Thursday 30 April 2020

North Coast Public Health Unit reminding Northern NSW residents to protect themselves against mosquitoes which remain in high numbers late in the season

Northern NSW Local Health District, media release, 27 April 2020:

The North Coast Public Health Unit is reminding residents of Northern NSW to protect themselves against mosquitoes which remain in high numbers late in the season.
“Mosquitoes have persisted in large numbers through to early autumn, along with the warm weather in recent weeks,” Paul Williamson, Senior Environmental Health Officer, said.
The NSW Arbovirus Surveillance and Mosquito Monitoring Program recently detected Barmah Forest virus and Ross River virus in mosquitoes in the Northern NSW area. Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses are common on the north coast and are transmitted by infected mosquitoes.
So far this year, 32 north coast residents have been diagnosed with Barmah Forest virus infection and 153 with Ross River virus infections, which is two and three times the number of infections, respectively, for the same period last year. One hundred and nineteen of these infections have been reported in the last four weeks, which is six times the number reported in the same period last year.
“These infections can cause symptoms including tiredness, rash, fever, and sore and swollen joints. The symptoms usually resolve after several days, but some people may experience these symptoms for weeks or even months,” Mr Williamson said.
Avoiding mosquito bites will be especially important until cooler weather brings an end to the mosquito-breeding season.
Whilst most people are at home due to current movement restrictions, many people are heading outdoors early or late in the day to get some exercise.
“Mosquitoes are very active at these times so protect yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes when out-and-about.”
Simple steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes include:
  • Cover up as much as possible when outside with light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and covered footwear.
  • Use an effective insect repellent on exposed skin. Re-apply repellent within a few hours, as protection wears off with perspiration. The best mosquito repellents contain Diethyl Toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin. Botanical based products (e.g. eucalyptus, citronella etc.) provide only limited periods of protection.
  • Use physical barriers such as netting on prams, cots and play areas for babies. Repellents should not be used on the skin of children under the age of three months.
  • Check the product label of repellents for recommended age of use. Most skin repellents are safe to use for children over the age of 3 months or older. Some formulations are only suitable for children over 12 months.
  • Use insecticide sprays, vapour dispensing units (indoors) and mosquito coils (outdoors) to clear rooms or repel mosquitoes from an area.
  • Cover all windows, doors, vents and other entrances with insect screens.
  • Remove and prevent mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as emptying containers that hold water.
“Preventing infection with these viruses depends on avoiding mosquito bites, especially as the mosquitoes have become active after recent rain, warm days and high tides,” Mr Williamson said.
Fact sheets are available from the NSW Health website:
Weekly reports are available during the arbovirus season from the New South Wales Arbovirus Surveillance and Mosquito Monitoring Program:

Is this the youngest 'wanted man' involved in a car pursuit in Coffs-Clarence Police District?

From The Daily Examiner, 28 April 2020, p.5:

Officers were notified and engaged in a pursuit with the taxi before road spikes were deployed on the Pacific Highway at Moonee Beach. A -year-old man was arrested after short foot pursuit.

*Animated gif found at Google Images

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action Inc. commences a civil enforcement proceeding in NSW Land and Environment Court to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action Incorprated is a group of bushfire survivors, firefighters, local councillors who have joined together to demand the Government take immediate action on climate change.

The group says of itself: "We have come together because we have lost our homes and our communities to bushfires and we want action. We are sick of waiting and we won’t put up with half-measures anymore. The Government can no longer ignore the way their climate change denial is hurting our communities and putting lives at risk. They must take Australia beyond coal projects like Adani and move to 100% renewable energy for all."

On 20 April 2020 Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action Inc. brought a civil enforcement proceeding in the Land and Environment Court to compel the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The proceedings seek to force the EPA to establish a climate policy, based on its statutory role which includes a requirement to prepare policies to protect the environment. The group will be arguing that the EPA as lead environment regulator in NSW failed to establish such policies in relation to climate change.

The outcome of this case is of particular interest to communities in the NSW Northern Rivers region given the mega wildfires of the 2019-2020 bushfire season and the environmental devastation/property loss/social dsiruption in their wake.

On 27 April 2020 The Daily Examiner reported:

Any notion that climate change is an issue that can be dealt with effectively in some distant future has been shown to be untenable given events of the past few years. 

Extreme weather events, severe droughts and longer and more catastrophic bushfire seasons have shown more people there is a connection between these events and the growing carbon emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Australians concerned about climate change are becoming increasingly frustrated with the ostrich-like attitudes of many politicians and government agencies. 

One group that is taking legal action in an attempt to force a NSW government agency to do more on climate change is Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, which is taking the Environmental ­Protection Agency to court ­because of its failure to better protect communities. 

Group president Jo Dodds said all members had experienced a bushfire first-hand. They believed climate change was a major contributing factor to the cause and growing intensity of bushfires in Australia. 

She said the issue wasn’t being taken seriously enough and “there’s a sense that the bushfires are over and we can get back to normal life after COVID-19 – but the fires are going to come harder and more frequently”. 

The Environmental Defenders Office is representing the group. EDO chief executive David Morris said the EPA had “a statutory mandate to protect the environment … but the EPA don’t have a current policy to regulate greenhouse gas emissions”. 

“Those two things can’t coexist,” he said. “We’re simply asking the court to tell the EPA go and create environmental quality objectives with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, regulate the pollution and use their existing powers to do so.” 

According to the EDO, the EPA is in a unique position. As an agency “with teeth”, it has the power to issue licences to control pollution, as well as put caps and prices on substances that are harmful to the environment. 

The case is listed in the NSW Land and Environment Court in Sydney on May 8. 

Leonie Blain, Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition

Covid-19 deniers come from the same anti-science stable as climate change deniers?

DeSmog blog, Executive Summary, 22 April 2019:

Government should be doing little or next to nothing,” Richard Ebeling wrote in a post about COVID-19 republished on March 24 by the Heartland Institute. “The problem is a social and medical one, and not a political one.”
I just think we're going to be fine. I think everything is going to be fine,” Heartland editorial director and research fellow Justin Haskins said about COVID-19 during a March 13 episode of the podcast In the Tank. “I really don't think this is going to be a problem even two to three months from now.”
On Dec. 31, 2019, “a pneumonia of unknown cause” was first reported to the World Health Organization’s China Country Office — and in the months following that report, the disease now known as COVID-19 spread to infect millions of people worldwide and seems well on its way to killing hundreds of thousands — while experts warn that the presumed death toll may be significantly higher than we yet know.
As the virus spread, so too did misinformation: baseless predictions that the disease would not cause significant harm, claims of miracle cures, and conspiracy theories about the virus’s origins. That misinformation was often circulated by white-collar professionals — including many who have a history of casting doubt on climate science or seeking to debate issues that were already laid to rest within the scientific community. The overlap was so striking that it caught the attention of both former President Barack Obama and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel in March.
Some of that misinformation on COVID-19 came straight from President Trump. But a river of faulty information on the coronavirus also flowed from think tanks, experts (some self-proclaimed), academics, and professional right-wing activists who also have spurned climate science and sought to slow or stop action to respond to the climate crisis.
Some compared COVID-19 to the flu or other threats, suggesting that the flu was a larger threat and that action to slow the spread of the novel virus was an overreaction. As the toll from COVID-19 grew, others argued that the virus was the most important threat and that action to slow climate change was superfluous. Some circulated false or unproven cures and remedies while others touted the benefits of single-use plastics during the pandemic (without regard for the health of those living in places where plastics and petrochemicals are produced — like Saint John the Baptist parish, Louisiana, which on April 16, had the highest per-person COVID-19 death rate in the U.S.)
Some attacked renewable energy, some the Green New Deal, and others the World Health Organization (WHO). Some framed efforts to “flatten the curve” of infections as infringements on liberty or simply unnecessary while others persisted in using terms that the WHO has warned can lead to dangerous stigma and discrimination. And some climate science deniers have circulated conspiracy theories, like claims that the virus was a foreign “bioweapon,” that it’s linked to “electrosmog” and 5G networks, or alleged that “the World Health Organization has carried out the greatest fraud perhaps in modern history.”
The decades that fossil fuel companies spent funding organizations that sought to undermine the conclusions of credible climate scientists and building up doubt about science itself ultimately created a network of professional science deniers who are now deploying some of the same skills they honed on climate against the public health crisis at the center of our attention today.

Many of the operatives spreading COVID disinformation have influence because of the fossil fuel industry.

COVID denial should forever discredit climate science deniers.

  • These attempts to exploit a global pandemic to further the climate denial machine’s anti-science agenda will mean loss of life, and unnecessarily imperil frontline medical personnel by allowing the virus to spread further and more quickly. 
  • Some climate deniers have pushed outright conspiracy theories on COVID-19: claiming, as Piers Corbyn did, that the pandemic is a “world population cull” backed by Bill Gates and George Soros; alleging, as a former member of British Parliament did, that COVID-19 is just a “big hoax”; or, like Alex Jones, seeking to profit directly off of COVID-19 through false marketing, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the New York Attorney General, both of which have warned Jones to desist from marketing a toothpaste he claimed “kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range.”
  • Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit claiming that COVID-19 “was prepared and stockpiled as a biological weapon to be used against China’s perceived enemies.” Principia Scientific International claimed that economies were about to be shut down because “the WHO Director caused a global coronavirus panic over a basic math error,” (referring to early World Health Organization fatality rate numbers). Steve Milloy tweeted out a link to a New York Times op-ed by Dr. Cornelia Griggs, who described working in a New York City hospital amid the pandemic, calling her a “Hysterical doc” and writing “Stop the panic.” (Less than a week later, Milloy tweeted that “#Coronavirus has given us the #GreenDream: —Deprivation — Destroyed economy — Police state”). On April 10 — at a time when over 92,000 deaths had been reported worldwide — Bjorn Lomborg wrote that “Significant data indicate corona is no worse than the common flu.” And former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani tweeted out a list of leading causes of death on March 10, writing “Likely at the very bottom, Coronavirus: 27.” Six weeks later, more than 14,400 people in New York City had died after contracting the virus.
  • Not only does their pandemic messaging undermine climate science deniers’ credibility, it also puts on display some of the faulty thinking that can be seen in their discussions of both topics — you see the same logical fallacies at play. There’s the rejection of basic modeling techniques (and early models on both COVID-19 and on climate have ultimately proved tragically accurate). There’s a failure to grasp the ways that an exponential problem can accelerate. There’s a willingness to make assertions that aren’t supported by evidence as well as a willingness to issue blanket assurances that things will be fine without taking into account the evidence. And there’s a reliance on ad hominem attacks and innuendo. These communications tactics used on both issues mirror each other.
  • The individuals and organizations responsible for spreading disinformation on climate science and COVID-19 will forever cement their reputations on the wrong side of history....
In this series

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Morrison Government's new virus contact tracing app

On the evening of Sunday 26 April 2020 the Morrison Coalition Government released its COVID-19 contact tracing app "COVIDSafe" for download and installation on mobile phones by the Australia public.

The stated intention for the release of this app is to widely surveil the Australian population with the aim of tracing persons who have been in contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

This release did not come after the promised full disclosure of the app source code. Indeed this source code if or when it is finally released will be a redacted version.

It did not come backed by a full legislative framework which had been scrutinised by the Australian Parliament. 

It came with a ministerial determination which had been published at one minute before midnight on Saturday 25 April 2020 and a one page website containing two download links, a link to "Privacy policy" and another to "Help topics".

It also came after the unannounced release of the promised Privacy Impact Assessment sometime on 25 April 2020.

Despite being assured that no federal agency can access data collected by COVIDSafe, one federal agency the Digital Transformation Agency has official permission to access data in certain situations.

To effectively use the app on a mobile phone Bluetooth has to be activated and some phones will be required to run the app in the foreground, others may find it can be run in the background. Recharging may have to happen more often and some existing phone functions may not always perform well.

Every mobile phone user with this app "will receive daily notifications to ensure the COVIDSafe app is running".

Once installed the app can be automatically updated (including with additional app functions) without notification to the user, unless automatic updates have been blocked on Google Play or Apple App Store.

It is up to each citizen and permanent resident to make their own decision concerning the downloading of this app as use of the app is voluntary.


Despite the Morrison Government insisting that "the COVIDSafe app does not collect your location", according to Google Play this app has GPS and network based functions so a mobile phone's precise location can be identified.

Looking at the faces of people US President Donald Trump choses as props for his media appearances

The Atlantic, 26 April 2020:

Donald Trump loves attention, and people can’t help but give it to him. It’s been this way for a generation. Television cameras and tabloids were trained on him long before he was president, and even more so now. In the three years since he took office, it can sometimes seem impossible to look away. But I’ve always found that paying attention to the people around Trump is far more revealing than watching the man himself.

Monday 27 April 2020

Byron DA on land subject to coastal erosion?

Echo NetDaily, 23 April 2020:

A DA for 33 housing lots on the upmarket Linnaeus Estate at Broken Head remains 
on the table despite containing fundamental legal errors. Photo

A Development Application (DA) for 33 housing lots on the upmarket Linnaeus Estate at Broken Head remains on the table despite containing fundamental legal errors, after a majority of Byron Shire councillors voted to defer the matter, rather than refusing it outright as Council planning staff recommended.
The councillors’ decision also puts them at odds with many affected neighbours, who supported staff recommendations. 
In February last year, the owners of the idyllic estate applied for an amendment to Byron’s Local Environment Plan to allow for a community title development comprising 33 lots, each with a minimum size of 250 m2.
It wasn’t until after the DA had received gateway approval from the NSW planning department and completed its four-week public exhibition that Council staff realised there was a ‘fundamental error’ in the way the existing and proposed controls for the site applied in the context of its ‘Special Activities’ zoning.
According to the staff report in the agenda to last week’s Council planning meeting, this error stemmed from advice Council received from the planning department.
‘Additionally, the way in which Byron’s LEP regulates community title subdivision in the SP1 (Special Activities) zone was not fully understood when the department issued the Gateway determination’, Council staff member Steve Daniels said in the report.
‘Council has commissioned legal advice on this matter which establishes that the proposed amendment to Byron LEP 2014 is redundant.’......
The legal advice also revealed that part of the site earmarked for housing in the DA was in fact ‘highly likely’ to be a coastal erosion zone. 
The Linnaeus Estate is located between Broken head and Lennox Head, and is some of the last littoral rainforest adjoining the coastline in NSW.....

According to Byron Shire Council minutes of 16 April 2020 the vote to keep this DA alive went thus:

The motion (Richardson/Spooner) was put to the vote and declared carried. Crs Coorey, Martin, Lyon, Ndiaye, Richardson, Cameron, Hackett, Spooner and Hunter voted in favour of the motion. No Councillors voted against the motion.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch yells ‘Jump!’ Frydenberg and Fletcher respond by leaping into battle

News Corp is an $8.6 billion corporation run from Sixth Avenue in New York. It is controlled by the (American) Murdoch family. Its exploits over seven decades have been as brutal and Darwinian as any media company in history. It has regularly dispensed “we will wipe you out” threats to small and large competitors across the world. Now, we’re told, “international platforms” who have “no commitment to local communities” are responsible for depriving 60 Australian local communities of the news they have depended on for decades. At some point in Australian history, the malevolent abuse of power by the billionaire family who milks its former colony will be exposed.” [Crikey Editor Eric Beecher, News Corp’s abuse of power must be exposed — and stopped, 3 April 2020]

Australian Treasurer & Liberal MP for Kooyong Josh Frydenberg speaking at a joint doorstop interview on 20 April 2020:

Well, good morning. It’s a real pleasure to be here with my friend and colleague, the Minister for Communications, Paul Fletcher. It’s time the tech titans were held to account and we had genuine competition, we have a level playing field, we have more transparency and we get payment for original journalistic content. The rise of the digital platforms, and in particular Google and Facebook have delivered real and significant benefits to consumers. But it’s has also been a period of great disruption. And it’s called into question the adequacy of our existing regulatory frameworks and the viability of traditional media outlets. This is why Scott Morrison, when he was Treasurer,= tasked the ACCC to undertake a ground-breaking report, a report that took them 18 months to put together, into the digital platforms. The ACCC led by Rod Sims, produced an outstanding report which made a number of recommendations. Recommendations that the Government has accepted. One of those key areas of focus for the ACCC was to develop a voluntary code between the traditional media businesses and the digital platforms to govern their relationships. Last year, the Government announced that it hoped a voluntary code would be reached by November of this year. Well those negotiations were held and no meaningful progress was made on the most significant component of which the code was to deal with, namely payment for content. And in the words of the ACCC, they did not believe that progress would be made and a deal would be done with a voluntary code. So the Government's taken a decision to move to a mandatory code, with a draft mandatory code to be released by the end of July and to be put together by the ACCC. We hope it will be legislated soon thereafter. We’re very conscious of the challenges we face and that we are dealing with some of the most valuable and powerful companies in the world. In France and in Spain and in other countries where they have tried to bring these tech titans to the table to pay for content they haven't been successful. But we believe this is a battle worth fighting. We believe this is critical for the future viability of our media sector and it's all about competition and creating a level playing field. So together with Minister Fletcher and our colleagues led by the Prime Minister, we will move with the ACCC to put together this mandatory code in the weeks ahead and hopefully it will deliver lasting reform for the sector and importantly, ensure that we have a level playing field into the future…

the ACCC is going to be looking at the method by which the payment for content would occur. There are a number of different options. You can do it on a value option or you can do it on a cost option, meaning that the tech titans would end up paying a fraction of what the cost was for producing that original content every time that they use it. The other alternative is in terms of the value to that particular digital platform that they get from getting eyeballs onto their sites by using that content. So this is to be worked out by the ACCC over the next three months. This is a very significant reform. It’s about holding these tech titans to account. It’s about ensuring genuine competition. It’s about delivering a level playing field. It’s about keeping jobs in journalism, and it’s about ensuring a fair outcome for all….

...these are very profitable platforms so this may eat into their profitability, to the Facebook’s and to the Google’s. But it’s only understandable that they would be paying for that content that they use to get traffic through their websites. You see the way Google and Facebook operate is that they don’t necessarily charge a fee for their service but they attract eyeballs onto their sites and then sell the advertising that goes with it. So this is about ensuring that they are genuinely rewarding and compensating the content that they use….

...but what was clear from the ACCC is that on the key issue of payment for content, there wasn’t a hope that there would be a deal reached between the parties. And the fact that we could not see a light at the end of that tunnel meant that we would move from a voluntary code which was the original intention, to a mandatory code which would be legislated through the Parliament.

One independent media company did not agree with Frydenberg’s assessment of the situation.

Crikey, 23 April 2020:

Earlier this week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher got up and struck a blow for foreign multinational News Corp in its ongoing war with the tech giants that have used innovation and the internet to wreck the Murdochs’ media business model….

...government has recycled demonstrable lies peddled by News Corp about how it is being robbed by Google and Facebook, with the aim of helping prop up News Corp’s failing Australian media businesses….

News Corp charges that when Google (mostly) and Facebook use its headlines and automatically generated “snippets” of News Corp stories on their sites, they are stealing content, and should be made to pay for it via a licence fee that will “reflect the financial benefit digital platforms derive from using snippets”.

It also complains that longer “snippets” deter people from clicking through the attached link to the original story because they get all they need from what’s displayed.

Except the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) digital platforms inquiry found that News Corp’s claims don’t stack up.

Headlines and snippets aren’t theft of content: “generally, digital platforms’ use of article headlines is unlikely to infringe copyright protections in Australia,” the ACCC noted. “Digital platforms reproducing a snippet of a copyright-protected news article does not infringe copyright protections if the snippet does not reproduce a substantial part of the article.”

And the ACCC found that the tech companies, media organisations and consumers all benefit from the use of snippets. Specifically, “media businesses benefit because a snippet provides context and an indication to the user of the value of that content, increasing the likelihood of consumers clicking through”.

Real-world evidence backed this up. “As a result of a German copyright law requiring Google to pay fees to publish snippets from news media websites, Google stopped showing snippets from [media company Axel Springer’s] news articles. Axel Springer noted that the lack of snippets led to a nearly 40% decline in referral traffic from Google Search and an almost 80% decline in referral traffic from the Google News user interface”.

The ACCC also “does not agree that longer snippet lengths necessarily have a negative effect on referral traffic, with users remaining on an aggregator or search platform rather than clicking through to a news media business’s website”. As a result, it did not recommend that a mandatory licence fee be imposed.

Where it did agree with media companies is that they have little bargaining power with Google et al when it comes to the length and composition of snippets. They can block Google from automatically generating snippets, but beyond being able to “opt out”, they have no way of managing them, or maximising click-through.

The ACCC thus proposed the industry-led development of a code of conduct to be agreed between media and tech companies to address this “imbalance of power” and enable media companies to get access to data and negotiate more effectively with the likes of Google.

Such a code of conduct might also cover how revenue is shared “where the digital platform obtains value, directly or indirectly, from content produced by news media”.

How much value do digital platforms obtain from news content? Google doesn’t show any ads on its news feed, and “does not generally sell advertising opportunities next to search queries that are considered by Google as having a ‘news intent’”. In other countries where it has been ordered to pay fees, it has simply stopped carrying snippets if it can’t do so for free. In Spain, it shut down Google News.

Interestingly, the result in Spain — and one echoed elsewhere — was that smaller media sites lost a large volume of traffic while major media sites suffered relatively little loss. 

It would be to News Corp’s considerable advantage if that same result eventuated in Australia, with smaller competitors in an already marginal economic environment suffering a major loss in traffic…..
[my yellow highlighting]

Sunday 26 April 2020

Raising money to return Australian east coast rainforests to their former glory

Echo NetDaily, 24 April 2020:

The last few years have been a rolling wave of dire situations: floods that caused local devastation, followed by drought that saw much of the country dry out, compounded by some of Australia’s worst fires. Of course that was all before the current COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the globe.

But the rain has come, and while community planting events have had to be cancelled due to the virus, there is still plenty of opportunity to support having a positive influence on the climate.

The Rainforest 4 Foundation has been at the forefront of positive action, including planting rainforest trees to restore fire-devastated rainforests and buying back land in the Daintree.

We’ve purchased four properties this year, one each month’, said Kelvin Davies, founder of the Rainforest 4 Foundation.

We ran a crowd funding campaign in November with Mullumbimby based company We Are Explorers, and that helped to purchase Lot 305, Cypress Road, Cow Bay, Daintree.’

In fact Rainforest 4 have managed to buy back, or have under contract, six properties in the Daintree since August 2019. They are currently raising the funds to purchase the sixth, Lot 330, Cape Tribulation Road, which is currently under contract. It will cost $25,000, so far they have raised $9,895 and need to raise another $15,105 to complete the purchase.

Rainforest 4 work in partnership with the local Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation and transfer the properties they purchase to the Daintree National Park and World Heritage Area….

Closer to home Rainforest 4 are looking to keep planting trees to help rebuild the local rainforests that have been devastated by the recent fires……
Kelvin Davies at Upper Wilsons Creek.
Image supplied.

Only one per cent of the Lowland Subtropical Rainforest remains in this region and Rainforest 4 is aiming to directly support that rainforest by planting and restoring habitat in and near areas that were damaged by the Mt Nardi fires.

Over 5,500 hectares were impacted by the fires in the areas of Terania Creek, Tuntable Creek, Tuntable Falls, Huonbrook, Upper Coopers Creek, Upper Wilsons Creek, Wanganui and surrounds.

For $10 you can support the planting of a tree, including its maintenance for three years. To donate, or to find out more go to Rainforest 4Foundation.

A perspective on society and the COVID-19 pandemic

This is a Twitter thread created by Janette Francis, a Walkley-award winning journalist, TV Presenter and podcaster.

Jan’s Twitter account was created in 2009.

The debate on the best responses to the COVID-19 pandemic is global and one cold-blooded aspect of this debate is currently found in British, American and Australian mainstream media articles and on social media - save the investments and assests of the well-off because old people and the chronically ill are going to die anyway.

This is Jan's contribution to this debate.

Jan Fran @Jan__Fran, 21 April 2020:

I keep hearing folks describe this pandemic as a kind of trade-off between public health and the economy. This trade-off is often framed around loss of life. 1

It usually goes something like this: if we ease the lockdown we’ll see people die from the virus. If we prolong the lockdown we’ll see people die from the consequences of possible economic collapse (i.e suicide, depression, poverty, ill health, violence). 2

We are led to believe that attempts to limit one set of deaths, will increase the other, that one group of people will have to sacrifice for the other. But whose lives are more important? 3

Do we sacrifice the sick now to save the healthy later; the old to save the young; the poor to save everyone else? We are led to believe that this is our dilemma and it is an impossible one. 4

Hey, here’s a fun thing to think about: guess how much money Jeff Bezos made today? 5

Jeff Bezos made 17,000 dollars. But he didn’t make it in one day. He made it in ONE SECOND. Every single second Amazon is reaping 17 thousand dollars worth of sales (this is AUD BTW) & this is happening SPECIFICALLY during this pandemic as more people seek deliverable supplies. 6

Jeff Bezos is now worth 216 BILLION dollars and good on Jeff Bezos, I say! I mean, the man is clearly providing a service that people need and reaping the rewards. That is #inspo, amirite?! Please speak at my conference, Jeff. 7

Thing is, there's a wee bit more to the world we live in. 8

We live in a world where, in the middle of a pandemic, one man makes 17 thousand dollars A SECOND and another is buried in a mass grave because his family can’t afford a funeral. 9

It’s a world where the homeless sleep in socially-distant quadrants in a hotel car park, while above them thousand-dollar-a-night rooms sit empty. It’s a world where folks are protesting their right to get sick in a country they can not afford to seek treatment in. 10

One thing this pandemic has done is exacerbated the gross inequalities we always knew existed. It has exposed them, brought them to the surface as the bodies of the poor and the desolate continue to be stacked beneath the ground. 11

The framing of this pandemic as ‘lives lost now V lives lost later’ is really just us tryna work out which sections of our society are more productive, more useful. Which sections are going to best replicate the system that was in place before all this Covid/lockdown malarky. 12

I mean, we all wanna get back to how it was ASAP, right? Now that we think about it we were having a great time. The system was working. But for who? 13

Not for the man whose body now sits in a mass grave on Hart Island NY, it wasn’t. Not for the homeless sleeping in their car park quadrants, it wasn’t. Not for the nearly 40 million Americans living below the poverty line, it wasn’t. This is the system we will replicate. 14

It is right to talk about sacrifice in this dark and uncertain time. I guess we all have to make sacrifices at some point so if not now, when? If not me, who? Before you answer that, know this … 15

Twenty-six individuals own as much wealth as HALF the world’s population - Lemme say that again: TWENTY SIX people (two. six) own the same amount of wealth as 3.8 BILLION PEOPLE. 16

That’s worth remembering the next time some legend waxes lyrical about why you might need to sacrifice yer nan for the sake of the economy. Maybe those 26 people should sacrifice the spoils they’ve reaped from a system that now needs saving from itself. 17

We do indeed have a dilemma but it might not be an impossible one. Maybe we actually don’t need to ask those who have the least to sacrifice the most, maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe that’s the trade-off? 18

Anyway, thanks for letting me share my thoughts on this website twitter dot com. 19/19