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FRAN ALEXANDER: Catching a wave

Pandemic will subside; climate change promises turbulence by Fran Alexander | August 18, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

"We need to care about each other more."

-- Greta Thunberg, in Rolling Stone


Some of us think in pictures more than in words, which is probably why I prefer reading fiction and listening to songs that tell stories more than working math problems. But sometimes even math can tell a story.

Early motherhood efforts for educating my kiddos led me to learning about Maria Montessori's methods of teaching. She believed we need to use all our senses, if possible, to relay information to our brains, and she developed learning materials that children could see, hear and feel. Having all the options open for routing information and discoveries via the senses to the brain helped reinforce a child's dominant learning tendency, but did not overpower the other senses because all three paths to learning were available, taught and used.

All this is explanation why I, a dominantly visual learner, think of the progression of this viral pandemic to be like ocean waves swelling, cresting and crashing. Like a story plot, the rise of infections in January began to look like a monster wave swelling across the country by March, when many of us took cover. Over the next few months the wave did crest and crash in states like New York and Louisiana while cross currents and riptides engulfed state after state in confusion. Governors and mayors were caught up in turbid whirlpools making decisions one day that proved too little, too late by the next day.

From the chaos of advice hurled by experts about what life preservers to throw to those who had to wade into the maelstrom of essential work, arose the mighty mask. Though not the ideal solution to thwart the spewing of an aerosol of viral particles from one breather to another, the mighty mask seemed to be calming the onslaught of viral waves in some locations. One impatient friend sadly commented to me that, although it'd been over two weeks since the Arkansas governor had issued a public health directive in mid-July for wearing masks, cases had not been dropping.

Sometimes we tend to forget that the log jam had been piling up for months before the mask mandate. It will take a long time for the thousands (millions nationwide) who have been exposed to test free of the virus or to get tested for it at all. If enough masks are worn and we stay apart, this might cut exposure, and those lapsing weeks will shorten.

By not coordinating nationwide requirements and not sticking to the few simple personal ones recommended, we have accumulated a lot of trouble that a couple of weeks on good behavior will not erase. We've clearly shown we do not understand or don't care about the exponential spread of the virus as we continue to provide an endless supply of seemingly willing hosts of all ages in all kinds of locations. To understand how exposures multiply and play a big part in the covid-19 story, these are great links for visual types like me.

On a similar subject, another friend responded to my remark that this upcoming election is the most important one in history by saying she hears that same observation every four years. At that point I reminded her that this June the temperature above the Arctic Circle reached a record 100.4 degrees, and how climate scientists have tried for over 30 years to wake up earth's citizens. Their predictions and global efforts have also come in waves, churning and roiling through denial politics. Decades of missed opportunities automatically have made each new administration the most important yet, because with each election we have lost more time. Worse, under Trump, the environment has been dragged backward and drowned in an undertow of resolutions, executive orders and hatchet men in high places.

In the short term of six months we've had a crash course in the havoc and death a health pandemic can cause. Our long-term response to climate change is just as unplanned and chaotic. The pandemic will eventually subside and the economic collapse will begin to heal, but as ecosystems exponentially collapse from climate change, there will be no redo. Some things are forever. So far, no world leaders have had the courage nor the intelligence to stop this tsunami.

Fran Alexander is a Fayetteville resident with a longstanding interest in the environment and an opinion on almost anything else. Email her at [email protected]


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