Observation Deck of the USS Pandemic

FROM THE OBSERVATION DECK OF THE USS PANDEMIC

Report Submitted March 31,2020

  1. Skies clearing; increased visibility; waters clearing, increased depth perception.
  2. Fault-lines in leadership and economic security readily observable.
  3. Man in the White House teeths on the Presidency; ingenuity and capacity for loving from American families and citizens observed. Leadership flipped: mayors, governors, and institutional leaders rise to the top.
  4. The youth of America sing in their nests like spring fledging ready to fly into their new lives and destinies.
  5. The elders reflect on time past, time of their parents, of the great war, the depression, and the war of the world. They search for its lessons. They fear death for the virus has found a particular berth in their cabins. They await the outcome.
  6. Sunrise at 6:39 a.m. EST and Moonset at 1:29 a.m. EST. Birds and mammals move free and unburdened. They build their nests and hunt on soft paws among the trees. Bees appear, rotund and smeared with yellow pollen. Dolphins rise.
  7. Humans huddle in their homes waiting, wondering, mourning, and angry. It is their turn. The viral hordes rage with insatiable greed and ambition, good capitalists all.
  8. Doctors, nurses, emergency technicians, receptionists, firemen, and all the frontline warriors are risking their lives with no time to wonder about it.
  9. Nets of commerce are tangled on the waves for all to observe. Barrels line docks; mountains of boxes press upon the earth; an eerie silence encompasses the market places. All those lampshades, trash baskets, ric rac, thumbtacks.
  10. The landfills grow as humanity burns through it’s useable goods.The top layer is PPG: effluvium of the pandemic. The next layer isTP and hand wipes.

The warning whistle blows. The crew awaits the captain’s call. Will it be new coordinates to awakened ports of call?

The crew stands All Hands A Deck

Our environmental practices make pandemics like the coronavirus more likely

Love in the Time of Covid-19

The title of this post is a play on the title of a novel written by Gabriel Garcia MarquezLove in the Time of Cholera. Marquez’s novel in turn was inspired by Daniel Defoe‘s A Journal in the Plague Year written as an eyewitness report during the 1665 Black Plague in London. (Here is an online e-version from The Project Glutenberg.) 

So there is precedent for writing about plagues which in “our” time is novel coronavirus. We have yet to learn the outcome as indeed it is just getting started. What will our generation “write” for future generations?

The Spanish flu of 1918 is perhaps the most recent pandemic affecting the U.S. at the scale of the one we are in now. However, the outcomes could be vastly different IF WE HEED THE LESSONS OF PAST PANDEMICS.

Don’t squelch the truth

Even the Black Plague in London, which DeFoe’s story chronicles, shows that when it first broke out, families and then city officials tried to suppress it to control public panic. That should shake us up. We are unprepared to combat the novel coronavirus because we didn’t react immediately by listening to health experts and the experience of China and Korea. There is even rumbling in the White House that we should let up on the quarantine to save the economy. A curious absence of Dr. Stephen Fauci, who heads up the NIH Immunology section and who has helped keep the correct information disseminating from the Hill, does not bode well either. He notably has corrected the erroneous statements of the President which as we have seen is sure to get him dismissed or fired. This should raise an alarm.

Act quickly

During the 1918 Flu Pandemic, because countries were embroiled in WWI, a horrible war with massive death and dismemberment, the city of Philadelphia held a big parade to pump up national patriotism, and, as a result of the crowds, caused a surge in the flu pandemic from which the city never recovered. Loss of life compared to other cities which acted quickly, was 30x’s higher. I am thinking now of the beaches in Florida that stayed open for Spring Break until just a couple of days ago. How did those crowded beaches, hotels, and restaurants magnify the spread of Covid-19? We have yet to learn that. More so, the impetus to save the economy, whether localized or national, can kill people by putting them second to the GDP. The pandemic highlights that pure capitalism does not have a human face.

Kindness and compassion build resiliency during and after the pandemic

Love abounds in America, however, all across the country, in individuals, local leaders and Governors like Andy Beshear, in my state of Kentucky. He has been on top of the latest health information and acted quickly which is probably why we have a low rate of infection comparatively to other states that hesitated This kind of loving care (for it is loving to assure the safety of people) is in contrast to the President who is mostly concerned with the economy. While he does talk about keeping jobs for people by keeping business open, he ignores science. What good will it do if people die by going back to work and causing this pandemic to rage through America? We are on a path to be the center of the pandemic globally.

A lesson from past pandemics is good public compliance to health recommendations is essential. Right leadership at all levels of government and society is consequential.

This is a time to accept the scientific information coming to us from many trustworthy sources AND the living example of countries that were slow to act: Italy being one where the death rate is very high.

A very good summary of the complex 1918 Flu Pandemic can be heard on NPR’s On Point which aired today, March 24, 2020.

Meanwhile, the citizens, families, and individuals, and some businesses are acting with bravery, compassion, and creativity, i.e. love.

RIGHT NOW WE ARE WRITING OUR STORY OF THIS PANDEMIC. 

See what has been planned to make a response on this scales: The National Response Framework – which is not currently being used. NRF_FINALApproved_508_2011028v1040

Write about how your community is responding with love and creativity. Submission to Yes! Magazine’s Call for Submissions (deadline April 3).

READERS: Another plague novel I highly recommend is Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders

 

 

Best Essays: Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!

Lions, Tigers and Bears – Oh, My!

A story from the Coconino National Forest in Arizona

When Dorothy set off to find the Wizard of Oz, she and her companions encountered a lion in the dark wood just as they had feared, but, the cowardly beast only drew their disdain, for what good is a spineless lion?

Therein lies the dichotomy between our visceral fear of carnivores and our psychological need for them to be wild, fierce and free—a varmint or an icon. One gets them killed, the other immortalized, but neither will help them survive.

Neither perception tells us why lions, tigers and bears are important. A wolf takes-out the weakest of the herd, controlling not only numbers but removing the least adaptive genes from the population’s gene pool. A dynamic balance results between wolves, deer, and vegetation and myriad lives each dependent on the other.

That we do not understand the importance of these relationships was memorably recorded by Aldo Leopold. He wrote about an experience shooting wolves one afternoon, a common practice among Forest Service rangers in 1949. Leopold had watched the “fierce green fire” flicker out in a she-wolf’s eyes at her death.

Dawning on his consciousness was the realization of a bigger death̶—a death of wild things and something greater still: the very foundation of a healthy ecosystem. The wild, beautiful landscapes that inspired Leopold, and that support man’s livelihood, were created over centuries among myriad species until a climatic stage is reached in which an elaborate set of checks and balances dynamically sustains it. The whole system changes over time but the checks and balances are always maintained by various species: top carnivores. consumers, producers, scavengers, etc.

The wolf Leopold had just killed was one of the checks that sustained a living community.

Until that moment Leopold lacked the understanding that he later identified as something only a mountain possesses. Mountains have the long view, he wrote, whereas humans are newcomers. A mountain has no fear of wolves, only deer, because the deer will devour vegetation, and the rains will wash away topsoil causing all kinds of havoc for the mountain.

The rancher who compares the life of a wolf against the current market price of his cow misses the much greater value of leaving the wolf wild and free. That “home on the range” where his cattle roam depends on a well-functioning natural community to sustain it.

Leopold was writing about this phenomenon in 1949. Six decades later we are still acquiring that wisdom. We witnessed an ecological rebirth in Yellowstone National Park following the return of the wolf to that ecosystem. Riparian willows and cottonwoods returned because elk spent less time eating and more time hiding to avoid becoming wolf scat. Other species like beavers returned and their activities created habitat for insects and birds, and so on.

In 1996, I attended a public meeting in Springerville, Arizona in the Coconino National Forest convened to address the “elk problem”. Present were the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Commission, White Mountain Apache biologists and tribal officials, ranchers, tourist industry reps, a hunters’ association, local residents, and curious campers like me.

It became apparent right from the start that a classic show-down was about to happen.

The problem stemmed from an exponential increase in the elk population. A rancher testified that elk herds of 600 to 1,000-head could be found every morning on her land, leaving in their path a swath of denuded range. She demanded that Game and Fish raise the limits for hunters to help bring the population of elk under control.

As the rancher, a very handsome woman, tanned in face and arms with a silver mane, made her plea, she gestured toward the Apache contingent. I learned that the expansive White Mountain Apache reservation which bordered much of the national part, was serving as a nightly refuge for the elk that discovered safety within its boundaries. It encompassed 1.67 million acres or forest!

As I sat among the people, I imagined a tide of elk ebbing into the ranchland to graze by day then flowing back at night into the forested reservation. The rancher wanted the Apache Nation to help kill elk and bring the herds under control.

They would not, a tribal spokesman asserted in reply. They would not do so based on ethical principles and the belief that restoring the natural ecosystem would be the only true answer to controlling the population. I think I caught a twinkle in one tribal elder’s eye as this statement was made. We take elk when we need meat for our people, he said and sat down.

Tourist agencies pleaded their case for the presence of elk.  Seen from the roads and campsites, thousands of families enjoyed watching wildlife. Tourism brings 16 million dollars in revenues to Arizona each year, they reminded the assembled guests!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) deferred to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission which is charged with maintaining populations of wildlife. The FWS rep made a statement about the traditional range of the Mexican gray wolf—a keystone species of the disrupted ecosystem. Sheer mention of the gray wolf acted like a match on tinder. The packed meeting room erupted in arguments from ranchers and tourism folks alike who didn’t welcome wolves in the woods.

Then a rancher with the look of one who had spent his life in the sun gained the floor.

“We are victims of our own schemes – me included. First, we saw the wolf as our enemy and we systematically exterminated it. We saw it killing too many elk, too many cattle. We feared for our own lives. Once it was gone, we saw elk and deer populations explode. Well, maybe it’s time we examine our own nature to see if maybe we can control that!”

The meeting adjourned in muffled conversations and salutations. As I walked back to my cabin at Deer Springs Inn, I was in deep thought. I’d just witnessed a complete reenactment of the opening and closing of the West with all the historical parties represented as on a stage.

The sun was setting behind the dense Ponderosa Pine forest. Families were gathering around a campfire in the center of five log cabins in a clearing. I happily joined my friends and family spearing marshmallows. Sparkling stars appeared above in a black sky. A breeze picked up that fanned the flames setting our faces aglow in anticipation. An owl hooted above. The fire popped and sizzled as we all settled down for stories and laughter.

I thought how good it was that our National Parks conserved these woods so that we might know where we came from and understand how we are still a part of something greater than ourselves—that we are not actors in a play but participants in the greater community of life.

Back at the end of the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy got her wish to go home, the tin man a heart, and the lion, courage. Maybe the wolf, the lion, the tiger, the bear, the shark, the grizzly will be restored, too, at some time when our own wizardry returns us to the natural order of things.

Up on the mountain,

Tracing the Mogollon Rim,

We hike and return by way of

The towering Outlook,

Black clouds overhead.




We climb eighty feet up to

Join Ranger GS3-1 in his lair.

He scans the horizon for fire.

We chat, then leave for

Hoping Hare Cabin.




We are dreamily breathing

In the sulfur-laden air of

Lightening-split sky.

Lying up in the loft

Baptized by tumbling waters.


If I Were Elizabeth Warren

I wonder what Elizabeth Warren is doing right now? My hope for the leader I have backed with my money and political support is that she is in her pajamas taking it easy. If I were there, I’d serve her a good strong coffee and cook her an omelette and potatoes. Then I’d order her a bodywork specialist, and arrange for a manicure and pedicure, and lavish all manner of care upon her travel weary person. For Elizabeth is fighting The Good Fight in the American Political Arena.

Why did I support her? Elizabeth Warren has seen the truth about capitalism from very early in her career of public service: it works for the top few percent and less so as you go down the economic/social agency scale. The reason: there is a concurrent scale of opportunity shrouded by American society’s propensity to worship rich people and turn away from the poor – or rather, people perceived as poor.

Warren worked tirelessly in government to rectify that inequity. This is the Great Work. What did she accomplish? If you have credit cards, loans, bank accounts then you are benefiting today from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which she fought for over the years of her public service. She worked to create and sustain a Middle Class while making it possible for families with lesser means to educate their children for economic mobility. Warren was ever on that path to ameliorate free market economics to make it fair to all Americans. She kept kids in mind. Maternity and family leave, sick leave and medical care, a good education — these are fundamental rights of all Americans she believes.

Well, Elizabeth I bet is resting, but her mind is spinning on how to keep the Good Fight going. She has always been and always will be an American leader. As a voter and citizen I will do my part to see that she has a place in the new Administration if she wants it, a Vice Presidency or key cabinet position.

One key thing: she is persistent. Women have that. Endurance. And, our networks are ever stronger and larger. One day a woman will lead this country and we’ll be better for it. So rest, Elizabeth. And thank you from my heart.