Editorial: Autumn edition of the Salisbury Review

Squash a large number of animals in a confined space and sooner or later a fatal disease will make its appearance. Farmer Brown knows this only too well and keeps disease out of his factory farm by the liberal use of antibiotics, vaccines and confining them in crates. There is plenty of room on the earth for us humans to avoid being squashed together, huge areas of the globe are unpopulated, but cities are now the trend and people from all over the world flock to them.

They arrive in aircraft ensuring all passengers share the same air and the same respiratory diseases. Aircraft are by no means the sole cause of Covid 19’s spread but they ensure it spreads rapidly before governments have time to prepare a defence.

The arrival of Covid 19, probably overnight from China, caused an enormous panic, yet it appeared to be a very ordinary infectious disease likely to respond to common sense measures familiar to anybody who works in a hospital: Wash your hands, keep your distance, avoid crowds, wear a mask and hope for a vaccine. It’s cheap, it’s cheerful and except for the vaccine, not difficult.

Our government took a further step by locking everybody in their homes. Most British people obeyed cheerfully although it is unlikely they will do so again. Social distancing, masks, and hand washing are only common sense. People are still arguing about lockdown.

Meanwhile, as in any panic, voices were raised against simple solutions. Everybody in the chattering classes became their own virologist blaming everyone but themselves for Covid’s rapid spread. There were those who denied the existence of the virus, some who said masks made it worse, some who declared they would rather die than wash their hands and those who believed that crowds were the thing as they created ‘herd immunity.’

Anti-vaxxers had a field day, declaring Covid19 to be a plot by Bill Gates and George Soros to start a world immunisation scheme putting governments in their power by forcing them to use their unique vaccine in return for starting a radical green agenda; no cars, no aircraft, no factories, no power stations, no home ownership, only vegetable soup in tower blocks powered by windmills.

In the panic the real victims, the very old and those whose lives had been artificially and often painfully extended by modern medicine, were deprived of the right to die at home surrounded by their families (or in a familiar nursing home), of the ‘old man’s friend’, pneumonia. Instead they were whisked off to intensive care units to die alone on a respirator, one of the most horrible ways of going you could devise.

So, who is at fault? The Green Fascists, the Chinese military, Bill Gates, Boris Johnson, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, various public health departments, WHO, drug companies, the Elders of Zion, or the old lady at the end of the street with too many cats? No, it’s you and me dear reader. Who has not flown off for a weekend to Europe, taken a couple of transcontinental holidays in one year, or flown out to spend a week in a part of the world hitherto unspoilt by modernity, except for the other 50,000 like you who will visit it this year?

Have we learnt our lesson? No. Nobody is going to give up flying, that has been made clear by the surge in demand over the summer for holiday flights to resume, the profits they generate financing the means by which millions more migrants continue to flood the country from the poorer parts of Asia, making a Muslim Britain not far off. Like the Romans with their network of well-kept post roads, and fast galleys, we are subsidising our own destruction.

Will there be more pandemics? Probably, but impossible to say when; next year, a century hence or how fatal. But we do know that the spread of Covid19 and the half a million who have died worldwide is an example of the danger of pushing a technology, in this case aviation, to its very limits. 4.4 billion passengers took to the skies in 2018 with all that means for environmental destruction, the wiping out of cultures, unsustainable immigration, war and disease.

Aircraft don’t just fly tulips to London from Amsterdam as you sleep, they fly urgently needed weapons the other way to ignorant and violent tribesmen in Yemen where 2 million have died in a pointless war, and many other things we could well do without, such as mass tourism, bombers, drug dealers, slavers, thieves and backward religious fanatics.

So, the next time you buckle in for that flight to Nice or Barcelona, think how a similar petrie dish to the one you are sitting in nearly wiped out the beaches of Bali, shut down our economy for three months, put your neighbour out of work, and killed old Mr Jones up the road with his weak heart.

Come fly with me?

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5 Comments on Editorial: Autumn edition of the Salisbury Review

  1. About three months ago, when my wife and our four adult children (spread between Ireland, England, Finland and New Zealand) were having an online talk via Zoom, my two sons reminded me of something I said to them in the mid 1990s and that I had forgotten. We lived in Ireland which, until the advent of RyanAir, boasted some of the most expensive air routes per mile in the world. Most people travelled to Britain by boat; only those with deep pockets could afford the air fares.

    The advent of RyanAir (which is Irish) and other low-cost carriers changed all that, and encouraged the boom in cheap long-distance air travel. My children reminded me that I had said to them words to the effect that this cheap long-distance travel was not sustainable in the long term, for all kinds of reasons, and that it would quickly go belly-up if something went seriously wrong.

    In recent years I had forgotten those comments. Moreover, the apparently endless adaptivity of the aircraft industry, of airlines, of infrastructure made it seem, even to my sceptical mind, as if cheap long-distance travel for the masses was here to stay. Recent events have shown how wrong my recent thinking has been.

    This editorial explains several of the reasons why, even if the industry does recover, travel of this kind is indeed unsustainable except in ways that reflect the true cost — sociological and ethical, as well as economic. If we fail to take account of that cost, we will reap the fruits of our profligacy.

  2. No doubt there is much weeping and wringing of hands in the boardrooms of airlines up and down the country today, with news of a further national lockdown planned for their customary cash grab of the October half term. It’s the little people I feel for; they always get cut off at the knees whilst the executive soldiers on gamely with their six figure salaries and index-linked pensions. I suppose that if life were fair it would be a whole lot less interesting.