COVID played havoc in our lives for almost three years. Besides killing over one million Americans and many others around the world, COVID, assisted by politicians, led to needless division among Americans. As I wrote my last couple posts, I was fully aware that half of the country would dismiss them and the other half would cheer them. Welcome to the USA in 2022.
Is it too much to ask that we come together during such a disaster? We came together in communities for the most part beyond a few arguments and worse on airplanes, and a few people forced out of restaurants and shopping centers. But individuals stepped up to help each other as best they could, albeit from six feet away. But on the national level politicians and their allies used the pandemic as one more wedge issue.
Some of the rules from two years ago look silly now. Red dots still mark the floor of gas stations, as if virus particles emitted from around the corners of our masks remain motionless in the air where we exhaled. The dirty rags used to wipe surfaces with traces of disinfectant… do people have any idea of what it takes to sterilize a surface? Restaurants made us wear masks to walk to the bathroom but not when we sat at the table… did that make sense? Or masking outdoors in the presence of a small breeze? We all knew those things were silly, but we fell in line and did them anyway. Some people wore them as a badge of virtue. Most of us just gritted our teeth, or tried to find humor in them.
We all inhale viral particles over and over when COVID is in the community. There aren’t a dozen viruses lurking in a few corners; the indoor air in most places is filled with them. They are on most of the surfaces around us, including our own clothes and skin. Luck and genetics cause some viral loads to be sufficient to cause infection. I avoided infection despite spending lots of time, maskless, with people who had active COVID infections. That wasn’t good luck. My body is clearly different that others. I’m not suggesting it is ‘better’, and my recent posts show my own body’s problems. But I am clearly less susceptible to COVID, at least to the strains we faced so far. So I have to wonder, instead of spending all that money and time on red dots, would we be better off if we spent more resources identifying those differences and focusing efforts on the most susceptible?
Humans in 2022 are sometimes so brilliant, and sometimes so stupid.
I’ve been frustrated, and surprised, at our inability to earn from our mistakes in so many areas. COVID is largely behind us and those mistakes are in the books for history’s amusement. But other examples about. After arguing and dividing over the Paris Climate Accord, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are moving up rather than down. Shouldn’t someone take a look at the old playbook? Yes, we can starve ourselves of air conditioning and cheap energy, but carbon dioxide is planetary. We don’t have red dots over the continents, telling it where to go. China, India, and Africa, where most humans live, have made it clear that they will burn coal or worse if it powers their economies. Since there is a good chance that the solution to global warming will be found here, rather than in Africa, does it make sense to hobble our own economy — especially if doing so does nothing to reduce carbon dioxide levels?
It is actually worse than that. Europe is a case study in how moving too green, too fast, can end up with a lot of burned coal. Our own efforts as designed by politicians might make the problem worse. Shocking.
Some issues for smart people to think about: our strategic oil reserves, established for national security, are at the lowest levels since they began filling the salt mines in the 1970’s. Is there a plan to contain energy costs when the reserves run out? China shut down it’s massive economy for the past three years for ‘zero COVID’, another bright idea by a government. Has anyone considered what will happen to energy prices (and carbon emissions) when they reopen? What will happen to inflation when a third of the human beings on this planet start travelling again, burning oil and staying in hotels? Book your room now!
I’m not a rocket scientist or a fortune teller. I’m not an economist either, but these issues are not that complicated. Too much spending and too little goods cause inflation. To much need for heat and electricity (whether from electric cars or from coal furnaces) drive energy prices higher. As we turn off the natural gas in the US and turn to costlier green energy, India says ‘that’s OK, we will use our coal’. Can we blame them? Coal is the cheapest form of energy and we can’t ask people who earn $20 per month to shift over to Teslas.
There is no debate over the challenges of a shift to electric cars. One reason for the lack of debate is that the science is settled. The other reason is that our media won’t discuss the dire science. The amount of copper in the batteries, alone, will require dozens, maybe hundreds of new copper mines that produce as much copper as the largest mines in South America. That doesn’t count the copper that would be required if we ever ‘upgrade the grid’ as every politician has promised for twenty years. Graphite and rare earth metals have the same problems. Where will we put all of those holes, when it currently takes over 20 years to approve a single mine? African countries will step up because it is easier there and they have all those 8-yrs-olds looking for work. And no environmentalists to worry about. Just dump the raw tailings into the sea. Heck, it is just sitting there inviting the stuff. Probably makes the fish fatter.
I have discussed these issues with a few Tesla owners/optimists who say that ‘we will figure out new and better batteries. And yes, we have an amazing track record of coming up with new, neat things. But we know what the Earth is made of, and we know the elements that are here to dig up. Unless someone creates a battery out of landfill waste, we are nowhere close, not even on the same planet. And seeing the problems we had shooting that big rocket toward Mars suggests that finding a planet made of copper and dragging it to Earth will take a little time. It will be even harder to come up with new technology with soaring energy costs, and after the government reduces funding because of our huge national debt and soaring interest rates.
I don’t know how to adjust course. Maybe have a bunch of smart people sit down together around a big table and come up with a plan?? Have we ever tried that?? My bet, if you’re taking them, is that we will eventually be forced to redirect. Prices to heart our homes will be 30% higher this year and people will tolerate that. But when they double next year and a flight to visit the parents costs $1000, people will start to complain, especially when they realize that most of the humans on the planet are still burning the cheapest fuels and driving cheaper cars. People became tired of wearing masks for COVID. They will tire of spending money even faster. I only wish the decisions were in the hands of people who are smarter than politicians.