By Frances Lamberts
We reached a marker of more than 100,000 Americans dead in the ongoing pandemic. They were countrymen who, as suggested in a recent although preliminary study, could have enjoyed their lives for another decade or so, had it not been for the virus infection.
There are the related, sad milestones of employee job losses by the tens of millions, with great personal hardship for many, as for the small businesses nationwide whose future existence or viability could be at risk.
In government circles in Washington, the potential for catastrophe from COVID-19 had been known as long ago as early January. Senior health officials then formed a task force to deal with a likely outbreak and the first infection cases occurred on the west coast, then quickly spreading in New York.
There had been the intelligence and health officials, increasingly worried and urging preventive action. Yet public projection that the threat was “going to disappear” with warmer weather, from the highest executive level, would add weeks of inaction before social distancing and other measures would be announced.
Widespread community contagion, from mid-March when the announcement came, would lead to more than a million infection cases and close to 90,000 American deaths, in two months.
The toll we are experiencing from the virus should be a lesson in the high cost of delay. While failing to prepare in time for COVID-19 we should not do so in the other crisis, also with dire impacts worldwide and here: climate change.
As in Unicoi, with major flooding more often now, so in many other communities. The “biblical” floods in the mid-western states last year came at infrastructure and emergency response cost in excess of $2 billion and, from NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) reports, did not even include the cost to repair homes and businesses.
An “Underwater” study by the Union of Concerned Scientists warns that hundreds of U.S. coastal communities may face “chronic disruptive flooding” directly affecting peoples lives, homes, and properties in the not-distant future.
The scientists’ appeal for action on the climate issue has become more urgent as decades have passed. This, too, is a crisis that will not simply “disappear,” nor be solved absent recognition and political will for national, effective measures.
We should learn from the current experience to avoid a climate catastrophe, which the children would face.