Friday, 03 April 2020

America unprepared for pandemic

My book, "Flypaper," is about a pandemic that starts in China and sweeps across the world. The book came out in 2014, but many have written about this possibility. Stephen King wrote a book about a pandemic that was published back in 1979. And then there was Albert Camus, who wrote "The Plague," published in 1947.

One of the great calamities about the situation we are now facing is that humanity has never prepared for something like this, despite the many warnings that have been issued, not only by novelists but by scientists and health officials as well.

Humans, it appears, are not good about preparing for things that only happen once in a while. Famine was a big craze back in the 1960s. Warnings about the coming food shortages were all over the papers, on TV, in magazines and so forth. For once, we actually managed (by accident for the most part) to come up with new ways to farm and to develop genetically resistant strains of crops, that enabled us to delay the siren calls of famine for a time.

Climate change has been an even greater challenge. Serious warnings have been around for at least thirty years. Yet today there are still many science deniers who insist there is nothing to worry about. This, despite the evidence before our eyes in nightly news casts of apocalyptic forest fires, flooding and super hurricanes.

Our current president is one of the greatest science deniers in history. Worse, even, than the Inquisition, that in 1633 wanted to lock Galileo away for announcing that the Earth was not the center of the universe and actually rotated around the sun rather than the other way around. Trump is denying the science of pandemics even in the middle of a pandemic. "One day," he declares, "It will all go away, like a miracle."

So we are not prepared.

In the magical thinking of our President, it will all be over by Easter. I'm sure evangelicals love this thought. Why waste money on ventilators and masks? This too will pass, along with many of our elders, just when we need them more than ever to inject a small bit of reality based thinking.

In "Flypaper," the Earth is devastated, leaving only a handful of individuals left, interspersed around the world. They face the daunting tasks of not only survival but also of reconnecting with tiny pockets of other survivors in an effort to keep humanity going.

Covid-19 will not go this far. It is, in reality, a relatively weak virus, and we shall overcome it. There is already evidence of its decline in other nations as a result of social distancing. But our government's incompetence will mean the death of possibly hundreds of thousands more than would have been necessary. But the big question remains: will we once again ignore the teachings of history or will we instead begin to prepare for the next pandemic? It is out there, and one day, the virus we really fear, one as deadly as Ebola, will once again threaten our world.

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