In Your View: Normal is bigger killer than Covid-19 but we have the cure

  Posted: 27.05.20 at 06:36 by Andrew Sterling

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We are all appalled by the destructiveness of Covid-19 not least because it’s new to us. And we want to return to life as normal.

But that normal has been far more destructive than the virus: globally the deaths from the virus is currently over five million and yet, according to the World Health Organisation, pollution (largely from traffic) causes heart attacks and strokes amongst other serious conditions - and seven million deaths. And that is each year, every year.

In Europe alone it causes 800,00 deaths - again every year.  Traffic accidents themselves cause about 1.2 million (that is, one thousand thousand and 200 thousand) deaths globally - every year. In the US it’s about 40,000 annually -  the equivalent of more than a World Trade Center every month.  So, by preventing travel, the virus has actually been saving lives.

But far more significant, as National Geographic put it, is coronavirus giving the Earth a rest by slowing down the frantic pace of humanity. It has given the ecology, upon which our future depends, space. Significantly, as relentless tourism ceased, fish have returned to the now undisturbed waters of Venice while China’s 30% of the world’s CO2 emissions has now been reduced by 25%; Wuhan’s air quality increased by 21.5% while Barcelona’s and Madrid’s pollution has decreased by 50%.  

As the UN’s environment chief, Inger Andersen, said, global heating and the destruction of the natural world for farming, mining and housing (planners note), have to end, as they drive wildlife into contact with people - 75% of all emerging infectious diseases come from wildlife.  “Never before’, she said, “have so many opportunities existed for pathogens to pass from wild and domestic animals to people”.  As Professor Andrew Cunningham, of the Zoological Society of London said “.....we’ve probably got a bit lucky with [Covid-19], so I think we should be taking this as a clear warning shot.”

Why then do we get hung upon the virus but not traffic? Because traffic is the ‘normal’ we know. Witness the relentless streams of traffic that suddenly appeared on the B1345 just as soon as the government lifted the ban on travel.
Perhaps instead we will see the message: that this is our chance to rethink and reimagine a future not automatically returning to ‘normal’. 

Cycling being encouraged

National Geographic asks if coronavirus will finally change our lifestyle. I plead that it may. Not so the airline industry which instead pleads for support because so much of the UK’s part of the globalised economy, and the jobs that go with it, is dependent on air traffic - which is an admission that it plays a central part in the destruction of life on Earth. 

But the fact is that localised economic networks create far more jobs per population unit than those of the giant corporates that had replaced them and which rob wealth from local economies - something the corporates don’t mention each time they talk about creating jobs. 

If we are to secure our future - and jobs - then earning, sourcing and spending our money supporting suitable local businesses, based on basic needs, is vital.
Rather than struggling in isolation it dramatically increases the sense of community and the quality of life, reducing poverty, crime and the need for transport, pollution and the eradication life-giving habitats in the name of economic development. 

At the very least Shotley and Chelmondiston, in particular, could make a big difference to our peninsula by setting up, for example, car/lift-sharing schemes. Other communities have shown that one thing leads to another.

Andrew Sterling

More car journeys linked with more deaths

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