29 August 2021

late summer garden pictures with irrelevant texts


Last Sunday, we sat in the shade with cold drinks while the laundry was drying in the sun. Today, I put on the water- and windproof gear to cycle my 10 km along the river dodging showers. Feels like October. All along the cycle path, the candidates for the upcoming national election - four more weeks to go - were beaming at me from their hoardings. Do election posters really serve a purpose or is it just me who finds them silly. 

So, hands up who still has the hope that if we grit our teeth and sit at home,  we will eventually return to normal life, and that somehow, it would all be over? Ha! 

By now, we should have figured out that this pandemic, any pandemic, behaves according to its own, not always comprehensible logic. I think, we still see humans somewhere at the top of the pyramid looking down at this obnoxious little virus. People, we must understand that this is not a normal disease that affects some and not others. Could be that we'll be dealing with mutants and recurrent infections for years. 

And yet, there are some who are convinced that by September 5th, or 15th at the latest, all vaccinated people will be dead. They even made posters and hung them next to the ones of the election candidates. Imagine spending money on stuff like that.

Don't sprout the idea that we somehow can live with the virus, that it will become, or already is, endemic, like flu. Wishfully thinking that the word endemic implies a mild disease with low case levels. The term endemicity means that a disease has a constant baseline level, not that it's mild or somewhere in the background.  The virus has already shown, several times in just one year,  that it can and will evolve to be more transmissible, and partly vaccine resistant. Let's not be so foolish and think it'll not happen again. And again.

Remember, humans have been living with malaria since prehistoric times, and it remains a deadly disease that infects hundreds of thousands of people every year. 

As for the hope that humans will adapt to the virus, bear in mind that we are talking about a survival of the fittest with a lot of death among the vulnerable. 

The way out, as far as I understand it, is that we manage Covid like we manage measles, which most countries have successfully eliminated through a combination of a population vaccination program and proper public health systems. 



25 August 2021

Charlie for ever

In view of a most recent event, please join me in celebrating youth and rock and roll, and especially the coolest of all drummers.

22 August 2021

the dragon is almost slain


Just like after 9/11, things will never be the same after Covid … things are changing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t adapt to them in a way that eventually feels normal again.

Jacinda Ardern


artist: https://kevinmcshane.org/

This virus is really smart. Make no mistake. It doesn't care about politics or election campaigns, wars and borders or even our own secret wishful thinking or interpretation late at night.

This is where we are now on a global scale (all quotes are from here):

SARS-CoV-2 did evolve to better avoid human antibodies. But it has also become a bit more virulent and a lot more infectious, causing more people to fall ill.
The Delta strain circulating now—one of four “variants of concern” identified by the World Health Organization, along with four “variants of interest”—is so radically different from the virus that appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 that many countries have been forced to change their pandemic planning. Governments are scrambling to accelerate vaccination programs while prolonging or even reintroducing mask wearing and other public health measures. As to the goal of reaching herd immunity—vaccinating so many people that the virus simply has nowhere to go— (w)ith the emergence of Delta, (. . . ) it’s just impossible to reach.
There’s now enough immunity in the human population to ratchet up an evolutionary competition, pressuring the virus to adapt further. At the same time, much of the world is still overwhelmed with infections, giving the virus plenty of chances to replicate and throw up new mutations.
The most eye-popping change in SARS-CoV-2 so far has been its improved ability to spread between humans.                                                                                                                                   At some point early in the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 acquired a mutation (. . . ) that made it a bit more infectious. That version spread around the world; almost all current viruses are descended from it. Then in late 2020, scientists identified a new variant, now called Alpha, (. . . ) that was about 50% more transmissible. Delta, (. . . ) now conquering the world, is another 40% to 60% more transmissible than Alpha.

 And this may be the way onward:

Although it’s impossible to predict exactly how infectiousness, virulence, and immune evasion will develop in the coming months, some of the factors that will influence the virus’ trajectory are clear. One is the immunity that is now rapidly building in the human population. On one hand, immunity reduces the likelihood of people getting infected, and may hamper viral replication even when they are. That means there will be fewer mutations emerging if we vaccinate more people. On the other hand, any immune escape variant now has a huge advantage over other variants.

(. . . ) the world is probably at a tipping point: With more than 2 billion people having received at least one vaccine dose and hundreds of millions more having recovered from COVID-19, variants that evade immunity may now have a bigger leg up than those that are more infectious.

There are some fundamental limits to exactly how good a virus can get at transmitting and at some point SARS-CoV-2 will hit that plateau.

But we have a long way to go. And there are days when I could get quite mad, which I claim as my privilege being a person on immune suppression medication. 

Apart from that, the late summer is quite spectacular with fierce thunder storms and fat peaches to harvest and a large flock of goldfinches in the bird bath every evening. We are half way through the house repairs and various alterations. The solar storage system is now installed and R spends many happy hours checking on the sunlight and how much energy we are now able to store to have available after dark and people, it's a miracle and the sun does not charge a penny for it. Next week we are getting rid of the fossil fuel (oil) central heating which will be replaced by a wood pellet heating system. Two small steps. And yet, a dose of optimism, badly needed.

07 August 2021

Do what you can.

"Earlier than expected" is one of two constants we now hear about the climate crisis. The second, concerning intensity, is: "Oh dear, it seems we underestimated it". Do not be fooled. Both are the new "seriously, (let's pretend) we didn't know".  They are smokescreens. Scientists have warned us for ages, we did not want to listen. First we avoided thinking about the climate crisis because it was too far away. Now we avoid it because it is so overwhelming.

Consider this: When you boil an egg, at a certain point the egg white becomes solid. Even if you stop boiling the egg, it remains solid. It does not become liquid again.
And no chick will hatch.  

In other words, what we experience now cannot be undone, it can only be mitigated. The floods, fires, droughts, heat waves etc. the planet is experiencing this year are the result of CO2 emissions from ten years ago. Imagine what the world will be like in another ten years if things continue with business as usual. 

And don't think it's just down to recycling, buying less of this and less of that etc.. That way you allow yourself to be reduced to a consumer, which is a pretty helpless position. And it puts you in a very lonely corner. Remember, we are much more than consumers, we are citizens.

(This) idea of reducing your personal carbon footprint, while not inherently wrong, has often been used as a distraction, pitting ... people against each other with morality choices about how sustainable you are, rather than realizing how much you actually have in common.

. . . the key . . .  is to think beyond the individual and seek community support and solutions — especially those that put pressure on governments and companies to make the large-scale changes that are necessary to truly curtail emissions.

 . . . we can choose the most meaningful actions that are doable for us. Things like reducing consumption of animal products, driving less, and taking fewer airplane flights likely have the biggest impact on our personal carbon use.

. . . we have such a myth of individualism. . . . That myth can make people feel that they have no power, because they can’t do anything against such as something so big as climate change. For many in climate movements, the antidote to that feeling — and the way to build real power — is to band together. 

 If you’re good at organizing, organize. If you’re good at taking care of people, take care of people who do other things, . . . no matter who you are, build community.

(all quotes from here)

by Kevin McShane (https://kevinmcshane.org/)

Imagine the life of your children and grandchildren in 2031 every time you burn fossil fuel, every time you go to/don't vote, every time you don't challenge a lousy political decision, every time you pretend to yourself that there's nothing you can do. 

On a more cheerful note, we had a surprise visit from a long time friend last week. Just in time for dinner, there he was at the garden gate. He is an artist, a carpenter, a baker, someone who has come in and out of our life for 30 years. It was such a delight to see him. 

But he is also deep into anthroposophy, always has been, the whole esoteric path with Waldorf schooling for the children and now grandchildren and so on. Normally nothing to write home about, each to their own etc. but in Germany, the various anthroposophic groupings form the most ardent opposition to Covid vaccines, happily marching with fascists (for details click here), and set up their own political party to compete in the upcoming general election (not a hope). 

In the end, it was a difficult evening, we sat out in the garden and first avoided the subject for a good while. He did not stay the night, but we supplied him with food and wine and memories and information. It will not matter the slightest. What remained was sadness and the knowledge that one way or another, his non-vaccinated family, his beautiful partner, his three children and their partners, six grandchildren, his elderly father, will be infected this autumn/winter and we can only hope that theirs will be mild cases.

(His main argument (and in my humble opinion, the most clueless of all): it will change my DNA. My reply: your DNA changes all the time, it's called aging.)