National Fears and Feelings

All the news in recent times has been about covid, with little asides of other issues and a few ‘feel good’ stories tagged on at the end.  So I haven’t posted a blog for months because the impacts of covid have ravaged many countries with misery and death, and in Australia, one of the least affected, has caused widespread anxiety, dislocation and a great deal of financial stress to many.  And I have sailed through it all with almost no disruption of my lifestyle, and increased business due to Queenslanders being imprisoned.  So any blog I write may seem like gloating, including this one.  I am aware of the impact of covid on most people’s lives, which at the least is a curtailing of opportunities and fun, and at the most grief and loss.  So I will bring you a sunny account of a beautiful rainforest untroubled by perilous times in the hope you see it as a beautiful bright world still out there.

Just a couple of hours ago I saw two tree kangaroos cross a grass clearing near my house.  First an adult with it’s long tail hopping across then a juvenile perhaps 2/3 the size moments later.  They are beautiful animals and gentle herbivores I have had perching on my shoulders watching me doing the washing up, with sharp 75 mm claws just gently resting on my head.  Gentle until territorial disputes or sexual rivalry comes into play that is.  Then all bets are off.  It is the same with possums and recently there has been major disputes with the possum at Maple Cottage as guests report major fights with the hissing, spitting, squealing sounds that accompany such conflicts.  There have been severe injuries and big patches of skin and fur ripped off.  I think a possum mafia has moved in.  One casualty with the right side of it’s face ripped off was driven out and moved down to my house.  It has caused me considerable annoyance as desperate possums resort to desperate measures such as raiding my house during daylight hours.  I am quite accustomed o having the daylight hours to myself and leaving the dark hours to the possums.  But when I have all doors and windows open, I don’t want to be subject to sneak attacks to steal my dinner.  I have managed to trap it and relocate it to a distant part of the rainforest but I doubt it will survive.  Callous perhaps, but I claim a small portion of this land, my house, as my own.

I am having a drought.  More than 3 weeks without rain!  I know, I know, this is well short of an Australian record, but here in the rainforest it seems strange to not need gumboots and to see dust in the trails of cars.  Other people would call it beautiful weather.  Just depends on what you are in need of.

For those of you out there in the anthropologically modeled version of reality, I think you really need to get vaccinated for covid.  It isn’t the final solution, but it could stop you dying.  The virus is changing due to the vast opportunities given by its massive distribution.  This leads to its survival and our demise by the process of trial and error, otherwise known as evolution.  On the side of the good guys are the remarkably competent and trained virologists who strive to counterattack.  Unfortunately, they can only perform a few well directed lines a month, and the virus can perform billions of aimless experiments to defeat them.  This contest has a long way to run.

Covid Vaccines

If I ruled the whole world, not just my little enclave, I would do things very differently for the vaccine roll-out.  I would not consider where they were made, who can outbid the poorer countries, nor even the death rates as these are people who have passed out of consideration.  I would attack the virus by sending the available vaccines to the hot spots of new infections to halt it in its tracks before new variants emerge.  This was the model and plea of the WHO prior to any vaccines being released, but they were shouting into a storm and I am sure they knew that.  It is ironic that many of the rich countries are indeed among the most at need, like the US where new cases are 70,000 per day, Germany having a third wave etc.  So, as was quite predictable, there is an unseemly and desperate scramble to get hands on vaccine and the winners are……. the rich and powerful.  No surprise there.

And perhaps it is all in vain as the virus is likely to sprout so many variants that re-vaccination will be required in less than a year, long before most of the world is even vaccinated the first time.  This was brought home by an interview today with Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC (Center for Disease Control in the US) who tossed the script and said she had “An impending sense of doom”.  As have many leading epidemiologists who see us on the losing side with this virus which has already mutated so many times.

I have decided not to seek a covid vaccine inoculation.  I have been eligible for a couple of weeks being a septuagenarian, but have been watching the roll-out world wide.  I am by no means an anti-vaxer, or have any doubts about the efficacy of the vaccines, it is just that I have seen the inequality of distribution.  It is mainly produced in rich countries and mainly distributed to rich countries.  That doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  This is not some self-sacrificing stance based on long-held beliefs in equality (well maybe a little bit), but some rational thinking that the virus has to be tackled first in the worst hit places to be able to knock it on the head.  I think it will be in my interests and Australia’s interests to tackle this as a worldwide problem, which it undoubtedly is, to send the vaccines to where they will do the most to control the virus.

As WHO feared and railed against even before the vaccines were available, the rich countries have snapped up the supplies, no doubt due to having more purchasing power.  It is also true that some of the countries most in need are the rich ones.  Europe and the US are having a torrid time dealing with continuing infection rates and in any equitable distribution system should enjoy some preference.  But many other places with major outbreaks, they are not able to get sufficient (or any) supply.  PNG springs to mind.  They have a serious outbreak and rudimentary medical facilities.  Well, we could congratulate ourselves with our minimal infection rates and send them a few doses to “do the right thing”, which we have done with I believe 8000 doses.  Actually, it would be in Australia’s interests, and mine, to send them a whole heap more to help contain the outbreak there.  Perhaps Scotty doesn’t realise that Australia extends to within 4 km of PNG.  Perhaps he doesn’t realise that due to PNG’s weak public health system, the infection rates and deaths will be hugely under reported.

I did my weekly shopping in Atherton today and it was a bit eerie.  Nearly everyone had masks on.  I haven’t seen any masks since April last year, and even then only 20% had them.  I was handed a mask at the entrance to Bunnings and told I wouldn’t be allowed in without one.  Had I missed some emergency health warning?  Perhaps, because just everybody had a mask on.  The supermarket didn’t enforce masks, but the bottle shop did.  Everybody stayed subdued and distant and for the first time I wore a mask.  I didn’t like it.  It was hot and suffocating and I could no longer read smiles or scowls and felt alienated from people by being no longer able to have communication by facial expressions.  I suppose most of you are much further down the track than I am, but it is a track I do not want to go down.

So, after brief glimmers of hope, I am back to my original ‘gloom and doom’ prognosis of Feb 2020, that this disease would be a “permanent scourge of mankind”.

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