Coastal GasLink pipeline construction continues during pandemic — and so does resistance

Indigenous communities and allies find alternative ways to organize amid COVID-19, while presence of pipeline workers raises concerns about viral outbreak

nline discussion panels, Zoom chats, window banners, art contests on social media — environmental and Indigenous rights activists across the world are finding creative ways to voice their solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation as TC Energy presses ahead with construction on a contested pipeline in northwestern B.C.

“While we encourage everyone to take precautions and care for one another during these unsettling times, we also urge everyone to continue fighting and organizing to support our loved ones and communities on the frontlines,” reads one Instagram post in support of the Wet’suwet’en.

“In the midst of this situation, those on the frontlines continue to face immense risk and repression, especially now under cover of disaster.”

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Wet'suwet'en Solidarity Week of Action . In light of the current situation around COVID-19, we are announcing a change in our previously-scheduled Wet'suwet'en Solidarity Week of Action. While we encourage everyone to take precautions and care for one another during these unsettling times, we also urge everyone to continue fighting and organizing around our loved ones and communities on the frontlines who are facing the great risks and repression under the cover of disaster. . Our Wet'suwet'en Solidarity Week of Action will take place from April 12th to April 19th, and we encourage solidarity actions and efforts across Turtle Island in defense of the Yintah. While shelter-in-place laws and other similar quarantine efforts have spread wildly in the past few weeks, Coastal GasLink employees and pipeline construction workers have continued their unwelcome presence on unceded Wet'suwet'en territory, posing a devastating health risk to the Indigenous people on the Yintah, and continuing their violent construction of the non-consensual project. . As the COVID-19 situation unfolds globally, attention has been dramatically drawn away from the frontlines of every struggle. This means that our solidarity and action has become more crucial than ever — while the state is using COVID-19 to pass laws behind closed doors and increase repression on the communities always most targeted, our organizing becomes more important than ever. . Our Week of Action will be focused on both showing solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en struggle, as well as empowering people across Turtle Island to take action in spite of the current health crisis and the future that this crisis foreshadows. We are hosting a series of events, including two webinar discussions which people across Turtle Island are welcome to join. . Monday 4/13: Phone & Email Blast . Monday Night 4/14: Banner Drop & Wheatpasting . Tuesday 4/14: Indigenous COVID-19 Call Discussion (Indigenous Only) . Wednesday 4/15: Long Distance Movie Night (Invasion! & Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance) . Thursday 4/16: Wet'suwet'en Solidarity Art Challenge . Friday 4/17: Wet'suwet'en Info Session & Solidarity Call Discussion (Open)

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As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, the protests, occupations and railway blockades that shook Canada earlier this year have come to a halt — but the long-simmering conflict between the fossil fuel industry and Indigenous Nations asserting rights to their land continues.

“It’s a time for us to reflect on how to stay mobilized and make plans,” said Marlene Hale, a Wet’suwet’en woman who has played a key role in organizing opposition to the pipeline in Montreal. She speaks on the phone almost every day with her relatives on Wet’suwet’en territory.

“It’s outrageous to see how governments and corporations are taking advantage of this crisis in order to push forward pipelines and extractive industries.”

Solidarity during COVID-19

The Coastal GasLink pipeline is set to carry gas from the Dawson Creek area in northeast B.C. to LNG Canada’s plant in Kitimat, where it will then be exported to Asian markets. TC Energy — the company behind the $6.6-billion pipeline project — emphasizes that it has signed agreements with 20 elected First Nations band councils, but their jurisdiction covers reserve land only.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, title holders to 22,000 square kilometres of traditional territory that the pipeline route cuts straight through, have not consented to the project.

The B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction to Coastal GasLink in late December 2019, but far from resolving opposition to the pipeline, it sparked a massive solidarity movement in support of the Wet’suwet’en.

“Corporate exceptionalism cannot become a pandemic response strategy for the governments of B.C. and Canada.”

As the RCMP laid siege to Wet’suwet’en territory and arrested 28 people in February to clear the way for pipeline workers, railway, port, and highway blockades sprang up across the country. In Victoria, B.C., hundreds of people blocked the legislature.

Then came COVID-19.

Lockdowns and physical distancing caused disruptions, but then “the activism, mutual aid and support picked up again,” according to Hale. In order to maintain ties across communities and strengthen the relationships built through solidarity over the last few months, she holds online meetings every Friday with Indigenous youth and climate activists in Montreal.

Solidarity persists across borders too. The Indigenous Kinship Collective, based in New York, holds a weekly online rendezvous called “Wednesday’s for Wet’suwet’en.”

While quarantine efforts have spread widely in the past weeks, transient workers continue to pass through Wet’suwet’en territory, posing a dangerous health risk to local communities, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

“Now the Coastal GasLink workers and RCMP are literally laughing at us, and taunting us saying that while two months ago we shut down Canada, now we are the ones who are shut in our homes,” Hale said.

Jean-Baptiste Demouy

Marlene Hale avant de prendre la parole lors du rassemblement de ce 7 février en soutien à la nation Wet’suwet’en à Montréal.

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Full steam ahead for Coastal GasLink

B.C. recently extended its state of emergency for the third time and non-essential businesses remain closed, but pipeline construction — classified as an essential service by the provincial government — is allowed to continue.

Corporations are taking advantage of the de facto ban on political mobilization due to COVID-19 to push projects through.

Freda Huson, also known as Chief Howihkat, expressed concern for her Wet’suwet’en community during a webinar on Indigenous women’s resistance to fossil fuels held on April 14. She was among those arrested by the RCMP in February.

“Ever since January we have been dealing with legal issues, and when COVID-19 hit, everyone was required to be put into isolation, and yet Coastal GasLink is still going full swing,” she pointed out. “The motels are full in Houston and Smithers. They seemed to have speed-tracked instead of slowed down.”

Though Coastal GasLink has reduced the number of on-site workers, these workers remain in close proximity — for example, while travelling together in vehicles — raising fears of a viral outbreak. For some Indigenous people, this recalls the darkest episodes of North America’s violent colonial legacy, including the 1837–38 smallpox epidemic caused by infected blankets that white settlers gave to unsuspecting Native Americans. This poisonous gift nearly wiped out three tribes along the Missouri River.

“Our elders are the most vulnerable and they are our knowledge keepers. If they start getting contaminated, we risk losing invaluable cultural heritage,” stressed Huson.

This anxiety is shared by Makwala Smith, Kwakwaka’wakw, who took part in the legislature protests in Victoria.

“If our isolated communities start getting infected by the virus because of the coming and going of police and CGL workers, this would mean the continuation of the cultural genocide brought upon by racist attitudes and decades of colonialist policies that have been imposed on our people.”

On March 30, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs published an open letter to the federal and provincial governments demanding the suspension of construction work on the pipeline during the pandemic. Questioning the classification of pipeline construction as an “essential service,” they pointed out that Northern Health officials had already warned that primary care resources in the area were at capacity and could come under pressure from Coastal GasLink workers who fell ill.

“Corporate exceptionalism cannot become a pandemic response strategy for the governments of B.C. and Canada,” stressed Indigenous leaders in the letter.

Makwala Smith at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 11, 2020. 
Mike Graeme

Rights and title agreement does not address pipeline

In addition to the increased health risk the pipeline imposes on local communities and health facilities, it presents a daily assault on Indigenous autonomy and rights, according to Mohawk policy analyst Russell Diabo.

A landmark 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision known as Delgamuukw recognized the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs as the governing body when it comes to their traditional lands.

Yet “the provincial and federal governments completely ignored the hereditary chiefs. In order to get consent for the pipeline, they went and consulted the band councils, who, according to the Delgamuukw case, don’t have authority off-reserve,” Diabo explained.

“Certain band council members who endorsed the pipeline have economic ties to the project and are not Wet’suwet’en. Some of them have even created coalitions and are part of a campaign to discredit the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who are strongly opposed to the CGL pipeline crossing their territory.”

Shortly before COVID-19 brought normal life to a standstill, the provincial and federal governments had finally sat down with the hereditary chiefs. The economic pressure exerted by the blockades, headlines splashed across the globe, and increasing disapproval of the project among Canadians made the situation harder to ignore.

“Free and informed prior consent cannot be achieved at gunpoint.”

A memorandum of understanding was drafted by the three governments — Wet’suwet’en, provincial, and federal — on February 29, reportedly picking up where the Delgamuukw case left off in order to affirm and respect Wet’suwet’en land rights. After a pause in the negotiation process due to COVID-19, on April 30 the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs announced they would endorse the proposed deal on rights and title, after their clans decided to back it. According to a joint statement released by all three governments, they will sign the MOU on May 14, 2020.

But the MOU, which has yet to be disclosed to the public, does not address or resolve the dispute over the pipeline. It is expected that the deal will recognize the authority of the hereditary chiefs, even as governments decline to revisit the questionable approval process for this and other projects.

“Along with thousands of our supporters across Turtle Island, we hoped that these discussions could end the conflict on the ground in Wet’suwet’en territory,” reads an April 27th post on the Facebook page for Gidimt’en checkpoint. “Although this is a step in the right direction, CGL continues to trespass on Wet’suwet’en territory in direct violation of the eviction order enforced by the Hereditary Chiefs on January 4th, 2020.”

Gidimt’en is one of the five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. RCMP arrested four people at Gidimt’en checkpoint in February.

Police arrested four people at Gidimt’en checkpoint on Feb. 7, 2020, part of an operation to clear the way for Coastal GasLink Jpipeline workers. 
Jerome Turner

‘Pipelines everywhere, but they have nowhere to go’

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — which Justin Trudeau’s government pledged to adopt and which B.C. has supported, at least rhetorically, through Bill 41 — stipulates that free, prior and informed consent from the proper title and rights holders must be obtained for any project affecting their land, territories, and other resources.

Thus, when Coastal GasLink won the B.C. Supreme Court injunction last December, and the RCMP raids on Wet’suwet’en territory reached all the way to the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, many Indigenous rights advocates perceived it as the “death of reconciliation” between Indigenous Nations and Canada.

“Today we are still facing the same violence just for being Indigenous, just for trying to live off the land and trying to protect what resources we have left,” said Smith, “even though doing so would be a benefit to everybody in the world.”

Smith said Indigenous people who are on-site keeping tabs on the pipeline construction continue to be accosted by police officers.

Oil has been trading at record lows, and gas prices have also dropped due to decreasing demand during the pandemic.

“This is an active act of warfare on sovereign nations, so to talk about reconciliation right now is a complete farce,” he insisted.

This struggle is only one of many examples in which protection of the environment and respect for the autonomy and sovereignty of Indigenous communities is pushed aside for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry and development of mega projects.

“What our communities really need is the ability to be self-sufficient and handle our resources ourselves. Free and informed prior consent cannot be achieved at gunpoint,” said Smith.

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta was also on the panel with Huson. She pointed out that not only has the fossil fuel industry proven to be highly destructive of the environment, but it is also showing its limits in terms of financial viability. Oil has been trading at record lows, and gas prices have also dropped due to decreasing demand during the pandemic.

“We have pipelines everywhere, but they have nowhere to go. The markets are collapsing and this system is dying before our eyes,” Deranger said.

“This could be an amazing opportunity to really reimagine what our world could look like for future generations. This is a time for cleansing, reconnecting with our spirituality and cosmology.

“We have the ability to lean on knowledge systems that go far beyond the spectrum of Western ideologies, imperial data and science to understand this crisis and build the post-pandemic world.”


Acho Dene Koe First Nation loses court challenge

Judge says government has no authority to enforce some agreements with Paramount Resources

The Acho Dene Koe First Nation in Fort Liard, N.W.T., lost its court case aimed at getting the territorial government to step in to enforce community investment plan agreements it has with Paramount Resources. In court documents, the oil and gas company denies it is in breach of the agreements. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

A Dehcho First Nation is considering its next steps after failing to convince a judge to order the N.W.T. government to enforce benefits plans the First Nation has with an oil and gas company.

The Acho Dene Koe First Nation (ADKFN) of Fort Liard, N.W.T., alleges that Paramount Resources is reneging on three benefits agreements that were entered into 20 years ago. The plans set out opportunities for ADKFN business participation and annual payments into a community investment fund.

The First Nation alleges that Paramount has breached the agreements for years. In court documents, the company denies it has breached the agreements.

The Fort Liard First Nation argued the community investment plans were part of a benefits agreement that oil and gas companies are required to reach with indigenous groups to do exploration work on their traditional lands. It asked the territorial director of petroleum resources to enforce the plans, and went to court to challenge his decision not to do so.

In her decision, Supreme Court Justice Karan Shaner said the community investment plans and benefit plans are completely separate agreements. She said the director has no authority to enforce the community investment plans.

“At the heart of ADKFN’s concern is a private contractual dispute with Paramount, not a proposed government action or decision,” wrote Shaner in her decision.

The judge said she has no authority to overturn the decision.

In an email, the First Nation said it will be up to the band council to decide what, if anything, it will do as a result of the decision.

“A decision as to the First Nation’s next steps will be made by council based on the recommendations of our legal, economic development corporation, and lands office input,” wrote acting band manager Boyd Clark.

New act does away with confidentiality by default

During the case, the Acho Dene Koe called on the territorial government to provide it with copies of the benefits plans related to the Paramount properties, as well as government reports on how well the company has complied with the plans.

The government initially refused to do so, saying both are considered privileged information under the Petroleum Resources Act.

Ultimately, Paramount consented to the documents being provided for the court case. But they were not part of the publicly available record and only accessible to ADKFN and the court.

Last year, the government revised the Petroleum Resources Act. The new law does away with much of the confidentiality that shrouded the old act, which the territorial government inherited from the federal government when it took control of its petroleum resources.

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment was the lead territorial agency in developing the new Petroleum Resources Act. According to its website, guidelines had to be developed for the act, for it to come into effect.

The department did not respond to email requests about whether the new act is in effect. SOURCE


Food security just outside your door

A home garden is great for your health, your wallet, your mind, your soul, and your planet!

Empty grocery store shelves during this COVID-19 crisis would seem to suggest that our food supply chain may be a bit less robust than we thought.  (If empty shelves are an indicator, it would appear most of us are more concerned about what comes out the bottom of our alimentary canals than what goes in the top.  But I digress.)

So why not grow some food of your own?  The advantages of a home garden include:

      • Freshness: it’s hard to beat the taste of something that’s gone from plant to plate in under an hour
      • Healthy: as producer of your own food, you can be certain of its safety; most home garden pests can be controlled by hand rather than with pesticides
      • Healthy, again: gardening is great exercise; it gets you bending, stretching and feeling energized
      • Good for your wallet: I’m constantly amazed at how much food our little garden yields each year; we bought virtually no veggies all last summer, and still haven’t worked through last year’s carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, beans (frozen and dried), tomatoes or squash!
      • Good for your mind: whether flowers or veggies, gardening is a great way to take a break from the overstimulation of work, news or social media
      • Good for your soul: nurturing a living organism from seed (or seedling) all the way to maturity helps one appreciate the miracles and glories of our natural world, believe in the possibilities of a bountiful future and get a taste of the contentment that comes with self-sufficiency
      • Good for the planet: the production, storage and transportation of our food make up a significant portion of our personal carbon footprint; but the carbon footprint of a home garden is virtually zero
      • Good for the kids: home gardens can be a great learning experience for kids, who often spend too much time in front of screens and know dangerously little about where their food comes from. (Possible spillover benefits to parents newly working from home too.)
      • A better use for land: lawns may be green, but they’re not very eco-friendly when you consider the water, fertilizer, pesticide, lawn mower fuel and lawn owner time they consume. They’re also biodiversity deserts.  Gardens, on the other hand, pay huge dividends in produce, and can help beneficial insects like bees.
      • Food security: there’s something extremely satisfying about being able to rely, at least in part, on food you’ve produced with your own hands. Perhaps it’s serendipity that this meme appeared in my social media feed today!


So if you’ve never gardened before, why not make this your year to start?  Or if you’re already a gardener, why not make this your biggest garden year ever?  The internet is loaded with good advice, and, alas – you’ve probably got lots of time on your hands.


PS You’re probably not quite ready to go as far as Rob Greenfield – but his story sure is inspiring

The Pandemic Has Revealed the Weakness of Strongmen

Women leaders are a symptom of a political system’s success, not necessarily its cause.

An image featuring New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern and Germany's Angela Merkel.


Choose your coronavirus fighter: Will it be Germany’s Angela Merkel and her calm explanation of the COVID-19 infection rate? Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon and her government’s helpful, nuanced strategy documents? Or New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, with her empathetic Facebook Live addresses and decision to lock down the country early?

All a bit mainstream for you, huh. How about Iceland’s Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who has offered free coronavirus testing to all the country’s citizens? Or Norway’s Erna Solberg, who held a press conference just for children, telling them it was okay to feel scared?

Looking through this list, it’s tempting to reach the conclusion that women must be better at dealing with this crisis because of their gender. A similar narrative followed the 2008 financial crash. A world ruled by women was held up as a gentler, less aggressive one: If only Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters, the crash would not have happened. This time around, commentators are again praising the “empathy and care” of female leaders. “It’s like their arms are coming out of their videos to hold you close in a heart-felt and loving embrace,” Avivah Wittenberg-Cox of Forbes argued.

This line of reasoning, however, is flawed—and potentially dangerous to women’s progress in politics. It’s not that women leaders are doing better. It’s just that strongmen are doing worse.
Let’s start with the obvious example: Donald Trump. Over the past few weeks, the American president has discovered that much of his political playbook is useless against a respiratory illness. Unlike the press, the coronavirus cannot be browbeaten. Unlike whistleblowing officials, it cannot be fired or demoted. The virus does not care if you imply that it is unpatriotic. It is not diverted by untested cures, or dangerous ones you just invented. It does not read Twitter.

Strongmen prosper as leaders because they promise certainty in uncertain times. They offer a simple enemy and present themselves as the only champion against it. The more control they have—by delegitimizing opposition leaders and the press—the better this strategy works. But this virus can’t be delegitimized. People will keep on coughing and dying, regardless of what Trump tweets about the virus.

Xi Jinping discovered this problem early in the outbreak, when the Chinese state tried to suppress doctors’ concerns about the new disease emerging in Wuhan. The disease went on spreading anyway. Iran appears to be desperately downplaying the extent of infections. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro dismissed the coronavirus as “a little flu or a bit of a cold” and attended an anti-lockdown protest in April. By that point, his own press secretary had already caught the disease. The Amazon’s biggest city, Manaus, is now being forced to dig trenches to accommodate the dead, and Brazil’s official death toll has surpassed that of China. (Around the world, the true cost of the virus will take months, or even years, to emerge. Both authoritarian and liberal countries might be hampered by poor record-keeping and a lack of resources for recording deaths, while the former are also likely to have a weak media which is unable to interrogate official death tolls.)

Really, this is an argument about leadership styles, which brings us back to the question of gender. Judging “women leaders” as a group is a fraught task, when they are still such a minority. Whenever Merkel has attended a G20 meeting during her 14 years as chancellor of Germany, she has rarely faced a line for the ladies’ toilet. She is currently the only woman leading one of the world’s 20 largest economies. If physical meetings were happening right now, she would be fighting only with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for a spot at the hand dryer.

So any talk of “women leaders” suffers from a small sample size. In modern times, China has never had one; neither has Russia, Saudi Arabia, Italy—or the United States. At the start of the year, only 15 of the 193 United Nations countries were led by women, according to Axios, and that has now dropped to 13. That means female leaders are inevitably compared with one another, and with their rare female predecessors, even when it’s not appropriate. Britain’s former Conservative prime minister Theresa May was branded the Iron Lady 2.0—a second Margaret Thatcher—even though it quickly became apparent that, in her work ethic and communication problems, she was much more like Labour’s Gordon Brown.

So what can we say about women leaders? Again, it’s hard to draw conclusions from general research, because the kind of person who becomes a senior politician is, by definition, unusual. He or she needs talent, ambition, drive—and favorable life circumstances. In countries that are unused to female leadership, any woman who succeeds is likely to be exceptionally tough and determined to rise up the ranks.

One finding that might have a bearing on this debate, though, is that women, even women in leadership roles, appear to be more risk-averse than men. The research on that is far from settled, but society certainly thinks that women are more risk-averse, and so female leaders find it easier to champion and communicate cautious policies such as school closures or mandatory mask-wearing. Being macho, however, is a liability. On March 3, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson boasted that, “I was at a hospital where there were a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody.” Weeks later, he was in intensive care.

What about the argument that nurturing and nannying are what people need now? We should be wary of the superficially appealing argument that women leaders are better because they are “empathetic.” That’s an essentialist view of gender—men are X, women are Y—and one that has tended, historically, to hold women back. Just think of the Victorians who argued that women were the “angel in the house”—delicate, sensitive, beautiful creatures who were too saintly to trouble themselves with the nasty business of earning a living, going to university, or having the vote. This argument also ignores the fact that many successful male leaders have been praised for their empathy: People skills are an asset in a functional democracy, where winning votes matters.

The final potential explanation for why countries with female leaders appear to have done better in this crisis is the most thought-provoking. Women find gaining power easier in “a political culture in which there’s a relative support and trust in the government,” Kathleen Gerson, a sociology professor at NYU, told The Guardian. A country that elects a strongman—or where a strongman can hold on to power, once elections become a sham—is an already troubled country.

So let’s not flip the old sexist script. After centuries of dogma that men are naturally better suited to leadership, the opposite is not suddenly true. Women leaders aren’t the cause of better government. They are a symptom of it.


HELEN LEWIS is a London-based staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of Difficult Women:  A History of Feminism in 11 Fights.

Jenn Ackerman: Everyone Should Watch This Film. But It’s Very Difficult to Watch.

The Real Problem With Michael Moore's New Film: Planet of the ...

Several want Planet of the Humans banned, but their arguments so far are no more convincing than the film, as they leave several questions unanswered. (Photo: POTH/publicity still)

Earth Day came and went once again  this year.  April 22 marked the 50 th anniversary of a movement that has grown worldwide.  Creating awareness for  the need to care for our planet, was recognized differently  this year.  People had to share the message through modern technology rather than physically protesting , marching or celebrating.

I watched a documentary that aired on Earth Day Eve.  I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. The truth is very scary.
This  documentary , which I recommend everyone should watch , is directed by Jeff Gibbs , and presented by Michael Moore,  “The Planet of the Humans”.
This documentary kicks down my beliefs, and  causes me to question what I thought was the truth.  It was very difficult to watch. and even harder to accept it as true.
  You will find the last ten minutes particularly stunning ,  heart wrenching and bluntly factual. Watch the credits,  because throughout them there are  more shocking  revelations. More scary truths. .
 The truth hurts, so it is natural to protect ourselves and try to hide from it.    The truth  isn’t  always pretty,  But you won’t be able to do anything about the scary truth  if you refuse to confront it.    It is time to stop denying the facts. They are right in front of your eyes.
 The negative human  impact that   relentlessly takes  it,s toll every day on  our precious  Earth. has slowed down  in the past few weeks.    Nature is  cautiously  sneaking  back in to the places that once belonged to her. Places that humans stole, ripped up, polluted,  consumed and controlled. It has  taken  a virus to  slow  people down enough to wake up and take  notice.This virus may be what was needed to save us .from ourselves.  Scary, but true.  Maybe we will start appreciating the beautiful planet we live on  and  realize how much we care about the lives  of others and the impact we, as humans ,  have had on our natural surroundings.
 It is interesting that humans don’t want to accept that they are just animals. We are only mammals.  Not particularly bright ones  either. No other living creature destroys its home , except cancer as it consumes its host. Death of the home base kills the cancer. Humans are a cancer consuming its host: the planet Earth.
 Lets face the truth ,  we can not survive or exist without   a healthy planet.
People  seem to think that the Earth has endless resources and that more “stuff” is better .  More money ,  more possessions , more people.
Accepting the truth  that there are simply  too many people on this planet and there is not enough  resources to support them is something people seem to be un willing to accept.   Consumption of the natural resources is much greater than the rate of replenishing. With each additional person born , more stress is added to an already stressed world.
Statistics show that there are 151,600 deaths a day worldwide.or, 106 people die world wide every minute ( for various reasons).
The problem is , is that there are approximately 360,000 births in the same time frame.  Though it sounds like a lot of  deaths , it is only  eight deaths for every nineteen births.
 People don’t like  to hear the truth.about over population. There are many people, especially in Europe, who  are  making the  unselfish  choice to not have kids, or at least stop at one. This needs to happen world wide  to make a big enough impact. The average  life span of a human is close to eighty years.  The population growth ,  if we continue to reproduce at this unsustainable rate, ( one hundred million every 14 months)  would be 9.4 billion by 2050 .
 In 1900 there were fewer than two billion people on the planet. Today there are 7.8 BILLION people,  and that number  is increasing  far too quickly.  The  demand on our  planet’s  resources  is simply just too much.
 There are still people that think that Canada is going to be spared from the inevitable, that we  don,t have  an overpopulation problem and there will always be groceries on the store shelves. Unfortunately,  mass starvation , mass extinction and the ever increasing results of climate change  are on the horizon. due to human activity.  If we refuse to  recognize the fact that this is the truth, because it is too scary,  then the problems  will only accelerate .
Scientists have predicted that we have  about  eight years left  to fix the way we do things. At the rapid rate of destruction, overpopulation and over consumption,  I am not so optimistic.
The County is not going to be spared either.  Despite the  crazy notion that we are somehow separated  from the rest of the world. the truth is ,  we are “all in this together”.   The poor choices made locally effect the overall impact on the planet.  too.
The unaffordable  housing developments along Picton Harbour. or  development  on good agricultural land , wetlands , shorelines  and green natural habitat areas., negatively effect much more than just the County. So does   the senseless removal of century maples and the  mowing of  all the wildflowers along the edges of the county back roads.  The   ripping down of a completed wind farm is the height of stupidity, ( yes , the  components  are all still here laying useless in the mud where they stood majestically a few months ago). These senseless acts of destruction in such a small County,  are a perfect example of how NOT to save the world. It is clear that money speaks louder than the scientists , who for years have been telling us the scary truth.about our destiny.  We must stop the way we do things ,We don,t have any more second chances .
Barbra Streisand has an excellent music video everyone should watch , called  “Don’t Lie To Me“. It also is a strong message about truth.   The truth is hard to take ,  but the lies told to us  by our leaders are harder.   There is a lot to be said about accepting the truth and recognizing the lies.  Be strong; embrace the truth instead if hiding from it.  If you don’t , you can’t help to correct it .
Jen Ackerman, Milford

Inside the slaughterhouse

North America’s largest single coronavirus outbreak started at this Alberta meat-packing plant. Take a look within.

North America’s largest single coronavirus outbreak started at this Alberta meat-packing plant. Take a look within.

Note: This story contains details that some may find upsetting.

Hiep Bui spent 23 years at the Cargill meat-packing plant in southern Alberta — picking out bones from ground beef in a refrigerated room.

The 67-year-old was one of around 2,000 workers at the plant, located near the town of High River, south of Calgary.

The plant is the site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak linked to a single facility in North America, according to outbreak data from Canadian and U.S. health authorities. A total of 1,560 cases have been linked to the plant, provincial health officials say, with 949 employees testing positive and two deaths — Bui was the first.

The second was Armando Sallegue, who died of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Sallegue’s son, Arwyn, worked at the plant and was confirmed to have the virus the same day his father began to show symptoms.

The deaths, and the coronavirus outbreak, put into sharp relief the heavy toll meat-packing work can take on members of a workforce that often have few other opportunities.

“The union asked for help, the workers asked for help. The workplace was declared safe … and a worker has died,” said Alex Shevalier, president of the Calgary and District Labour Council, during an online vigil for workers who have lost their lives on the job.

“What we do now is what matters. We cannot bring that sister back but we have to fight for the living. We need a public inquiry and we need a criminal investigation and we need them now.”

Hiep Bui, left, and husband Nga Nguyen. Bui died of COVID-19 amid an outbreak that has affected hundreds of her fellow workers at Cargill. (ActionDignity Facebook page, Dave Gilson/CBC)
Hiep Bui, left, and husband Nga Nguyen. Bui died of COVID-19 amid an outbreak that has affected hundreds of her fellow workers at Cargill. (ActionDignity Facebook page, Dave Gilson/CBC) 

On Monday, the same day the Cargill plant reopened after a two-week closure, Bui’s memorial service was livestreamed on social media.

Bui’s husband of more than 25 years, Nga Nguyen — who also works at Cargill and contracted COVID-19 — was asked whether Cargill had called him to express its condolences.

Nguyen shrugged and shook his head. Communicating in Vietnamese through an interpreter, he said, no, the company hadn’t called.

“He’s feeling numb,” his interpreter said. “He doesn’t know if he’s angry. Just numb.”

Cargill, a company worth billions, has been accused by employees and the union of caring more about its bottom line than worker wellbeing.

“Honestly speaking, they don’t care about their employees,” one worker said. “They’re saying they can replace people at any time. They don’t care.”

John Keating, president of Cargill Meat Solutions, a subsidiary of Cargill, said the company puts people first. He said his heart hurts to lose an employee, and he was surprised to hear the company has yet to reach out to Bui’s husband.

He said the company was “hit overnight” by the outbreak and there are lessons to be learned.

“If we need to feel the need to apologize, absolutely, we will apologize. We’re a very humble organization, we feel bad about what happened but at the same time we’re very confident in how we run our businesses, how we run our processes.”

On Tuesday, the day after CBC News spoke to Keating, the company said it had reached out to Nguyen to offer condolences.

After employees first began to test positive for the coronavirus, some told CBC News they continued to work in close quarters with colleagues despite physical distancing measures put in place by the company and said Cargill pressured them to return to work even after they contracted COVID-19.

The number of cases at Cargill is staggering even when compared with the U.S., which has the highest total number of active COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world. As of May 1, there were 4,913 COVID-19 cases in total among all meat-packing plants in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

CBC News interviewed 14 current employees of Cargill for this story. Their identities have been kept confidential because they fear negative impacts on their employment should they be identified.

Workers prepare beef to be packaged at the Cargill facility near High River prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Submitted by name withheld)
Workers prepare beef to be packaged at the Cargill facility near High River prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Submitted by name withheld) 

The workers at the plant are primarily immigrants to Canada or temporary foreign workers and many speak limited to no English. Some say their job security is key to them remaining in the country.

Employees have said they’ve sustained injuries at the plant, from blackened fingers to knee damage that has made it difficult to walk.

Cargill said ergonomic experts were in place at the facility to guide the work.

“We have a ramp-up plan in place to ensure our team builds strength and protects their long-term health. We are focused on keeping our employees safe and healthy now and for the future,” company spokesperson Daniel Sullivan said in an email.

The ‘kill floor’

The first thing employees say you notice when you enter the Cargill facility in High River is the smell — something familiar, like that of an animal, but with a distinctive note of blood hanging in the air.

There are two main areas of Cargill’s facility. On the harvest floor, colloquially dubbed the “kill floor,” workers bleed cattle, skin them and hang them from hooks in a warm environment.

The majority of the area on the kill floor is more spaced out, allowing for two metres of space between employees in most areas. But the work can still be challenging, employees say.

Cattle are led into what’s known as the knocking area, where they are hit in the head with a bolt gun meant to stun them. Then, using a knife, a worker will cut the throat of the animal to bleed it.

This work can be dangerous for employees, as the behaviour of a nervous animal is difficult to predict.

Then there’s the fabrication line, where workers say they’re packed in elbow to elbow. Here, they work cutting meat for eight hours a day, often using knives to trim carcasses and remove fat.

Workers say part of the challenge of working on the fabrication line is the speed with which it moves — rates of speed which they say have led to injuries.

“My fingernail is all black. Not only me, all the employees,” said one worker on the fabrication line, “because there’s no blood circulation, because of too much grip. You need to hurry and then your hand is numb.

“Some of my [fellow] employees, not only one, two, three fingers, all black.”

WATCH | Video captured by a Cargill worker shows crowded conditions in a changing room at the plant prior to its temporary closure:

Another employee who works in maintenance at the facility said those on the line feel constant pressure to keep their speed up. Delays, such as mechanical issues, can exacerbate those stressors.

“Some machines are just worn out [and will fail]. Then, it’s constant screaming, cursing … and I mean, people are getting frustrated with that,” he said.

“But some of these people are new in Canada, they’re from the Philippines. So basically, they get scared, they think they’re going to be sent back home or they’ll lose their permanent residence. So they basically just shut up and do what they’re being told.”

These workers, completing repetitive tasks over and over all day, are particularly at risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and muscle strain, said Jessica Leibler, an environmental health professor from Boston University.

‘I cannot walk’

One worker said a fellow employee cut off three of his fingers while slicing meat on a weekend shift and began to bleed.

“He was bleeding for 40 minutes because they don’t want us to call 911,” he said. “They wanted us to call the on-call nurse because she will evaluate the guy, whether he needs to go to hospital.”

Sullivan, the Cargill spokesperson, said employees with concerns should report it through the “many reporting channels” open to them.

“To our knowledge, this [incident] is false. Our policy is to contact medical professionals or our nursing staff when an injury occurs,” Sullivan said in an email.

Injuries have also occurred in other areas. One worker in the packaging area of the facility said she damaged her knee repeatedly lifting heavy boxes.

“Now, I cannot even stand too long, I cannot walk,” she said.

The cramped facilities mean breaks are just as crowded as regular shifts, employees said.

Without fail, one worker said, coffee breaks and lunchtime see the cafeteria — referred to as the “feedlot” — fill to capacity with employees.

When employees are done eating, they’ll move into the locker-room, chatting and lounging while they wait to be let back onto the main floor.

“In the locker-room, it’s super-crowded,” one employee said. “Very filthy.”

Workers gather in the cafeteria prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. After dozens of employees fell ill at Cargill, the company said it would begin staggering break times. (Submitted by name withheld)
Workers gather in the cafeteria prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. After dozens of employees fell ill at Cargill, the company said it would begin staggering break times. (Submitted by name withheld)

A ‘clear danger’

Concerns for workers’ well-being extend beyond their physical health.

Leibler said although meat-processing workers experience some of the highest rates of occupational injury for all types of injuries, there have been very few studies of workers’ mental health.

She has studied workers at a U.S. meat-packing plant and found they experienced higher levels of serious psychological distress than those in the general population.

“They open themselves up, working in these environments, to laceration injury, to repetitive injury, to musculoskeletal injury in addition to the mental health stress,” she said.

“There is clear danger in working in these environments, but many of the people who work in them appreciate the income. Many of them are immigrants, many of them are supporting families. And so it’s a cost-benefit analysis for them, I think, even on a daily basis.”

The bloody and often depressing nature of the work often means many employees burn out quickly, one employee working on the kill floor said.

“It’s hard to do this every day. Especially when the cow, when they knock it, it makes a voice. Like it’s screaming or something like that,” he said. “If people are emotional, it’s hard for them to keep that job.”

Workers crowd into hallways at the Cargill plant last year, when an ammonia leak forced them out of their stations. (Submitted by name withheld)
Workers crowd into hallways at the Cargill plant last year, when an ammonia leak forced them out of their stations. (Submitted by name withheld) 

Other studies have found workers in meat-packing plants face intense psychological pressure and sometimes a disconnect in empathy because of their work environments.

Leibler also said her research may underestimate the mental health impacts among workers — as more mentally or physically robust workers are likely to remain in the job and those who have experienced a major injury (mental or physical) might be less likely to participate in research.

“I think fundamentally the industrial slaughterhouse model is not sustainable,” she said.

“The system is optimized for maximal output but with much less concern for the experience of the workers throughout the process.”

Leibler said the more immediate challenge faced by meat-packing corporations is to show they value workers by allowing them to stay home with pay while sick or if they are possibly infectious.

Employees say these plastic sheets were hung in the change room in mid-April, prior to the plant's closure, to minimize the spread of COVID-19. (Submitted by name withheld))
Employees say these plastic sheets were hung in the change room in mid-April, prior to the plant’s closure, to minimize the spread of COVID-19. (Submitted by name withheld)) 

On Monday, Cargill’s High River plant reopened — two weeks and a day after Bui’s death from COVID-19.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, the union that represents workers at the plant, had requested a stop-work order and filed an unfair labour practice complaint against the plant and the provincial government in hope of preventing the reopening. It has also called for a criminal investigation.

The plant asked all employees who are eligible to return to work in the harvest department to report for their shifts.

Days before the reopening, the union surveyed more than 600 workers in four languages; 85 per cent said they were afraid to return to work.

Ricardo Morales, director of community development and integration services with the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, has been leading a team to support workers at the plant.

They’ve been translating health and safety information into Oromo, Tagalog, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese for workers.

“I think Cargill probably could have done a better job communicating with employees as to what support they could receive from the company,” he said.

WATCH Workers worry about safety as Cargill plant reopens:

Immigrants in Canada have more concerns about their health and financial security during the COVID-19 pandemic than the Canadian population as a whole, according to the results of a recent survey from Statistics Canada, and Morales said he’s seen evidence of that on the ground with Cargill workers.

“You are just not dealing with an ordinary situation. You need to look at ways, culturally, how are people responding and how are people coping under these circumstances.”

Morales said while the community has banded together, Cargill workers still face intense stressors over their immigration status and food security — with some quarantining workers unsure where their next meal will come from.

Revenue in the billions

Cargill Ltd. is a Canadian subsidiary of the U.S.-based Cargill, which reported revenue of $113.5 billion US and net earnings of $2.56 billion last year.

The company is the largest private company in the U.S. in terms of revenue, and the Cargills, a family of reclusive billionaires, still own more than 90 per cent of the corporation.

Cargill’s High River plant opened in 1989 with an initial slaughter capacity of 1,200 head of cattle per day, eventually growing to become the largest beef processing facility in Canada, processing 4,500 head a day.

Before opening, news reports at the time show some critics worried the company was buying its way into a market already suffering from overcapacity and would lead to the closures of other plants.

The plant — which was not unionized at the time and paid its employees less per hour than other Alberta plants — did, in fact, lower production costs and plants around the province began to close.

Today, the Cargill plant, which has since been unionized, provides around 40 per cent of all beef processing in Canada.

Wages at the Cargill plant start at $17.95 per hour, according to the collective agreement.

Cargill has said that as an essential part of Canada’s food supply chain, it is committed to continuing production.

‘That’s only flu … you’re fit to work’

To stay open at this time, the company said it has implemented measures to keep employees safe.

It has installed protective barriers on the production floor to allow for more spacing between employees and introduced face shields where that wasn’t possible.

Cargill also said it hoped to reduce carpooling by workers through utilizing buses with protective barriers between the seats. Many of the employees live in large households and share transportation.

In March, tents were set up outside the Cargill plant so workers could be tested for COVID-19. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)
In March, tents were set up outside the Cargill plant so workers could be tested for COVID-19. (Dan McGarvey/CBC) 

But some employees feel other actions by the company increased their risk, like offering bonuses during the COVID-19 outbreak. Workers worried that by missing work, they would miss out on the bonus.

Some say the company continued to try to lure them back to work from self-isolation as the plant prepared to reopen on May 4.

“They called my husband, the [Cargill] nurse called, but he still has symptoms,” one worker said of her husband, who is also an employee. “They said, ‘That’s only flu, that’s only cough. You’re fit to work.’”

In an email, Cargill spokesperson Daniel Sullivan said the company had been “very clear” in communications to employees that they should not come to work sick or if they have had contact with someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.

“Employees who must remain off work due to COVID-19 impacts have access to up to 80 hours of paid leave and short-term disability benefits are available to eligible employees,” the company said.

After the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, CBC News reported that no preventative or in-person inspection of the Cargill plant was done.

live video inspection by Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), conducted after dozens at the plant were already sick with COVID-19, concluded the work site was safe to remain open. The inspection didn’t include the harvest or kill floor because slaughter activities weren’t taking place that day.

OHS is now investigating and provincial health officials were in attendance for the reopening.

Other slaughterhouse outbreaks

While Cargill is the site of the largest outbreak, it’s far from alone — meat-packing facilities across North America are hotspots for coronavirus.

Alberta’s second-largest outbreak, where at least 487 workers have tested positive as of Tuesday, is at the JBS Canada beef plant in the southeastern city of Brooks. That plant remains open.

Meat-processing plants in Quebec, Ontario and B.C., and two dozen across the U.S. have had to temporarily suspend operations because of smaller outbreaks. In the U.S., 20 meat-processing workers have died because of COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

There have been similar allegations of unsafe practices, like those workers have made at the Cargill plant, reported at multiple facilities.

These are some of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 across North America as of May 1, 2020. (CBC)
These are some of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 across North America as of May 1, 2020. (CBC) 

The outbreak at Cargill has spread into the greater community. Cases among staff at a High River retirement facility and on a nearby First Nation have been traced back to the plant.

Leibler, the environmental health professor, said the outbreaks have hopefully shone some light on the undervalued role of meat-processing workers and the profit-maximizing environment in which food is produced.

“I think in a lot of developed countries, the process as to how we produce the meat that we buy in our supermarket is very much like a black box. People don’t think about it,” she said.

“Hopefully it’s beneficial for all of us to learn a little bit more about this workforce in this terrible context.”

Another worker on the kill floor said his job at Cargill has its pluses, like working with and developing relationships with people from all over the world.

But after the company’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, he said he feels betrayed.

“They ignored it even after employees spoke out,” he said. “They don’t care about the [workers]. They care about the profit.”


Alternative meat is having a moment. Real meat may be done sooner thank you think.

A worker at an empty meat counter in Buenos Aires. Even in beef-loving Argentina, butchers say sales have dropped 50 percent during the pandemic.

A worker at an empty meat counter in Buenos Aires. Even in beef-loving Argentina, butchers say sales have dropped 50 percent during the pandemic.

Picture two industries. One is increasingly associated in the consumer’s mind with dirt and disease. Not only is much of its product pumped full of antibiotics and covered in fecal matter, not only does it come with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, but now its workers are testing positive for coronavirus in droves, and its supply chain is in pain.

The other industry makes a product that many consumers find just as tasty as the first industry’s product, but without the health risks. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, this industry is having no trouble sourcing its ingredients or forcing people to work. Its sales growth is eye-popping. Its stock is soaring. Its investors can’t open lines of credit fast enough.

Which one do you think is going to thrive in a post-COVID-19 world?

The first industry, of course, is traditional meat production. If you haven’t seen the news (around 5,000 meat and poultry workers have tested positive for coronavirus through April, according to the CDC, including 60 percent of workers at one Tyson plant) then you might have seen meat rationing at your supermarket. Even Costco is considering it.

Four plants have closed. Pork production is down 25 percent, says the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union; beef is down 10 percent. “The supply chain is breaking,” Tyson warned in a full-page newspaper ad. For meat eaters (full disclosure: that includes me), this means higher prices are on the way. Meanwhile, the DOJ is being urged by states to look into meat industry price-fixing.

You’d be forgiven for asking if your meat habit — already, likely the biggest contribution you make to climate change — is worth it.

Luckily, the second industry’s product is more widely available than ever, its supply chain having expanded at just the right time. To companies that are clearly doing well out of the pandemic, like Zoom and Amazon, you can add the two new leading lights of plant-based meat: Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

Beyond reported its first quarter results Tuesday, and they included something startups don’t often see: an accidental profit. The company made nearly $2 million pure profit in the first quarter, compared to a $6.6 million loss in the same period last year. Total sales shot up from $40 million to $97 million. Beyond Meat shares jumped nearly 20 percent Wednesday. And that’s before Beyond’s deal with Starbucks, which has started selling Beyond sausage in 4,200 stores in China, kicked in.

“This is the industry’s moment,” Beyond founder Ethan Brown told Yahoo News, while being careful to express all the usual regrets about the pandemic.

Until recently, Beyond had one pandemic-ready advantage over rival Impossible: It was more widely available in supermarkets (around 2,700 of them), whereas Impossible burgers tend to be more available in restaurants (around 17,000 of them, including 1,700 Burger Kings). But Impossible Foods has been ramping up its grocery availability just in time.

Late last year, $10 bricks of Impossible beef were only available in a handful of chains in Southern California. In April, as the coronavirus crisis descended, Impossible — which is still a private company — announced a tentative rollout in 777 more grocery stores. On Tuesday, it added all 1,700 Kroger stores across the U.S. Impossible sales hit a new high in April, the company says, despite the closure or scaling back of its main customer, the restaurant industry. Just in time for a jump in home cooking, Impossible has released its own cookbook.

“We’ve seen surging sales through food delivery services,” Impossible founder and food scientist Pat Brown told Reuters. One of those services is a wholesale company called Cheetah, which normally sells to restaurants and hotels but just launched an app so regular customers in the Bay Area can make bulk orders for pickup. Since it started offering $33 cases containing eight frozen 1/3-pound Impossible patties on April 21, a spokesperson told me, 13 percent of all Cheetah orders included at least one case — and the company sold a third more Impossible patties than regular 1/3-pound beef patties. (Admittedly, the Bay Area is slightly more pro-plant-based meat than most of America.)

All of which is not to say plant-based meats are going to overtake real meat in sales any time soon. Worldwide, meat is a $1.7 trillion business. Prior to COVID-19, analysts believed alternative meat could capture about 10 percent of that within a decade. If the pandemic and its associated problems can grow the customer base to double the estimate, that still leaves meat production companies with more than $1 trillion of annual revenue to play with.

But trends like this, once started, are hard to arrest. The coronavirus pandemic was a test for two industries. The one that uses food science and plant ingredients to replicate meat taste passed with flying colors. Supply kept up with demand. Both Beyond and Impossible have opened new billion-dollar lines of credit to fund further expansion. Impossible’s next target is replicating pork, which is the world’s most popular meat outside the U.S. And that’s all before lab-grown meat enters the scene.

The meat industry, meanwhile, is failing the test. Its supply chain is brittle. Its product is ethically and environmentally compromised. You don’t have to see the horrors of the slaughterhouse to get a sense of just how wrong it all is; you don’t have to read up on all the antibiotics they pump into pigs. Just stand somewhere miles downwind of a major hog farm or cattle ranch and breath in. It’s a messy, nasty, murderous business. If a meat tycoon could sell the same product, made far cheaper in the long run, using plants and a little science, why wouldn’t they?

By the next century, at least, chances are you can stick a fork in the meat business. It may not be done quite yet, but it is certainly bloodied.

COVID-19 Is the First Truly Global Event

For the first time ever, it feels like it’s literally true to say that international news is just news that hasn’t become local yet.

Tourists wearing face masks visit Galata Bridge in Istanbul on March 13, amid the outbreak of COVID-19.
Ozan Kose/Getty Images

There is no one on the planet who remains unaffected by COVID-19. In just a little over four months, the virus has grown from a cluster in one Chinese city to affect every corner of the Earth, from the world’s largest cities to indigenous communities in the Amazon. Every country has at least some cases, except for a few small island nations that have cut off all travel—but even they are suffering the resulting economic shock. As of early April, more than 81 percent of the world’s workers were in countries with full or partial economic shutdowns to contain the virus. We may not yet know how the number of deaths caused by the coronavirus will stack up to previous disasters, how the economic fallout will compare to previous recessions, or what the last political impact will be. But one milestone is becoming clearer: COVID-19 is likely to be remembered as the first truly global event in human history.

“Global event,” in this case, means a distinct occurrence that will be a significant life event for nearly every person on the planet. This is not to say that we’re all experiencing it the same way. Some become ill or lose loved ones; others lose jobs or livelihoods; for others, it’s merely a source of inconvenience or anxiety. And different countries and local governments are responding to the crisis in very different fashions, leading to wildly divergent outcomes for their citizens. But as the writer Anna Badkhen puts it, not since human beings first began spreading across the globe has a single event “affected everyone, on every continent, as instantly and intimately and acutely as the spread of coronavirus, uniting us as we fear and think and hope about the same thing.” It’s the truly global nature of the crisis that French President Emmanuel Macron was referring to when he called the coronavirus an “anthropological” shock.

This truth says as much about the era in which COVID-19 emerged as it does about the virus itself. It was only in the past 500 years that people in all regions of the Earth even became fully aware of one another and in the last 200 that they’ve been able to communicate more or less instantaneously. And it’s this very interconnectedness that allowed the virus to spread so rapidly across the globe. (The Black Death felt like the end of the world to many who experienced it, but more than a century before Columbus, entire continents of people were unaware of it.)

Previous events have had global impact in the past. Billions of lives have been affected by, say, the French Revolution, or 9/11. Contemporaneous writers have made cases for various events as the “shot heard round the world” or Ten Days That Shook the WorldBut these events were not experienced by the entire world at the same time—not even close.

In the 20th century, some events came close. World War II had a global economic and political impact, even in countries that didn’t take direct part in the fighting, but it didn’t dominate public life in much of Africa or Latin America to nearly the same extent as the pandemic. While it was going on, a significant portion of the world’s population could probably go days or at least hours without thinking about it.

The 1918 flu pandemic reached every region of the world but, in part because of wartime information restrictions, was not fully understood as a global event while it was happening. At a time when deaths from infections disease were more common, the extent of the devastation was clear only in retrospect. It left a surprisingly faint cultural impact. By contrast, can you imagine a future book or movie set anywhere in the world in the spring of 2020 that omits mention of the pandemic?

There’s another universal crisis looming over all of our lives: climate change. But the long-term environmental catastrophe is too amorphous to be considered a single event. The philosopher Timothy Morton has coined the term “hyperobject” for phenomena like climate change, things that are too “massively distributed in time and space” for humans to get a mental grip on.

The coronavirus, by contrast, is unique in both its time frame and ubiquity. It’s happening now and it’s happening to everyone.

What’s the significance of this? Well, anyone hoping that a universal threat would result in humankind uniting to overcome their conflicts has been disappointed thus far. If anything, despite the fact that every person on the planet is dealing with the same thing right now, the political institutions are even more fractured than before.

Perhaps a more realistic expectations is that people may change how they view far away events—events like a mysterious virus cluster in Wuhan. Those of us who write about world news are used to making the case that people should care about events that happen in other countries and continents because it could eventually affect them—that political developments in Russia or a drought in Central America can very quickly become a major event in American life. Perhaps after the common experience we’ve all just shared, it will be a little easier to grasp the importance of faraway wars, revolutions, famines, and even “massively distributed” problems like climate change, feel a little more empathy for those directly affected by them, and have a little better sense of how they might soon affect us. For the first time ever, it feels like it’s literally true to say that international news is just news that hasn’t become local yet.  SOURCE