Nothing like a good pandemic to save the world

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Children of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

“Instant worldwide communication has brought the plight of all nations to global attention; and we’re all learning from each other’s successes and failures,” writes “The gadfly” columnist ROBERT MACKLIN. 

HERE’S the good news: the pandemic is just what we needed to save the world for our grandchildren. 

Robert Macklin.

The way it’s going, COVID-19 will cause a worldwide depression at least comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

And that’s the good news?

You bet. It’s probably the only hope we have to survive and eventually to prosper. Because if the depression now in the making is deep enough, the fall in economic activity might just be sufficient to put the brakes on the climate change that will otherwise destroy our way of life on planet Earth.

Let’s do the maths. According to the latest research, global temperature has risen, on average, about one deg C. And if the nations who pledged action in the Paris Agreement all keep their promises, we will reach 2C  by 2030, 3C by 2050 and 4C by 2075. By then, the world as we now know it will be unrecognisable. 

Think of south-east Australia and the drought, the hailstorm, the mammoth bushfires and the pandemic. Spread that across the globe, add rising seas and multiply by five… without end. That’s the future we are preparing for our children and theirs. 

Indeed, it’s almost as though Gaia – the ancient Greek personification of the Earth – has roused herself to give us fair warning: “Here’s where we’re heading; we have one chance left; please grab it now.”

So, over to us. Do we have the gumption as a species to take that last card in the pack. Or (pun intended) will it get trumped by stupidity?

We have quite a lot going for us. Already, the pandemic has beheaded some of the atavistic shibboleths standing in our way – notably the “debt and deficit” furphy that emerged each time the government took action to regulate economic activity. 

These days even the most reactionary regimes give some support to those thrown out of work by COVID-19. 

Instant worldwide communication has brought the plight of all nations to global attention; and we’re all learning from each other’s successes and failures. The struggle against an invisible virus has taken precedence over our foolish local conflicts against each other. These are our weapons in the making.

On the other hand, the temptation to politicians to use phoney patriotism to enhance their images is never far beneath the surface. Witness the silly, triumphalist cackling of Annastacia Palaszczuk, “defending” Queensland against intruders from NSW and the ACT (with no active cases for many days). 

Not surprisingly, she’s next in line for election.

However, hers is barely a sideshow compared with the race that stops the world (or not) in the U.S. of A. Trump mounted on the Republican elephant has come to represent everything to be beaten over the jumps to the winning post. 

And having divided his stables, shattered its health system, debased its reputation and shuttered much of its economy, he squirms in terror at the prospect of defeat in November.

He will do anything – anything at all – to avoid it.

His opponent Joe Biden, a fading 77-year-old aboard the Democrat donkey, can barely raise a canter against the elephant. Putin is riding interference on social media. The handicap system is gerrymandered. And the punters are drawn from a population where 60 per cent reject the role of natural selection in the evolution of life on Earth. 

Yet these are the surrogates carrying humanity’s colours to the starting gate. No wonder Gaia trembles.

robert@robertmacklin.com

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Robert Macklin
Journalist and author. Contact robert@robertmacklin.com

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