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author's profile photo Manfred Klein

​What do we do now?

First of all condolences to everyone who lost dear people. Have been spared, so far. But we are far from finished.

Normally I don't harbour much love for any politician, but now I don't envy them, at all. Those in power chose a really bad timing. Why is that so? Because in this pandemic situation every decision seems to be wrong somehow. It's like trading one evil for another.

A two weeks lockdown would have helped. If it would have been worldwide at the same time. And if everyone would have complied. There are a thousand reasons why this will not happen any time soon. Our society is simply not fit for this kind of challenge.

So now my question for all of you: How would a society look like, that can handle a pandemic?

To help fire up the discussion here are a few aspects: cover basic needs; infrastructure; healthcare; morality; freedom; finance; sustainability; education; security; pure survival vs. having a life

Let's find ways to improve,

Manfred

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19 Comments

  • May 12, 2020 at 08:01 PM

    Interesting question. Somethings will never be the same. Like anything, that has pros and cons. But one thing I'm sure of. Humans have short memories and just like after all world or nation altering events, as things fade from memory, the less inclination to plan for these things that don't happen frequently. To be sure, we WILL have another pandemic. They have gone on for thousands of years. From the black plague, to bubonic plague, to yellow fever, malaria, scarlet fever, diphtheria, tuberculosis, Spanish flu, Ebola, AIDS, Polio, Hepatitis, Avian flu, Swing flu, and now Covid19. It won't end. They will continue on for thousands of years. But the human race may not.

    Wealth accumulation drives everything. Lower cost of goods will always win out eventually. Higher cost goods are the luxury of the few. The problem is that the specialized manufacturing and logistics to support extreme low cost is rarely sustainable in a pandemic. There is always a susceptible weak line in the process. Especially in global processes. Which are leveraged to drive down costs even more.

    To support a society that can totally survive a pandemic without impact requires that we end leveraging low cost labor and lax regulatory/environmental controls. This imbalance is what drives globalization, not the availability of better product. The reason China is such a critical link in the supply chains is not because they produce better products, but that they do it for less money. (that does not mean they necessarily produce cheap or bad product). It means they produce similar products for less. And this is mostly because of lower labor cost and in some cases, less regulation and environmental controls.

    Scale of production also decreases cost. But this is another risk point as with larger facilities there are usually fewer facilities. Losing one manufacturing site can drastically impact downstream manufacturing.

    This means companies and governments need to work closer together to reduce imbalances due to labor and regulation. Wages paid to workers need to be made comparable around the world. An almost impossible task.

    Companies should not be allowed to relocate or source from a country simply for labor reasons. Regardless of the high ideal of spreading the wealth to impoverished areas, it doesn't work. Temporary gains might be seen. But the only real winners are the companies, Because they won't hesitate to relocate or re-source again once another country or region has cheaper labor or operating costs.

    I don't know how to accomplish that! But to survive these pandemics, the logistics pipeline needs to be shortened. More locally sourced products. More focus needs to be placed on smaller geographical regions being self-sufficient. Our focus should be on getting poorer countries, (and all countries really), self-sufficient on food, clothing and critical supplies. There shouldn't be only a dozen manufacturing facilities worldwide capable of making N95 masks. Each country should be able to make enough for themselves. It could be 200 different plants and only a dozen companies owning them. But it shouldn't be only a dozen plants. That way if a few plants are lost, the others can pick up the slack. We've driven the logistics chain to a bare skeleton to keep costs down and when one or two plants are lost, the impact is severe.

    And yes.. it means that those that can, should pay a little more and maybe consume a little less.

    • May 13, 2020 at 06:15 AM

      Great Craig S!

      You mentioned some heavy pain points. Have quite a list in my mind, but didn't want to dictate the discussion. Thank you for your big and sound post. Hopefully others will follow.

      Yes, being self sufficient is a big winner if you want to survive a lockdown without hassle.

      Shorter supply chains for the most basic needs lowers the risk of a broken supply chain.

      A good education and infrastructure facilitate those two.

      Maximizing profit is bad for morality and sustainability.

      Supporting our local products is a first step we all can take.

    • May 13, 2020 at 09:20 PM

      I can share a good example of what you're talking about. A member of my family works in a company here in the U.S. that manufactures and repairs robot cameras used to inspect pipelines and sewer lines and such. Since municipalities in this region are legally required to perform inspections of the pipelines once or twice a year, the company is considered "essential," so this family member has continued working during the shutdown.

      Last week the family member was notified that they would be getting a decrease in work hours because the company is running out of parts; specifically, the circuit boards which apparently nobody is willing to manufacture in the U.S. anymore due to environmental regulations and are thus in short supply now as a result of the breakdown in the supply chain from overseas...

      • May 14, 2020 at 06:16 AM

        Same with us. We manufacture machines. One production line after the other struggles from components in short supply.

        Another manufacturer in my home town has already shortened working hours because they are short of chinese steel.

      • May 14, 2020 at 02:28 PM
        This is only a guess, but that goes to cost. Right? I'm sure the US company would be happy to manufacture the boards if the customer would be willing to pay the higher cost of meeting the environmental requirements here in the US. But they aren't.

        So its outsourced to China where their environment and health is sacrificed for lower cost product. And eventually that impacts our global environment someday.

        Same with the steel issue.

        Craig

        • May 15, 2020 at 08:10 AM

          You're right. It's about the costs. Transportation is far too cheap. Did you know that many shipping companies are freed from taxes in their home countries? If transportation costs would be 'honest' not every low cost product would be pushed around the whole world.

          On the other hand ressources in germany are quite exhausted. Metals are quite a pain point. We had times prices for copper where that high, that thieves stole it from church rooftops. Trash metal trader is a golden craftsmanship here. Our train company DB marked their power lines with kinda DNA to counter metal theft. Abandoned tracks are now 'harvested'.

          Recycling of precious metals from electronics is just at the beginnings. The last years electronic trash had been shipped to africa. There poor people incinerated the electronics and hand picked the precious left overs. Ruining their health with the toxic fumes in the process. Again as cheap as possible hiding the uncomfortable from the first world.

          Some companies experiment now to stop this madness. However dissolving electronics in acids and getting the different metals from the soup isn't easy. Safe from keeping this environment friendly. For gold, silver and platinum this really starts getting cost effective. When the pain hits the proper threshold...

          • May 15, 2020 at 07:11 PM

            I consulted one time with a company that had a chemical process for reclaiming precious metals from electronics. Very interesting. But they rarely ran the process because they couldn't get the scrap material cheap enough to run it. It was all being sold and shipped overseas.

            They basically mechanically pulverized the electronics to a powder. Then dissolved it in a mixture high in acids. Once it was "cooked" enough than some magic was done and the metals could be purified from it. But the waste material then has to be carefully handled and processed, But it can be done.

            But as you said, its cheaper to ship overseas and ruin someone else's environment and health.

            We often talk about zero carbon and that's the new "in" thing. While noble, the carbon credits are often manipulated in ways that it was never intended.

            Our waste streams are often just moved somewhere else instead of being dealt with locally. That needs to end too.

            • May 18, 2020 at 06:06 AM

              The magic is called electrolysis. You put a current in the soup and depending on the exact voltage the metals 'grow' on one of the contacts. Big advantage: You get the metals in almost perfect purity. Drawbacks: Everything else. The metals have to be in ion state. Only the strongest acids can dissolve the most precious metals. If you take the wrong material for the contacts they dissolve, as well. Where to get a steady supply of the acids? Can you recover some of it from the waste? How to handle the rest of the waste? Our chemistry teacher wasn't very specific about the last two questions back in 1994.

              The costs of the 'ressource' scrap electronics depends on your local situation. Most people have several old mobiles at home and don't know what to do with them. We have recycling centers where we can bring them. We are not allowed to throw them in the normal garbage. Of course the recycling centers want to make their cut, too. Some electronic stores offer taking back of obsolete electronics if you buy at their's. If collection of scrap electronics is not forbidden by 3rd parties anyone can make the people bringing this ressource to them. Just place a collection booth somewhere and let the people know.

    • Jun 04, 2020 at 05:15 AM

      Craig S for president! :)

      You mentioned a great point about localization of manufacturing and supply chain. I watched an interview (on Daily Show?) with a president of some kind of farmers union in the US. He said that there are only a few meat processing plants in the US and they have become a monopoly, essentially. As a result, when some of those few plants had to be shut down due to virus outbreak, it severed the link between the farmers and consumers. And there was a meat shortage in the stores while at the same time farmers had more livestock than they could deal with. Our local small farms thrived in this environment because they sell directly to the consumers.

      Similarly, mergers and acquisitions in many industries created de facto monopolies. I believe the regulations in this area need to be revised but who's going to do that when seemingly all the politicians are in the pockets of those same monopolies?

      In addition to what you've said, I want to point out that society that can handle a pandemic would be the one that operates based on facts and science, not on propaganda and rumors. It's sad that this has become the major challenge in these times.

      • Jun 05, 2020 at 05:43 AM

        Really good points Jelena Perfiljeva.

        Add to this denial of responsibility. My wife works in senior care. As a risky job group this qualifies our son for kindergarten's first places. What is the first we have to provide? A signed form stating we didn't have contact to infected. What is the logic in that? The very reason that qualifies you is the very reason that could get you excluded(Catch 22?). Of course the kindergarten wants to protect itself from being sued. Otherwise the insurance denies it's responsibility. The government fires legislation, that is not thought through and thus denies it's responsibility, too. The legal risk is pushed to the very people that risk their health for the good of others. This is like adding insult to injury. It's worse: It's putting financial injury to physical injury.

        So if a society is that spineless, it deserves to crumble. At least release those, that keep things going despite all odds, of the legal burden.

  • May 19, 2020 at 07:48 AM

    What are the prerequisites of a nationwide/global lockdown?

    Everybody needs...

    • … a safe/sturdy/decent home
    • … enough food and drink
    • … enough medicine
    • … a stable infrastructure(electricity, heating, telecommunication, water, safe restock, etc.)
    • … enough sanitation/hygiene products
    • … entertainment/education/fun/high spirits/discipline/survival skills(contributed by Jelena Perfiljeva)
    • ... PPE Personal Protective Equipment (contributed by Craig S)

    Did I miss something?

    Edited: Yes, I missed something important: Everybody needs love!

    • Jun 04, 2020 at 04:15 PM

      The hardest part is having a means to safely contribute.

      To survive everyone has to do their part. This pandemic has dramatically shown the differences between the haves and the have nots. The haves, can stay at home and have things delivered, sip their wine, drink their beer and BBQ steaks and shrimp all at home because of their money.

      If everyone stayed at home, who would bring restocks? Who keeps the water and electricity flowing? Who does the repairs after a storm. Makes the items to restock? etc. etc..

      Everyone needs to contribute in some way. A whole society in absolute quarantine would begin to die out in 4-6 weeks.

      I think the real key comes down to PPE. Personal protective equipment. Having it readily available and knowing how and when to use it. Without that, a whole society is at risk.

      • Jun 05, 2020 at 05:06 AM

        PPE is really good point. I'll add it to the list above.

        Thank You.

      • Jun 09, 2020 at 07:36 PM

        You are exactly right. The social divide has become even more apparent in light of these events.

        The haves must contribute more in what they have: money. And not just in form of some charity funds but in taxes. That can be then distributed to the frontline workers. It should not be a choice for anyone whether to potentially contract a deadly disease or starve and be left with no shelter. Yet essentially that's what it came down to. In the first weeks, the grocery store workers were not protected at all, the stores didn't even change their procedures. (E.g. why do you need the workers filling the shelves in the middle of a busy day? Just open the box and let the customers take stuff out, like ALDI does.)

        My husband and I always make fun of how militarized everything was in the USSR. E.g. in high school, there was an army officer on staff, as a teacher, and we had a class called Civil Defense weekly in last grades. Some of it was bs (like hiding behind a wall in case of a nuclear blast LOL) but there was also useful stuff. We both know how to put a gas mask on properly (exhale first), how to fire a weapon. And later in University the girls were dragged to the medical training, so I know how to make an injection (not intravenous but I can stab someone with a syringe if push comes to shove :) ), CPR, and how to protect yourself while helping others. We had all kinds of drills, running around in the forest with the mannequin on a stretcher, etc. :) But that what makes you prepared. "Be prepared" is not just for the scouts. Maybe we all should learn something from the Cold War days.

        • Jun 09, 2020 at 08:25 PM

          those were not active military officers officers - they were either retired or simply old dudes with military experience. And civil defence are a useful class to teach in any society.

        • Jun 10, 2020 at 07:27 AM

          Full agree.

          Have been to 'Bundeswehr' back in the nineties. Of course most the stuff you don’t need hopefully ever(like handle/fire a weapon without hurting the wrong ones). But what if the extreme case kicks in? If you have to disarm someone? Many weapons fire when just thrown to the floor. Some bullets ricochet. Better prepared and don’t need than the other way round.

          But it’s not only the military stuff. Simple skills with basic tools can be a lifesaver, as well. Hammer and Nail. Wrenches. Screw drivers. Saws. Ropes and the skill to make proper knots. Better have a proper set of tools at home. Because even these are hard to get when things get rough. And don’t forget a fire extinguisher and the skill to use it.

          Of course not everybody has to be a jack of all trades, but at least learn some of it. The more people have experience with such trainings, the lower is the risk of a panic. Fear is the worst advisor/master of all(reason vs. propaganda? Thank you sensational media. For nothing).

          • Jun 10, 2020 at 02:52 PM

            This is part of the reason I made sure to teach my daughters how to use both basic tools and some power tools - electric drill/screwdriver, power saw, etc. - and got them involved in the repair projects I did around the house. As a single parent on a limited budget, it was also more cost effective for me to do the projects myself and I'm ever grateful that my dad made sure I knew how to use tools as well.

            -Dell

        • Jun 10, 2020 at 04:04 PM

          In the US we used to have a Civic's class. A lot of schools stopped them in the late 60's and early 70's. It was required to graduate high school back then. This is a class our country sorely needs returned to the schools.

          It focused on your responsibilities as a citizen to the community. I.e. your Civic duty. It taught a lot about how government worked, the importance of exercising your vote and participating in elections. Understanding who and what you vote for. The moral responsibility to help your community. Protecting the right to vote and teaching about basic human rights. Assist those less fortunate. etc etc..

          It was always a very dry class seemingly taught by the most boring teacher in the school. Maybe that's why interest was lost in this.

          But I think its led to having a much less educated populace that are now easily manipulated by media, advertising and the current pop star. And much less educated in how to foster legal change. Today the only way people think change can be made is by protesting, rioting and looting. And that's sad.

          • Jun 10, 2020 at 07:25 PM

            When I was in high school in Massachusetts in the late '70s, the state required one year of US History. The school I went to didn't believe that they could do a good job of teaching it in one year, so they split it into two years and every student was required to take both years in order to graduate. One of the things they did with the extra time is introduce a healthy dose of Civics in historical context so it wasn't just the dry facts. It gave me a great foundation in all of that.

            However, I don't think the concepts of Civics should wait until high school - it should be taught as part of the history curriculum whenever US History is taught in the lower grades as well.

            -Dell

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