The Irish Examiner View: A chance to consider the new ‘normal’

The Irish Examiner View: A chance to consider the new ‘normal’

Change is, we are assured, the only constant in our lives. The pace of that change may accelerate at one time or another. It meanders gently at other times. Occasionally, maybe once or twice in a lifetime, we have to deal with change on the tremendous scale we face today.

Some of today’s changes will be permanent. Some versions of those changes - dare they be described as peacetime versions - will become permanent too. Some restrictions will pass in time though when that welcome day might arrive remains anyone’’s guess.

There have been White House suggestions, discounted by one plausible authority after another, that coronavirus was created in a laboratory. The international and scientific consensus points to a food market in Wuhan where the risks inherent in local diets were exposed.

That conclusion has forced a long-overdue  review of how we use animals, domestic or wild, to satisfy our needs and appetites. That review has found coronavirus in unexpected settings.   

Two mink farms in the Netherlands are in quarantine after fur animals were found to be infected with coronavirus. That discovery may expedite the closure of the three remaining Irish fur farms which would end fur farming in Ireland as legislation precludes any new mink enterprises.

That they have been identified as petri dishes for a lethal pandemic validates that policy albeit in an unexpected way. It also questions the morality of permanently confining animals in cages to produce something that is an ostentation rather than a need.

The same question, even if less vigorously, may be asked about intensive, enclosed poultry and pork production.  Indeed, it already has. The environmentalist and Columban priest Seán McDonagh has warned that we need to "drastically" change our relationship with the natural world or face more pandemics.

"In little more than two decades, we have had Covid-19, SARS, MERS, Ebola, HIV, Zika and H1N1 and no-one seems to have made any connection between them and the destruction of the natural world," he said.

Those trying to create the impression that the commitments sought by the Green Party in coalition negotiations are extreme might pause as that view is gathering ever-more momentum. Those demands are likely to intensify rather than abate.

Pent-up demand of another kind was seen in New Delhi where a special tax of 70% on alcohol has been imposed. That prospect would, naturally, add to the concerns of Irish publicans but maybe they face a different long-term challenge.

The addiction treatment centre at Cuan Mhuire in Bruree, Co Limerick has pointed out that a growing number of middle aged social drinkers are crossing the line into alcoholism since the pubs were shuttered. “A half one in the pub could be a treble at home and this begins to take its toll in a relatively short period of time," warned a counsellor.

That is not the only change on the home front. Home working is the new normal for millions of workers. However, it is too early, in the absence of specific legislation, to decide whether this is an advance or whether it creates new levels of exploitation or vulnerability for isolated individuals.

This development will not be reversed so there is an urgency around developing legislation that will ensure it is a positive experience for workers and employers.

These are, in the face of a deadly plague, almost minor details. The immediate focus must be on containing and eventually neutralising coroanavirus. New figures from the University of Washington predicting up to 242,890 deaths in America by August 4 underline the urgency of that task.

More on this topic

Suzanne Harrington: Assault course must be completed before start of intense gardening

Scally: Ryanair boss should 'leave public health' to the authoritiesScally: Ryanair boss should 'leave public health' to the authorities

Professor says travel restrictions should not be lifted too soonProfessor says travel restrictions should not be lifted too soon

Coronavirus: Two deaths with 66 new cases in IrelandCoronavirus: Two deaths with 66 new cases in Ireland