The Informer: Welcome to the desert of the real

We'll always be able to tell when a picture was taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. Picture: Shutterstock
We'll always be able to tell when a picture was taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. Picture: Shutterstock

There is, fundamentally, nothing about the COVID-19 pandemic that should have surprised us.

Epidemiologists and other experts had been warning such an outbreak was possible, in fact likely, for years.

With global habitat destruction and the growth of animal agriculture showing no signs of slowing down, zoonotic viruses like COVID-19 have been on the rise for decades.

What may have been surprising, though, especially for those of us used to living in cushy, modern, Western countries, was how quickly an event we had at first watched unfold overseas on the news came to intrude in a very real way on our day-to-day lives.

And intrude it did.

With enforced lockdowns, business closures, social distancing regulations and mask mandates, life changed almost overnight, even for people lucky enough to live in places the virus itself never reached.

There could not have been a more effective demonstration of how the seemingly unshakeable social and economic structures we had built for ourselves - the cold, hard reality of the market, for example - were in fact reliant on a very physical foundation - in this case, a safe, clean environment in which we could freely travel and interact with others.

Australia has done relatively well when it comes to controlling the spread of the virus. And when a vaccine does arrive - it is increasingly likely it will be a when, not an if - it will be a blessing. But I wonder what lessons we'll take from this experience as a whole.

Do we have the wherewithal to implement long-term changes that will make a similar outbreak less likely - and make our society more resilient should another one occur? And what about other, more insidious intrusions of the real, physical world into the one we've built for ourselves?

Climate change, anyone?

Already there is a significant number of "COVID truthers" (there has to be a better term) making their voices heard in the public debate, who not only disagree with our government's approach to dealing with the crisis, but deny the existence of the crisis at all.

It remains to be seen how much more resilient we will have chosen to become by the end of this.

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This story Welcome to the desert of the real first appeared on The Canberra Times.