The Biggest Project of All - Revisited
An Update of a June 2001 Musings
It is now two decades since we published the original article about the Kyoto Accord, a grand conference held in 1997 with the intention of curbing global warming by trapping "greenhouse gases". In that article, I observed that the focus would be on reducing carbon dioxide compounds by cutting the use of coal and oil to produce energy. Indeed, the United States was expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions to a level 7% below that of 1990. To achieve that target, it had been estimated that the United States would have had to reduce energy consumption by some 30% and reduce business activity correspondingly.
Of course, Canada's position would be proportionately similar, and I went on to say that: "Ironically, the current concern over an economic downturn in the global economy already underscores the dramatic consequences of such a reduction. Perhaps we should be glad that the present downturn may help us towards the Kyoto target?" Well, that was then.
But here we are now, two decades later, and in the middle of a Covid‑19 (so called) pandemic crisis.
In response to this outbreak, and with a view to curbing the spread of this somewhat flu-like virus, governments around the world have instituted massive and heavy-handed restrictions on our personal liberties. Everyone is supposed to wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart from anyone else, stay in doors as much as possible, and don't go anywhere where you might be mixing with anyone outside your family.
As a consequence, this has resulted in the closure of almost all offices, with many people working from home either using the most recent communications technology, or otherwise being laid off and struggling to survive. Shops and small business have been closed, school children required to stay home, and most modes of transport from airlines to public transport to private cars have had to substantially cut back on their activities. As a result, economies, especially western economies, have been devastated. As I write today, we are in the middle of it all, and this is not make-believe, this fact.
I mention that because another two decades from now, assuming this site still exists under someone else's hand obviously, all will be "history". The next generation will not have experienced the consequences of these massive government interventions, and therefore likely not very interested, nor likely to learn very much from it.
But here's the thing. I have personally observed two interesting phenomena.
I live in Canada on Yonge Street running North-South, and reportedly the longest street in the country. Together with other main North-South highways, it is normally heavily trafficked throughout all hours of the day feeding downtown Toronto, a city of over six million people. My home is well North of the City, and looking south on a clear day, Toronto is always covered by a thick cloud of pollution.
Well, within a day of the new virus being called a pandemic, and the government restrictions being instituted, almost all of the traffic on the afore-mentioned highways came to a complete stop. Difficult to believe, let alone visualize, for three days there were almost no vehicles on these roads, and consequently no exhaust being omitted. Within those three days the huge cloud of pollution completely disappeared to reveal incredibly clear blue skies over the city.
Lesson number 1: It can be done!
The second phenomena, for which I have no rational explanation, is that in the last fifteen months the North American stock market has done well above average, even for a modest investor like myself.
Lesson number 2: Don't panic.
Meantime, of course, the traffic has returned and so has the polluting cloud over the city.
Oh, yes, did I mention the issue of population growth as I did in my Musings of 2001? In this case, it was forecast or implied that until an injection could be found similar to the flu vaccines, a massive loss of life must be expected, with hospitals overflowing, and healthcare resources stretched over the limit. To prevent this disastrous scenario, our Canadian governments instituted draconian rules and regulations restricting everyone's movements, public gatherings and normal social activities in an attempt to prevent the spreading of the virus.
To a significant extent this has been effective, but it has been at the expense of curtailing our natural human rights to move about, associate with others and conduct our livelihoods and related businesses. In Canada, this is a complete abrogation of our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a government statute that sets out those rights and freedoms that Canadians believe are necessary in a free and democratic society.
Lesson 3: Through fear mongering, it is quite possible for governments to create an autocratic state even in a previously democratic one.
Lesson 4: In the absence of other forms of entertainment, the population continues to grow.