Our reactions to the virus are wildly inconsistent with life’s other dangers
NASA estimates that around 5,000 people died worldwide from various effects of nuclear power between 1971 and 2009, including meltdowns. By comparison, coal is estimated to kill 800,000 people per year. However, nuclear power is far more scary and people get far more upset about nuclear power plants in their communities. Why is that?
Likewise, most of us know that airplanes are safer than cars, but we are still more terrified of them.
If you really look at all sorts of human fears you see these kind of patterns popping up again and again. People base their fears, not on the actual statistical risk of harm, but on the story, drama and emotion behind the object of their fears.
It is my belief that coronavirus is one of those situations.
Yes, this virus kills. I’m not denying the death toll or claiming it’s a government hoax. I take my temperature every day and will stay home if it goes up more than a degree. I wear a mask whenever I go in a business. I’m okay with shutting down schools and stadiums. We should all be working from home if possible and we shouldn’t be having raging parties. In other words, I totally support reasonable steps to prevent this disease.
However, we need to compare coronavirus to other deadly ailments and actually evaluate our prevention methods compared to the methods we use on other deadly social problems. We need to put things into perspective and I don’t see anyone, on either side of this debate, doing that right now.
As an example, an estimated 9.1 million people die from hunger every year. What federal funds have we spent to help them? What sacrifices have we made to help reduce that form of death?
As of July fifth 2020, the coronavirus has killed a little over 530,000 people worldwide. It will likely kill more this year than coal, but not by a huge margin, and coal is certainly not the deadliest threat we have to deal with in the world. But many people can’t be troubled to flip the light off when they leave the room even though they know their power consumption is contributing to those deaths.
So let’s compare coronavirus to something a little more relevant and reduce the variables by just talking about The United States. According to cdc.gov, heart disease kills 647,000 people every year in The United States. Between April 1st and July 5th, of 2020, a little over three months, we’ve had about 126,000 deaths from COVID-19. I’m basing my numbers on ourworldindata.org. So based on these numbers, coronavirus would need to spike back up to it’s most deadly day, then continue on like that for most of the rest of the year, simply to match the deaths caused by heart disease.
Right now, as people are freaking out about the “spiking” cases in Florida and Texas, the death rate is actually continuing to decline. Also, no one is controlling for the availability of tests when they talk about case counts. More availability of tests means more positive cases and doesn’t necessarily mean an increased risk. They’re ignoring a massive variable. We are emotionally drawn toward the scariest statistic and not the one that paints the most accurate picture of risk.
Heart disease is the #1 killer in The United States, so COVID-19 is definitely still a big player in the human-killing game, but it’s a long way from being the biggest player.
But why do we not see any kind of push to help the people suffering from heart-disease? This is a preventable disease too. All we need to do to massively reduce heart-disease death is institute a few simple rules surrounding restaurants and convenience stores.
Imagine if we required all convenience stores to include a small section of fruits and vegetables. Imagine if we required all restaurants to include vegetables in their meals. We could require bars to put out vegetables instead of pretzels. We could even go so far as requiring people eat their vegetables before ordering dessert.
This sounds like a draconian system of control, but in the end, those kind of rules would actually be far less intrusive on our lives, far less violating of our personal liberties, and far less harmful to our mental health than many of the current coronavirus measures. However, these rules would save far, far more lives in the long run than the lockdowns have.
The other point to note is that the coronavirus lockdowns contribute massively to the heart disease epidemic. I see too many people sacrificing their diet and exercise to stay home and protect themselves from the virus without really thinking through the long term harm. By contrast, having rules like my forced vegetable law idea would actually reduce coronvirus death as well as heart-disease. Many people theorize that the reason we have such high COVID-19 death in The United States is because of our eating and exercise habits and obesity epidemic. I think that theory holds merit.
Then there’s the mental health sacrifice we’re making in the name of this lockdown. We already had a skyrocketing rate of mental health disorders that disproportionately harmed young women, that our whole society was ignoring. But that needs a whole other article.
Then there’s the argument that with The United State’s 1 trillion dollar economic stimulus ALONE, we could have built enough carbon-capture facilities to clean up virtually all of our air pollution and end global warming. Or put a self-sustaining colony on Mars.
But let’s get back to the real topic.
I find it interesting how quickly people are ready to shame and judge others for not following every little coronavirus procedure, while so much as mentioning someone’s eating habits or even saying the words “obesity epidemic” will have people accusing you of fat shaming.
I’m just saying, the reactions to these two surprisingly similar epidemics are wildly inconsistent. If we took a small amount of the effort we are putting into coronovirus and instead put it into another life-saving measure, we could save millions or tens of millions instead of thousands.
You may argue that heart disease is different because when you don’t follow coronavirus procedures you are endangering other people’s lives, while eating a poor diet is your personal choice that doesn’t affect anyone. This is a fallacy because you are only looking at clinical differences and not on the real-world effects on society and how the two epidemics pass from one person to another.
Eating habits absolutely are contagious. Parents with poor eating habits will have children with poor eating habits. Refusing to eat your vegetables when you go to a restaurant directly affects that restaurants purchasing. Enough people stop eating vegetables, they stop ordering them, and then people like me have no healthy options. Refusal to eat a healthy diet yourself absolutely has an impact on the health of the people around you and puts a strain on our medical system. Putting money into the sugar, processed carb and meat industries instead of the fruit and vegetable industry absolutely has a negative impact on the health of our community far beyond just yourself.
Arguably, heart-disease is more contagious than coronavirus because poor health, exercise and eating habits can be easily transmitted through advertising and online interactions.
If you are going to get angry at me for having a few friends over, then I should have the right to call you out for your eating and exercise habits. It’s only fair.
I’m not saying we should just be ignoring the coronavirus precautions. COVID-19 is absolutely a real health danger that we cannot ignore. I absolutely support reasonable precautions. What I do not think is reasonable, however, is the panic, or the anger against people who want to face the disease with courage, or the ones who feel desperate and trapped and need to get out.
I’m not okay with keeping friends out of your home when they are in emotional need or with putting up plastic barriers and treating people like they are diseased without asking how it’s affecting their mental health.
I don’t think it’s a good idea to delay other important medical procedures in the name of coronavirus protection.
I do not approve of the nastiness toward people who have panic attacks when their face is covered or who sweat so much that wearing a mask becomes a disgusting, dripping mess. Before this, people seemed to care about consent, panic attacks and mental health issues. Now we barely get lip service to these things.
I told a story of a friend of a friend who tried to kill herself due to the forced isolation and instead of empathy I was given a speech about how she should have found a better therapist. Imagine if I were to make a comment like that about a rape survivor.
I don’t like this idea that we’re all going to die if we go to a party, this idea that the coronavirus is the most scary and deadly thing ever, when the statistics clearly show that it is not.
I’m seeing friend networks torn apart, relationships ending, allies becoming enemies over minor disagreements. I’ve seen more mental breakdowns among my friends in the last few months than in the whole rest of my life. I’m hearing stories of parents locking their kids inside or threatening to disown them if they get exposed. None of this is necessary. These types of things ultimately endanger us far more than they help us.
It is time for a scientific, reasonable approach that looks at the actual data, using real-world comparisons, instead of being led by panic. We should accept that pain and death are unfortunate but inevitable parts of life, and face this pandemic with reasonable precautions and courage.
Using nuclear power in place of fossil-fuel energy sources, such as coal, has prevented some 1.8 million air…cen.acs.org