As inoculations against SARS-CoV-2 lag, U.S. death tolls, topping 725,000, continue to climb. By year’s end, if vaccine-recalcitrance continues, more Americans will have died from COVID-19 than combined U.S. war fatalities, excluding WWII. Many infections, resulting from unheeded mandates and advisories, and resistances to fact, were preventable, dwarfed by domestic firearms murders (1.6 million since 1968), surpassing U.S. mortalities from 1918 flu. Final tallies depend on vaccinations. Tuesday, countervailing anti-vax propaganda, Fox News correctly debunked misinformation about the death of Colin Powell. Despite being vaccinated, Powell passed away from preexisting conditions and a “breakthrough infection.” Countering anti-vaxxers, Fox correctly reported that chances of being hospitalized or succumbing to COVID post-vaccination were miniscule (0.01% and 0.004%, respectively). Suffering Parkinson’s disease and 84, Sect. of State Powell’s immune system was also inhibited by cancer. Statistics prove, notwithstanding pre-existing ailments and virulent strains like Delta, inoculated people are 11.3 times more likely to survive coronavirus infections than those who aren’t.
Though economies matter less than protecting lives, facts remain ─ the more we mask-up and get shots into arms the faster fiscal prospects will rebound. Yet, even if vax-slackers fully comply, some outbreak repercussions are lasting. Example: disrupted global supply-chains. Rapid spread of contagion in 2020 prompted shelter-in-place orders and industry shutdowns worldwide. That “anthropause” not only benefited wildlife and lessened pollution, but as supply exceeded demand, gasoline prices nose-dived. We’re now experiencing shortages and bottlenecks because manufacturers and distributors aren’t producing at pre-pandemic levels. Essential agricultural, medical and protective services never really slowed, but elsewhere worker shortages and import deficiencies in raw materials, components and specialized technologies (e.g., semiconductor computer chips) were limiting. Now, burnouts and severances for self-preservation are impacting agriculture, public safety and hospitals as well. Brexit and truck driver scarcities are emptying U.K. shelves and gas pumps; China’s power shortages constrict its mammoth exports, and cargo fees have tripled in recent months.
The 1990s lure of high availability and low-cost transport, relative to inventory storage, encouraged corporate emphasis on fast, frequent delivery. COVID has accelerated game changers: volatile, often capricious oil prices, gargantuan delivery routes, imbalanced freight service supply-and-demands, and increasingly expensive and finite fossil fuels, primarily diesel. The West’s uniquely profligate impulses, exacerbated by pent-up frustrations, stimulus money and cabin fever, are increasingly complicated by backlogged deliveries, inflationary prices (from limited supplies) and maniacal perpetually growth obsessions. Bottlenecked container access and jammed-up shipping routes (i.e., ports, railroads, warehouses; airports) make passing the Infrastructure/Build Back Better bill essential. Global supply-chains, like food webs in ecological communities, become unstable when long and linear. With freight rates for merchandise originating in Europe and Asia skyrocketing, COVID-weary may be drunken-sailor spenders, but with quantities low and prices too high, they shouldn’t. One way to bring down prices and lessen bottlenecks is prudent, austere consumption ─ restricting demand, protecting environments. In a supply-crunch, one “click” ordering from Amazon, Alibaba or eBay, means cargo ships anchor for days off Liverpool and Rotterdam, LA, Qingdao and Queensland, burning fuel. Then, truckers queue for hours, idling exhaust, awaiting e-commerce offloads.
With supply-chains crossing multiple time zones and continents, differing approaches to fighting pandemics worsen complications. Many countries, admirably, require COVID passports and proof of vaccination. Some don’t. China’s objective is zero-cases. America seems willing to live (and die) with COVID ever-present, an endemic disease. When cities in northern China ration power and shutter factories, and Ford and Volkswagen plants in Germany halt assembly lines from chip shortages, U.S. gasoline prices seem increasingly incidental and elective. Hopefully, paradigm shifts from cheap-credit monetary policy will follow, stabilizing the global economy with shortening supply chains, greater self-sufficiency and autarkist policies. Less reliance on imports will generate locally-sustainable economies and jobs as cheap-labor sourcing moves from Guangdong and Zhejiang to Mexico, automation and Viet Nam.
Scott Deshefy is a biologist, ecologist and two-time Green Party congressional candidate.