Pandemic a True Test of Leadership

Why was the failure rate so high?

Welcome to the web version of Need to Know: Science & Insight, a new form of personal journalism that looks at what we Need-to-Know at this time of pandemic, existential crisis of climate change and unravelling of nature’s life supports. Learn more.

I’m afraid of heights. But who doesn’t like a view from a mountain top?

So when I agree to follow someone to climb a mountain I want to be 100% sure they have my health and welfare in mind. 

I also expect the people I vote will not put my life at risk either. After all isn’t public officials’ prime directive to ensure the health and welfare of its citizens? If it not, then we shouldn’t let them lead us.

I mean would you vote for someone if you knew they’d happily let you die to further their economic interests? Even Mafia bosses know better. 

The fundamental basis of a healthy and successful society is a healthy citizenry. Put another way: You cannot have a healthy economy without a healthy and thriving public

Need-to-Know 1: Healthy citizens are the basis of a successful economy. 

Need-to-Know 2: NtK 1 needs to be shouted from the rooftops

Need-to-Know 3: NtK 1 has to be the top priority for governments at all levels.

Public officials who failed the pandemic test — there are many — chose to put the economy ahead or on par with the health of their citizens. 

Former President Donald Trump immediately comes to mind with repeated promises the country would “be open for business again”. Former White House response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx recently told CNN the obvious: Hundreds of thousands of American lives could have been saved had the Trump administration made it their top priority to protect the health of its citizens. 

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is another criminally negligent leader with 4,000 people now dying daily, adding to the horrific total of 341,000 deaths. That’s only surpassed by the US, with its shocking 572,000 Covid deaths. 

Getting less attention is Mexico’s terrible death toll of 202,000 — worse than any other country save the US and Brazil. Why? Mexican president Manuel Lopez Obrador told people to frequent local businesses rather than take health precautions in order to protect the economy. 

The Czech Republic did extraordinarily well for the first six months of the pandemic but just as a more contagious variant hit, members of parliament refused to extend the country’s state of emergency because businesses were suffering. Total cases soared from 65,000 at the end of September to an incredible 1.65 million cases today.

Need-to-Know 4: Countries worst hit by the pandemic largely put their economies ahead their citizens’ health. This is true even in countries like Canada with relatively low death count of 23,000.  

The various responses to the pandemic makes it clear what ‘tribe’ our leaders belong to. Political leaders in many democratic countries have become beholden to organized, wealthy interest groups who shape public policy. The average citizen or even large groups of citizens have little influence.

Need-to-Know 5: “You dance with the one that brung you” is a long-standing political aphorism.

The varying responses to the pandemic have underscored that the competency of a leader during a public health crisis “can be a matter between life and death,” Dr Laura Kahn told PBS recently

Kahn, a physician and research scholar at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, studies leadership during public health crises, hopes the disastrous responses to pandemic will make voters think more carefully about how elected officials would respond to a public health crisis the next time they vote.

“You don’t want a government that is just winging it,” she said. “The stakes are too high.

And really, it makes the difference between lives saved and lives lost.”

Need-to-Know 6: When we vote we’re putting our lives, and those of our families, on the line.


Yes, but China….

It’s no coincidence that the biggest pandemic leadership failures also loudly and proudly put their economies ahead of their natural environments. And while China limited the impacts of the pandemic through extreme authoritarian measures, their leaders continue to destroy their air, water, land, climate and ecosystems.  

Need-to-Know 7: The absurd idea that economies take precedence over environmental health is what got us into this pandemic mess in the first place.

“There is no great mystery about the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic,”  Dr. Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance.

“Human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment. 

Changes in the way we use land; the expansion and intensification of agriculture; and unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people. 

This is the path to pandemics. "

We’re living in a time of consequences. Voting is now a matter of life or death; the difference between prosperity for all or disaster for many.

Until next time, please stay strong and stay safe.

Stephen

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