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Forum, March 22: Ton of prevention for pound of cure

Published: 3/21/2020 10:00:14 PM
Modified: 3/21/2020 10:00:11 PM
Ton of prevention for pound of cure

As cancellations mount, we should pause and reflect upon what effect this effort will have, and what it will cost. We are told it will slow the spread of the coronavirus and buy time for medical personnel and facilities. No doubt this is true. So would drowning ourselves in the ocean.

This virus now has only a toehold in North America. But it is not going away. If all economic life is suspended for the sake of avoiding an epidemic as sure as rain, the world will plummet in to a depression. Meanwhile, the disease will continue to penetrate the dark recesses of society, and consolidate its position, ready to advance when given the opportunity. Once committed to such an effort, when will the time come that we will be able to say enough is enough? And when out of necessity we finally give in, as we must, and resume our lives, what will happen? If our efforts have been effective, will not the virus surge?

Fighting an inevitable contagious disease this way is a little like damming a river, or waging a hunger strike to protest the law of gravity. In each case, the cure is illusory, and in all likelihood will prove worse than the disease. Is there nothing we will not do to stop its spread? There is. But people also die of the consequences of economic paralysis, and when a whole nation stops going about its business, in a vain attempt to avoid the inevitable, there can be no gain. As we double down on this objective, the downside consequences pile up, and in the end we shape the battlefield for a catastrophe, as opposed to an illness that goes with living.

A ton of prevention is not always worth a pound of cure. Our scarce resources, which include the productivity of our society, would yield better returns for being committed to treatment than to chasing the false hope of escaping illness. But I am mindful that this is not always easy to say when it is your mother at risk.



On the front checkout lines

While you are out shopping in the grocery stores, would you just thank us cashiers for being on the front lines, trying to get everyone through? We’re humans too. With compassion to you and your loved ones. Thanks.



Local wood environmentally better

Recently I came across the news, as reported by National Geographic and PBS, that the natural gas industry is leaking way more methane than previously thought. Instead of the estimated 1.4% loss of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas with 80 times the climate impact of carbon dioxide, the extraction of natural gas has been found to have a loss rate of almost twice that amount.

As Dartmouth College considers its options for a base source of heat to replace its use of high-sulfer No. 6 heating oil, the high-tech use of low-grade sustainably produced wood is environmentally a more attractive option.

Weatherization, conservation, the use of solar (whose peak benefits are in the summer), and heat pumps (whose value is primarily in the shoulder seasons), are all valuable components of an overall approach. However, there will still be a need for a reliable base source of heat. In light of new information regarding the negative environmental impacts of fracking and natural gas, regionally sourced low-grade wood appears to be the most environmentally responsible choice.


South Strafford

DHMC’s mission statement?

Apparently the motto of the bureaucrats at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is: “Too big to fail.”


White River Junction

America on the cusp of autocracy

We are seeing it happen before our eyes — a transformation of our political system that will redefine our roles as citizens. We are on the cusp of autocracy. We have been forewarned in books like How Democracies Die, One Nation After Trump, The Fifth Risk. Who would have thought that U.S. could be transformed, over time, into an autocracy and subverted by a demagogue? This was a worry of our founders, but not of many citizens today. I think the threat is real.

Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld’s data in “The Threat of Tribalism,” their 2018 article in The Atlantic, are alarming. Some examples: Only 30% of Americans believe democracy is “essential.” A Pew Research Center survey showed less than half of Republicans said that the freedom of the press “to criticize politicians” was “very important.”

In addition, most Trump supporters said that the president “should be able to overturn decisions by judges he disagrees with” and more than half of Republicans supported postponing the 2020 presidential election if Trump proposed delaying it to ensure that only eligible citizens can vote.

These views support an “illiberal democracy” reflecting autocratic tendencies veiled in the cloak of democracy.

How can we alert citizens to the threat of the U.S. becoming an autocracy? First, citizens need to believe that the threat is real. To impress them, clear examples of the threat and its effects must be provided with strong leadership from both parties acknowledging it.

In addition, the press must convey accurately the concerns being talked about. We and our political leaders must take a long-range view of what is happening before our eyes. We don’t have the luxury of hindsight. We must be proactive to the threat and its potential consequences.


West Lebanon

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