Well, first of all: a very happy new year to everyone. I can’t recall a year past as surreal as 2020 but may be I haven’t lived long enough. 2021 is the only year this century (so likely the only year in our lives) that consists of consecutive digits.
Aside: every number is unique in some way or the other, including being the only number that’s that number. How do we know when something unique is truly unique?
The black death killed a third or more of Europe’s population. Just a century ago, the Spanish Flu killed at least 14 million Indians, about 5% of our population. The impact of the Corona virus doesn’t come close as a %.
However, the pandemic of 2020 was the first universal human experience. There’s never been anything else that almost all human beings experienced - and experienced themselves as experiencing - as one and the same thing. Religions might think their founder’s birth was witnessed by all beings, human and divine, and closer to our day 9/11 was broadcast to a lot of screens, but the pandemic affected the daily life of at least 90% of humanity. It’s an unoriginal thing insight, but still worth saying: both the pandemic and its consequences are due to the global, interconnected nature of human civilization.
The long 20th century has ended and the 21st has begun.
As of the time of this writing:
Quite a bit more than what anyone might have thought on Jan 1st, 2020 but quite a bit less than the panic of March and April 2020 when we were saying 40% of the world’s population or more being infected before the disease runs its course.
Not to downplay the disease or even the immense stupidity and callousness of the response in many countries (the US and India being prominent in that roster), but the fact that:
We kept the numbers of cases down to less than 2% of the world’s population
We went from detecting this virus to decoding its genome to distributing vaccines in less than a year
is a sign of strength.
We will need to build upon that strength to address climate change and future pandemics.
I wouldn’t be writing this series if it weren’t for the pandemic. Biden wouldn’t have been the Democratic nominee, and Trump would have defeated his opponent in any case.
Trump botched the response to the pandemic and perhaps his mercurial nature also turned enough people against him and voted for a (seemingly) steady hand instead.
It’s a vote for the system with a large % of the population deeply disaffected.
Will the system deliver? Will Biden ride on the pandemic’s coattails to success upon success? That’s the question I want to explore over the next few updates.
While ‘geoengineering’ is typically used in the context of climate change, I believe the ongoing response to the pandemic is the first actual instance of geoengineering. The first of many.