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Never before in the history of the world has there been such a massive and widespread shutdown of the economy for as long as for this Covid-19 scare. As of today April 21st it has been more or less shutdown for a month and the politicians instead of doing their usual and saying we will be out of this soon are saying we need to continue it indefinitely and even when the lockdown is lifted, it will only be gradual return to normality. Clearly everyone is worried and a lot depends on how long this lockdown continues for. The question is not whether the economy both here in Ireland and globally will be damaged but more by how much. This is an important question because real lives depend on what happens in it
Here we attempt to assess where we are, what has happened and what logic dictates are some of the possible outcomes.
In light of the slight interruption to normal life that is going on it is worth reassessing some of the known common knowledge about Big Tech and it's related area Artificial Intelligence (AI). Unless you have been asleep for the past 10 years, everyone will have heard of Edward Snowden who revealed in quite extensive detail the level of ongoing surveillance carried out jointly by the US and UK intelligence agencies, the NSA and GCHQ. Prior to his disclosure any suggestion of widespread spying was met with derision. Overnight the world changed and it was widely accepted as fact by everyone. What's more is that the depth and scale of the programs were far bigger than even the pessimists had imagined. It was this more than anything which has tarnished the reputation of technology as something that was always good to a demonstration of it's dark side. The state as such has dirtied its reputation with regards to technology.
The current shutdown of the economy and lockdown of society all around the world is unprecedented and it is very clear that the media are talking up the number and trying to instil panic and fear in the people. This is true not just in Ireland but everywhere else. What all the media reports have in common is that not a single one of them puts the numbers into perspective. All we see are league tables of infections and deaths for this country and others and how it is all going to get worse.
The purpose of this article is to introduce some rational discussion of these numbers and show how it all relates to each other.
Regular Yearly and Daily Deaths in Various Countries
So for example in the case of Ireland the headline screams today (Sat 4th Apr) 17 more deaths and 331 new cases for a total of 4,604. Anyone following the news will know this daily death rate has risen over the last week or so and 17 people is quite alot and brings the total so far to 137. So now we will put this in context.
Consider a country with a population of 100 million and in it, there are an equal number of people at each age group. And lets assume the number of people born is more or less the same as the number who die. This would mean a growth rate of zero percent. We know most Western countries have a growth of anywhere from 1% to 2%. So now assume most people in this country live on average for 100 years. In fact the average expectancy in Ireland is 81.5. But lets stick with 100 for now. Then if you only last 100 years this would mean in a population of 100 million that each year (which is 1% of 100 years) that 1% of the people die. Well 1% of 100 million is simply one million. Therefore the number of people who die per day is 1,000,000 / 365 or 2,739 people per day. Now applying this logic to the USA with a population of approximately 331 million means 3.3 million die a year or 9,068 deaths a day. Italy has a population of 60m. This would then be 600,000 per year or 1,643 per day and for Ireland with a population of 4.9 million, the above would suggest about 49,000 deaths per year.
An earlier version of this article was written but unpublished back in 2008 and it has now been revised and published to take account of various changes since then.The case is made for the provision of free public transport in every major town and city worldwide for a multitude of reasons. It has always been a good idea and should have been done a long time ago, but now with three major issues of our time; resource depletion, including oil, pollution and the climate crisis; they make it imperative that we move to such a system, both to conserve dwindling supplies of cheap energy, to reduce the use of vast mineral resources to make hundreds of millions of cars and to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions because climate change is happening faster than expected.
The Earth's climate has turned out to be more sensitive and complex than anticipated as evidenced by the recent dramatic record breaking summer ice melts in the Arcticc1 in 2007, 2008, 2012 and basically every year since then. With such a large change in the albedo or reflectivity over a huge area of the Arctic, this signifies the jump into positive feedback of the climate system, although it is not the only positive feedback. Combined with preliminary reports that frozen methane is beginning to be released from the Arctic sea floor and tundra and given that methane is 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas, it is clear we are probably at the point of things running out of control. Emissions need to be cut drastically, starting about 20 years ago.
Moving to free and well-designed public transport allows society to deal with these problems in the least disruptive manner and to do so in the most equitable way and it would increase the shared sense of everyone working together to cope with what are essentially going to be permanent problems. Free public transport is not the full solution but is definitely an important first step. Switching to public transport has the potential to achieve large scale reductions in fuel use and it can be done immediately without further research or perfection of any technology. The current status quo plan to replace all the petrol and diesel fuelled cars with electric ones still leaves us with the problem of massive resource usage, a replacement of oil wars for lithium wars, traffic congestion, deaths from air pollution , high accident rates and actually high energy use. It does not matter if the heavily promoted so called solution of producing millions of electric cars is run on renewable energy because it would require vastly more wind farms, solar farms and whatever else compared to a transport solution based on highly efficient, globally deployed free public transport system which would only require a fraction of energy and resources of a car based one.
These local elections on Fri 24th May are more important than ever. The reason is that up and down the country Fine Gael with help from Fianna Fail have allowed corporate vulture funds through various government breaks to them to buy up valuable tracts of land and to buy up thousands and thousands of apartments and homes. And the result is they are screwing people for rent. In this feature a case study for South Dublin of how they corporate takeover has occurred and driven prices sky high and priced out ordinary people from ever buying a house or apartment. Found out what is happening in your council area and how FG and FF councillors encourage this madness because it is happening in towns and cities all over the country.
Sun 17 Jan, 05:58
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