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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update 30 June

WHO Situation Report 161 for 29 June (released 30 June Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 10,021,401 confirmed cases (178,328 new), 499,913 deaths (4,153 new)

From my earliest updates I understood that these numbers would escalate exponentially, so that when I was writing single digit numbers I knew very soon it would be double digit numbers, then in the thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and then millions. Knowing and understanding does not translate to being emotionally prepared, and I cannot begin to express how sad I feel every time I write these huge numbers, or when I look back at my report of 11 February and see that there was only 1 death outside of China.

When I began writing these updates it was a very deliberate decision to leave the year off of the date. I knew this was never going to be limited to a 2020 event. I simply had no intention of writing updates beyond the first year of the pandemic because I knew it would be too depressing. My next post will detail my concern for how I believe the pandemic will play out beyond 2020, and what will be the implications for our society.

Graphs from Johns Hopkins University Dashboard. Briefly, as discussed in the previous update, South American countries are on a rapid trajectory, and the lack of leadership in the US is showing up in the top graph with a now clear upward inflection which will get worse and be reflected in the lower graph.

Since my previous update the new outbreak in Beijing which was associated with the finding of the novel coronavirus on cutting boards used for imported salmon in a wholesale food and seafood market has led to China enacting new requirements on imports of processed meats and some other goods. All shipments must be accompanied by certification attesting to freedom from contamination by the novel coronavirus.

I have added to my Youtube videos on COVID-19 food safety in processed meat with several videos on handling specific processed meat in various circumstances, along with a summary video discussing the risks.

Now as I have stated on that video, and elsewhere, I agree that there is ample opportunity for China to use this issue as a technical barrier to trade, firstly because many countries including Australia do that, and because of the fluid nature of geopolitics surrounding China at present. I would suggest that including soy beans (which are primarily used to feed to pigs) in the list of products requiring attestation of freedom from novel coronavirus contamination may hint at this potential. Then again, one possibility that I have not canvassed is the potential for pigs to actually be infected by the virus, and that as a potential reason for why slaughterhouses and processers to be especially impacted, thus the need to be extra careful with the feedstock given to livestock. (I do not know how much research attention has been given to assessing pigs as potential hosts – experimental transmission experiments would need to be carried out in the highest level biosecurity facilities capable of large animal trials, and they are as rare as hens teeth, and this is probably not a high priority for research.) Also, I have inspected seafood processors while working for Biosecurity Australia, though never a salmon processor, and understand these to be highly mechanised and thus likely lower risk due to lesser contact with humans and lower probability of contamination.

Nonetheless, I consider it a favour to the world to highlight the risk of the spread of this pathogen with especially processed meat, and for me the benefits of that outweigh any potential for political interference.

I have been conducting some research on what potential risks all of this pose to Australia in terms of establishing new clusters of infection with imported processed meat. Uncooked meat obviously presents the greatest risk as the novel coronavirus and other similar viruses can survive refrigeration and freezing for prolonged periods, but is quickly inactivated at cooking temperatures.

These are the current biosecurity policies for the importation into Australia of the major forms of uncooked meat for human consumption:

  • Salmon is permitted entry from Canada, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, UK and US processed in those same countries plus Germany, Philippines, Poland, Sweden and Thailand.
  • Pork is permitted entry from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, UK and US if kept under biosecurity/quarantine control until processed at an approved premise.
  • Beef is permitted entry only from Japan and Vanuatu.
  • Uncooked chicken is not permitted entry from any country other than New Zealand and presently it is not allowed from there either.

So it is really only salmon and pork that is imported into Australia in uncooked form from countries that are experiencing severe COVID-19 outbreaks. As I stated above, based on my (albeit limited) experience in inspecting seafood processing facilities I believe that processed seafood represents a lower risk of contamination and thus transmission of the novel coronavirus than larger animals which generally use less mechanisation. On the other hand, the pathway for exposure is direct as people will take the frozen fish home and prepare it for consumption.

The import conditions for uncooked pork state that it must go straight into a quarantine approved premise for further processing. While this does not involve a pathway into Australian homes, obviously the sheer amount of uncooked meat that workers in these premises may come into contact with will increase the risk of transmission to these Australia workers. The list of premises permitted to process imported pork meat is on the agriculture department website, although the list may not be complete as inclusion on the published list is at the discretion of the business. The majority of businesses on the list are in Victoria. I would personally be interested to know whether there are any additional risk management procedures implemented at these facilities, whether they have imported uncooked meat over recent months from impacted overseas processing facilities (it is a condition of import that the premise and date of processing accompany the product on entry to the country), whether workers are undergoing additional testing for the virus (not just general symptoms), and whether workers at any of these facilities have been found positive for the virus.

Moreover, given investigations into the Cedar Meats cluster unearthed the practice of contract workers moving between different processing facilities, something that has been highlighted as a risk for spreading the pathogen, I would suggest that extraordinary care needs to be taken to ensure that workers at these facilities processing imported meat do not contract and spread the novel coronavirus.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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The Great Reset: Teaching What We Left Behind

Have you ever had a “Ratatouille” moment? Like in the animated movie where the food critic is instantaneously transported to a deeply cherished childhood memory when stimulated by an extraordinary event, in that case the first mouthful of a dish that invoked his mother’s ratatouille? 

I have experienced it once in my life, and there are many similarities with the fictional food critic’s experience; I was in France when it occurred, it related to food, and I literally felt the rush back to my childhood as so wonderfully captured in the movie.

In my case I was sitting in a side street near to Place de la Comédie in Montpellier, where I was a research fellow in the laboratory of JR Bonami the PhD supervisor of Dr Shi Zhengli who is a lead scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and was responsible for identifying bats as the original host of the SARS virus and who discovered the coronavirus cause of COVID-19.

The waiter at the small, non-descript bistro had just placed a humble poulet frites (chicken and fried chips) in front of me and as I took my first mouthful I was instantly transported to my childhood and how roast chicken used to be. It was not to any one particular meal – it was a melange of meals lovingly prepared by my mother and grandmothers. As I quietly savoured the chicken I adored the pure taste and the paper thin crisp skin.

That was 20 years ago but the experience remains fresh in my mind. Over the years as I have prepared and consumed chicken I have remembered that moment in Montpellier, and have taken note of the thick skin and underlying fat, and of how immature the chickens have gotten as evidenced by the size of the bones. Watching my children try to each grip a side of the tiny wish bones is akin to two elephants competing to pick up a bar of soap.

Between 1957 and 2005 the growth rate of chickens raised commercially for meat increased by 400% through genetic, nutrition and husbandry advances. Concomitant with this massive increase in growth were marked side-effects including skeletal deformities, metabolic dysfunction and altered immune function. This progress is made stark by this comparative figure taken from that paper.

Age-related changes in size (mixed-sex BW and front view photos) of University of Alberta Meat Control strains unselected since 1957 and 1978, and Ross 308 broilers (2005). Within each strain, images are of the same bird at 0, 28, and 56 d of age. From Zuidhof et al. 2014

Undoubtedly there were other more subtle changes that have occurred progressively but were not detected by consumers, or if they were detected were not sufficient to cause the industry to rethink this progression. 

This is not meant to be criticism of the poultry-raising industry as these advances have allowed chicken to remain an affordable and nutritious meal in developed countries. I am simply saying that these rapid changes in the industry have undoubtedly resulted in changes in the animal which will have resulted in changes in the experience of consuming the animal which we did not notice because it was an iterative process that occurred over many years.

That experience showed me just how much the experience of consuming a roast chicken had changed in my life time, and I had not even realised it until that precise moment in time.


My Italian language teacher and friend recounted a very similar experience recently. She is actually my neighbour in a very small village in Abruzzo, an area of Italy considered one of the most pristine in Europe with almost half its area set aside as national reserves and protected nature reserves. It is estimated that 75% of all extant European species occur naturally in the area including rare species such as the golden eagle, the Abruzzese chamois, the Appenine wolf and the Marsican brown bear.

Our friend relayed how in our small village of only 400 inhabitants they experienced their first true Spring since her childhood 30 some years ago. She said that the light has been wonderful and that nature seems to abound like she had not seen in years, with insects right through to birds much more plentiful. Unsurprisingly many in the village are putting this down to the measures taken in response to COVID-19 and especially the reduced pollution. These are people who truly identify with place as the village existed before the Romans and most do not know of a time when their ancestors came from another region. 

I found these observations especially interesting because this is considered one of the more “untouched” environments in central Europe.

It was clear that our friend was extremely surprised by this and it appeared that what had been lost had not been quite so well understood with clarity. These observations have been reinforced the world over in a project where scientists and artists were able to take advantage of the low ambient noise in the human world to create the first global public sound map of the northern hemisphere spring morning chorus.

The unique events of this year have provided a moment of clarity on many fronts to people from all over the world, and many are expressing a desire to listen and observe their individual and our collective existence both at the physical and spiritual level.


In recent weeks I have come back to Earth somewhat driving my children to and from school. But this is essentially the only thing different to what we have been doing since our family went into lockdown in mid-March.

There is less traffic on the road from less non-school-related driving, although the 3pm drive is with considerable traffic. I have been marvelling at how relaxed I have been feeling while driving after driving only once or twice a week for the previous 2 months. Other drivers, too, seem much more relaxed. Admittedly, it’s early days, but I have not seen anybody driving erratically like the tradie who last year overtook me while continuously honking his horn, with a line of oncoming traffic, at 8.20 am in front of a school of 2,000 children. And I have noticed far fewer people on their devices while driving, though I expect that is only a matter of time.

Over recent years I have expressed increasing frustration at the erratic behaviour of drivers especially around schools, and I must say that most of the risky driving that I witnessed was by parents heading to or having just dropped off their children. People who not only should know better, but who have the most to gain by responsible driving practices around schools.

Admittedly, sometimes this frustration led me to take risks that I should not have, such as when impatient drivers flout road rules meaning that those following the rules would remain stuck in position if they did not counter their aggressive driving by edging out further or quicker to take a turn to cross a busy intersection.

I was not alone in remarking on the increasing speed with which life was being lived throughout the modern world. Often observers who made such observations drew causative links to increased conspicuous and often frivolous consumption, as I did. There was also a likely link to the long standing domestic migration from rural and regional areas to more urban areas and large cities as higher paid jobs attracted white collar workers which in turn necessitated increased infrastructure construction by blue collar workers and other lower skilled services. All of this added to the densification and population pressure in urban life.

Rural areas throughout the world have struggled with population declines, but European countries with strong family and cultural ties over thousands of years have been especially disrupted by this flow of people away from small villages. However, through the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a growing awareness that those strong family and community ties have been a significant advantage to those who live in small villages that are able to limit physical interactions from outside of the village. Moreover, modern communication technology combined with an acceleration in telecommuting for professional workers as a result of the pandemic opens up the opportunity to live remotely, and hints at the potential for a slowing, stabilisation or even a reversal in the trend of increased urbanisation in developed countries.


The point of this article is not to argue or infer that everything was better when I was child, and I do not suggest that anybody would want to take everything back to how things were 50 years ago.

But this moment in time presents humanity with a very significant opportunity to really examine what has occurred over recent decades, and decide what we want to continue to progress towards. In some areas we may want to curtail or redirect our progress, and in some areas we may want to provide additional resources to accelerate our progress.

For instance, I do not suggest that we might want to take our food production entirely back to how it functioned 50 years ago. However, the risks inherent with a highly centralised, mass distribution system for our food supply in many countries must be examined especially in the light of the strains that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on those supplies. Large food markets selling globally sourced products and large industrial meat processing plants have proven especially susceptible to COVID-19 outbreaks amongst workers which threaten food supply. Moreover, centralisation of product from wide geographies for processing and/or wholesale, and then further dissemination, presents a potential risk for the emergence and spread of pathogens.

Already in this pandemic it is clear that globally food supply will be closely examined and modified to address the weaknesses unearthed.

The consumer may also decide that there is more to food miles than just minimising environmental impacts. These might include health and economic benefits from consuming less but higher quality meat produced more sustainably within the community that it is consumed.

Many who have been telecommuting for work may well begin to see a lot of health and social benefits to re-engaging more with their ancestral communities and thus move back to villages.

As I have explained in much of my writing, Elites fear “The Great Reset” because they have prospered from all of these trends that existed before COVID-19 struck, and they have positioned for that to continue. Even disruptions that were on the horizon have accelerated and caught them ill-prepared. The safest strategy for them to maintain their privileged position in society is to use their power to ensure that the ‘game of life’ is returned as quickly and as closely as possible to how it was before the pandemic.

Collectively, however, we have all had a glimpse of the potential for major changes to our lives. In some cases we have remembered what we have left behind without realising it, and in other cases we have learned the potential that innovation provides to change how we live our lives in the most fundamental of ways.

We have all lived stripped-down more simple lives, and many of us have enjoyed it. We have witnessed that the planet, and the animals and plants that we share it with, have enjoyed the space that the drop in human activity has provided, and many have observed the inherent beauty, for example the night sky that has not been witnessed so clearly for many years.

Not everything was better in the past, not by a long shot. But for all of the heartache that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, for all of the harsh impacts on humanity, we all owe it to the victims of the pandemic and to each other to take a long hard look at where things were heading before the pandemic and to be courageous enough to dream of how we want to emerge. 

Regardless of whether we want certain trends reversed, redirected or accelerated, we will need to be prepared to ensure that we have our views heard and acted upon.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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An Education In Equality And Disadvantage

This is powerful… I especially like how she uses the game Monopoly as an analogy to explain disadvantage… In my post “Your Life: Something The Elites Have Always Been Prepared To Sacrifice For Their Ends” I also used a Monopoly analogy, in that case explaining how the top 10% own 7/8 of the board, with just the first 1/8 of the board, with the cheapest properties, and poignantly “income tax”, shared amongst the remaining 90%… As Kimberley Jones explains, African-Americans are mostly at the bottom of that remaining 90% who own nothing on the board, after playing the game for 450 years with the rules biased against them, and most have nothing to lose by flipping the board entirely… I love her final statement to be grateful black people only want equality and not revenge!


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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Builder Stimulus: Continue The Housing Addiction Or Think More (A)Broadly?

We are a family that could potentially make use of the builder stimulus, but I have a natural aversion to these types of measures given what has occurred with previous episodes.

The worst versions of previous economic stimulus, in my opinion, were the ones where the stimulus was capitalised into the price or cost of the purchase or works, and it is not difficult to imagine that occurring in this version. I foresee that there will be a lot of renovation quotes coming in very close to $150,000 – to keep the out of pocket cost after receiving the grant to the minimum of $125,000 – when without the stimulus measure the quote might have been $20,000 less anyhow. It could also lead to increased interest in older homes for renovation or demolition for a new build and thus be capitalised into the purchase price.

As a homeowner I do not find the idea of receiving at best a discount (due to the $25,000 grant) of 16.7% particularly appealing for a number of reasons.

As discussed in posts from mid-February through March, when I realised in early February the consequences of the emerging coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan I placed a number of hedging positions to pay out significantly if/when the pandemic caused the economic impact I feared it would.

The benefit and challenge with these hedges is that they are like an insurance premium on which you continually receive a quote on the value of cashing out. I did collect on the insurance – well before the market bottomed, but given how quick the market moved my return was over 3,000% within 6 weeks.

But here is the thing. I do not have the insurance policy in place any more. And while market movements after the market bottomed, i.e. share prices retracing most of the March losses, suggest that I did well to collect the payout I did, the events that I was hedging against are still very much in play.

The economic impacts of the pandemic are still very much playing out – we already know that our regular family income will be down this year, but it could definitely get worse as employers are busily reviewing operating costs and consequently headcounts. Having zero regular family income within a few months is a definite possibility for us, and this is a current or potential future reality for very many Australian families.

As a country already with an extremely high level of home prices relative to incomes, and thus high household debt, the wisdom of encouraging Australian families to plough even more of their hard-earned, or their anticipated future earnings if they increase borrowings, into their home when our economic future is this uncertain seems to be heaping folly upon prior folly.

I have spoken often about the imprudence of maintaining a housing bubble economy for a decade now in my policy contributions and early in the pandemic I highlighted how this was a particular vulnerability for Australia. Stimulus measures aimed at a continuation of this is not surprising, but it only perpetuates that vulnerability.


The utility of owning our own home and how much we spend on it has been a major intellectual endeavour of mine for 2 decades – having delayed buying a home in Brisbane before we went overseas in January 2001 to cement my future as a leading research scientist in my field, we have been playing catch up ever since and it has focused my attention on making the very best decisions that I can for my family.

That has certainly extended beyond the analysis of when and then the process of buying our family home to how much is appropriate to spend on renovations. A few years back we made a good capital gain from some investments. It was sufficient to either pay down a good portion of our outstanding mortgage or build a deck on our home to capture the views (not just those already on display off the original very narrow verandah, but those we imagined in our minds of us lounging on outdoor furniture as we sip some wine while watching the rugby league in our outdoor living room.)

When we bought our home I told everyone that would listen that, yes, relative to the way the market had been for the prior decade our home purchase did seem like a good buy, because it sits on a nice piece of well-situated land and the home is in good condition for its age, but that we still most certainly overpaid on a long term basis relative to incomes. The benefits of the quality of our land would only really be reaped many years later likely by our benefactors.

As I considered a few years back what to do with the capital gains of that successful investment, the more I thought about sinking more money into our home the more I realised that I would be doing it to achieve that magazine-like image in my head and that it was unlikely to genuinely enhance my family’s lives significantly. 

Given how much was required to purchase a home when we did, and when I considered the cost/benefit of the spend for a deck, I quickly realised that it was not worth it until the value of money to us was significantly less (i.e. until we had a far greater supply of it, if ever). Moreover, by sinking more money into the home we would not significantly reduce our risk – sure it would increase the value of our home, but that would only assist us if we fell into financial difficulty and needed to sell or recapitalise, so that it became someone else’s home.

If an adverse event happens the builder will not take back the renovation and refund the money. Of course the banks are always willing to lend more on an asset if the renovation has increased its value, and critically now, if you have regular income. However, Australians in general already carry very high levels of debt. While we are definitely not levered to the degree that many others are who bought their home in the last decade, our preferred situation would be to be debt free.

So we could not justify the spend on a deck or conducting major renovations on our home. 

We did not decide to pay those funds into our mortgage, however, as we did have an idea which we felt would genuinely enrich our lives proportionately with what we would spend acquiring the separate asset.


For a total cost of half of the minimum out of pocket spend on this renovation stimulus we bought a holiday home, with 4 bedrooms and a wood-fired stove, in a small village in Italy.

Believe it or not liveable homes in the south of Italy can be bought for a total cost (including fees and taxes) of 1/20 of the median-priced Sydney home. Yes that is correct – just 5%. And in doing so you get to experience immersion in a culture that has developed over thousands of years, and have a real and enduring connection with people who authentically value community and relationships above wealth and the other silly symbols that people try to assert their status through luxury homes and cars. 

So if you are fortunate to have $125,000 at your disposal, then I suggest that instead of sinking more into your Australian home you broaden your horizons. With that you can buy a lovely Italian holiday home and have plenty left over to refresh and furnish it (if you need to as many homes are sold furnished), as well as pay for many annual family visits in the years ahead. 

If you do that, you will be adding economic stimulus into a region that has been down on its economic luck for a good while now, but you would not know it by how lovely and friendly and jovial – simpatico – are its resilient people!

If you have read through to this point then this might well make sense to you, and you might like to learn a bit more of our experience (in a highly stylised re-enactment that premiered on US television in January). Note that the home that we decided on in the show is our actual home, and because of our wonderful neighbours the “shocking” walls will be gone by the time we get the chance to visit again. Search “Time to Chill in Abruzzo” and at present the best version on YouTube is the one by “Lili”.

By the way, if we are fortunate enough to get through this pandemic in good health and with our financial security in tact, well lets just say that the theme of our house hunt with me wanting some land for fruit and olive trees, and grape vines is accurate, and we might just be looking to make another dream come true. I do like the sound of “Edgo’s Olio” and “Edgo’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo”.

My overall point is this – before you go ploughing more resources into your current existence, which may limit your future options, do not be afraid to think out of the box on what is possible for you and your family. I do not suggest for a moment that our choices will appeal to everyone. But perhaps there are other things that will genuinely enrich your life if you have the courage to dream. After all, that is what “The Great Reset” is all about…


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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Trump Aims To Be President Beyond 2024

I recall voicing concern about the encroachment of American culture in Australia during discussions with fellow students while I was studying for my PhD. I would suggest that when I was a child in each suburban street there would be many kids out playing cricket, but that every second house seemed to have erected a basketball hoop over their driveway instead.

Some colleagues agreed while others considered it normal that in societies culture is forever changing.

While nowadays I am far less concerned about the drift in popular culture – my own sons love basketball and I am in no way keen to encourage them to play the sport that I excelled at as a lad, rugby league – my concerns about American influence in Australia have grown.

My concerns extend to how Australian elected politicians seek to find favour by supporting all American Presidents in any manner of activities and conflicts no matter how ill-conceived, to the creep towards a more individualistic, selfish and generally competitive society, and the related encroachment into family life by work life and concomitant growth in conspicuous consumerism. And of course the culmination of all of those trends in growing inequality in English-speaking countries and little progress at addressing global inequality.

Not all of this can be sheeted home to American culture, admittedly, because cultural change is effected by perception and reflection which inter-relate in a cycle of progression. However, there is no doubt that America has become the greatest promoter of their own culture, and their hegemonic status in the world for over half a century has meant that they have developed the tools to see that promotion diffuse across the entire globe like no earlier culture.

Now we have the emergence of a sleeping Asian power that historically knows that it has a right to be respected on the global stage. Middle country powers, like my own, are caught between having benefited economically from the emergence of China, but not wanting to get off side with America now that its President has decided that China’s emergence could not continue in the way it had been allowed over the previous two decades.

In “Hands Off My Chinese ‘Tanas” I was clear in my views that my respect and care for Chinese people led me to agree that the autocratic leaders of China needed to be made to understand that the western world would not choose mutually beneficial financial development if the Chinese people, and especially minorities within the country, did not also benefit from their economic development.

Since writing that piece the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be the most significant acute crisis to confront humanity in recent decades. These two global powers have chosen two very different approaches to dealing with the pandemic. 

If we look objectively at who has better protected their citizens through the pandemic, it is a difficult argument to make that America has done better than China.

This, at a time when China is attempting to validate an emerging role as a genuine global leader, is not helping the American effort in convincing global humanity that they are worthy “leaders of the free world”.

Perhaps an America led by Donald Trump is of the opinion that power and strength is the only thing that matters, and that other nations will fall into line out of fear if not respect.

However, as the cliché goes, this is a battle for hearts as well as minds in the world, and if America fails to find compassion – first for Americans – then the days of America leading the world, and all of the benefits that it garners from that privileged position, are numbered.

It is into this volatile environment in which another galvanising incident has occurred – the brutal murder of George Floyd, an African American, by a policeman with a history of racist violence.

Still Trump, whose political backers are affiliated with the Alt-Right, refuses to act as a soothing and conciliatory voice to all Americans.


In my views on Trump which I made publicly elsewhere, and reprinted in “Thoughts on Trump“, I stated that I had a concern that Trump’s electoral ambitions likely extend beyond two terms. Everything that has been learnt about him as President and everything that has occurred since making that statement has further convinced me of it.

The geopolitical and domestic manoeuvres of the Trump Administration do appear superficially to be erratic and consistent with a decision-maker whose persona is closer to a childish impetuous bully rather than a calm and thoughtful leader. However, I have come to consider much of it to be part of a consistent and calculated longer term strategy to create a febrile environment to advance a radical and divisive agenda. 

To be clear, Trump was never quiet about his intentions to turn America on its head. However, right from his first signalling of his intention to run for President, commentators have underestimated him and his backers, and the depth and scale of the change that he and they aim to achieve may well be equivalent to only a few pivotal moments in American history.

In order to upend the tradition of American Presidents being limited to serving two terms which is enshrined in the 22nd Amendment to the American Constitution, extraordinary conditions would need to prevail. 

If my views are accurate, around midway through his second term Trump will begin to use his social media channels to begin to foment for a longer stay in the White House. He will point out how America has become unstable and that he is the only “man” strong enough to deal with these tensions, and his supporters will not question his role in stoking those tensions.

Geopolitically Trump will point out that Xi in China, Putin in Russia, Khamenei in Iran, al Assard in Syria, et al., are all long term leaders who essentially will be there for as long as they wish. He will suggest that the stability in the leadership of America’s adversaries, while American political administrations can not extend beyond 8 years, cedes a significant advantage to them.

I believe that Trump is intentionally making the world a more dangerous place to argue to his faithful, many of whom are quick to become aggressive, that America needs stability at the top to lead the country against these adversaries who are becoming “increasingly unstable and aggressive”.

It is difficult to avoid a conclusion that contemporary Americans are presented with similar choices to that which German people confronted almost a century ago, and it is to be hoped that enough Americans of strong character think things through enough to realise that they do not want to spend the remainder of their lives justifying their actions or inactions like surviving Germans felt the need to do.

I would also caution that can definitely extend to allies of America because I well remember how my Finnish friends said that they would not join with me in visiting the Dachau concentration camp (for the first of many visits I made there) because of feelings of guilt and complicity in those atrocities as they were allies of the Nazis.

Eighteen months ago I decided that I did not wish to give my family’s capital to businesses which ultimately contribute to the emergence of an autocratic power which has a poor history of showing compassion for its own people. Having a focus on people and humanity, events during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused me to question my perceptions about the emerging cold war between these two powers.

I would be hypocritical if I continued to allocate my family’s capital to businesses which benefit the perpetuation of a hegemonic power that has lost its way so grievously.

Ironically the path back for America is shown in the Fourth Inauguration Speech of the last President to serve more than two terms. It does seem like a long road back, but it is always darkest before dawn.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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My Dream

My dream is to live in a world where all human life is valued equally, where we are measured by the love and goodness in our hearts and the authentic deeds we do for others, not by the size of our house, the elegance or speed of our car, or the label on our clothes.

Let celebrating the real heroes of the pandemic be our start;

Valuing all human life above economic activity remain our present; and

The future is for us all to determine together.

I am for a united humanity!


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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Your Life: Something The Elites Have Always Been Prepared To Sacrifice For Their Ends

Although unknown by most who play it, Monopoly was invented as an education tool to demonstrate the pitfalls of wealth being concentrated amongst a few.

It was designed to be a warning of the danger of ‘Monopoly’!

The history of the western world’s most popular board game is fascinating, especially in how it mirrored reality including in the events surrounding how it came to be so widely loved and the wealth it created. Parker Brothers, who marketed the game and brought it to global prominence, still to this day does not acknowledge Lizzie Magie’s role in the game’s origins.

Lizzie Magie developed the game, which she called “The Landlord’s Game”, at the beginning of the twentieth century. Now early in the twenty-first century it still explains much of the behaviours within society, and it remains “a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences… It might well have been called the ‘Game of Life’, as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seem[s] to have, i.e., the accumulation of wealth” as it did then.


To suggest to an anxious and emotionally taught public that the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel is close is irresponsible in the extreme.

Yesterday I heard an Australian restaurateur enthusiastically discussing the 3-step plan to reopen the Australian economy and he used this same analogy. All I could think of was this poor fellow mistaking daylight for the light of a fully laden freight train.

The Elites use the same repertoire of tools in a crisis to frighten the public into believing that there is no other option but to return the ‘Game of Life’ as closely as possible to how things were before the crisis.

Of course they would do that. That is the ‘game’ they know best. In fact they came to know it so well, including through intergenerational wealth and power, that they have come to control or even own the game.

Lets take what occurred in the global financial crisis (GFC). Through the rampant greed of a few, investment products dreamt up on Wall Street created a deluge of debt down to Main Street so that anybody with a pulse could get a loan to turn a necessity of life – a home – into a speculative asset and with it the dream of a better future for the budding speculator on Main St. Of course what I describe is a classic bubble and they have a nasty habit of bursting, which is exactly what happened in the US in 2006. As the value of those speculative assets – homes – fell, the value of the products created and traded on Wall Street fell such that the financial viability of financial institutions around the world trembled. Indeed, long-standing investment firms collapsed whilst others were forced to merge. 

As the value of their homes fell, and with the economic shock emanating from Wall Street reverberating, many people on Main Street lost their homes as well as chunks of their retirement savings and the ensuing recession cost many their jobs. 

But it was not those people on Main Street, who were so directly disadvantaged, who received assistance. Instead the bankers who created the problematic products, and had earlier lobbied for the removal of regulations which would have prevented the egregiousness that caused the bubble, were bailed out by Governments. And no sooner had the cash come in their front door from the Government did the bankers turn around and give themselves rewards and incentive bonuses. 

Meanwhile Central Bankers around the world continued to flood the globe with liquidity, from their own dreamt up manoeuvres, to keep aloft asset prices especially stock market values. 

It is hardly surprising, then, that inequality between the owners of capital – the already wealthy – and the providers of labour – the workers who have little else to trade other than their own hourly labour – has continued to increase. 

Effectively what happened in the GFC, as in other financial collapses, is that the ‘game’ became so out of balance that it collapsed under it’s own weight. 

Imagine a Monopoly board in 2007 tipping under the weight of all of the hotels on the expensive half of the board, from the red properties to the royal blue ones, so that everything was sliding off the board. Immediately those who owned all of the hotels said they realised that they made an error in being so greedy, but they needed the (central) banker to get things back to ‘normal’ and support that side of the board so the game can continue safely. So everyone scrambled and lifted that side of the board and quickly put all of those hotels back in place. And for good measure the (central) banker paid them a few times over for a job well done. Meanwhile, the people in the cheapest properties lost their houses and were set back enormously.

Nothing demonstrates this truth better than this graph from the US Federal Reserve which demonstrates clearly that the only group of Americans back ‘in the green’ after the GFC is the most wealthy 10% (‘Top 10’). Moreover, this group experienced the least set back to their wealth during the GFC, besides the least wealthy Americans (‘Bottom 30’) who own few assets which went backwards in value, but who remained 31% less wealthy in 2016 than in 2007!

From A Wealthless Recovery? Asset Ownership and the Uneven Recovery from the Great Recession a report by the Board of Governors of the (US) Federal Reserve

Already in the economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic there are signs that wealthy Americans are benefitting disproportionately which creates a perception that it is always ‘Heads we win, tails you lose‘.

In my post “The Magic Sauce of American Economic Dynamism Is Not Based On Personal Greed” I laid out my arguments for why such personal greed is not integral to the capitalist system of which America is upheld as the pinnacle, rather it is a malaise of wealth which serves to weaken society and thus the capitalist system.

Actions by Elites, including the bankers, politicians and senior bureaucrats (including Central Bankers), which have led directly to increasing inequality within societies, only serve to weaken trust in institutions.

Thus humanity confronts major challenges which threaten our sustainability on Earth from a weakened and non-cohesive position. It is in this fertile ground where populists with extreme views and emerging powers advance their interests.


The COVID-19 pandemic is fast-evolving and the consequences apparent already are devastating, but that does not stop some from continuing to try to downplay its significance. Another challenge, the climate crisis, is more serious but to this point has evolved less rapidly which allows some to downplay its consequence and even its very existence in the face of significant evidence and the intellectual weight of the scientific community. 

In large part it is exactly the same actors who seek to dismiss or downplay the need for action on both crises.

The increase in inequality in developed countries is seen as a prime reason for the growth in populist politics. In the United States and the United Kingdom the top elected representatives presently are Caucasian men with similar backgrounds and political playbooks, born into immense privilege but having convinced a heartland of the most financially disadvantaged that they offer them a brighter future by scapegoating migrants and anybody or any organisation working towards a more united humanity. The current Australian conservative Government under PM Morrison uses a very similar playbook.  

In the companion post to this, “Toxic Masculinity and Political Footballs“, I discussed how the elected officials of the major Anglophone countries have created a great deal of momentum towards re-opening economies while COVID-19 remains poorly understood in their communities, and what is known of it is devastating.

For these conservative Caucasian men the answer is always more economic growth, and suppression of any questioning over what is the quality of life experienced by broader society from that growth and how sustainable is it.

These same men, who apparently care about mental health in society during crises, but do not recognise that mental health has long been deteriorating in Western societies, never give credit to the opportunity to work on the deeper causes of this with the aim of improving the underlying mental health of populations.

They cannot do that because they continually promote ‘aspiration’ which is a synonym for competing in a never ending cycle of one-up-manship which we all implicitly understand is a zero sum game because no matter how rich we become, there is always somebody who has more wealth, unless you are Jeff Bezos… for the moment…

There are some Elites that I can respect and even admire – they are those who authentically understand the privilege that they have enjoyed, usually from birth by virtue of the luck of being born in a developed country or into middle class even if they consider themselves ‘self-made’, as well as respect and appreciate relationships with other human beings especially the people who loved and guided them.

Steve Schwarzman is a quintessential Elite and to some a hero of capitalism, or more specifically, the way it is currently practised. Schwarzman is enormously wealthy and by virtue of this wealth he is one of the most powerful men in the contemporary world. I recently watched his interview with David Rubenstein on Bloomberg Television. Now in his 70s, in modern parlance Schwarzman would still be described as being extremely goal-oriented and driven, almost the definition of ‘aspiration’. If you measure life success in terms of wealth accumulation, while there are a few that still have an edge on him, his personal wealth would equate to the cumulative wealth of quite a few million of the poorest of our 7+ billion contemporary human beings.

In discussing his formative years with Rubenstein, Schwarzman did not seek to disguise his lack of appreciation for, or even understanding of, his parents’ station in life. His mother was devoted to the family as a housewife. The family owned a retail shop in Philadelphia which his father ran successfully. Schwarzman told Rubenstein the story of him being a young man suggesting to his father that the success of his business suggested that he could take the store concept nationally. His father said he did not want to do that. He then suggested he could develop a strategy to open new stores throughout the state, to which his father again stated he was not interested. Finally he suggested that his father open more stores throughout the city. His father told him no, he was content and happy with what he has. Schwarzman shook his head saying that he could just not understand his father. The story was meant to be an indication of how a lack of aspiration was essentially the antithesis of Steve Schwarzman’s very existence.

How very sad…. for Steve… that he is blind to his own impoverishment.

I wonder whether Joseph and Arlene Schwarzman knew another quietly influential Philadelphian, Lizzie Magie, or at least learned the lessons of her game which they may well have played in their youth? Or perhaps it is just a strong indication of the change in American culture post 60’s as I discussed in “The Magic Sauce of American Economic Dynamism Is Not Personal Greed“.


In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, right now people are scared and they are training their hopes and trust on institutions and officials. Popularity of elected officials is (or has been) high but electorates will become more discriminate in their opinions as the shock of their altered existence subsides. 

As I explained in “Politics Vs Society in the COVID-19 Pandemic“, it is never possible to totally remove politics from decisions and actions by officials. As would be expected at such times, there has been a range of responses – some of these trusted sources are acting responsibly and less politically, while others are using the COVID-19 pandemic as a crisis to advance their own political agendas. 

In “The Great Reset” I discussed how major events that affect large swathes of society typically result in significant changes in the psyche of citizens, and such changes threaten incumbent Elites because they controlled the ‘game’ as it stood.

Right now there is an extraordinarily heavy weight pressing down on the centre of that Monopoly board. In early March this pressure was suddenly recognised and positions began sliding into the centre.  Global efforts by Central Bankers have, however, supported the centre of the board and the Elites are busy sliding their property and other wealth back into position and making arrangements to keep them in position.

To be clear, from my first comments on the economic impacts in my 11 February Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update and in “Repeat After Me, This Is Not SARS: COVID-19 Is Far More Serious” I said that I expected Central Bankers to try “absolutely extraordinary actions (as opposed to the already ‘extraordinary’ actions that we have become desensitised to over the decade)”, and further suggested that while I was concerned about their continual inclination to ‘over-egg’ markets by doing too much and creating moral hazard – which they have never tried to redress by ‘removing the punch bowl’ – I felt that a financial panic on top a health panic was to be avoided.

Nonetheless, critically the response should be aimed at smoothing the transition to prices reflecting the nature of the challenge confronting humanity and thus businesses, not acting like it does not at all exist!

At the same time those playing the ‘game’ are becoming unwell, some are dying, others dealing with the pain of loss of a loved one, but all grieve the loss of their former freedoms.

True to type and form, the Elites want the board supported at all costs so that the ‘game’ can continue even if it means more players suffering personally devastating impacts. 

Presently there is no better example of this than what is being played out in meat processing plants in America where President Trump has ordered them to stay open even though workers in such plants have been dying of COVID-19 and many are afraid to work, and COVID-19 is spreading quicker in areas where there are major meat processing plants suggesting that it is a high risk factor. The move listed meat processing as an essential service and protects the industry from legal liability should more workers become infected.

The inescapable reality is that 90% of those in the ‘game’ are sharing the resources from just the first 5 squares after “Go”, the least valuable 1/8 of the board, and every time they round the board, after they pay out the rents to the Elites, they keep going backwards.

Sometimes they pay with their life. Then again, their life has always been something that Elites have been prepared to sacrifice to meet (or meat?) their ends.

The memory of the wealthy being bailed out during the last collapse is fresh, as is the sting of how their own lives were negatively impacted, so Elites need to try even harder to give the appearance of the bailout not being tilted so heavily in their favour. 

Then again, greed is such a serious malaise, and well everyone knows that political science, with its modern social media tools, has reached such an advanced state that the 90% will feel powerless to do anything other than accept the situation as inevitable, right?

Maybe…

Then again, human history is full of kids flipping the board while playing Monopoly against others who own all of the wealth of the board, especially when it is realised that the banker is slipping favoured players extra money for nothing and all of the “cards of chance” in the game have been intentionally tilted to favour the landlords.

The Elites know this well, and are aware that this risk is growing. 

But greed is such a powerful malaise!

And power affords a lot of protection, right?


What I advocate is not a ‘flipping’ of the board, which some might equate with revolution, or anything near it, because that entails more loss in and of itself, and there is a wide range of possible outcomes with a great deal of uncertainty as to whether we will arrive at a place that is better.

But we do need a peaceful revolution to readjust the ‘game’ to make it much more fair and that requires resolute and sustained society-wide engagement.

Having just watched Warren Buffett’s entire 2020 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting I was, as I often am, in total agreement that conditions have improved (not just in America but throughout the developed world) over the last century. Buffett’s comments around diversity in his introductory comments were welcome, even if the related motion did not carry. (Sadly this topic was not discussed in the Q&A.) 

Moreover, due not just to his success but because of his patent authentic humanity, Buffett has become the cheerleader of prominence for American capitalism which, as I discussed in “The Magic Sauce of American Economic Dynamism is Not Based on Personal Greed“, has taken on a very hard edge in recent decades. Sadly Buffett bypassed the opportunity to take this on and instead largely concentrated on historic diversity and inequality.

Still Buffett’s clear views that there remains much to do to improve American society around these issues, as perhaps the best known “proponent” of capitalism, were incredibly valid and valuable.

I am a great admirer of John Lennon and I, too, am a pacifist. However, we have learned in history that when we are entirely passive then the aggressive actors within our societies will push all of their favourable positions back in place and with growing inequality, as discussed by many others including Ray Dalio, probably the highest profile hedge fund manager at present, we all risk a much more disruptive response in the future.

The Great Reset” provides us all with an opportunity to dream of a world that we want for ourselves and the people we love most, and ponder how we can realistically bring that to fruition, not instantaneously but with enduring commitment and innovation.

Goodness knows humanity has proven to itself, once again, even still in the early stages of this pandemic, that human ingenuity and endeavour is without limits.

My general optimism in humanity means that, even while often pessimistic (or realistic) about issues over the short term, I am often considered a dreamer on the big picture.

It is a badge that I wear proudly, for I know that I am not the only one. In fact, we are the majority.

Let’s get to work, in our minds, our hearts and in our actions, and claim that luminous future for all.

The alternate path is dark and disturbing for everyone including the Elites, as I have spelled out in “Xenophobia Must Be Challenged For An Effective Response To Climate Change Inclusive Of Human Population Growth“, “The Conundrum Humanity Faces: But Nobody Admits“, “Investment Theme: Defence and Military Spending” and “Let’s Wage War On Climate Change“.

Nobody should think for a second that our success is inevitable. There is no doubt that the Elites are going to make it so that we have to earn it.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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Toxic Masculinity and Political Footballs

As of writing on 11 May the Cedar Meats cluster of COVID-19 cases numbers at least 75 (it is difficult to confirm exact numbers) with at least 59 of those being people who have worked in the facility. According to the business operators around 400 people have worked there recently, so that means that around 15% of workers have been infected. The remainder of cases are contacts (family and friends) of the workers.

I found the press statement and video from Cedar Meats to be emotional, and I feel for the owners as well as the workers and their families.

The emotion is there because it is continually stressed that Cedar Meats is a “family business”, and of course the emotion contained in that is entirely within the adjective and what we all personally value in “family”.

The events around this cluster have become extremely political as Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has shown an inclination to pressure the Federal Government in the COVID-19 pandemic to act with greater caution. In recent days there has been discussion about whether the Victorian Government and the business acted as it should have when it was informed. It now appears that it took the business a few days to respond.

I know nothing about the business, and there have been some reports of prior worker dissatisfaction, which if true would be disappointing, but I would suggest that it is perhaps understandable that it took the business managers a couple of days to come to grips with the gravity of the situation. After all, it took Prime Minister Morrison a long time to accept it and act – his assertion that he would attend the first round of the NRL, only to have to go into self-isolation when Peter Dutton was confirmed to be infected, will long be remembered.

It is a real shame when ordinary people and families get caught in the middle of political stoushes. And just like our Federal Government and the US Federal Government should not deflect attention from their own shortcomings by questioning the actions of others in this pandemic, which made a geopolitical football of my friend Dr Shi Zhengli, unfortunately the need of the Morrison Government to sling some mud at Dan Andrews has meant that this family business has been collateral damage.

For me, the Cedar Meats outbreak is incredibly instructive. It is a clear demonstration of just how quickly this pandemic can reignite in cool conditions favourable for virus spread. It also demonstrates the clear potential for clusters of infected people to exist in our community right now undetected

The emotions around the incident, obviously heightened even further due to politicisation, goes to the heart of juxtaposition between economic and human cost and why we should all want as few people to be infected by COVID-19 as is possible.

From early on in the pandemic, before it was even named a pandemic, I wrote about the conflict between economic and human cost that decision-makers would experience.

I have to admit that when I wrote that post I envisaged only countries with a strong ability to coerce ordinary citizens to take risks with their lives in order to “produce” for the greater good, i.e. those under autocratic governments, or poor countries where the citizens will otherwise starve, would largely open up with the virus still circulating.

I profess to being surprised and utterly disappointed by especially the Anglophone elected officials for working at coercing people to “produce” in spite of persistent community transmission of COVID-19 and my view on the reasons for this will be the subject of my next post.

For this post I wish to just concentrate on the devastating impacts of the disease, the deaths and financial stress that it places people under, and of course, how the politics around these are playing out.


From early on in the pandemic, the right wing elected officials (yes, I remain resolutely averse to calling them leaders because they are not) of the major Anglophone countries continually shirked measures needed to arrest the spread of COVID-19 for fear of the economic consequences, and even some scientists or medical officials felt the need to speak of their concerns over economic impacts although such issues are well beyond the scope of their expertise.

In an effort to counteract growing concern for “human costs” as the loss of life and impacts on families directly from COVID-19 became apparent globally, those inclined to prioritise higher minimising economic costs began to emphasise that there are human costs to economic impacts (which is something that I stated would occur in my early writings).

This is an esoteric and rather nebulous area that makes definitive arguments in either direction challenging – which is perfect for political purposes.

Last week, however, The Conversation ran an article which found that in an Australian context measures towards eliminating COVID-19 were overwhelming supported on the basis of an analysis of human costs. That is, “far fewer lives would be lost by continuing restrictions than would be lost by ending them now”.

By inference, that means that far fewer Australian families, be they business owners, workers, or retirees, will be torn apart by the loss of loved-ones.

Of course economics do have a relationship to health and death in rich developed countries as well as developing, and while the devastation of that has been exposed in the COVID-19 pandemic, it has always been obvious to those prepared to acknowledge it. All one had to do to confirm it was watch a documentary on inequality in the United States to see families torn apart by financial hardship placed on them due to sickness of one or several family members.

The point is this, when confronted with the loss of a loved-one families are prepared to do whatever it takes, to bear whatever economic cost is entailed, for a chance to save that person.

So here is the question, say in 3 years hence, when the pandemic has passed, if we went to the families that lost loved ones with COVID-19 and asked them then what they would have preferred priority given to, economic activity or to saving lives, what do you think they will say?

The advantage that politicians seeking to prioritise the economic impacts above human costs have is that the families that will be impacted do not yet know it…

The elected decision-makers of the major Anglophone countries, Australia included, have approached the pandemic with the same mindset – to minimise impacts on the economy, even if that meant large numbers of people dying, and try to supress the political pressure to save lives for long enough to ensure that the pandemic has progressed to a point of no return, where elimination with stringent biosecurity and restrictions was no longer possible.

The problem that PM Morrison has, from his way of thinking, is that COVID-19 did not spread widely from imported cases, quite likely due to lower transmissibility due to it being summer, and the political surge to clamp down on the pandemic – having seen what occurred in the northern hemisphere – meant that our response was reasonably effective and thus we have seen a low expression of the disease within our population.

Now Morrison does not wish to be patient and throw everything at elimination because he wants to ease impacts on the economy as soon as possible.

For Morrison, the chance of eliminating the coronavirus from Australia, and therefore ensuring very low human impacts of it on our society compared with many northern hemisphere countries, is outweighed by the economic consequences of keeping the economy closed for another let’s say 2 months to eliminate the coronavirus. So Morrison, together with some elements of press similarly active in other major Anglophone countries, i.e. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has created a great deal of momentum around re-opening the economy and an expectation of greater freedom of movement and interaction within the population which ties that momentum to significant political risk for State politicians, such as Dan Andrews in Victoria, to counteract.

There is not doubt in my mind that if Australia goes on to experience a severe pandemic in winter 2020 then, just as has been stated that Trump is culpable in deaths of Americans, so too will Morrison be culpable in the deaths of Australians.

The warped and deterministic logic within the momentum to open up the economy that the Morrison Government has generated is encapsulated within the following irony:

the price I must pay for there being more people at my funeral is the increased chance of me dying much earlier than otherwise in a hospital alone!

Before concluding I will just provide a few extra thoughts on impacts on Australian families of stringent social distancing/isolation measures in addition to what was discussed in that article in The Conversation discussed above.


I have been giving a great deal of thought to the impacts on Australian families and in many ways this post can be seen as a companion to my next which I have now chosen to entitle “Your Life: Something The Elites Have Always Been Prepared to Sacrifice For Their Ends” instead of setting a more optimistic tone.

Firstly I would suggest that some people actually feel better under the lockdown conditions, as has been written about in various places, such as people with some specific anxieties and phobias, and isolation within society is not uncommon and some may actually be less isolated under these altered conditions. Moreover, introverts are not rare in society and many will be quite fine with a certain level of solitude.

Being a stay at home parent, and specifically a male, I lead a reasonably isolated existence, so I would count myself in this category of those who are certainly no worse off in mental health terms than when not under stringent social isolation measures. I would also say that there is at least one other person in my immediate family who was experiencing extreme pressure before these stringent measures were introduced, and I believe that this period of family togetherness has been a net benefit to this person. The other two members of my immediate family have expressed no deleterious impacts on their mental health and have settled in to their new normal well after the initial grieving process. What was key to this was giving honest messages that this is unlikely to be solved quickly and we may need to maintain isolation for an extended period.

I note that Morrison said similar things BEFORE reluctantly agreeing to the introduction of stringent isolation measures, but of course that changed at the first sign of success at limiting the number of new cases.

Of others that I know well, including extended family, while their clear preference would be for things to return to conditions before the pandemic, to a person they agree that the sacrifices involved in stringent measures are worthwhile and they show no signs of negative impacts thus far while one other close family member with ongoing mental health issues has probably improved.

Furthermore, I believe I would not be the only one whose heart has been warmed by seeing all of the families walking around together in the early evening. It is not difficult to imagine that families that manage and are fortunate to not experience severe direct impacts from this pandemic may well be enriched by the time spent together and I imagine that many children will be enjoying a great deal more attention from adults which will have positive long-term benefits and easily outweigh any moments of frustration that all parents feel when taking on additional parenting tasks such as additional responsibilities with schooling.

I do understand, however, that some will be worse off under stringent isolation measures but what I am pointing out is that there is always a spectrum regardless of what conditions prevail.

To be clear in no way do I discount the impacts of financial hardship on families because it is something I understand well. However, it is also important to note that at least some of that hardship can be lessened by Government, not just by temporary measures, but by strong leadership and with long term commitments.

What do I mean by that? Every thinking person realises that the issue of automation and/or artificial intelligence replacing jobs, along with the proliferation of “Bullshit Jobs”, has been creating additional worker anxiety and that needs to be addressed. The introduction of a Universal Basic Income seems to many to be inevitable, and clearly what has already happened around the developed world in responding to COVID-19 may well be the start.

If leaders begin to discuss this openly then that will ease some of the pressure on the unemployed, understanding that this is a shift that will happen anyway and critically that support is not temporary. Moreover, that does not preclude people from upskilling to get a higher paying job even if the number of hours worked is less than what we currently consider is employed full-time.

I appreciate that this is a discussion that is unlikely to hit the mainstream with the current elected decision-makers in the major Anglophone countries, who prefer to sell the mantra of never ending “aspiration”, but leading in a way that says that wealth accumulation is not the most important yard stick for success in life, in fact that it is a poor one, would be invaluable.

Again, any thinking person knows that mindless consumption on a planet with finite resources is entirely unsustainable and must be addressed.

Finally, leaders could create a far more a positive attitude by encouraging people to dare to rethink how we live life, instead of insisting that we must risk a “snap back” to exactly the way things were before, so that when we can come back out of this we can make things better than before. Of course a major impediment to this is that powerful vested interests are very satisfied with the way things were, thank you very much.

So it is clear that there most definitely are different approaches to handling this pandemic to those with the mental acuity to consider alternate approaches.


Unfortunately, in my opinion, PM Morrison is hell bent on opening up our economy as soon as possible regardless of what new information emerges domestically or internationally.

We were fortunate to have a second chance at eliminating COVID-19 from Australia after PM Morrison dithered on closing the borders to international travellers in February and early March. I strongly doubt that we will be fortunate enough to be able to say “third time lucky”.

Saving lives minimises impacts on families and as the experience of the family business Cedar Meats shows, families are at the centre of everything that is important to us human beings, including PM Morrison who took his family on a holiday during the unprecedented Australian bushfires this past summer.

Now PM Morrison has Australian families on a collision course with severe impacts from COVID-19. He cajoles family leaders, the parents whose focus is most intently trained on the protection of their children and/or their elderly parents, to get out from under the doona.

This is toxic masculinity at its most virulent to intimate cowardice toward anybody who would wish to continue to lead their family to shelter in place until the path of the COVID-19 pandemic as Australia enters winter is more clear. This is a message to other males to shame them in their caution, essentially inferring that any male is gutless and not a real man if he continues to choose to shelter in place with family. It is a message that does not respect individual choice or recognise that we all have different attitudes to risk and risk tolerance. And by putting schools front and centre in the debate it puts cautious Australian families on a path to anxiety and conflict with State Governments over obligations to send children to school while there is emerging evidence of spread and serious disease in children associated with infection by this coronavirus.

Again, this is not leadership befitting the actions of the elected top decision-maker of a nation.

It is not leadership at all. It is weakness. It is dumb. It is careless and heartless. Most of all, it is dangerous.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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Institution At Heart Of Capitalist System Links Severe Pandemic Affects To Growth In Extremism

Studying the rise of Nazism in Germany, this new report by Kristian Blickle at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York draws a link between those regions worst affected by the 1918 flu pandemic and increased extremist voting.

The source of the work is critical. It is not a left-wing thinktank that can be attacked on partisan lines as being radical. It comes out of an institution at the very heart of capitalism, no less than one of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks of The United States of America.

I recommend readers to take in the full work, but extract the following key quotes to whet the reader’s appetite:

Introduction

…influenza deaths of 1918 are correlated with an increase in the share of votes won by right-wing extremists, such as the National Socialist Workers Party (aka. the Nazi Party), in the crucial elections of 1932 and 1933… (Page 1)

following Voigtländer and Voth (2012a), we show that the correlation between influenza mortality and the vote share won by right-wing extremists is stronger in regions that had historically blamed minorities, particularly Jews, for medieval plagues… Moreover, the disease may have fostered a hatred of “others”, as it was perceived to come from abroad. An increase in foreigner/minority hate has been shown by Cohn (2012) or Voigtländer and Voth (2012a) to occur during some severe historical plagues. Regions more affected by the pandemic may have gravitated towards political parties aligned with anti minority sentiment… (Page 3)

Voigtländer and Voth (2012a) and Voigtländer and Voth (2012b) highlight the importance of antisemitism in driving extremist voters. Importantly, they show how persistent certain sentiments, especially those pertaining to hate of “others” (such as antisemitism), can be. (Page 4)

Conclusions

We show that the deaths brought about by the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 profoundly shaped German society going forward… we also show that influenza deaths themselves had a strong effect on the share of votes won by extremists, specifically the extremist national socialist party. This effect dominates many other effects and is persistent even when we control for the influences of local unemployment, city spending, population changes brought about by the war, and local demographics or when we instrument for influenza mortality. The same patterns were not observable for the votes won by other extremist parties, such as the communists. Our results are striking in part because they are robust to a large battery of alternate specifications despite being based on a relatively small sample

This adds another layer of complexity to decisions on opening up economies in spite of the presence of COVID-19 in communities and thus increasing the affects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moreover it adds empirical underpinning to what many of us have long understood and which formed the underlying theme of my first paper on COVID-19, “Social Cohesion: The Best Vaccine Against Crises“, and which informs all of my writing on MacroEdgo.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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COVID-19 and Food Safety in Processed Meat

Australia and the world must proceed cautiously with COVID-19

One of these diametrically opposite statements is correct. Which one is it?

A) Freezing is a common method to kill and inactivate viruses, and typically the faster and deeper the freeze the more effective the treatment. OR

B) Freezing is a common method to store and maintain infectivity of viruses, and typically the faster and deeper the freeze the more effective the treatment


To this point I have written a total of 17 posts on the COVID-19 pandemic since 3 February 2020 at MacroEdgo, sent an open letter to PM Morrison, initiated a petition “Je Suis Chinois” to express solidarity with humanity in the pandemic, as well as updated my Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update daily until recently when I shifted to periodical updates.

In my first papers I stated clearly that the coronavirus had certainly escaped the biosecurity net that had been formed around Wuhan, and that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other officials were engaged in a strategy to slow the spread.

I began referring to the event as a pandemic much earlier than any nation began to do so, and I discussed the political realities that surrounded the management of the pandemic in a modern globalised economy in several posts in mid February.

In these papers I said that I had a great deal of respect for the way that China, and the WHO for that matter, had responded to the pandemic, and with my experience in biosecurity policy development I expected that all nations would struggle with balancing the need to acknowledge the problem to react appropriately to it against the multitude of geopolitical and economic consequences of doing so. That has certainly played out in line with my commentary.

I also spoke about how countries with greater inequality, with large numbers of poor people who do not have resources to go without regular income, and countries where Government has greater influence over citizens and are able to coerce people into returning to work even while the risk of contracting the virus persists, would be impacted more severely even if the data may not be indicative. 

The place where my analysis faltered was in the reaction of the Anglophone countries. In my update of 11 February I stated all of the biosecurity measures that have now been enacted would have then been under consideration. I think it is clear that while the medical and scientific experts would have been discussing these, their political masters, the actual decision-makers, were a long way from having come to terms with the challenge that was confronting humanity.

Certainly this is what the WHO is now pointing out in response to criticism by the loudest Anglophone political decision-maker who is seeking to shift blame for his own intransigence towards the COVID-19 threat.

The world should have listened to the WHO then carefully because global emergency, the highest level of emergency, was triggered on January 30 when we only had 82 cases and no deaths, in the rest of the world. And every country could have triggered all of its public health measures possible. I think that suffices the importance of listening to the WHO advice. And we advised the whole world to implement a comprehensive public health approach. And we said find, test, isolate and do contact tracing and so on… countries who followed that are in a better position than others, and this is fact… I assure you that WHO gives the best advice we can based on science and evidence, it is up to the countries to accept or reject [that advice]… each country takes it’s own responsibility [for their decisions based on that advice]

Dr Tedros, Director-General, WHO

As these (especially Anglophone) decision-makers faltered, I increased my urging to take action in posts written in mid-February and in my open letter to PM Scott Morrison.

I have always made it clear that my view is that we in Australia should use our geographical advantage in being an island and with considerable biosecurity human capital and infrastructure to aim at knocking it right back and eradicating COVID-19 if at all possible.

I also have consistently stated that this is a very new pathogen of humans known to mankind for only a handful of months since my friend and former colleague (and co-author) Dr Shi Zhengli isolated the causative coronavirus.

Consequently I have argued that we should be very careful of drawing any presumptions and that we should proceed with an abundance of caution.

For instance, I have continually highlighted that we do not understand the seasonality – if any – for this disease, noting that Australia and other southern hemisphere countries will be the first to experience a full winter with COVID-19 hanging over us.

I have also consistently stated that it would be imprudent to believe that already we understand all of the ways that this pathogen can affect and cause disease in us humans, and in recent days there have been reports of persistent infections in Chinese patients of unknown significance, of uncertain implications of infections in pregnant women, and of an association between COVID-19 and severe complications in children now being recognised globally after early observations suggested that children almost never suffered serious disease.

I have stated that I am flummoxed by the apparent predisposition of many Australian decision-makers and, especially in the early period, some medical or scientific bureaucrats and experts, to show such strong concern for economic considerations above health considerations.

From my earliest writings I acknowledged that it was a difficult balance to strike, but I have been scathing of the balance chosen by Australian decision-makers at times.

Moreover, while it is clear from the reported data that Australia has been far less impacted than many other G20 nations to this point, I have expressed deep concerns that this might produce an unearned sense of achievement when in fact that lower impact thus far may be more due to factors beyond our control which may reverse, for instance, as we head into winter.

After that recap, which readers can verify by reading my earlier reports, I would hope that it can be agreed that I have earned the right to not just express an opinion, but have it heard, on where Australia should head into the future with the COVID-19 pandemic.


First an outline of the significance of the persistence and viability of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in certain environmental conditions.

While the lay person, who often confuses virus for bacteria, and infectious for non-infectious disease, might have been inclined to believe that the correct answer to my introductory question was A, the correct answer is B. Moreover, while ideal storage of viruses is achieved in facilities only available in laboratories – under liquid nitrogen or in ultra-deep freezers (set at -70 Celsius) – infectivity is preserved in tissue frozen in a domestic freezer and I have certainly done transmission trials with viruses held under such conditions for many months. What is more, viruses can remain infective in material held in domestic refrigerators for a prolonged period.

What is the significance of this you might ask.

Well as I have been pointing out there is a lot unknown about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, and while it might be easy to sideline certain comments with blanket statements that “there is no evidence of” in relation to multitude of issues, the reality is that a general knowledge of viruses points to certain risks that need to be heeded.

While there is some emerging data on the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 when subjected to different environmental conditions of temperature, humidity and UV light, with the main aim of determining what is the likely impact of seasonal change on the ease with which the virus spreads, we already know from a general knowledge of viruses, and indeed other human coronaviruses, that it is likely to remain infective longer under cooler conditions and in the absence of UV light.

In the appendix below I have summarised the relevant data on similar viruses and what has been determined thus far for SARS-CoV-2 together with sources. Here I do not want to bog down on technical detail.

The significance, however, for me is for more widespread than seasonality and critically relates to what has been observed in the meat processing industry in North America.

As at writing, 13 major meat processing plants in the US have been closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks amongst staff, including 10% of beef processing and 25% of pork processing capacity, and Canadian plants are similarly affected. In a full page advertisement in several newspapers including The New York Times and The Washing Post on Sunday 26 April Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson alerted Americans that “The food supply chain is breaking”. 

These processing plants are closing due to deaths of workers with COVID-19 and high infection rates amongst employees. Moreover, over 100 meat inspectors, of a US total of 6,500, have been infected with the virus and their movement between different processing plants is a major concern for the industry as potential spreaders of the disease.

The issue being discussed publicly relates to the inability to process meat because of the difficulty of providing a safe environment for those working in the industry when conditions favour the spread of the virus between workers as they work very closely together in processing lines and because they are a tight-knit community often carpooling and socialising outside of work. In most countries over recent years the workforce of meat workers has become heavily dependent on temporary resident workers on visas. 

This quote from an article in USA Today highlights the concerns thoroughly:

More than 150 of America’s largest meat processing plants operate in counties where the rate of coronavirus infection is already among the nation’s highest, based on the media outlets’ analysis of slaughterhouse locations and county-level COVID-19 infection rates.

These facilities represent more than 1 in 3 of the nation’s biggest beef, pork and poultry processing plants. Rates of infection around these plants are higher than those of 75% of other U.S. counties, the analysis found. 

And while experts say the industry has thus far maintained sufficient production despite infections in at least 2,200 workers at 48 plants, there are fears that the number of cases could continue to rise and that meatpacking plants will become the next disaster zones.

Initially our concern was long-term care facilities,” said Gary Anthone, Nebraska’s chief medical officer, in a Facebook Live video Sunday. “If there’s one thing that might keep me up at night, it’s the meat processing plants and the manufacturing plants.”

Less discussed, for reasons that will become clear below, is that the meat processing plant environment is ideal for the survival of the virus on surfaces because it is cool and moist, and there is obviously little to no sunlight with natural UV radiation.

Relevant unions are heavily involved to safeguard the health of the workers. The CDC together with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has produced interim guidelines to help meat and poultry workers and employers reduce the spread of COVID-19 amongst the workforce.

While I absolutely share those concerns for the workers, there is an even more significant and widespread issue at play here that some readers may have begun to realise.


The significance of food-borne viruses in causing disease in humans has been increasingly understood in recent decades. The relevance of microbial assessments in determining the risks associated with imported animal and plant products has thus grown in significance, and has highlighted the need for research analyses.

Viruses have proven to be some of the most important pathogens to manage due to their infective persistence in food processing environments and because of their potential to cause severe disease.

In my post “Investment Theme: Product and Food Miles” I highlighted how the food production industry had changed significantly since the time of my Grandparents, who survived the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic as late teenagers. Not only is perishable food distributed regionally, unlike then when the lack of refrigeration necessitated its consumption immediately and thus locally, perishable food under refrigeration is traded both nationally and internationally.

This opens up the possibility of transmission of pathogens that remain viable in cool conditions, and viruses are chief amongst these, over wide geographies and wide temporal ranges given that viruses present in frozen material may remain a risk for a very prolonged period.

The WHO was quick to recognise this potential with COVID-19 and in its Situation Report No 32 published on 22 February included a section entitled “SUBJECT IN FOCUS: Food related considerations” which contained the following statement:

Currently, there are investigations conducted to evaluate the viability and survival time of SARS-CoV-2. In general, coronaviruses are very stable in a frozen state according to studies of other coronaviruses, which have shown survival for up to two years at -20°C.

Below in the appendix I provide an up to date review of the relevant data.

To cut to the chase, unless I was extremely confident in risk mitigation strategies to prevent workers infected by COVID-19 from coming into contact with product in the processing chain, I personally would be very reluctant to purchase packaged meat in Australia if COVID-19 became widespread.

While it is absolutely true that cooking for even a brief period is highly likely to totally inactivate the virus, as the domestic cook for my family, I realise that it is difficult to limit the spread of blood and general fluids from meat and its packaging during food preparation, and the potential for contamination is significant. 

My family biosecurity strategy for COVID-19 aims to physically prevent the introduction of the viable (infective) virus into our home and at the point that COVID-19 became widely prevalent in sources of perishable food products which I source for my family would be the point at which I would cease to purchase those products. (I am fortunate to have a fruit and vegetable garden, and I have planted a community garden on the verge and would encourage all Australians to do likewise.)

I would hope that right now there will be research being conducted on nucleic acid and infectivity detection for SARS-CoV-2 in meat from plants where there have been confirmed COVID-19 cases. However, given the extreme sensitivity around the issue of the public’s perception of food safety, this issue will be treated with the utmost of discretion.

All of this just makes the case for why I have been pushing so hard to minimise the number of infections by SARS-CoV-2 within Australia with a strong preference to eradication.


Given all of the uncertainties around this new human pathogen, and given we in Australia have experienced a relatively low expression of COVID-19 thus far which suggests that eradication might be a real possibility, loosening of biosecurity measures at this point in mid-Autumn seems to me to be highly imprudent and suggestive of at least a hint of political hubris.

A far more prudent approach would be to continue with very strict biosecurity measures and increased testing, firstly of all those with symptoms of respiratory infections and then as and if capacity allows, all people (prioritising those who have been, through work requirements, more active in the community), to detect any and all cases so that eradication can be achieved.

This will allow us by the depths of winter to have a very good understanding on whether we really have gotten on top of the virus.

On the other hand, a loosening of measures invites the virus to get away from us just as we enter the most critical period for the southern hemisphere. That would be an enormous error, one that the electorate is unlikely to forgive decision-makers for given that there remains reasonably strong support for the social distancing measures currently in place.

Allowing COVID-19 to surge in winter would entail loss and impacts on Australian families that have been experinced in the United Kingdom, United States and elsewhere which to this point has not been the common experience, and that would produce deep psychological scarring which would persist far longer than a few more months with these social distancing measures.


In my earliest writing on COVID-19 I continued to develop my views on the theme of global inequality, that I had been discussing in relation to climate change, in the context of the emerging pandemic. It is already noticeable in this pandemic that it is the most vulnerable amongst humanity where the virus is spreading most prolifically. Rapid spread amongst lower paid migrant workers who live in low quality, cramped quarters is a theme that has played out around the world from China to Singapore to North America.

Moreover, wealth inequality between continents and nations, and within societies, has been exposed as a major differentiator and factor in COVID-19 spread and impact.

Again, and to borrow the words of FDR, we have learned that we can not live alone in good health if we are not equally concerned about the good health of all people in all societies including those of nations far away. We must not live as dogs in a manger, but as members of the human community.

Not only must Australia meet the challenge that COVID-19 presents within our own borders, we must act as a member of the global community and join with humanity to earn our luminous future (the theme of my next post in draft).

I also note the following statement in an article published in The Guardian entitled “Trump to order meat-processing plants to continue operating amid pandemic“:

“We only wish that this administration cared as much about the lives of working people as it does about meat, pork and poultry products,”  

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, told Bloomberg

That is a very clear-cut echo of my writing from 28 February in this post entitled “Australian Politicians Care More About the Health of Our Prawns and Bananas Than About People” and I thank Mr Appelbaum for the sincere compliment.


Any objective reader of my posts and work knows that I have been extremely accurate and prescient with my views on the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic and societal implications.

I do not profess for a moment that my published views captured the full spectrum of consequences and implications. However, I do feel that is not immodest to suggest that I have been one of the most accurate of those who have made public their views on the pandemic since very early in its progression.

My arguments for Australia to move early to close the borders and then eradicate COVID-19 were purely from a humanitarian position of wanting to minimise the pain of loss that humanity would experience. However, as time has progressed, as the world has gone into shutdown and the economic consequences which I foresaw have come to pass, it has also become clear that it would have been better economically for Australia if decision-makers had enacted my recommendations when I was calling for them. 

Instead of dithering for an extra few weeks, if these measures were implemented immediately we would have a much more functional domestic economy by now which would remain the case for as long as we were able to prevent the re-introduction of the disease.

In this new report I have highlighted newly recognised threats that have surfaced because of the spread of the disease in countries that failed to heed the advice provided by the WHO.

What should also be clear now to the objective observer is that when all efforts are focused on the humanitarian side – that our aim is to minimise the pain of loss to human beings – then the cohesion that that creates places us all in the best possible position to fight against this scourge which we all want to defeat as soon as is humanly possible. The outcomes that result from that patience and compassion also brings economic benefits.


APPENDIX – Scientific data on viability to assess the risk associated with SARS-CoV-2 presence in chilled and frozen foods

While there have been no confirmed reports of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from food preparation, and the commercial sensitivity around food safety means that many reports on the subject will go to lengths to suggest that it is unlikely, this can not be discounted if viable virus is present.

In this case, “the lack of evidence” line is weak. Virtually every pathogen/microbial risk analysis that has ever been conducted could contain just this one line.

Vast numbers of pathogen and phytopathogen risk analyses use the issue of viable pathogen present and a potential pathway for exposure to recommend strong risk mitigation strategies, eg. cooking of all imported prawns into Australia unless from an area proven by credible surveys to be free from significant pathogens or PCR analysis conducted on each shipment to prove freedom from significant pathogens.

That might seem a ridiculous segue, but that is the ridiculous disparity that we confront as I have pointed to previously and which the union representing meat workers in the US has picked up on themselves.

I have no intention here to carry out a full risk analysis, but what follows is in effect a very brief one. To prove that there is significant concern I need to satisfy to a reasonable degree three points:

1) there needs to be a likelihood that viable pathogen may be present in product;

2) there needs to be a pathway for exposure to that pathogen; and

3) there needs to be a significant impact from that disease.

I think that we can agree that the third condition has been amply satisfied to this point on 1 May 2020 with over 3,000,000 cases confirmed globally and over 200,000 deaths.

While some would suggest that being a respiratory virus that lessens the chance of exposure. But not really. Anybody who has been involved with food preparation knows well that cleaning up after food processing involves lots of splashing (opportunity for aerosol production). Moreover, many respiratory viruses have a high involvement of touch and self-inoculation via membrane surfaces in the mouth, nose and eyes, and there is no doubt that there is ample opportunity for this to occur with those involved with food preparation and those that co-inhabit using those preparatory areas and wash facilities.

Furthermore, while cooking is likely to destroy most viruses, there is variability amongst viruses in sensitivity to heat, and in modern times there are significant dishes that utilise minimal or no heat and some with minimal addition of acids or other ingredients that might otherwise be likely to inactivate viruses.

I would suggest that this represents about as strong a case for a viable pathway for exposure to a pathogen that is present in a product as in virtually any product risk analysis. So I would suggest that condition 2 has been met.

So we are left with pathogen viability. As I have continually stated we are dealing with a pathogen known to mankind for all of 4 months, so understandably there is a paucity of research data on many aspects. However, given the important issue of potential seasonality there is some information on viability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environments, some of which are relevant to food production, storage and usage. Moreover, given the prior outbreaks of significant disease in humans by other coronaviruses, there is some information on other similar viruses which will be highly indicative for SARS-CoV-2.

Whether a pathogen will be viable in a product is dependent on whether it is likely that viable pathogen will be present at the completion of processing and then whether it will survive the storage period before it is prepared for consumption.

Here are a few important quotes from the WHO/FAO “Viruses in Food” report:

This report draws attention to the threat of viruses as a risk to public health when they are present in food. Viruses require special attention because they behave differently from bacteria, and because currently used control measures typically either have not been validated and there is not a good understanding of their efficacy towards viruses, or are not effective in controlling virus contamination. Data from recent studies have shown that foodborne viral infections are very common in many parts of the world despite the measures already in place to reduce bacterial contamination.

Member states of the WHO were quick to note their concern for the risk of spreading COVID-19 with food and WHO Situation Report 32 on 22 February stated:

WHO continues to collaborate with experts, Member States and other partners to identify gaps and research priorities for the control of COVID-19, and provide advice to countries and individuals on prevention measures. National food safety authorities have been following this event with the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) Secretariat to seek more information on the potential for persistence of the virus on foods traded internationally and the potential role of food in the transmission of the virus. Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) show that transmission through food consumption did not occur. To date, there have not been any reports of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus through food. However, concerns were expressed about the potential for these viruses to persist on raw foods of animal origin.

Currently, there are investigations conducted to evaluate the viability and survival time of SARS-CoV-2. In general, coronaviruses are very stable in a frozen state according to studies of other coronaviruses, which have shown survival for up to two years at -20°C. Studies conducted on SARS-CoV ad MERS-CoV indicate that these viruses can persist on different surfaces for up to a few days depending on a combination of parameters such as temperature, humidity and light. For example, at refrigeration temperature (4°C), MERS-CoV can remain viable for up to 72 hours. Current evidence on other coronavirus strains shows that while coronaviruses appear to be stable at low and freezing temperatures for a certain period, food hygiene and good food safety practices can prevent their transmission through food. Specifically, coronaviruses are thermolabile, which means that they are susceptible to normal cooking temperatures (70°C). Therefore, as a general rule, the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, raw milk or raw animal organs should be handled with care to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

Most additional research results released since this time have concentrated on ambient – i.e. normal human living conditions – to assess seasonality.

Importantly, in their experimental conditions Chin et al. 2020 found that SARS-CoV-2 infectivity was largely preserved when exposed to +4 Celsius for 14 days.

Given that COVID-19 has been shown to be highly prevalent in meat processing workers, and the data on coronavirus and specifically SARS-CoV-2 survival in conditions present in meat processing and storage facilities, the potential for a pathway for exposure to infective virus is clear.

Clearly this warrants urgent scientific research to fully determine the risks of the foodborne route for transmission.

Sources

Casanova LM, Jeon S, Rutala WA, Weber DJ and MD Sobsey. 2010. Effect of air temperature and relative humidity on coronavirus survival on surfaces. Appl Environ Microbiol. 76(9): 2712–2717. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02291-09

Chan KH, Malik Peiris JS, Lam Y, Poon LLM, Yuen KY and WH Seto. 2011. The effects of temperature and relative humidity on the viability of the SARS coronavirus. Advances in Virology. Article ID 734690. 7 pages. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/734690

Chin AWH, Chu JTS, Perera MRA, Hui KPY, Yen H-L, Chan MCW, Peiris M and LLM Poon. 2020. Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions. Lancet Microbe 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/ S2666-5247(20)30003-3

van Doremalen N, Bushmaker T, Morris DH, Holbrook MG, Gamble A, Williamson BM et al. 2020. Aerosol and surface stability of SARSCoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV-1. N Engl J Med 2020; published online March 17. DOI:10·1056/NEJMc2004973.

FAO/WHO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization]. 2008. Viruses in food: Scientific Advice to Support Risk Management Activities: Meeting Report. Microbiological Risk Assessment Series No. 13. Rome. 79 pp.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2020. Rapid Expert Consultation on SARS-CoV-2 Survival in Relation to Temperature and Humidity and Potential for Seasonality for the COVID-19 Pandemic (April 7, 2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25771.

WHO. 2020. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 32. February 22, 2020.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

Featured

The Great Reset

This is a post of hope. Of promise. Of potential within our grasp if we have the courage to reach for it. The commencement discusses markets because they give a verifiable account of the slow reaction to the threat that COVID-19 posed to humanity. The latter discussion opens up to encompass implications and aspirations for humanity.


Being a professionally trained scientist and also having a passion for economics, especially socioeconomics, and investing, I was already thinking about the likely economic impacts and the investment implications of the COVID-19 pandemic – and note that was before it had even been named COVID-19 and well before it was named a pandemic – as Global stock markets reached their bull market peaks. The S&P500 index of US stocks reached a peak of 3,397.50 17 days after my first report detailing my views on the coronavirus outbreak on 3 February entitled “Social Cohesion: The Best Vaccine Against Crises” and still 8 days after I said the following in my 12 February Coronavirus update:

People outside of Wuhan may be confused by the concern. You need to imagine it like an enormous tsunami, like the one in the Indian Ocean a few years ago. There has been an event that has triggered a chain of consequences – for a tsunami it is often an undersea earthquake – in this case it was a virus “jumping” species, to humans. Because we have no previous exposure to the virus it is highly virulent to us. Like a tsunami emanates outward from the epicentre, so too has this virus. At the moment we in most countries are at the stage where the sea is calm, but we know that it will arrive soon. Scientists from China and all around the world will be working feverishly to try to develop some tools – medicines, vaccines, procedures to minimise spread – to mitigate the impacts. Everybody needs to remain calm but be alert and be prepared, in your mind and in what you do.

In “Politics vs Society in the Coronavirus Outbreak” published on 21 February I stated my frustration (perhaps a little too strongly, in hindsight) at market and media commentators and analysts and the general public for being slow to realise the threat that the coronavirus presented:

I have to admit to being flummoxed by the response of markets, the media and by most people that I speak with about this outbreak.  I cannot understand why everybody is so slow to understand the rather obvious realities of the situation and the serious implications. It really does seem to me that the movie “Idiocracy” is not a Sci Fi but a work of non fiction and one would have to have travelled forward 50 years in a time machine to the present day to realise it. Is it that humans, when faced with a scary situation just cannot accept that it is real? Is it that our arrogance has reached such heights that we really believe nothing from nature can genuinely affect us until after the event?

Then in “Repeat After Me, This Is Not SARS: COVID-19 Is Much Worse” I broadened my discussion to help others to realise what a serious impact the coronavirus would have on markets, societies and humanity.

I can assure the reader that this event is unlike SARS in 2003 because the virus is all the more serious to humanity. Barring a miracle of nature, i.e. a surprising attenuation to lower virulence by the virus, or a highly unlikely rapid cure being developed, this virus will be with us for much longer than SARS was and its direct consequences on people will be far more serious (i.e. will produce greater numbers of mortalities) which will necessitate prolonged biosecurity measures.

…..The consequence to national and global populations of people should be clear to all readers. As the human cost of the pandemic becomes increasingly clear Governments will be forced to attempt to minimise those impacts in ways that I spelt out in my Coronavirus Outbreak update on 11 February, and these are increasingly in use in Japan, South Korea and Italy, which include school closures, discouraging/banning public gatherings, workplace closures, public transport curtailment, and/or further border restrictions. Besides the human costs, the direct impacts on national economies are obvious.

……If the reader considered me pessimistic above, then I am about to get down right depressing (pun intended).

For the last decade I have marvelled at how we have gotten so desensitised to extraordinary measures that Central Banks have taken to revive economies after the Great Recession or Global Financial Crisis (being an Australian I will use the “GFC” from hereon).

…..I would hope that a reasonable person having read the analysis above on COVID-19 would realise that this is no garden variety economic issue. This is undoubtedly a Black Swan event of nature’s making. This is a very, very big problem in a marketised world where everybody has been prepared to play the game of pretending that the central bankers are Gods while the profits and capital gains flow in.

All of that is going to be reversed, and because the natural event is characterised by exponential spread, this is going to happen a lot quicker than anybody can imagine.

….I understand that a financial panic on top of a growing panic about an increasingly obvious pandemic will be devastating.

I know that. And for that reason I do understand why Governments, even though they always prefer to egg on markets, will be right in trying to prevent it from happening. However, that propensity to always seek higher asset prices has led to great vulnerability in Global markets, and I think that the consequences of that are about to be revealed.

….To understand the ongoing impacts on people and thus on the economy we need to go back to the virus. Without the rapid emergence of an effective therapeutic treatment for COVID-19, amongst already developed treatments or those in the very late stages of development, the pandemic is likely to progress until either it spreads so widely that the majority of people have become infected or an effective vaccine is developed, produced and delivered en masse. This may take several years, so it is possible – probably even likely – that we will be living with this pandemic for a prolonged period.

Now, of course, almost everybody has caught up and the gravity of the challenge humanity faces combatting this pandemic has become patent to all. Almost, except for apparently the “followers” (the anti-leaders) of the major Anglophone nations, even if one of them is now infected. This post is not specifically aimed at these dinosaurs of a world we must leave behind.

I will, however, express again my disappointment at the lack of courage by the Australian “follower” Morrison to use our natural advantages and human capital in biosecurity to act earlier and more decisively as I implored him to do in “Australian Politicians Care More About the Health of Our Prawns and Bananas Than About People” which I published 28 February:

Australians need to wake up – your politicians right now are deciding between jobs and high house prices on the one hand, and a higher death rate amongst over 40 year olds on the other. Between economic activity and people’s lives.

In this time of global pandemic, Australia has a choice. Use our significant advantage of isolation and our adept biosecurity knowledge and skill to fight tooth and nail to minimise the impact of the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic on our citizens, thereby ensuring more of our parents and grandparents live out a full life. Or choose a “lighter touch” with lesser impacts on our economy while accepting that a consequence of that will be a higher level of mortality amongst our citizens and especially those over 40 years of age

…Australia’s isolation really is a huge advantage for us, and it is time that we made use of that very significant advantage. As COVID-19 begins to rage globally, we should strongly consider whether we should close our borders to people flows and tightly manage vessels carrying freight to and from Australia.

It really is as simple as that; we could close our borders and significantly cut down the opportunity to reintroduce the virus while we threw everything at containing the virus within the country. That would minimise the human cost while we wait for a vaccine to become available.

I repeated the same assertions in my open letter to PM Morrison after these opening comments:

Dear Mr Morrison

I am writing to inform you that I have left instructions for my estate to sue you personally if I die with COVID-19 before the term of your Government expires (if it serves the full 3 years).

As a 50 year old male with a pre-existing respiratory condition – asthma – I am in a higher risk category for suffering serious illness and death with COVID-19.

As Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreysus, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said on Twitter on 29 February, “If you are 60+, or have an underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, a respiratory condition or diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. Try to avoid crowded areas, or places where you might interact with people who are sick”.

I note, Mr Morrison, that you are not in agreement with this advice because you are still encouraging all Australians to go about their business normally in order to delay or minimise the impacts on the economy.

The truth now is that if I was listened to, if the effective border closure and increased testing were implemented when I was imploring that to occur, then the following discussion about the economic bounce back from COVID-19 would be from a more favourable position than what will now be the case because a much lower prevalence and incidence of infection in the country would have allowed more of the domestic economy to remain open.

The following discussion on the way forward must necessarily start from where we are today, the last weekend in March with over 3,000 confirmed cases in Australia and certainly many more undiagnosed due to continuing restrictions on testing which preclude detection of asymptomatic infections and symptomatic infections not within areas of concern and where there has been no contact with a known case.


As shown above, early in this pandemic I stated my concerns about the economic impacts and made reference to the possibility of an economic depression occurring.

In the last week or two, after the violent reactions in the stockmarket to the human and consequent economic reality of this pandemic, more analysts and commentators are increasingly discussing the likelihood of a very severe recession globally.

Some journalists as well as some brave business and investment analysts are now even countenancing the possibility of a depression.

Unsurprisingly there is much mention in that context to the most memorable depression in Western Societies, the Great Depression that lasted from the collapse of stockmarkets in 1929 until World War 2 effectively brought it to an end.

In my post entitled “Let’s Wage War on Climate Change” I discussed an emergent undercurrent of thought, that I had perceived, which suggested that the problem of persistent low inflation threatening deflation and consequent very low interest rates, negative in some major economies, which was reminiscent of conditions during The Great Depression, typically in human history had been resolved only by a reset that occurs during a major war.

Concerned that some hard-hearted right wingers – who Pink Floyd, senza Roger Waters, may refer to as “The Dogs of War, and men of hate” – may ruminate for exactly that, I proferred the reality that humanity already had a war to confront:

Are we not already confronted with a crisis of our own making?

Is there not a majority of our scientific community not warning us that we face a dire climate change crisis?

Of course the answer to both questions is an emphatic yes!

…If our Australian and other global political leadership decide to grow into capital “L” Leaders and join with the few authentic Leaders working hard to take on the climate change crisis with all of the pride, passion, and determined fervour of a populace facing truly challenging circumstances with an uncertain outcome, the reality is that we will never know the counterfactual. The small number of skeptics that remain will always be able to say that it was never necessary and it was an enormous waste of financial resources and human effort.

But the very great majority of us, and our descendants, will forever know that any “waste” that might have possibly occurred along the way can never be in any measure anything more than infinitesimally small compared to the enormous waste of human lives by a power-hungry few, and compared with the enormous gift that is a quality life on this wondrous planet that we all share.

It is noteable that the same “followers” inclined to deny the reality of the climate change crisis were the same ones seeking to downplay the threat that COVID-19 represented. The difference, of course, is that the absurdity of their position was very quickly revealed by the explosive nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I now suggest that climate change can be a continuation of the war to reshape our world for the better for humanity, where we are currently fighting a battle against COVID-19, which now sees many others referring to it in conflict metaphors.

If we wish to see The Great Depression as analogous to the current situation, then perhaps there is a way of looking at things a little more positively. It may be more appropriate to consider the stockmarket collapse of 2007-09 as equivalent to the collapse from 1929. The central banks have done a better job of supporting the economy since the initial collapse in 07/08, even if I do think that in the recent half of the decade they have been responsible for over-indulging markets seeking continual capital gains out of fear of a repeat of what occurred in the 1930s when the depression intensified.

If this analogy were accurate then we are nearer the end of this episode than the start. Yes, things do seem bleak right now. They also seemed bleak in Europe in the very early 40s. Just like then, there is much more pain to be felt before we come out the other side. But we know there is another side from which we will emerge.

Once this battle is won, however, we will be in a strong position to take on the even greater battle necessary for sustainable human life on Earth.

I believe that if the current most urgent battle against COVID-19, followed by the equally necessary and increasingly urgent fight against the climate crisis, is handled with adept leadership, we have every chance of having a very rare psychological reset which could set up the global community for the next half century. It will be a much more humane and equitable one if we follow the edict of FDR as brilliantly articulated in his 4th Inauguration speech, and if the lessons of needing to stand up to hard-hearted right wingers and imperialists is heeded from the record of FDRs loyal and loving son Elliot Roosevelt in “As He Saw It” which recounted events immediately after FDR’s all too early passing as WW2 drew to an end and in the immediate post-war period.

In “Social Cohesion: The Best Vaccine Against Crises” I stated:

I consider the climate change crisis to be the greatest challenge to humanity, and I can see no sustainable and durable response that does not involve a more cohesive humanity built on equivalent access to the same standard of living irrespective of where on Earth one chooses to live and raise a (typically small) family.

Depending on how the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak progresses in the next few weeks and months, and how successful are the scientific and pharmaceutical communities in expeditiously developing an effective vaccine, this disease may prove to be the most serious immediate challenge to humanity. 

Moreover, if this outbreak is successfully contained and eradicated – primarily on the back of the impressive response by the Chinese authorities – it still gives an indication of the tenuous nature of our existence on this wonderful planet, and just how quickly the reality of our existence can be placed in danger.

Most significantly, it highlights that whether we are talking about acute or long-term crises, the reality of life on this Earth for humanity is that we have no choice but to face these challenges together.

Acting individualistically and with self-interest can not produce the sustainable effective response for which all people wish. 

Clearly there is little chance of humanity coming together and working towards solutions to the greatest challenges if the groundwork to build mutual trust has been neglected. 

Therefore, the best vaccine against crises is social cohesion within societies and across humanity.


Through the fog and shock of the current battle, it is imperative that people of good character engage with what is occurring in domestic politics and geopolitics.

I realise that cynics will immediately ask for all of the answers from me on reading this, and obviously I cannot provide all of them or even many. But the “followers” offer very few answers of their own as their tactic is mainly to attack people who want better from society by referring to us as “do gooders” or inferring that we are foolish dreamers.

This is undoubtedly a “big picture” concept, and it is only possible because collectively we have all suffered an enormous shock and consequently perceptions of contemporary lives and indeed what is possible are changing. Already we are proving what can be achieved when humanity is determined and working collectively towards goals bigger than ourselves and bigger than any one nation or continent.

I offer two points on why we can significantly change our course to tackle the big issues confronting humanity, which I would proffer relate to inequality and xenophobia and to the climate change crisis as I have detailed in reports such as “Xenophobia Must Be Challenged For An Effective Response To Climate Change Inclusive of Human Population Growth” and “The Conundrum Humanity Faces But Nobody Admits“.

Firstly, economies are being idled right back to bare essential services. It makes absolute sense that we would give a great deal of thought to how we want economies to function after the crisis. It is not enough to suggest that we want to get it back to where it was before. As Greg Jericho spelt out in the report linked above, that is going to be extremely difficult to achieve and not likely anyhow. So, if it is going to take a great deal of effort and support, financial and otherwise, to bring back our economy, it would be an enormous pity if there was not a great deal of thought and then effort that goes into bringing back the economy in the best possible ways to enhance sustainable human life on Earth. This leads to the second point I will make.

Such a reset in the way economies function are rarely possible because the status quo is always the safest option and major reforms are normally undertaken iteratively and typically occur very slowly. There is a great deal of human capital that has thrown its collective force behind the effort to be constructive in the COVID-19 crisis by producing necessary goods directly for keeping as many people healthy as possible in the pandemic, for supplying necessities in difficult circumstances, and for providing vital Government services. But still there is a lot of human capital idled, in isolation and social distancing initiatives, some working in their normal jobs, and some of those working below their full potential if we are to accept the thesis of David Graeber in “Bullshit Jobs”, and others recently made unemployed. And we have to add the retired and the high school students, also, with very valuable contributions to make.

One of the comments made in the press by a young person who lost their job last Friday was “if this is how vulnerable we are with capitalism, then perhaps we had better “F”ing think of a better way of doing things”. I sincerely believe that this underutilised human capital, together with that of the public servants working at home, and not in vital areas who are currently working almost around the clock, can be harnessed to brainstorm on what we want from our society going forward. If the political class can loosen their hands of control to allow people to dream – and here I am thinking about Rudd’s silly 2020 Summit where he tried to control the flow of ideas from the local meetings upwards (which I experienced personally attending his local electorate’s summit) – then it could be a very positive contribution to getting through this crisis, especially for younger Australians who have been disenfranchised by the “smashed avocado” smears.

Sure, it might seem a bit like the 60’s revisited, but the world could do with that bit of that optimism and hope for the future right now. And I have little doubt that a politician that did this with sincerity, prepared to act on the outcomes, would set themselves up for post-crisis success.

The alternative will be depressing for many more than just myself.


Be in no doubt that there will be hard-hearted factions that want things to go back as closely as possible to the inequitable and unfair world that existed before this war because that is the game that they know how to win. That is exactly what was occurring in the post-GFC period. There will even be others who want to tilt things further to their advantage. These are the people that like to say that “a good crisis should never be wasted” and you just need to read Elliot Roosevelt’s “How He Saw It” to understand how that occurs.

Ask yourself this: Do we really want to get through all of this hurt, of the realisation that we are all humans, fearing and hurt by the same things, and come out the other side of this battle against COVID-19 to enter into the same petty argument of the reality of the climate change crisis with hard-hearted right wingers behaving petulantly not accepting that they are in the wrong?

If this battle against COVID-19 proves nothings else it shows that all our fates on this beautiful planet are inextricably linked. The only sustainable way forward for humanity is united and time and effort spent moving in the other direction is an utter waste and dangerous to us all.

Let this be the Great Reset that puts humanity back on the track that perhaps the greatest US President ever wanted for us all!


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People Before Money

Why are our right wing political “followers” so reluctant to choose society over economy – people over money – saving lives over more deaths?

The answer is simple…

Because their political power comes from the elites, the people who use their power within society to get what they want from it damn others, the people who send their children to the elite schools to build those powerful connections, the people who were bailed out in the GFC and then gave each other massive bonuses while the ordinary people felt the direct pain from their blunders, the people who do not send their own sons and daughters to war but agitate for expansion of influence and power to increase sales and wealth.

And these are the same people that will be in the front of the queue for any COVID-19 vaccine and/or effective treatments when they become available while others will have to wait in the hope that it arrives for them in time in an affordable manner.

There are few people in Australia who can talk with greater authority on this subject than me, and while that might sound brash, if you stick with me through this I will explain in personal detail why and I doubt that you will see it that way by the end.

When Morrison cries for business owners and employees I know it to be either crocodile tears or misinformed or naive.

Why do I know that? Because I grew up in a household which lived under the chronic stress of financial pressure so intense that we had become certain that any day the bank might foreclose on our business and our home, a family farm that had been owned originally by my Great Grandfather.

The pressure was so great that as a teenager I had to have the courage to stand up and literally save the people that I love from catastrophe. To save those people from embarrassment I will not go into detail of what I was called on to do, but believe me when I say that it is truly shocking and it has impacted my entire life and was a major factor in me having a breakdown and feeling overwhelmed by other life pressures as an adult.

What I kept repeating that night, while I was still yet to complete high school, was “how could you do this?”

For over a decade I did not process what had occurred, and it was never discussed again by the people involved. It was like a fuzzy dream, in reality a nightmare that even as I began to recall the events to a psychologist many years later were disjointed in my recollection. I began to understand the impact only in my 30s when visiting I lay awake all night alert to any movement throughout the rooms in case it was going to happen again.

Now I know that hard-hearted right wingers will be jumping for their faux tissues and suggesting that all of this supports their argument of needing to save the economy and livelihoods even if the cost of doing so is losing the lives of some more vulnerable people, the elderly or those with existing conditions.

Now that I have resolved all of what happened to me I realise that my repeated question that night – “How could you do this?” – was much deeper than related to that one incident.

In reality my question was how could you allow this to happen, that a family has been transformed into believing that what it does is more important than the family itself. 

That the external thing – the business, the farm (though in other families it could equate to infinite other things like the house) – was more important than the family. 

That somehow none of us was as important as keeping this “thing”, and that our lives and us as individuals was just collateral damage to that aim.

It took me a long time to stop being angry about that, and in truth there are times when that anger can be aroused again. 

Mostly I feel sad. Sad for what was lost; what I lost; and what we all lost.

So I tell anyone who is prepared to listen, I do not underestimate the stress that financial hardship causes for I know it well. But I equally know that we, especially in English-speaking countries, have progressively come under the spell of the “greed is good” credo that sees most of society competing to get one up on others.

We must realise that money and things are not the most important aspect of our lives. It is not our “things” that will be sitting next to us, tears streaming holding our hand to comfort us, when we depart this world. What we will have in our hearts is people and we will remain in theirs.

If there is anything positive to come from this pandemic, let if be that people are more important than money! And let humanity together live in that realisation!


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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The Conundrum Humanity Faces: But Nobody Admits

In this essay I distil down to a common sense level the interplay of Global population growth and climate change to explain the reality of what has been the impact of delaying both our progress towards global equality and innovative responses to climate change.

Just imagine for one moment that at the completion of World War II we truly heeded President Roosevelt’s lessons about the need for a united and compassionate humanity. 

Sure, regulation and architecture to improve the security of financial institutions – which remained robust until the lead up to speculative euphoria which caused the Great Recession (or Global Financial Crisis) – as well as other vital global institutions such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund and World Bank – were created in the immediate aftermath of WWII.

However, the opportunity to genuinely make the world a fairer place by allowing (and supporting) all countries an opportunity to develop was squandered. 

In “As He Saw It” published in 1946, Elliot Roosevelt (a US military WWII officer who attended many important meetings with his father FDR who died soon after he delivered that 4th Presidential Inaugural speech and before the surrender of the Japanese) expressed his extreme disappointment with what occurred as the war came to an end and in that year immediately after his father’s passing.

In the second paragraph of the introduction to his book “As He Saw It”, after a long list of reasons for why he wrote and published his account of proceedings, Elliot Roosevelt says “all of the signs of growing disunity among the leading nations of the world, all of the broken promises, all the renascent power politics of the greedy and desperate imperialism were my spurs in this undertaking”. 

(His introduction is so powerful – I have posted it here and recommend all readers to at the least read this passage if not track down the whole work.)

Given what has occurred in the world since the 1970s, and especially now the attitude of President Trump, that is an interesting contrast, but that is the subject of a separate post which I have entitled “The Magic Sauce of American Economic Dynamism Was Not Greed“.

We know that when people are presented with opportunity for a better quality of life, unsurprisingly, they take that opportunity. This in itself leads to lower birthrates as people are occupied by career and professional development, as well as enjoying the trappings of having a disposable income. 

Equally important, the security of knowing that babies born into a more developed world have a far, far greater chance of surviving to continue family lines means that biologically people feel less urge to have larger families.

So it is a virtual certainty that if for the last 80 years all efforts were made to make the world a genuinely fair place, so that the degree of opportunity for a standard of life equal to anywhere on Earth was not determined by the geography in which you live, then the global population would be significantly less now than it is.

No doubt many will counter that a higher proportion of the global human population enjoying a higher standard of living would mean that average per person impacts on the environment would be greater such that environmental impacts and degradation might be even greater than where we are at right now. 

Of course that would depend both on what was that average global standard of living and the actual population level, as well as how much of the additional human capital unleashed would have been devoted to innovation to counteract those environmental impacts.

Now I realise that the climate deniers and hard-hearted right wingers will use this space to attack this analysis as unrealistic pipe dreams (as if a better world for all is never achievable). And I readily accept that the issues surrounding geopolitics and developmental sociology are extremely complicated and difficult to solve. 

However, as is clear in my essay “Let’s Wage War on Climate Change“, humanity has devoted significant resources – including human capital and human lives – to man-made crises throughout our shared history. Human ingenuity and toil can achieve amazing results when directed to a common and crucial cause. Nobody would suggest, I believe, that those sacrifices to save the world from oppression and tyranny were in vain.

So let us imagine for a moment what would have happened if humanity had worked together so that we lived in a (near) perfect meritocratic global community. Perhaps the global population, which really took off after WWII, might be half of its current level and be tapering off if not already in gentle decline.

Figure from Wikipedia World Population page adapted with the addition of a scenario where post-WWII development occurred in a more compassionate and humane, rather than greedy, fashion.

As that figure shows, the reality of our actual population growth is quite different to this theoretical scenario, and several scenarios for future population growth developed by the United Nations are shown.

We still have a very unfair world with gross inequality in the standard of living and opportunity for a “decent life for all” (in Sir David Attenborough’s parlance from a speech he delivered in 2011 which is essentially identical  to this essay he published at around that time).

If everybody were to enjoy an equitable high standard of living now with the population that we have, without an astronomical surge in innovative technologies to reduce our impact, then most would agree that we would all be imperilled due to the extreme impacts on environment and climate change (again that is the thinking contained in Attenborough’s speech).

The truth is that global elites are already building into their thinking that what will be considered a “decent life” for those in Africa, throughout much of Asia, or South America, or on Pacific Islands, will remain to be VERY different to what is considered a “decent life” for those in the already developed countries.

That is the rub, those same elites are surreptitiously attempting to reduce population growth within those poor regions, all the while the biological impulse (from billions of years of evolution) of those very vulnerable people in those regions will increasingly be to boost their birthrates to increase the chances of survival of their family line.

When those poor people in those other regions become more and more aware of how they have been “hung out to dry” as climate change impacts grow more and more stark, and as they start to get more desperate as their growing populations are increasingly squeezed by diminishing resources due to climate change impacts, then the global tensions will grow to such an extent that containment will require heavier and heavier-handed military actions.

Essentially, it really will be a world where those nations powerful enough to guard their borders to preserve their natural endowments and what they have accumulated from the rest of the globe, as well as guard movements of resources between other “islands of prosperity”, will enjoy a “decent life” while those outside will enter some sort of Mad Max ultra-Darwinian state.

If that sounds like a world that you would enjoy living in, then go for it – live it up now and do not give a second thought to what lies ahead.

I cannot. We cannot go back and change what was and was not done 80 years ago.
But be in no doubt that we do have a choice of how we progress from here. 

Instead of continuing on this path we can recognise our folly immediately, admit to it, and move forward collectively. 


As Attenborough rightly said, climate change cannot be effectively and enduringly addressed while the global population continues to grow. But the only humane way to address this – not by trickery or coercion – is to allow all people the opportunity to have access to the same standard of living so that humans make the natural decision to have fewer children. As not all people that currently exist on the Earth can enjoy the highest standard of living enjoyed by some nations at present, there will need to be a play off between population and standard of living, meaning that those presently enjoying very high standards of living will need to accept that their standard of living will fall.

To facilitate a more inclusive humanity with equal opportunity for an equivalent standard of living will require a great degree of social cohesion which will require genuine political Leadership to harness the political capital that now exists to confront the climate change crisis and which is prepared for mutual sacrifice, and which stands up against xenophobia and it’s foot soldiers, the naïve, uninformed or precarious.

To give all people an equal opportunity to have an equal standard of living will require an enormous rethink of how globalisation has occurred since WWII. It will also need to occur in the context of the now clear understanding of our impacts on the Earth. 

Essentially we need “quality globalisation” rather than the unsustainable, geopolitically-oriented market-based globalisation that has predominated since WWII. Many of the ideas that I discuss at MacroEdgo.com will be important, but the implications will be far, far greater than anyone can currently imagine.

Greater mobility between countries will be important, as will very open trading and commercial links between all countries.

Ironically, while many ethno-nationalist Australians are attempting to subvert the climate change debate to use it as a reason to reduce immigration, one of the most effective contributions to climate change that Australia can make is in continuing its recent high level of immigration or even increasing it.

This is the case for all developed countries that have what we might describe as  “developmental space” – analogous with the economic term du jour “fiscal space” – to grow their population in a well planned and generous manner to move toward equalising the mean standard of living of humanity.

This will, of course, require significant infrastructure and innovation to minimise local and global environmental impacts. However, again, this is supported by the comments of Attenborough in his 2011 speech where he described Australia as being “big and empty”, thus indicating his position that we do indeed have significant “developmental space”.

Australia has a proud history of success at taking in people from all over the world when responding to humanitarian crises. This history has, however, been tarnished in the last 2 decades commencing under the Howard Government’s response to “boat people”, but this does not diminish the immigration successes.

The fruits of our very successful post-WWII migration policy are visible all throughout our society – in our school yards, in our restaurant strips, and all of the places where we come together as a community. The Asia migration period, now with African and South American migrants, too, is every bit as successful from my standpoint, but I realise that there are elements within our community that seek to portray it is as troubling.

No doubt there are challenges, such as infrastructure provision and housing, but these must be the attention of our endeavours for solutions, not the migrants themselves who just want the same things from life that we all do.

It should be obvious to everyone that there is an enormous opportunity here for a climate and environment-sensitive nation building narrative – the type that Politicians of all descriptions are normally so keen to jump on – the only problem being that the divisive xenophobic element must be addressed for once and for all.

This is demonstrated by the 2019 Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Australia Talks Survey where 54% of Australians considered immigration a “problem” – unless, of course, many thought the problem was that we did not have enough immigration (I think it a fair assumption that that is not what they meant).

To those who reject the notions within this essay I say this. Each and every citizen of a wealthy country needs to stop and think right now. If you choose to remain indifferent to this conundrum, then you are actually choosing a world where you continue to enjoy the proceeds of living on an island of prosperity at the expense of others in poor countries who will increasingly suffer as climate change impacts worsen. And your high standard of living will be increasingly protected at the point of a gun with increasingly aggressive and callous military actions to keep those increasingly desperate people suppressed.

It is time we stopped pussy footing around this reality – as Attenborough said, it is much too late for fastidious niceties.

Let us stop not spelling out the truth as some form of political correctness so that people in wealthy countries can continue on with their commerce-producing mindless consumption in a guilt-free manner.

To achieve this transformation the political class will most likely put the globe and their specific nations on a war footing to deepen the non-partisan buy-in from their citizens and to ward off the populists.

This time, however, it will be a war for all of humanity – a united humanity – instead of against or within humanity.

Let’s wage war on climate change!


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Social Cohesion:The Best Vaccine Against Crises

As survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp mark the 75th anniversary of their liberation by appealing for people to remember the perils of indifference, the Wuhan coronavirus is set to test multicultural cohesiveness in a way that has not been tested since World War II.

 The European Day for Remembrance of the Holocaust is 27th of January, the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz. This year the commemoration was especially poignant – not just because it marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz survivors – but because many of those survivors spoke up about concerns about humanity forgetting the lessons that their hellish experience, at the hands of the Nazis, delivered the world.

During the Holocaust 6 million Jews were slaughtered. At Auschwitz 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered. 

More than hate, the Holocaust survivors feared indifference because we know that in any large grouping of people the number of people who will be racist to the point of hate will be minor. It is the indifference by others to xenophobia and prejudice which allows the haters to rise up and become powerful.

In my own country of Australia the events of the Holocaust seem a world away, and most contemporary Australians would consider it largely irrelevant to our culture. However, Australians have a long history of indifference to racism. 

The first, and thus longest lasting form, of racism is towards the Indigenous Aboriginal peoples, which started soon after colonisation (better described “invasion”?) even though the leaders of the new colony were surprisingly enlightened and in many ways had a higher regard for the Aboriginals than certainly the convicts that they were charged with keeping incarcerated.

In the early stages of the colonies there grew a virulent racism against Indians and Chinese, which evolved into formal legislation known as the White Australia policy which remained in place until the 1970s (Lockwood, R. “British Imperial Influences in the Foundation of the White Australia Policy.” Labour History, no. 7, 1964, pp. 23–33. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27507761. accessed 18 October 2019]. As brilliantly articulated by Tim Watts (2019) in “The Golden Country: Australia’s changing identity”, now over 40 years since the formal extinguishing of the White Australia Policy, there remains a great degree of indifference to Asian Australians.

The waves of Asian immigrants over those 40 years, initially mainly from conflicts in Vietnam and Sri Lanka and elsewhere, and more recently from China and India, has coincided with an increase in conspicuous ethno-nationalistic racism.

Moreover, even though surveys consistently show that the great majority of Australians object to racism and consider it an issue of import – highlighting on the one hand that there is a widespread perception that it is prevalent in society, and on the other hand that the great majority are concerned enough about that to consider it a problem – those same surveys suggest that indifference is highly prevalent.

For example, while the 2019 Australia Talks Survey conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation found that 75% of Australians considered racism a problem, 54% considered immigration a problem.

Moreover, Watts (2019) did an excellent job of describing the multitude of ways in which conscious and subconscious biases and prejudices pervade all aspects of Australian society. In workplaces we are only now coming to grips with the impact of the Bamboo ceiling on crushing the aspirations of hard, smart working Asian Australians, and on how that is having a deleterious affect on business innovation and productivity.

It is for this reason that I believe very strongly that quotas are necessary to bring about sustainably diverse workplaces in Australia.

Australian politicians have had an unfortunate habit of playing on this indifference and latent xenophobia to garner political support, and even though the 70s marked the highpoint in bipartisan support against racial discrimination, since the emergence in the 90s of Hansonism and the global success of populist parties overt indifference to xenophobia has been too enticing for those on the right side of politics to ignore. 

In pandering to these xenophobic elements their divisive views have been given legitimacy and social cohesiveness in multicultural Australia has been setback significantly.


In a “former life” I was a research scientist specialising in disease of aquatic animals. I had a special interest in viruses and carried out some basic virological research on a few novel viruses that I discovered.

So to preface what I am about to say, I would describe myself as knowing much more than the average person about microbiology and virology, but much, much less than a cutting edge contemporary virologist like Shi Zhengli who is based in Wuhan and has been conducting research on these coronaviruses for the past 15 years including leading the research team responding to the current oubreak.

I mention Zhengli because I know her. She did her PhD in the laboratory of the brilliant and legendary invertebrate virologist Jean-Robert (JR) Bonami in Montepellier, France, where I worked for a year, and I visited her in Wuhan many years ago. Zhengli was also kind to list me as a co-author on a paper published soon after I had retired from scientific research. Zhengli is a wonderful person and researcher of the highest quality and when I learned that she was intimately involved with the response to this outbreak I immediately felt better about the situation.

Evenso, I have great concerns for the implications of this outbreak. To be clear, in no way am I suggesting that I am an expert – I am no longer even an expert on crustacean diseases even though a decade and half ago I was one of the global experts. And I have not spoken with Zhengli in many years so I have no special information. These are my own views which are based on common sense as much as anything else.

I recall in the early 90s reading about the Ebola virus. People do not realise it, but for a virus it is massive and it is scary looking! I commented to a friend that it is so large it would probably feel like receiving an injection when it entered cells to replicate.

The thing about Ebola virus is that while it is deadly, it is not highly transmissible. It is spread by exposure to blood or other bodily fluids of a seriously ill person. While in poor countries with limited and basic medical facilities it can spread and cause some deaths it does not present a serious threat to humanity as modern biosecurity protocols can limit its spread.

Ebola gets media attention because of the high mortality rate and because the symptoms are so severe including haemorrhage and ultimately bleeding from orifices.

The really concerning diseases from a whole of humanity standpoint are those that are highly transmissible, have a reasonably long incubation period where the infected person is asymptomatic (so the infection is undetected) but is transmitting the infection to others, and which has a reasonably high mortality rate (ie. a reasonably high proportion of people who contract the infection die).

The information presented by the WHO on incubation period and asymptomatic transmission confirms that Wuhan coronavirus presents those first two characteristics. 

These characteristics combined make a disease difficult to contain and thus eradicate in its early stages, without need of a vaccination program which will take time to develop and administer widely.

At the time of writing the rate of increase in the total number of cases, the proportion of which are serious and very serious, and the number of mortalities, is indicative of a virus that is capable of rapid human to human spread in populations. It will be some time yet before it is fully understood how much of this is due to the ramp up in diagnostic capacity and public health response – i.e. some of this apparent hyperbolic increase in the number of cases may be due to increased diagnosis. If diagnostic capacity reaches a steady state with virus spread, in part due to biosecurity measures taken, then we may see the apparent hyperbolic spread become more linear and then decelerate. However, if the actual spread remains hyperbolic then diagnostic capacity might never catch up. 

The mortality and morbidity (what proportion of people become ill and to what extent) rates will not be completely understood for some time. Underlying health status of populations and other factors will play a part.

If the virus becomes pandemic quickly, then it will be the mortality and morbidity rate that determines the full cost to humanity.

With what is already public knowledge with regards the two week incubation period and asymptomatic transmission, I very much suspect that the WHO and the major countries are working on an assumption that there is a high likelihood that the Wuhan coronavirus will not be contained within China and that it will spread in Asia. Though I, too, am impressed by the response by the Chinese authorities and scientific community, early indications of the characteristics of this virus make it extremely difficult to contain.

I suspect that in the weeks ahead it will soon become clear that the virus has escaped the biosecurity net into wider China and into nearby Asian countries, especially the lesser developed countries which have less capability to respond and contain the virus.

One of the complicating factors is that it is still winter in the Northern hemisphere so it is perfectly normal that cold and flu viruses will be circulating, and so there will be no way that any country – and especially not the developing countries – will have the capability to isolate any and every sick person until they are tested and cleared.

Also significant is that we are talking about many poor people here who are not fortunate to enjoy a standard of living which affords them the best possible underlying health status. Moreover, these people have no social safety network, usually have tenuous employment earning low wages, and have little or no savings to draw on during a health scare. Thus these people will have little choice but to continue working rather than subject themselves to self-imposed isolation. 

At this stage, what I believe that the authorities are really working on is slowing the spread of the virus. Of course officials are not going to admit to this because they do not want to panic populations and create conditions which stretch (already stretched) social cohesion.

For those in the northern hemisphere there is a factor which will be supportive in those efforts. With the outbreak occurring at around the midpoint of summer, within another 10 weeks the most favourable conditions for respiratory viruses to spread will subside which will likely naturally slow the spread of the virus (at least compared to what it would be if conditions remained cooler).

Pharmaceutical companies will have around 6 months to swing into action and develop an effective vaccine, produce it in significant volumes, and administer it broadly in the large population centres in the northern hemisphere. My understanding is that, at this stage, there is no reason to believe that this would be problematic as it was with HIV (because of its unique characteristics).

Writing in Australia, in the southern hemisphere, the outlook is somewhat more frightening if I am correct in my analysis that the virus will not be eradicated this northern hemisphere winter. I would be unsurprised if more draconian measures were introduced in Australia than elsewhere in an attempt to prevent its introduction as we will endure a full cold and flu season without any chance of administering a broad vaccination program.

This will produce a great deal of anxiety amongst Australians.


Given Australia has a questionable history in terms of racism and xenophobia, and indifference to it, what are the early indications of how Australians are reacting to this global health scare originating from China and likely ultimately broader Asia?

Not surprisingly, the early indications are not good with many reports detailing increased verbal and online attacks on people of (presumed) Asian ethnicity.

Moreover, there have been reports of online petitions with thousands of signatories seeking schools to restrict families that have travelled throughout wider Asia from attending, and the New South Wales Government has requested that students who have visited China remain at home in isolation for two weeks even though the Minister admitted it was not medically necessary and was done to appease public concerns.

As the patriarch of a mixed Asian Australian family, I was at the shops early last Saturday morning with my wife. We went to a quieter, stand-alone supermarket and agreed that there seemed to be more people of Asian ethnicity out early there with us. We bought a little more food than we normally would so that we could reduce the frequency with which we need to shop.

If my worst fears are confirmed over the next few weeks, then I expect that overt and angry xenophobia will be increasingly expressed towards Australians of perceived Asian ethnicity as the Wuhan coronavirus spreads especially throughout Asia, and as people become more fearful as Australia heads towards a long and difficult cold and flu season.


In my earlier seminal essay “Xenophobia Must Be Challenged For An Effective Response To Climate Change Inclusive of Population Growth“, I explained the clear-cut logic on why it is imperative that leaders provide strong leadership in denouncing racism.

I consider the climate change crisis to be the greatest challenge to humanity, and I can see no sustainable and durable response that does not involve a more cohesive humanity built on equivalent access to the same standard of living irrespective of where on Earth one chooses to live and raise a (typically small) family.

Depending on how the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak progresses in the next few weeks and months, and how successful are the scientific and pharmaceutical communities in expeditiously developing an effective vaccine, this disease may prove to be the most serious immediate challenge to humanity. 

Moreover, if this outbreak is successfully contained and eradicated – primarily on the back of the impressive response by the Chinese authorities – it still gives an indication of the tenuous nature of our existence on this wonderful planet, and just how quickly the reality of our existence can be placed in danger.

Most significantly, it highlights that whether we are talking about acute or long-term crises, the reality of life on this Earth for humanity is that we have no choice but to face these challenges together.

Acting individualistically and with self-interest can not produce the sustainable effective response for which all people wish. 

Clearly there is little chance of humanity coming together and working towards solutions to the greatest challenges if the groundwork to build mutual trust has been neglected. 

Therefore, the best vaccine against crises is social cohesion within societies and across humanity.

Social cohesion within multicultural societies is the best stepping stone towards cohesion across humanity. And to do that we must address all of those biases and prejudices within our societies from the ground up, in our workplaces and in our day to day lives, and we must demand of our elected leadership that they work towards a united humanity, and we must punish (politically) those who seek to divide us.

That, I believe, is a world that the survivors of Auschwitz would want for us all, and as it was articulated so warmly and brilliantly by President Roosevelt shortly before his all too early passing.

Addendum

In times of crisis it is very much human nature to reach out to friends in potential danger and inquire on whether they are doing OK, and to let them know that you are thinking of them and wishing them well. I certainly have received those types of emails myself from friends overseas this past summer as they expressed their concern and sorrow for the bushfires in Australia.

I guess we all hope that that brief moment of personal connection – a few kind and caring words, a smile, a pat on the back – will provide some emotional support to our friends and at the same time nourish our own souls.

That is what I did yesterday. After a long time I reached out to Zhengli to let her know I care and that I am thinking of her and her family. I had an inkling that she might be involved in the research into the outbreak, of course, but I was entirely unaware of her career successes since my early retirement from scientific research. Zhengli responded quickly, which I appreciated given the enormity of the challenge she and her team faces – I like to think a brief heart-warming personal distraction provided some light relief in the midst of the intense environment they are undoubtedly working through.

I am so glad that a person of the quality of Dr Shi Zhengli is heading up the research response to this current outbreak – a better person you could not meet, a loving mother and caring friend, and an exceptional scientist. We should all be grateful to her and her team, and our other Chinese friends responding on the ground, who are making significant personal sacrifices for all of our benefit.

As I have said on numerous occasions in my writing, it is when we face collective crises that we truly know that we are united together as human beings against our greatest challenges. Please let this be a lesson that we can hold onto and move forward together before we damage ourselves and our wonderful planet to a point where all of the progress of the last century is lost.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

Featured

Introducing MacroEdgo

This site encompasses economic, investment, financial, business and managerial analysis and life philosophy.

It is unapologetically challenging! 

If you do not take with a grain of salt some of what I say here then I have failed in my aim. I pride myself on being ahead of the curve and absolutely feel uncomfortable being a part of the herd, ie. part of the consensus, perhaps the one exception being when I am ready to take profits on an investment position.

I developed this site to fill a number of growing voids around the need for quality unconflicted opinion accessible at a reasonable cost, but not from a robot! 

In fact, this site is run on a new business model – you decide what the analysis is worth. If you read a piece of analysis which you feel has added value to your thought process then you decide yourself on what that value is – immediately and enduringly – and make a donation on my GoFundMe page.

Of course if down the track you realise that something that you have read that I have written has added value – such as something that you took with a grain of salt initially but you came to realise there was validity to it – you can return and donate when you reach that conclusion.

This model is essentially an “honesty system” and it reminds me of my family’s first watermelon stall (we own a sugarcane farm along the Bruce Highway in northern Queensland) which operated under the same principle. My older brother, always a sceptic, insisted that we collect the money via a slot in an old steel safe in which we placed 4 x 50kg tractor weights. (Dad of course made the point that the tractor weights were worth more than a few days of takings.) One morning in the first week, as we brought the watermelons to stock the stand, we noticed that the safe was standing on its edge. Somebody did well to even lift a side off the ground, but we failed to notice who around my small home town was walking with a sore back!

I prefer to work this way because it is entirely fair and democratic to the reader. Just like I was prepared to accept that some people won’t pay for a watermelon, I accept that some who will profit from reading these pages will not pay for it. But I also know that being optimistic about the goodness at the core of human nature has been the most profitable – in all of it’s senses – courses that can be taken in life.

I do not want subscribers with automatic renewals where other content providers hope payment will slip by unnoticed or for subscriber lethargy leading to cancellation after payment has been made one more time.

Moreover, not operating on a subscription basis releases me of any obligation to produce to deadline. I will write what I want when I want – when I feel passionate is when I write best. 

If you find value in what I have written, you reward me. Simple as that!

There are a few economic analysts – working privately or within investment banks – who charge several thousand of dollars annually for a subscription to their research, and I would also certainly appreciate gratis access as an “in-kind” contribution for my efforts.

In this age of click baiting, please be aware that there will never be advertising on these pages and I will not in any way attempt to determine what genre of writing brings in the greatest revenues.

Finally, there is a good reason why there are no contact details on these pages and there is no opportunity for another’s opinion to be stated here. If you wish to understand these reasons then you can read the “About” page to its conclusion.

Warm regards

Brett Edgerton


© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2019

Featured

About

I am an ex-scientist and believe in full disclosure… so here is the full story…

Check out my Curriculum Vitae for my career as a scientist.

Check out my Investment History.

Firstly, why the “Edgo” in “MacroEdgo”. I come from the small agricultural town of Innisfail in northern Queensland where my Great Grandparents were pioneers after moving there when only 5 houses existed in the town. My Great Grandparents had 13 children, and my Grandparents alone then had 7 children who gave them 26 grandchildren of which I am the youngest (and many of my cousins have grandchildren). Very many of my extended family remain in Innisfail and most of us are referred to as “Edgo” often preceded by our first name – so in Innisfail I am often referred to as “Brett Edgo”. A voila

I was a research scientist until the age of 34 when the biological clock caught up with my career aspirations. After returning to Australia from 2 highly regarded international research fellowships (in France with the CNRS, the equivalent of Australia’s CSIRO, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany) I was unable to find a way to continue my work or obtain secure employment, and having delayed starting a family to obtain that security, I “retired”from my career when my wife fell pregnant with our first child.

My accountant wife had far superior career security and earnings potential, and with home prices charging ahead (I will discuss this in one of my posts), it really was the only choice for me to assume the role of being the primary carer for our beautiful son who was joined shortly afterwards by another beautiful son.

I won’t pretend that the transition was easy – for 14 years I had poured my heart and soul into my research and I could only imagine a future where I never retired and was the dottery old professor still hanging around the University electron microscopy centre. I was devastated.

Making it worse was the knowledge that my work was important even if it was difficult to obtain funding. For instance, at the time when I retired I was almost certainly the only Australian that had worked with White Spot Virus which was the cause of the disease incursion in south east Queensland prawn farms in recent years. While in France in 2001 I obtained funding from Biosecurity Australia (my previous employer) to expose native Australian freshwater crayfish to the virus to determine their susceptibility.

Because I could not even contemplate another future for myself, I went “cold turkey” and retired immediately with the clicking of the “send” button of the email announcing it to my colleagues. And within a few weeks I was in the emergency room of a hospital having a breakdown, panicked at the thought of how I could ever deal with my loss.

That was a long time ago, and I now am entirely certain that ending my career was best for me and my family. I am extremely satisfied and happy with the course of my life. Becoming a stay at home Dad is my ultimate fulfillment and, while I left behind a body of research of which I will be forever proud, my primary role in raising two quality young men – worldly, rounded, confident and at ease within the world – is easily my most enduring contribution to mankind. 

But I still had a very active, analytical mind and I yearned to contribute to societal progression. 

I submitted my PhD thesis in October 1996 and earned my first professional income a few months later when I was very nearly 27 years of age. Even though my work was far more important to me than money – eg. when moving to France with my wife in 2001 our joint income fell by 80%! –  having foregone so much earning potential I instinctively knew that I needed to use well whatever funds my wife and I were able to accumulate. So I became a voracious reader of financial and investment literature as well as Business media. Thus began a long and enduring passion.

I was raised on a sugarcane farm, which was originally owned by my Great Grandfather, and my parents had long struggled with meeting debt obligations taken on to clear additional land during (what turned out to be the end of) the 1970’s resources boom. My father always regretted listening to industry and Government forecasters who encouraged those that had capacity to expand to do so as they forecasted sugar prices to remain high for the foreseeable future.

From this I instinctively understood that I needed to develop a strong knowledge of markets and economics to insulate myself from “salespeople” peddling agendas which are not necessarily in my best interest. I realised that it is not sufficient to plead ignorance and blame others for my decisions – if I was going to take on risk than I was going to be informed and take responsibility for my successes and failures.

On returning to Australia in 2003 Brisbane was in the grips of the first leg of the house price run up as the housing bubble spread from the larger southern centres. I will go into greater detail in a post but suffice to say that by 2007 I was ready to turn my market analytical talents to providing an alternate opinion to the property-conflicted mainstream media.

In 2007 I launched my website “Homes4Aussies” shortly before I shirt-fronted a newly installed PM Rudd at a Community Cabinet meeting in northern Brisbane (see here). Even more than my personal early glimpse at Rudd’s now famous temper, I remember the meeting for being taunted at arm’s length by Treasurer Wayne Swann. And I honestly shook all the way home as I congratulated myself for showing such admirable restraint while wondering how it would have played out in the press if a guy who had had his rent raised by 30% in one year while saving for a home deposit while property investors pushed prices to surge higher, with a second child on the way, while recovering from a breakdown after finishing an accomplished career in scientific research due to lack of opportunity in this country, took a swing at the Treasurer after he taunted him with “you’re dreaming if you think negative gearing will ever be ended!”

I drove traffic to my website by blogging widely on mainstream media and listing as my location my website (I had not seen anybody do that previously).

I wanted to play a role in public policy debate. But most of all I wanted to show particularly younger Australians that there were alternate views to the ones that they were being bombarded with in the mainstream media. I wanted to challenge these so that fellow Australians might stop to think twice before committing to a future of debt repayment for an asset that they were being told only ever went up in price and where they could not lose. For example, I blogged against and attempted to initiate a wager with the realestate agent author of a report which featured in all major Brisbane papers who forecasted that the median price of Brisbane houses would rise exponentially and would reach $1 Million soon after 2015.

I was also invited to participate in several online debates.

And I proudly walked with Steve Keen on his first day out of Canberra after losing his infamous bet which Rory (where are you these days?) Robertson ambushed him with the proposed wager at a public presentation.

A lot of things happened around those times. Such is the passion around housing investment that I received a lot of threatening email which, on reading, my family would wonder why I persisted with my efforts. On this site I have placed as much of my work from that time as possible, but unfortunately I lost quite a lot when my computer was hacked. I was tight-lipped about having been hacked for a few weeks but within a couple of hours of me mentioning it in an email to Tony Richards of the RBA I received a phone call from my bank saying that my credit card had been cancelled due to suspicious activity which had just occurred. I accept that it could be coincidence but I think it highly likely that I was being surveilled (by someone) at the time.

I became quite active on a blogsite named “Bubblepedia” set up by Sydney anaesthetist Daniel Cox and I think it is fair to say that I was a key contributor and my involvement was a major reason for it’s growth in popularity. In the midst of widespread group think around housing I found it helpful to “hang out” with like-minded individuals often in similar situations. I have always been careful not to provide advice but I was keen to provide my opinion on factors surrounding the housing market and the purchase decision.

While active on Bubblepedia I led the development of flyer which was available to print and deliver into mailboxes, and donations received funded the printing and delivery of the flyer in the electorates of PM Rudd and Treasurer Swann.

In late 2011 I bowed out from blogging on Bubblepedia as I had been hard at it for 4 years and there were some quality contributors entering the space who I felt could do a better job than myself. Three of these went on to form MacroBusiness. And by this time I had bought a family home which required work and I was happily getting on with that.

I left the group saying that I wanted to write a book around the issues of the home purchase decision process. But I was never committed enough to sit down and write it. In many ways this site will pick up on that desire, although housing will only be a minor focus, in a more progressive manner than writing a large treatise in one hit!
After Bubblepedia I continued blogging occasionally on MacroBusiness, and in the early days had a couple of Guest Posts.

However, in 2017 I pulled my support for MacroBusiness due to concerns over the way that they are prosecuting their arguments around immigration. As I explained to Leith Van Onselin when he called to discuss my withdrawal of support, I had become increasingly concerned with their emotional language, and the final straw was Leith’s use of the xenophobic terminology “white flight” in a post. Leith immediately admitted it was a mistake to use the term and edited the post upon my objection, but I explained that it is an error that should not have been made. The response by other participants to my objection in the comments section below his post really confirmed my greatest concern that the site is acting as a ecosphere for people who have ramped up and seek to further ramp up xenophobic emotions – Leith informed me that they do not moderate comments, which in itself is problematic in my view.

I read on occasions comments about the choice of Homes4Aussies as the name for my website. It should be noted that one’s definition of who is an “Aussie” is very much subjective, and all should be assured that mine is a very broad interpretation and I have always been very clear about that. In fact, my aim was to help all people seeking housing in Australia whether they be temporary residents right through to peoples who have resided in our geographical area for 40,000 years.

I never cease to be amazed by how quickly us human beings connect. If you need any assurance of that just participate in a student exchange and see how many children and adults are crying a the end of the week! (We have recently participated in two exchange programs and our guests leaving was sorrowful for our family.)

Anybody who respects us and our country enough to wish to spend some of their life here – even if just a year on a working holiday – almost certainly considers themselves partly “Aussie”, and I certainly see them as just that.

I vividly remember singing with moist eyes, arms around each other, “We are Australian” with an Indian-Aussie guy at an entertainment night during a month-long workshop in China. I love multicultural Australia and it is what I am most proud about this country. And being overseas, amongst intellectual and worldly fellow Humboldt Fellowship recipients, answering questions about the children overboard election was one of my most embarrassing and disappointing moments as an Aussie!

As I said in my parting comment on MacroBusiness, human beings are at their best when they seek to unite not divide.

Most recently I have only blogged infrequently on various investment websites and most frequently on Roger Montgomery’s. I have re-posted on this site some of my more recent comments as they remain topical and are themes that I will surely return to in the weeks and months ahead.

During my early blogging activities I seriously entertained the idea of challenging PM Rudd in the political arena by running against him in his electorate as an independent, admittedly not with any fantasy of actually beating him but with the aim to draw attention to the housing affordability issue. 

However, after a few years of intense blogging I realised that I did not possess the mental health capacity to be so actively and publicly engaged in public debate, and this was also a factor in me stepping back from blogging. 

As an early teenager I was exposed to chronic stress and conflict, and on one occasion I had to to bravely stepup to prevent a seriously violent escalation which could have had catastrophic outcomes.

These times left scars on my mental health, and in part precipitated my breakdown later in life when I was confronted by extreme stress and loss. As a consequence, while being reasonably adept at conflict and heated debate, I know that prolonged conflict – such as protracted debating – takes a toll on my mental health and causes me great anxiety.

While I wish to have my views heard on these critical issues, I need to do so in way which protects my health.

That is why, unlike on my first website and through my blogging activities on other sites, and although I respect others’ rights to have their voice heard, there is no opportunity on this site for others to state their supportive or contradictory views, there are no contact details to voice disagreement directly to me, and I aim to not publicly respond to any comments about me or this site.


© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2019

China Halts Salmon Imports On COVID-19 Transmission Concerns

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, European salmon exporters are prevented from exporting to China while authorities study the potential link with a new cluster of COVID-19 in Beijing after the virus was detected on cutting boards that were used to butcher imported salmon.

This is precisely the scenario that I discussed in “COVID-19 and Food Safety In Processed Meat” on 1 May, and in my short and detailed YouTube videos.

This is right down my field of expertise. I am the last person who supports the use of biosecurity as a barrier to trade – that was why I was so keen to leave Biosecurity Australia (formerly within AQIS). But this is the very concern that I have been highlighting at MacroEdgo.

Rightfully, the quoted experts are saying that fish, or any seafood, are highly unlikely to be infected by the virus. It is almost certainly an issue of contamination either prior to export or in the market environment.

EITHER WAY this highlights the main point that I way been making – it is not sufficient for authorities to simply say “there is no evidence” the coronavirus is transmitted with food and that be the end of it. I must admit that I would consider seafood a lower risk for contamination, compared with pork and beef especially, because the small size of the animals permits greater mechanisation and therefore less contact with people. If it is found that the salmon were contaminated during processing, then all else being equal I would have to consider the risk with uncooked pork and beef greater.

Finally, yes Australia does import uncooked salmon from Europe in fillets, etc. But I would suggest that everybody be very careful with all forms of processed meat – remember the cluster at the Victorian processor took around a month to uncover and by that time almost 20% of staff had been infected.

This is my risk management strategy (most of it is standard and would be on the audit list of a food inspector in most developed countries, but that is not how we live our normal lives in our homes): I am not eating any form of uncooked meat of any type, I am handling all uncooked meat very carefully to try to minimise splashing, I am trying to have a clear space (as best I can) where I prepare the meat and where I clean up utensils to minimise the chances of small droplets landing on other surfaces which may not get cleaned, I am wiping down bench space around work areas with mild disinfectant and/or warm soapy water, I am being careful to not touch my face or other skin surfaces while my hands are contaminated, and I wash my hands thoroughly with disinfectant hand wash regularly through any preparation and especially when I have finished touching uncooked meat. But this can sometimes be difficult to achieve, and accidents happen and that will be the subject of further videos in my series.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update 15 June

WHO Situation Report 146 for 14 June (released 15 June Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 6,690,708 confirmed cases (137,526 new), 427,630 deaths (4,281 new)

Graphs from Johns Hopkins University Dashboard.

The US President shows no inclination to lead on much else other than creating division in society. Consequently the US with the UK remain the most severely impacted nations for which reasonable data collection and testing exists – i.e. amongst all but the least developed nations – although the pandemic is now out of control in South America. The latest report on the US by the Imperial College London, written before the BlackLivesMatter rallies began, showed that the US was on course for a serious escalation in the damage to its people (especially its underprivileged minorities, and it is my emphasis below):

We predict that increased mobility following relaxation of social distancing will lead to resurgence of transmission, keeping all else constant. We predict that deaths over the next two-month period could exceed current cumulative deaths by greater than two-fold, if the relationship between mobility and transmission remains unchanged. Our results suggest that factors modulating transmission such as rapid testing, contact tracing and behavioural precautions are crucial to offset the rise of transmission associated with loosening of social distancing.

Overall, we show that while all US states have substantially reduced their reproduction numbers, we find no evidence that any state is approaching herd immunity or that its epidemic is close to over.

My work on COVID-19 since last update has concentrated on developing a series of videos on food safety particularly with reference to processed meat from plants where large numbers of infected workers have the potential to contaminate the meat prior to packing. Last week I released a short form video and today I released a more detailed video. Although still working on the editing of the latter, the emerging news at the weekend out of China of a new cluster of COVID-19 at a wholesale food market and the finding of virus-contaminated cutting boards used for salmon, and then the removal of salmon from supermarket shelves, obviously prompted me to expedite the release.

I did receive a response from a federal minister to my most recent letter, but I shall not share it here because it says nothing of real substance.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

COVID-19 Update 28 May

28 May

WHO Situation Report 128 for 27 May (released 28 May Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 5,488,825 confirmed cases (83,465 new), 349,095 deaths (5,581 new)

As I said on 8 May, the trajectory of Cases/100K population suggests that before long the US will be in the worst situation and that has certainly played out over the intervening 20 days. I repeat the remainder verbatim – Whether that is reflected later in the Deaths/100K population will be determined by the outcome of those infections and equivalence in collation of numbers of deaths. I have seen nothing to suggest that the US has been any better than any other developed country at treating COVID-19 cases, but there are clear differences between nations in collation of mortality data. Graphs from Johns Hopkins University Dashboard.

Since my last update I have released two major COVID-19-related reports in “Toxic Masculinity and Political Footballs” and “Your Life: Something The Elites Have Always Been Prepared To Sacrifice For Their Ends

As I write I feel as concerned for the world as I did in February – no, worse, because then I put the inactions of the major English-speaking countries down to ignorance. Now it is clear that it is the ills of how capitalism has been allowed to develop in our countries. (Sadly, the problems of what would occur in the developing world were obvious due to inaction by the developed world over decades.)

A friend forwarded a post on Facebook that said “when a society regrets the economic loss more than the loss of life, it doesn’t need a virus, it is already sick”, and that sums up well my own feelings about the situation.

Mostly I am disappointed in myself, in my inability to be persuasive with others to ultimately have an influence on decision makers. As at writing I still have not received any reply whatsoever to my letters to decision makers.

I deeply disagree with the opening up of Australia at this point in time – heading into winter, on the verge of eliminating the virus within Australia, and with a large proportion of the community in agreement with the need for the stringent measures.

Here is as plain a statement as can be made – what New Zealand and Australia have clearly shown is that deaths from COVID-19 from this point on in people in Australia who do not travel overseas were preventable. There is a great deal of evidence now of the severe impacts of this disease on human populations, and developments since I wrote “COVID-19 Elephants In The Room” make it clear that it is indeed prudent to always bear in mind that we do not yet understand the full impacts on humanity.

To create momentum towards opening up, Morrison played a petty political game of pitting State Governments against each other over sensitive issues around schooling and borders.

If we had maintained our stringent measures in full for another 8-10 weeks we were highly likely to have succeeded in eliminating the virus from Australia, through diligent contact tracing and testing of the few cases that arose in that time, combined with very stringent international border measures. If the counter-argument, that decision-makers dare not utter publicly, was that they suspected there was already too much virus circulating in the community to feasibly be successful at elimination, then why would they lessen the measures just as we head into what all agree is the most critical season for managing the disease?

The economic and social benefits of elimination allowing the entire domestic economy and general society to open back up are so obvious and powerful that it is hard to fathom the decision to not continue on towards it. It makes no sense… except, of course, if my short post entitled “What Really Scares The Global Elite” is spot on.

More than ever I believe that the Elites fear “The Great Reset” and what it will do to their grip on wealth and power.

Their political puppets treated their societies like addicts – afraid that they would go cold turkey on their addictions to mindless consumerism and all that entails, like choosing aspiration for social standing over contributions to society through family and community, they were eager to give little tastes along the way to maintain those habits. Consequently, we will be doomed to repeated cycles of opening up which permits the virus to spread, and then we will (though what has occurred in the US suggests that the more appropriate word is “may”) go through periods of lockdown to temporarily slow the rate of spread.

What is already abundantly clear to me is that in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia the elected decision makers did not choose “People Before Money“.

To conclude, as my post “COVID-19 And Food Safety In Processed Meat” showed, this is an emergent issue, but true to form, the decision makers seem more concerned with the economic impacts of closures rather than the public safety issues. So I am currently working on a video – or series of videos – to get to the heart of the risk factors. I will post them here, on YouTube and on Facebook, so keep an eye out.

Stay safe. I am for a united humanity!


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

In Memory of Dr David Banks

I write best, I believe, when I connect with my emotions. Today while I was driving to my home I was thinking of Dr David Banks, my former boss at Biosecurity Australia (formerly within AQIS), and I wanted to share my thoughts and, more importantly, my feelings.

As I have said elsewhere, the hardest part of retiring prematurely was losing my community of fellow scientists, and while I admit I could have done a better job at maintaining those links, when I became inactive in science I feared that there would be a lack of things to talk about. Obviously needing to recover from a breakdown and the associated anxiety also created a barrier to preserving those connections.

David passed away all too early and I know exactly when because of the circumstances – I learned of David’s passing in a plane crash from a television news broadcast while sitting in a hospital chair holding my first born in my arms in early May 2005. Having no ongoing connection with my former colleagues, I have never had the chance to reminisce or share with others my warm affections for David.

I thought the world of David, and I like to think he had a high regard for me. I should also say, because there will be no better time, that I thought the world of all of my bosses at Biosecurity Australia including Peter Beers, Bernie Robinson, and Gunny (he knows who he is). These were by far the best mentors that I ever worked with and I only wish that I were able to enjoy the work more because I certainly enjoyed working with them. These people are undoubtedly the most decent and authentic people that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

David was a true gentleman with an enormous heart. There were times when I admit that I felt sorry for him because I thought that he was genuinely conflicted by the strains of treading a difficult line between science and politics. But then I would reflect on the fact that if there was somebody who would manage to find that line in the most optimal way it is somebody who cared as much as he did.

I have many fond reflections of David and for me he is one of the more memorable people that I have known in my life. I recall one time in his office having drinks with the entire Animal Biosecurity team present, and I was chatting in a small group with him when he said words to the affect of “the real difficulty with biosecurity policy is that it is a bit opaque – and often it comes down to ‘gut feeling’ or ‘the vibe’ – but you usually know you have it about right when both sides have the shits with you, and that makes the Minister have the shits with you also”.

On a Friday many of us from the team would go down to the RUC for a few beers and David would rarely miss one. My wife, Chandima, also worked for AQIS and would walk down to join us. The minute she appeared through the door David would ask what she wanted to drink, and if Bernie was there, too, he would stand as Chandima and any other woman approached the table.

These are things that may at the time seem minor that stay with you and make people special in our lives.

When I was leaving Biosecurity Australia to take a fellowship with the CNRS in France, to work in JR Bonami’s lab, David gave a speech that has stayed with me. It was utterly beyond his comprehension why someone would want to go back into research and academia from such a good job and he expressed that view plainly. It hinted at some scarring that he obviously carried.

At the time, as a 30 year old, I disagreed with him. I never did see him again to say that I had come to agree with him – that he was right – but, unfortunately, research was still in my blood and I was destined to keep searching for a place that combined colleagues with the humane qualities of my Biosecurity Australia mentors and colleagues with the role that I wished to play for humanity in conducting scientific research, a place which ultimately eluded me.

It saddens me to this day that there is no chance that I will ever have the opportunity to again share David’s generous company and hear about his bees.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

Workplace Flexibility Success

When I launched MacroEdgo in November 2019 I had already developed a great deal of material to upload as I developed my readership. Some pieces were nearly complete, while some were just notes on a specific post topic.

I listed management issues as one topic that I would write on, and prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, I posted two related posts in “The Authenticity Piece for Leadership Is Right In My Wheelhouse” and “Quotas Are Necessary To Address Workplace Diversity“.

I had developed notes on another post which I had entitled “The Underrated Benefits of Flexible Work Conditions”. I never got to go beyond my notes for that post as the COVID-19 pandemic quickly consumed my writing assignments, but I wish I had given how things have played out in workplaces due to measures to counteract the pandemic.

These are my notes as they stood at the time of the MacroEdgo launch:

  • talk about experience of [my wife] – on the few occasions when she works from home (eg when I am unwell and unable to carry out my usual stay at home Dad responsibilities) she gets up and turns on her computer, has a cuppa and around the time that she would normally begin getting dressed for work she reads emails and begins working and she normally finishes around the time she arrives home after work… so she devotes around the same amount of time to work as usual, except that the time spent preparing and travelling to and from work is mostly given to her work… but the family is happier because she is nearby all day rather than being out of the house for 11 hours each work day… she is relaxed because she is home and can go to our kitchen and grab a snack as she likes… she can cook a nice lunch if she likes… she can be more involved with the kids’ routines if she needs to or if she chooses after all she is doing way more hours than normally…
  • I realised the value of flexible working at uni where I basically worked for myself… if I made a discovery, eg found a new virus, I worked almost continuously until I had filled out my research and sent a paper to a journal… but after a week or two of intense work, I would not go to uni for a week… I just sat at home and watched TV and unwound, and built up my energy to get back into my normal routine… I finished my PhD with 8 peer-reviewed papers which is considered by most a prolific effort…
  • Essentially, I worked hardest when I was most passionate and that was when I produced my best work… everybody suffers the mid-PhD blues and that is when we must be disciplined and stick to routine to keep grinding out the work… but if we must always do a set number of hours every week regardless of what we are doing, then the periods of stimulation tend to lessen and the whole lot of it can become drudgery…
  • I realised the folly of the need to “be seen to be working” through the experiences of an Australian colleague who did a Postdoc in Japan and then Korea… He described to me his work week – working at a university in Tokyo, on a usual Postdoc subsistence-like income, he could not afford to live a short travelling time from the uni… He travelled in to uni every Monday morning leaving 4 am for a 1.5 hr bullet train trip to uni… in Japan people must be at work before their boss, and with a lot of hierarchy in their organisations, and with the strong work ethic and long hours of those even at the top of the hierarchy, postdocs and PhD students needed to be at the department by 5.30 am to unsure that they were there before their bosses/supervisors, and they would not be able to leave until at least 9 pm… They also worked Saturday mornings… so my colleague was at the Department from early Monday morning through to Saturday lunch time, and only was at his apartment from Saturday afternoon to 4 am Monday morning… when I asked him how he managed to work under those conditions, he simply said that they were not necessarily required to work all of the time while at uni – and most would need to sleep with their heads on their desks during the day – he just had to physically be seen to be there while his boss was there… I personally witnessed this culture at conferences where the Japanese academic would be followed by his entourage of students – like a brood of ducklings following their parents, they would follow them out of the auditorium and if they stopped to chat with a colleague the ducklings would just mill around behind them quietly chatting or looking at the ground until the professor was ready to move on… my colleague said that in many ways things were even more strict in South Korea… I honestly don’t know how he did it!
  • of course what all of this says is that it is the output that is what is really important, not the hours or even effort put into that output
  • for example, if someone is able to work more efficiently (smarter) and produce the same volume of output at the same (or better) standard as another who works 50% longer hours, who really is the better worker?? And if a workplace experiences a crisis where everybody must take on 50% higher workload to deal with it, is it realistic that someone doing 60 hrs can increase even temporarily to 90 hrs per week??
  • Is it fair to say that a lot of what is put down to hierarchy is really about ego of the manager… and tendency towards sociopathy/psychopathy… link in my Leadership post…??
  • a manager’s role is to evaluate output… a manager that must always see that somebody is working to evaluate that output is not really a manager… they are admitting that they are incapable of evaluating somebody’s real performance so must use a very physical metric of hours spent at work…
  • flexibility in work conditions, and especially on working from home, is a frontier that promises significant benefits for the employer (more motivated workers and higher productivity, and greater capacity to deal with challenges) as well as the employee (better work life balance and mental health, and potential cost savings in professional clothing and travel)… If embraced widely this could lead to significant benefits to the environment with the removal of single-passenger vehicles and lower demand on public transport…

Since writing these notes the world has changed, and nowhere more than in the white collar workplace. Quite remarkably the entire developed world has almost instantaneously taken up the opportunity that technology provides to have most of or their entire workforce working from home.

Rather gratifying for myself, employees have embraced it and employers have quickly realised essentially what was in my notes, and additionally realised other significant benefits.

Nearly every executive that I have seen discussing this issue on the Business media is overwhelmingly positive about the development. Undoubtedly most are pleased that their employees are happy with the arrangement, though many are equally excited about the potential cost savings as well as realising that their workers are more productive.

When the COVID-19 pandemic eases and employees feel safe to emerge from their safe bubbles, I am certain that some workers that could conceivably work entirely from home will decide to spend some time in the office for social benefits. However, I would suggest that white collar workplaces will never be as they were in early 2020, and I believe that very few employees, especially those with families, given a choice of workplace flexibility will turn down the opportunity to work at least part of their routine hours in their home.

Equally I am certain that this will continue to be a great benefit to employers as well as employees and their families.


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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020