By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on May 7, 2020.
Kevin Van Tighem
A tiny little virus with a nasty ability to spread has humbled us all. Lives and economy have been disrupted to a degree unimaginable even two months ago. It’s a good time for rethinking some core assumptions.
To that end, here are some positive lessons we might take from our current situation:
1. If we don’t drive and fly everywhere, the sky turns blue again and the air gets sweet. We can even hear birds sing in downtown streets. Maybe we should stop driving and flying to nice places and, instead, keep our home communities worth living in (see below re: best things in life are free.)
2. When things get unsteady, people need income stability to keep families, communities and the economy alive. A crisis is not the best time to try and figure that out. It might make sense to re-jig the taxation system so everyone gets a basic living income, not just a “basic personal amount.” The money is there, it just goes to the wrong things (see below re: yachts)
3. The much-vaunted “free market” loved by fiscal conservatives everywhere is a house built of cards (and greed). It didn’t and can’t save us. Governments – unloved by fiscal conservatives everywhere – are what’s saving us. Maybe we should actually fund and support good governance.
4. We also need each other. So let’s keep helping each other. It’s called family and community, and it’s good.
5. The corporate investor class, it turns out, is not that useful when big things go sour. Grocery clerks, caretakers and other service industry employees, on the other hand, are actually critical. We should take steps to ensure that pay and compensation reflects both those truths.
6. When supply chains break down, local food and products are still within reach. Time for a hard U-turn away from globalization (see above re: free market failures) and towards goods and services provided by our actual neighbours and home communities. Shifting from big corporate models to smaller cooperative and collaborative ones has never looked more sensible.
7. Hygiene matters. Keep washing your hands.
8. The best things in life are free, and they keep on delivering even (especially?) when the super-rich are hiding out from a pandemic on yachts bought with dollars that weren’t taxed. So, when they re-emerge from hiding, we’d be wise to ignore their predictable and self-serving rhetoric about the need for continuing tax relief “so as not to undermine a fragile recovery.” Let them prattle on to one another while we keep finding time for our kids, marvelling at the emergence of spring flowers, lingering over meals, watching birds and making music. And properly taxing the surplus wealth that our public spending on education, health, infrastructure and services helped generate in the first place.
9. Canada’s system of public medicine actually saves lives. The U.S. model clearly costs lives. Private medical companies and apps owned by friends and family of conservative politicians simply divert public money into private pockets. So let’s fight as hard for our doctors, nurses, lab workers and other medical staff after this crisis passes as they are fighting for us right now.
10. When concerned scientists warn us about stuff, we should listen. Scientists have been warning us about the risk of a pandemic for years. They were right. They’ve also been warning us about the risk of climate catastrophe. We should listen.
Calgary-based Kevin Van Tighem is an award-winning conservation and wildlife writer and a former superintendent at Banff National Park.