How often aren't we told that after the Covid-19 pandemic things will not be the same? How often also that the economy will eventually pick up again? Probably not entirely the same, but expected to have that familiar feel: competition, a few rich and many poor, inflation, crime. Well, there is that new kind of currency which we hardly understand. But fact is that we haven't got the foggiest idea of whatever which way things will churn.  3

We don't even know if the current pandemic will ever be over or whether there will be recurrences of other pandemics, nor how quickly they will hit us one after the other, or simultaneously. To top things off, we have scams and cybercrime. Recently in the news (I'll translate from a Dutch economics news site):

      "Digital espionage threatens the Dutch economy. Hackers from Russia and China try to break into computers of companies and universities on a daily basis. Vital infrastructure is a regular target. Think of drink water supply, banks, telecom and energy networks. The security services argue for more budget and cooperation with the government, companies and universities. A new arms race is underway. All the Crown Jewels of our economy are at risk."  

The day after I got across this:

      "As the pandemic has moved more of life online, crime has moved with it. We're seeing more—and more sophisticated—cyberattacks aimed at institutions that hold up our society: hospitals, schools, banks and even our government," she [US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen] said.

      "I see the promise of these new technologies, but I also see the reality: cryptocurrencies have been used to launder the profits of online drug traffickers; they've been a tool to finance terrorism."  

Besides pandemics and cybercrime there are other threats. Foremost, global warming which comes with rising ocean water levels, flooding of vast areas of fertile agricultural lands, and mass migrations pushing through the world's borders. The current hassle among countries for their share of anti-Covid vaccines warns us that there likely will be fighting—outright wars?—over access to safe drinking water and food. As for our highly prized digital communications, any nuclear explosion in the upper atmosphere will create havoc, which tells us to be prepared for life without computers.  6

One could drag out the list of catastrophes, but the important message here is that we must (a) be on guard and (b) try hard to be prepared for coping with any, or a combination, of these threats,  7

Hope  8

Multibillionaire Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, recently came out with "How to Avoid Climate Disaster: The Solutions We have and the Breakthroughs We Need." The book is mainly about technological solutions contributed to by a wide range of scientists and engineers. Beyond that, the book also tells us what we as individuals can do to keep our government, our employers, and ourselves accountable.  9

Some six years ago I suggested that our Senate expand its investigative role to "an investigative, anticipating, and critical problem-solving role." Nothing new here, as I soon learned. A 1972 report of a Special Joint Committee on the Constitution recommended that "the Senate's investigative role should be expanded at the initiative of the Senate itself." Fifty years gone by, and no action to speak of. O Canada! Fifty years! Well, no use complaining.  10

It appears to me that (I am quoting myself here), "with due respect for the dedication, experience and other mental gifts our individual senators bring to bear on their work, the present composition of the Senate is ill suited for such task." Our Senate is sorely lacking in scientific mindset and expertise. That must change. We need a well-integrated range of expertise without any political interference whatsoever.  11

The Canadian constitution calls for our laws to be adopted they must pass scrutiny by our elected representatives in the Commons and by that appointed body, the Senate. It gives us therefore a constitutional agreed-on opportunity to join democracy with meritocracy. In other words, as a nation we must be careful about what we wish for.  12

Our constitution limits the number of appointed senators to 105, but why not broaden our Senate's expertise by adding senators pro tem and thereby giving them equal voice in arriving at decisions, but without the same perks the honourable senators enjoy? Where there is a will, there should be a way.  13

There is much work to be done and little (too little?) time to do it in. Clearly, this must include arrivinn at a well-informed, less opinionated electorate. Education and information; schooling and reliable, objective media are essential for achieving this. Democratic elections call for making wise, informed choices in the interest of all. Come to think of it, the very nature of politics needs to change. Let what is going on south of the 45th parallel be a lesson.  14

What we can do without is mere complaining, pointing fingers, and otherwise sitting on our butts. What we, citizens, can do is let our voices be heard. We can write or tell our elected representatives that global warming and its consequences, as well as other global threats, are issues that need to be put on the government's front burner. We can demand of our representatives that they keep us informed, in clear language, what is being done about them. And finally, we can give careful thought to cutting down our own consumption of whatever harms our home and native land which is, lest we overlook hard reality, Planet Earth.*  1 15


A draft version of this article appeared in Vankleek Hill's The Review of today, February 24.  *   fn1

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