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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Doom and gloom prevail

18 February 2020

If your only source of news and information is the mainstream media you're probably very depressed right now.

Those who are not smart enough to seek out the facts for themselves must be screaming with fear and anxiety right now because, if the media is to be believed, the planet is doomed.

Not only are we being told that the COVID-19 virus will infect as much as 60 percent of the world's population with millions of deaths as a result (400,000 in the UK alone) but there are also dire predictions in respect to the effects of both climate change and the virus on the global economy.

That's right, we're doomed matey!

This perfect storm of infection and flood, drought, storms and natural disasters looks set to make the coming years a misery for everyone.

Cue Tui's ad!

Fortunately I'm an optimist who believes that every day above ground is a good day, regardless of the negatives.

We've all known for quite some time now that climate change is producing more frequent and more pronounced weather extremes. These extremes are producing droughts, floods, storms and bush-fires on an unprecidented scale -- but hey, mother nature has always had the power to make us look weak and impotent.

Fortunately we have intelligence and technology that can at least partially mitigate the effects of these changes. Relocating populations from high-risk areas to low-risk ones is a good start, even if it's not always going to be a popular option. Changing land-use and management to take better advantage of a changing climate is not only commonsense but also an essential survival strategy.

As for the coronavirus -- what doesn't kill us (as a species) only makes us stronger -- or so Mr Darwin would have us believe.

Again, we have technology on our side and it's only a matter of time before we have an effective virus to immunise those who have yet to be exposed to this pathogen. In the meantime we can take measures (both at a national and personal level) to reduce the risk of exposure.

Will these factors hit our economy?

Hell yes they will. I've already written about the early effects in the form of reduced exports, job losses in forestry, tourism, and other related industries. There are now also Kiwi companies having to reduce their production for lack of raw materials or components that should have resumed flowing out of China after the CNY. Although we're hearing promises that China will be "back to work" this week, I have a feeling that the situation could be somewhat protracted and it won't be until next month (maybe later) that we really start to see that country ramping its industries back up.

Of course as a nation, we have to decide just how much effort we're going to put into preventing coronavirus from establishing a foothold here. We could simply close our borders completely and that would be a pretty effective measure. However, the impact on the nation would be huge, especially for the tourism industry.

Unfortunately, the current travel bans prohibiting visitors from China is likely to be totally ineffective and therefore hardly worth the cost/effort. Already we've seen some educational institutions pleading for an exemption so that Chinese students can come to NZ and fill their classrooms. Sorry -- but what is the point of a ban if you're going to start issuing exemptions simply on the basis of commercial expediency?

Unfortunately, as we've seen here in Tokoroa with respect to our airfield -- when bureaucrats and politicians are involved, money usurps safety every time so I expect we will see the government making concessions to support the education industry. Thus, it's only a matter of time before coronavirus makes it here and we start to see NZ citizens and residents paying the toll.

Perhaps this whole situation should come as a wake-up call to our government.

Are we well-enough prepared for self-sufficiency in the event of a global catastrophe, such as a deadly pandemic, nuclear war or whatever?

If we had to completely shut our borders with the rest of the world, could we even survive?

I think I've touched on this subject before -- but the answer is yes, but only for a short while. Once we'd run out of transport fuel, fertilizers, medicines and spare parts for our technology, NZ would be back to a very basic form of subsistence living and we would effectively have to step back over 100 years in time to survive.

But didn't I say I was an optimist?

Yeah, on the bright side, I'll be long dead and buried by then :-)

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