Environmentalists and economists closely monitor the sum of the pieces of work
Tales of our time
By JOHN BARTLIT
Citizens of New Mexico
for clean air and water
Our economy and the ecology of infectious diseases are whirlwinds of moving parts. The pandemic has made these truths clearer than usual and shed light on party politics.
Each party pursues opposing policies, many of which have value to the nation. To win the contest, each party draws closer to the fad campaigns that fail the nation. People of various walks of life often say, “America is an idea.” Yet, history says more accurately that America is a fusion of ideas.
Look at the parties. As in perpetual motion, money travels the economy from one link to another. Sectors are linked: jobs to make new products for customers generate profits to create jobs for workers to buy other products that create jobs. The pandemic has made it clearer that losing or slowing down one of these activities slows down many others.
The ‘ecology’ of infectious disease also has ways of showing the connection from one ‘sector’ to another: a virus attacks its prey before humans develop innate defenders, and workers make new products to combat it. attacks, as new invaders evolve into people. The giant drugmakers are turning the tide.
Another surprise we get from these new looks is how strongly the economics and ecology of infectious disease interact with each other. These links have been known for a long time, but receive little attention. Each of the major political parties is used to defining national problems in such a way as to draw attention to certain selected links in the great circular chain. Each party is looking to find calls that will give it an edge in the vote, in hopes of dominating the roost.
Simplistic campaign ads are all the rage, blurring the lines of government. Governance has fallen into a permanent campaign. Nowadays, the pros and cons of policies are seldom recognized, let alone weighed. The factors critical to solving a problem would ruin a campaign slogan. Still, America has built its progress on a fusion of ideas.
Small signs of links can be seen up close. The signs are larger when viewed in larger circles. Here, mice have started building nests in car engines for the first time in years. Mice see no reason to let an idling car get lost. Other wild animals are seen in new and different places, for better and for worse. Different birds are heard in more places. Wild predators roam further into sedentary places, such as bears walking in downtown Los Alamos.
Roadkill is down which is a loss for some birds. Fewer cars on the road means fewer cars crashing into other cars, requiring less repair work. Auto insurers have reimbursed policyholders billions of dollars (with a “b”). Fewer cars on the road means gasoline sales and prices go down. Air pollution has dramatically decreased in major cities around the world. Each of these effects interacts very differently with different sectors.
The pandemic has opened up new grounds for problems. Think about masks, social distancing, vaccines, deaths in retirement homes, and travel bans. Party publicists have sniffed out these chances and broadcast portions of the news that have different appeal. As a “bonus”, each party can rightly accuse the other of politicizing everything.
The parties remain occupied with campaigns that choose certain links in the economic ecosystem. One sudden hit could give a party a slight edge and, therefore, the lion’s share of influence. We sometimes hear that “working together” is a good way to do this or that. Most often, words and measures are used to whip.
Both major parties face the same dilemma. How do you find a clear motto or slogan that stimulates parts of the larger economic ecosystem while strengthening the connections that bring the lot together? The sad truth is, no hard-hitting phrase fosters a functioning ecosystem. Environmentalists explain how an ecosystem stays strong through the interactive functions of various parts within it. Economics involves similar complexities.
Who will talk about these principles back home as a way to solve the nation’s problems?