October 23, 2020


Joel Nodelman

Deadly 2020 – A Year Of Senseless Selfishness

About the author

Joel is an engineer and risk management specialist with over forty years of professional practice. He is committed to helping his clients achieve climate resiliency and sustainability.

2020 has been deadly. As I prepared for this video, deaths from COVID-19 passed the 1.1 million mark worldwide. We have had almost 9,000 deaths in Canada. But as I have said many times, death rate is only the tip of the iceberg. We’ll feel the ongoing health and economic effects for years. Indeed, these are challenging times.

In the middle of all of this, I hear a lot of chatter about personal freedom, and how the government has no right to take our freedom away. Bluntly, that’s stupid! We do have basic rights and freedoms within the limits of law. But as members of a civil society, we accept constraints on our freedom, because that’s better for everyone.

Deadly Push Back

This issue arises when we impose new rules to control individual behaviour for the greater good. We always see push back. I remember folks refusing to wear seatbelts and bike helmets. They called these rules “nanny state overreach”. I even know folks who stopped wearing seatbelts or bike helmets, on principle, when it became mandatory.

Deadly 2020 - A Year Of Senseless Selfishness

Playing in the Deadly Zone of Forgiveness

Well, if folks balk at adopting behaviours for their own personal protection, it’s orders of magnitude more difficult to expect them to change for the good of others. This is the case with wearing masks for COVID-19. I understand masks mostly protect others, but we all benefit if everyone does it. This is a hard sell.

Playing in the Deadly Zone of Forgiveness

You may ask why I take this so personally. We all like to push boundaries. For example, a little speeding on the road is common. Over time, we gain a sense of that fuzzy zone between the speed limit and where the police will issue a ticket. People get really riled when they get a ticket for speeding in the “forgiveness zone”. Spend a morning in traffic court, and you will see case after case of folks complaining about overzealous enforcement.

With COVID, there is no forgiveness zone. We are still learning about this disease, and it is morphing as we learn. To date, we have been several months behind the curve. This is an urgent crisis and we haven’t caught up.

So, there is no forgiveness zone with COVID-19. Any mistake can cause our friends, neighbours and family lifelong suffering and even death. So, yes, I take it personally. Refusing to take simple steps against a deadly illness is not only irresponsible, it is also selfish and cruel.

Even the Flu Can Be Deadly

I also hear the claims that COVID isn’t any worse than the annual flu. That doesn’t go very far to ease my concerns. The annual flu is still deadly even with treatments and vaccines. With that, comparing COVID with the annual flu is nonsense. We still don’t know enough, don’t have enough data, and don’t understand this pandemic well enough to make such egregious claims.

As a risk management specialist, I urge my clients to do the simple, inexpensive stuff first; the low hanging fruit. And with COVID, we already know what these things are; wash our hands, keep our distance, and wear a mask in public, especially indoors. It mystifies me that folks won't take even these simple steps.

I have heard folks argue that they don’t want to live their lives in fear and panic. Folks have accused me of fear mongering. But I review the risk and take sensible 

Deadly 2020 - A Year Of Senseless Selfishness

Avoid the Deadly - Pick the Low Hanging Fruit

precautions against them. The simple things they encourage us to do for COVID are not expensive, difficult, or terribly inconvenient. Prudent risk management tells me to do them. They can’t hurt and they can go a long way to minimize suffering. This is the low-hanging fruit. This is the easy way to avoid more painful measures like quarantine, isolation and lockdown.

Don't Pull the Deadly Tiger's Tail

There is an old saying, “Don’t pull the tiger’s tail!” Basically, don’t take needless risk. Ignoring advice about masks, physical distancing, and hand washing is pulling the tiger’s tail. It is a sure way to get clawed and scared for life.

Learn  About Climate Negotiation

If you’d like to read about our research on effective climate negotiation, check out the links below. We have developed a self-directed, online course based on our work.

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