H1N1: Mountain or Molehill? Health debate 10.09.09

The first surprise in last month’s Thinking Tank was that 80% of you feel that swine flu is “no big deal”. This, despite the fact that 60% had friends and family who had contracted the disease (presumably with no serious consequences).

The discussion took a philosophical turn with much reflection on swine flu:

As a symptom of society

  • Yes, the resilience of the human race is encouraging. We will find new energy solutions, we will cope with changing family structures etc We always have…

As a message to improve the way we run our world

  • that’s a benefit of the whole event, reminds us that we’re all human, all basically in the same boat and should find solutions for all
  • slows down the rat race we are in for a while
  • We can have our mobile phones and home entertainment, but at the end of the day we are still all codependent. So when some thing goes wrong for one group it still affects us

And as a way to identify lifestyle risks

  • When we choose to exploit (pigs, land, food distribution) we don’t get away with it. We may seem to in the short term, but sooner or later it catches up with us. We need to think bigger and wider
  • maybe drives us apart – “I would help you but if I touch you I might get your germs

There was quite some scepticism about the real danger of the disease but an acknowledgement that there were some useful lessons to be learnt

  • pandemics sell papers
  • prepares all systems for a real alert, like a test-case

Some actions

Encourage sustainable farming:

  • give negative tax on organic produce
  • Increase transport costs and incentivise local consumption of local food

Manage the media:

  • Next time: try to control the media hype a bit. Because if people have had this experience twice, they will not believe a warning the third time anymore, and not respond to measurements.

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