Mother Knows Best

Welcome to my regular Friday song/tune day, ladies and gentlemen, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you.

I’m afraid none of my song choices have made it to the 21st Century yet.  Is that because there is nothing left to sing that hasn’t already been sung?  Let’s ask mother. Read more

The Changing Seasons – April 2020

April 2020 (Autumn in Australia) — Canberra Walks Off The Covid-19 Crisis.

Never have so many Canberrans taken to the streets.  Not to protest, but to walk.

It rained.  The sun shone.  An urban forest revived after drought; too late for some trees.  Spring migrants like the Caper White butterfly feasted on autumn weeds.  Little dumpies (Diplodium truncatum) emerged from leaf litter to greet the day and would-be pollinators.  And the people came in their hundreds to traipse over woodland and reserve, grateful for the reprieve from summer’s hell, as they waited for the virus nightmare to end. Read more

Operatic

Welcome to my regular Friday song/tune day, ladies and gentlemen, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you.  I hear that singing is good for the lungs.  You can do it in the privacy of your own home, in a massed choir, or anywhere really.  It is multicultural and multi-generational.

Anonymous Doctor:

“Please don’t give in to fear, don’t amplify hatred or outrage or racism or disgust. Hold the line as a citizen of the moral community. Think of every tiny way that you can help others every day. And do it.”

Facts first.  Act.  Sing/Pray.

Anything else is inhumanity.

Kind Regards.
Tracy.

An Abundance Of Caution

Covid-19 — a personal view on the Australian response.

It seems I am incredibly naive, I heard several statements relating to the Covid-19 response last night that deeply troubled me.

The first was that there were only 2,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Australia (ABC Q&A, 16 March 2020).  Hold that thought.

The Australian Government has its Chief Medical Officer stand beside the PM or the Health Minister as if to provide a veil of professionalism and competency regarding its response. And yet, the response has been at best mediocre and at worst …..  Beyond the ban on flights from China into this country, the federal government doesn’t appear to have done anything that was timely or ‘ahead of the curve’ to reduce the infection rate.  The federal government spokespeople are quick to tout that one particular measure as decisive government action when questioned.

However, current social distancing measures appear insufficient and impractical.  The ludicrous suggestion for those needing to take public transport was to use hand sanitiser.  Who has hand sanitiser?  Schools will stay open (up to a point) and the risk of infection will be managed through good hand-washing.  Some schools don’t even have soap.  Have you seen some of the kids toilets?  Closing schools before kids have chance to spread the virus around just seems sensible.

Australia is still waiting for practical, preemptive (life-saving) social distancing measures that will make a significant difference in flattening the infection curve.  In this respect, we are far behind the curve with the Government unable to plan even 24 hours ahead.  Schools and universities are still open.  Some temporary closures have been made after the virus has already made its way into those institutions.  Unlike the private sector, there does not appear to be a policy to actively promote working from home within federal government agencies, perhaps because government IT systems are not up to the challenge.  A certificate from a doctor is often required to access special work from home arrangements.  My mother/my partner might die if I give her a virus that I don’t yet have, really doesn’t cut it with the universities, and maybe not with some employers either.  To their credit, some government agencies are being flexible.

I must declare a conflict of interest at this point.  I have a tiny house and two adult children living at home.  We only have one bathroom.  I also have a number of chronic health conditions, including Type 1 diabetes.  I use an insulin pump that my family don’t know how to operate.  Also, I’m no spring chicken.  The death rate for diabetics is high.  I’m not sure why.  It could be because those with diabetes are statistically more likely to have a range of serious health issues like kidney damage, heart disease, etc.  Or maybe it is because when push comes to shove and decisions are being made in the hospital system about who should receive life-saving intensive care, having diabetes is a threshold test?  I don’t know.

Self-isolation at home, particularly if I am unable to manage my diabetes myself, would be hugely challenging for my family.  The alternative, going to hospital, could be deadly.

Personally it would help me immensely if universities suspended classes right now.  In six weeks, my son will finish his university course.  He is keen to do whatever it takes to finish his degree.  So, in the meantime, he is stuck in lecture rooms with two hundred other students and in science laboratories working in small groups.  That can’t be good.  Who is responsible for making the decision as to when universities should close?  If it is a decision by the federal government, they need to explain why this decision has been delayed.

Perhaps it just too big a hit to the economy if schools and universities close down?  If we fail to act now, then we are on a trajectory to a major infection crisis cannot be avoided.  The countries that have done best at flattening the infection curve are those that have engaged in widespread testing and introduced extensive social distancing measures.  So far it has been a paltry effort in Australia, and with only 2000 ICU beds nationwide and the government unable to confirm the paltry number of test kits available, it will only be a matter of weeks before our health system succumbs.

John Daley, Chief Executive Officer of the Grattan Institute was interviewed for The Business last night (ABC, 17 March 2020),  He said that all the economic modelling of similar novel infection outbreaks showed that the more countervailing measures put in place to deal with public health emergencies, the more these public health measures adversely impacted the economy.  In his words,

The largest part of economic impact will be a consequence of what governments decide to do, essentially from public health measures to try and slow the diseases, the more economic damage they will do on the way through.  That is the horrible trade-off they face and that we as a community face.”

Money or life?  For those with strong constitutions that can survive the virus, it may be the economic impacts that harm them most.  Am I getting to the nub of the Federal Government’s response here?  This is a deeply conservative government that has managed to convince many in the electorate that it is a better economic manager than its opponent.  Yet many of the elderly who are most likely to vote for them, will be the ones most affected by the virus.  Awkward.  Of course, the really wealthy can bunker down in their huge mansions with multiple bathrooms and have their groceries, sanitisers and toilet paper catered.  If no sanitiser, there is always the drinks cupboard.

Several state and territory governments have declared public health emergencies.  Shouldn’t that make the public health response the number one priority?  So far our national government hasn’t stepped up, nor has it levelled with the Australian public about where it sees the balance of priority.   Like this government’s other catchphrases, will the oft-used phrase “an abundance of caution” go down in history as more marketing spin.

The One We Truly Adore

Ladies and gentlemen, our little canary friend, Harry, has not been well of late and a few days ago, he took a turn for the worse.  We took him to the avian vet and were convinced by the vet that it was time.  We knew that of course, but we just didn’t want to admit it to ourselves.  I could tell you his life story, or write a little poem like I did when Churchill canary died, but that doesn’t seem quite right for our Harry.   Suffice to say, for 13 years Harry was well loved. Read more

Turning Flowers into Pumpkins and the Death of Holden

I got very excited this morning, ladies and gentlemen.  Looking out the back window, I could see that there was a male and female pumpkin flower open at the same time.  Because of a hail storm last month, my pumpkin vine has only one pumpkin growing at the moment.  So I took this fleeting opportunity to fly outside and manually fertilise the lady.  I found the flowers crawling with bees, which was also very exciting, because the numbers of bees have been much fewer due to the recent hot weather and smoky days.

It was lucky I did because a bee was trapped below the stamen of the boy flower! Read more

What a Difference A Date Makes

Australian flag
Australian Flag (source – Australian Parliament House website)

It is Australia Day so I had better say something.  If you don’t already know, there has been much debate in the Australian community about whether Australia Day should continue to be held on January 26.  On 26 January 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip sailed into Sydney Cove to establish a penal colony for the British Empire. Read more

More Sad News From The Fire Front

This has been a wretched few months, ladies and gentlemen.  For those of you who can bear to read about it, I will probably share some of my personal story in my forthcoming January Changing Seasons post.  Fear not though, there will be moments of joy to help with the reading.  Not that I’ve started writing the post yet as I am waiting for a moment of calm.  But for now, welcome to my regular Friday song/tune day, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you. Read more

Window On Time

In a few days it will be the 17th anniversary of the bushfires that ravaged Canberra (the national capital of Australia) and its surrounds in 2003.  With bushfires currently burning to the west of the territory, Canberrans are understandably anxious.  It’s old news but some may be interested in this disaster.  In many ways, the Canberra bushfires brought about a much broader call for research and action to better understand and respond to bushfire risk.  Here are the sanitised details of that event —

On 18 January, two fire fronts combined to create a 25 km fire front and wind gusts of up to 65 km per hour propelled the fire towards Canberra. The Chief Minister declared a state of emergency at 2.45 pm and the firestorm hit the outer streets of Duffy at approximately 3 pm, and soon reached [other] suburbs ….  Four people were killed by the fires, more than 435 people were injured and there were 5000 evacuations. Approximately 160,000 hectares were burnt which equated to almost 70 per cent of the ACT’s pasture, forests and nature parks including Namadgi National Park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and all government pine forest west of the Murrumbidgee River Stromlo pine plantation.  There were approximately 488 houses destroyed and many more were damaged.Read more

A Few Thoughts On Christmas and Politics, But Mostly Christmas

Sometimes it seems that I grew up in a golden era — at a time when world peace seemed possible, and Australians of all faiths lived together harmoniously.  Religious wars were something that happened ‘somewhere else’.  There was also no such thing as culture wars.  We had a strong two-party system, one representing business, while the other was perceived as the workers’ champions.  There was even an accord between business and labour.  Fancy that!  The way people voted was less about one’s religious affiliation or to which dioceses one belonged, it was predominantly about class.  That is what it seemed like to me anyway.  However, that has all changed. Read more