury is likely to be out for some time about what triggered COVID, but there is every likelihood homo sapiens played a major factor, unwittingly or otherwise. We may never know. What is certain is that our species has proliferated beyond the capacity of the planet to sustain us, and half the planet has greedily and selfishly sucked the other half dry of food, water and natural resources in a relentless and mistaken economic belief the planet is a magic pudding that will continue to endlessly provide – at least for those who are powerful enough, and wealthy enough.

So the virus could well be a wake-up call for humanity, a sharp and brutal reminder that we aren’t the boss after all. The Earth is. Nature is. And too many of us have selfishly and greedily abused and exploited both for long enough. Their patience is rightly exhausted and it’s our turn to be culled and brought to heel. It remains to be seen if enough of us will learn the lesson, and change our way of life, difficult though that will be for many. I can only hope so. And COVID is likely to ensure it will be so.



And so to autumn

So here we are, almost halfway through what is certainly proving to be a strange and challenging year. The pandemic lockdown continues, but chinks in the Covid curtain are appearing with most state governments announcing there will soon be an easing of restrictions, albeit very small ones to begin with. However none of them are fast enough for #ScottyFromMarketing – aka Prime Minister Scott Morrison – whose focus has taken a sharp turn lately about concern for the health and welfare of people, to concern about the economy. Mr M wants everyone back at work, at school, and out shopping for goods other than loo rolls so the country can ‘snap back’ to normal, the balance sheet doesn’t look quite so lopsided, and our freefall towards recession can possibly be avoided. Clearly a terrifying prospect for Mr M and a government which sees the world in terms of dollars and cents, and likes to spruik its credentials as better managers of the country’s economy – regardless of the cost in human, environmental and social capital. But a ‘snap back’ is highly unlikely according to several economic commentators who have universally described this analogy as completely unrealistic.

And arguably unwanted. It seems a hefty chunk of the population isn’t anxious to return to ‘normal’. While the lockdown has been immensely and undeniably difficult for many, many people, for others it’s actually been rather cathartic, and unexpectedly enjoyable, so a return to ‘normal’ is not something they either welcome or relish. Quite the opposite. People are appreciating a more relaxed pace of life, time to smell the roses – literally – spend quality time with partners and children, rediscover their creative sides, and enjoy the natural world and the changing seasons. This is proving far more appealing than a lifestyle lived at a frenetic pace that barely allowed time to stop moving, breathe, and enjoy simply being. The health benefits that are flowing from this slower, more reflective pace of life are also proving significant. Not just for us, but for the planet.

It was only a matter of weeks (or so it seemed) before social media was full of photos and videos taken by people around the world amazed they were documenting previously unheard of instances – fish being caught in rivers and canals normally choked with poisonous debris; mountain ranges emerging from dense shrouds of polluted air; and night skies where canopies of millions of stars were being seen for the first time in decades.

The Earth was regaining some balance, and people were starting to realise the extent of humanity’s impact, and our role in the planet’s degradation. A few lightbulb moments were happening across the globe which ultimately, hopefully, will prove beneficial for the world, as economic models are challenged. It’s almost inevitable the pandemic will result in a resetting of how we live, work and play. It will be hard, it will be challenging, but if we are to avoid the climate change catastrophe that hasn’t disappeared, and that continues to hurtle towards us, it’s vital we do all adjust, adapt and embrace a different way of living. And that includes governments with outdated and ideological agendas that don’t belong in our brave new world.

This disconcerting summer

It’s been a strange summer alright. And a challenging one. Since writing my last blog post in the middle of what has been a catastrophic bushfire season across much of the mainland, followed by floods in other parts of the country, and now the new and unknown reality of coronavirus – or COVID-19 – most of the world is now living in lockdown, physically isolated from family, friends and work, and existing in a surreal kind of silence.

The pandemic has certainly changed the face of Australia, and although it’s concentrating the minds of our leaders, most state premiers have risen to the challenge very well. Others not so much, but it’s been surprising and encouraging to note, (after a rocky start in the case of PM Morrison), that Tasmania’s premier, and Scotty From Marketing, are handling the crisis efficiently and with authority. I’m no fan of either man, but credit where it’s due and they do appear to be steering the state and the country well at the moment.
Certainly these extraordinary times put into perspective the mundane and micro nature of the personal everyday. Those raspberries and tomatoes that were proving to be so tardy back in February have more than made up for their production delay in the weeks since. The natural world shows scant regard for the concerns of humanity, and both crops have forged on regardless. Until a few days ago picking them was a daily task that took at least an hour, such is their time-consuming abundance, but the dessert of raspberries we’ve now enjoyed every evening for weeks has been a joy. Unsurprisingly, tomatoes have also been a fixture in all but a very few of our meals – with the exception of breakfast.

As anticipated processing tomatoes has also been a regular item on my To Do list during the past few weeks, so the freezer is now full to capacity. Few meals are served without tomatoes featuring somewhere on the plate, and although friends and neighbours have thankfully helped relieve us of some of this excess bounty, there are few signs production is slowing. It makes up for their earlier tardiness of course, but I will not be upset when I can finally declare this particular harvest over.

Lockdown life is otherwise proving no hardship, which is my good fortune, and I’m well aware of that fact. We have space to move, a garden to keep us exercised and occupied – and plenty of tasks indoors to catch up on. And quite apart from anything else there are books. Plenty of them, and for the first time in years, a bit more time to read them without feeling guilty.

And, even more importantly, there is time (and fewer excuses!) to write my own major project, even if in my determination to catch up on some of those aforementioned tasks, it’s taken a little while to settle down to doing so on a regular and determined basis.