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Thanks Cliff, Roger, Maryia, Michael, and Robert - we seem to have become the Lockdown Post Card Collective - I'll make an effort to respond this weekend :)

COVID-19 and the humanisation of globalisation

It turns out we did change the world. And we must keep changing it.
I am going to write about how the impact of the coronavirus shows we all got globalisation wrong, that we have created the conditions to replace it, why this has happened and what we should do. First, I want to say three things.

I wish every reader well and a fruitful future life. Like any scribbler I always desire more of you. But the more of you there are the more likely it is that some of you will not survive this year. Never have the words “take care” been so freighted with relevance. Keep your distance, wash your hands, don’t touch your face – something I find impossible – and look after others.

Second, as someone now classified as ‘vulnerable’ who has always wanted the world to change, I didn’t want it to change like this. I fear the powers that rule us may exploit the pitiless nature of the plague to control us after it has passed, rather than be forced to step aside. As one of those most likely to be taken away by the virus if it gets to me, and least likely to qualify for life-support if I need hospitalisation, I have to acknowledge a new dread. It’s a dread which makes me dream of hugging my children rather than seeing them flicker on the computer screen, of holding my older granddaughter’s hand and poking out my tongue at the younger and laughing with delight. And laughter is good for the immune system, I’ve been told, and bad for SARS-CoV-2 (the name of the actual virus) which suffers from being over-serious.

The dread is that if my child gets COVID-19 (the name for the disease the virus causes) I cannot stroke her forehead; that my beloved could be removed from me forever if she finds it difficult to breathe; or if I get it, that she can’t bring a comforting drink to my bedside and my body will become a toxic time-bomb demanding rapid, sterilised disposal. All this imbues everything that follows, writing under lockdown.

Third, to write about it, just like singing about it, talking about it, or posting messages about it, requires making a call about the fear the pandemic generates. This isn’t simple. It is vital to turn on the fear mechanisms – for the virus is contagious and cruel. It is also essential to turn them off – for fear itself is the most contagious thing of all.

In my country our leaders got both calls wrong. They failed to take the coronavirus seriously when it first arrived and are now unable to provide reassurance. It means that trying to respond in a clear-headed way to its impact, here in England, is unsettled by the unavoidable presence of a prime minister who lacks every virtue except audacity and ambition. He counteracts his emotional void with a calculated ebullience and the recruitment of smart advisors whose messaging he follows, as he flees serious questioning and the human engagement this demands.

Usually, profits come before people. But this year, governments across the world have been forced to shut down their economies and put life first. Why?

St John's Wood

Back Garden

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand, Coronavirus

Ardern’s leadership of New Zealand through the coronavirus crisis has compounded credentials well established by her government’s deft and empathetic handling of the horrific massacre in Christchurch last year. When corona hit, the lockdown of the country was swift, draconian and effective; there have only been 21 deaths from the disease to date in New Zealand, and while the rest of the world grapples with a rising number of daily cases, no new cases have been reported in New Zealand in three days. .. 

Among a claque of western leaders yearning for “snap back” to the way things were before the virus – some pursuing “recovery” strategies of even lesser benefit – it’s New Zealand’s, conspicuously, who repeatedly shows the courage to snap forward. Little wonder she has become so popular.

'Snap back'? Jacinda Ardern snaps forward with a four-day week: no wonder she's popular
The Guardian
Van Badham

The Big Failure of Small Government

Decades of privatization, outsourcing, and budget cuts in the name of “efficiency” have significantly hampered many governments’ responses to the COVID-19 crisis. At the same time, successful responses by other governments have shown that investments in core public-sector capabilities make all the difference in times of emergency. The countries that have handled the crisis well are those where the state maintains a productive relationship with value creators in society, by investing in critical capacities and designing private-sector contracts to serve the public interest.

The Big Failure of Small Government
Project Syndicate

Large areas of London to be made car-free as lockdown eased

In one of the biggest car-free initiatives of any city in the world, main streets between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Euston and Waterloo, and Old Street and Holborn, will be limited to buses, pedestrians and cyclists.

Large areas of London to be made car-free as lockdown eased
The Guardian
Matthew Taylor

Streetspace for London - The Plans

Car-free zones
Our plans include giving central London some of the largest car-free zones in a capital city.
Some streets may be switched to walking and cycling only while others may be limited to walking, cycling and buses. This is now planned for streets between:London Bridge and Shoreditch, Euston and Waterloo, and Old Street and Holborn.
Waterloo Bridge and London Bridge may be restricted to people walking, cycling and buses only, with pavements widened so people can safely travel between busy railway stations and their workplaces.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Neil Young

Music . Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Neil Young

Coronavirus with Mutual Aid

Amid this unfolding disaster, we have seen countless acts of kindness and solidarity. It’s this spirit of generosity that will help guide us out of this crisis and into a better future.

'The way we get through this is together': the rise of mutual aid under coronavirus
The Guardian
Rebecca Solnit

World cannot return to business as usual

Mayors from many of the world’s leading cities have warned there can be no return to “business as usual” in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis if humanity is to escape catastrophic climate breakdown. City leaders representing more than 750 million people have published a “statement of principles”, which commits them to putting greater equality and climate resilience at the heart of their recovery plans. Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City and one of the signatories to the statement, said: “Half-measures that maintain the status quo won’t move the needle or protect us from the next crisis. “We need a new deal for these times – a massive transformation that rebuilds lives, promotes equality and prevents the next economic, health or climate crisis.” Many cities have already announced measures to support a low-carbon, sustainable recovery, from hundreds of miles of new bike lanes in Milan and Mexico City to widening pavements and pedestrianising neighbourhoods in New York and Seattle. In London, Sadiq Khan announced plans on Wednesday to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians across the capital in an effort to encourage “green and sustainable travel” and prevent a spike in car use and pollution after the lockdown. 

“Covid-19 has exposed the inequality in our society and deep flaws in our economy, which fail people from deprived communities more than anyone else,” he said. “We need to come out of this embracing a new normal and with a renewed drive to address the climate emergency.” 

Street Space Plan for London Streets

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and TfL have today unveiled their ‘London Streetspace’ programme which will rapidly transform London’s streets to accommodate a possible ten-fold increase in cycling and five-fold increase in walking when lockdown restrictions are eased.

TfL, working with London’s boroughs will make changes - unparalleled in a city London’s size – to focus on three key areas. The rapid construction of a strategic cycling network, using temporary materials, including new routes aimed at reducing crowding on Underground and train lines, and on busy bus corridors. A complete transformation of local town centres to enable local journeys to be safely walked and cycled where possible. Wider footways on high streets will facilitate a local economic recovery, with people having space to queue for shops as well as enough space for others to safely walk past while socially distancing. Reducing traffic on residential streets, creating low-traffic neighbourhoods right across London to enable more people to walk and cycle as part of their daily routine, as has happened during lockdown.

Euston Road is one of the first main thoroughfares to benefit from temporary cycle lanes.
TfL has already begun making improvements to boost social distancing using temporary infrastructure. Pavements have already been doubled in size at Camden High Street and Stoke Newington High Street.

Mayor’s bold new Streetspace plan will overhaul London’s streets

Contemporary Culture

The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations

What felt impossible has become thinkable. The spring of 2020 is suggestive of how much, and how quickly, we can change as a civilization.

The critic Raymond Williams once wrote that every historical period has its own “structure of feeling.” How everything seemed in the nineteen-sixties, the way the Victorians understood one another, the chivalry of the Middle Ages, the world view of Tang-dynasty China: each period, Williams thought, had a distinct way of organizing basic human emotions into an overarching cultural system. Each had its own way of experiencing being alive.

In mid-March, in a prior age, I spent a week rafting down the Grand Canyon. When I left for the trip, the United States was still beginning to grapple with the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. Italy was suffering; the N.B.A. had just suspended its season; Tom Hanks had been reported ill. When I hiked back up, on March 19th, it was into a different world. I’ve spent my life writing science-fiction novels that try to convey some of the strangeness of the future. But I was still shocked by how much had changed, and how quickly.

The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations
New Yorker
Kim Stanley Robinson

The Getty, Los Angeles

Photomovie . The Getty, Los Angeles (Flickr)
Music . The 6 Million Dollar Sandwich, The Dead Texan

Why the Coronavirus Is So Confusing

On March 27, as the U.S. topped 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Donald Trump stood at the lectern of the White House press-briefing room and was asked what he’d say about the pandemic to a child. Amid a meandering answer, Trump remarked, “You can call it a germ, you can call it a flu, you can call it a virus. You know, you can call it many different names. I’m not sure anybody even knows what it is.”

That was neither the most consequential statement from the White House, nor the most egregious. But it was perhaps the most ironic. In a pandemic characterized by extreme uncertainty, one of the few things experts know for sure is the identity of the pathogen responsible: a virus called SARS-CoV-2 that is closely related to the original SARS virus. Both are members of the coronavirus family, which is entirely distinct from the family that includes influenza viruses. Scientists know the shape of proteins on the new coronavirus’s surface down to the position of individual atoms. Give me two hours, and I can do a dramatic reading of its entire genome.

But much else about the pandemic is still maddeningly unclear. Why do some people get really sick, but others do not? Are the models too optimistic or too pessimistic? Exactly how transmissible and deadly is the virus? How many people have actually been infected? How long must social restrictions go on for? Why are so many questions still unanswered?

The confusion partly arises from the pandemic’s scale and pace. Worldwide, at least 3.1 million people have been infected in less than four months. Economies have nose-dived. Societies have paused. In most people’s living memory, no crisis has caused so much upheaval so broadly and so quickly. “We’ve never faced a pandemic like this before, so we don’t know what is likely to happen or what would have happened,” says Zoë McLaren, a health-policy professor at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County. “That makes it even more difficult in terms of the uncertainty.”

But beyond its vast scope and sui generis nature, there are other reasons the pandemic continues to be so befuddling—a slew of forces scientific and societal, epidemiological and epistemological. What follows is an analysis of those forces, and a guide to making sense of a problem that is now too big for any one person to fully comprehend.

Why the Coronavirus Is So Confusing 

Atmospheric soundtracks for uneasy times

Amorphous, open-ended, unstructured time, with undercurrents of foreboding, pockets of boredom and fleeting interludes of peace or reassessment. That’s what Covid-19 has brought to many people — and it’s a mental state that Brian Eno’s vast recorded catalog has been prepared for since he first popularized the term “ambient music” in the 1970s. The long days and featureless nights of self-quarantine offer an opportune moment to revisit — or get acquainted with — Eno’s time-warping music.

Brian Eno’s 15 Essential Ambient Works
New York Times
Jon Pareles


A 'Greater Depression' for the 2020s is inevitable

After the 2007-09 financial crisis, the imbalances and risks pervading the global economy were exacerbated by policy mistakes. So, rather than address the structural problems that the financial collapse and ensuing recession revealed, governments mostly kicked the can down the road, creating major downside risks that made another crisis inevitable. And now that it has arrived, the risks are growing even more acute. Unfortunately, even if the Greater Recession leads to a lacklustre U-shaped recovery this year, an L-shaped “Greater Depression” will follow later in this decade, owing to 10 ominous and risky trends.
A final risk that cannot be ignored is environmental disruption, which, as the Covid-19 crisis has shown, can wreak far more economic havoc than a financial crisis. Recurring epidemics (HIV since the 1980s, Sars in 2003, H1N1 in 2009, Mers in 2011, Ebola in 2014-16) are, like climate change, essentially manmade disasters, born of poor health and sanitary standards, the abuse of natural systems, and the growing interconnectivity of a globalised world. Pandemics and the many morbid symptoms of climate change will become more frequent, severe, and costly in the years ahead.

These 10 risks, already looming large before Covid-19 struck, now threaten to fuel a perfect storm that sweeps the entire global economy into a decade of despair. By the 2030s, technology and more competent political leadership may be able to reduce, resolve, or minimise many of these problems, giving rise to a more inclusive, cooperative, and stable international order. But any happy ending assumes that we find a way to survive the coming Greater Depression.

Ten reasons why a 'Greater Depression' for the 2020s is inevitable
The Guardian
Nouriel Roubini is professor of economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Distant Toll

Photomovie . Distant Toll (Flickr)

Coronavirus: we're in a real-time laboratory of a more sustainable urban future

A pause has been forced on urban life. Quiet roads, empty skies, deserted high streets and parks, closed cinemas, cafés and museums – a break in the spending and work frenzy so familiar to us all. The reality of lockdown is making ghost towns of the places we once knew. Everything we know about our urban world has come to a shuddering halt. For now. The lockdown will, at some point, end. Urban life will begin to hum again to the familiar rhythms of work, leisure and shopping. This will be a huge relief for us all. Yet our towns and cities will never be the same. Indeed, things might get worse before they get better. But it’s also the case that other crises haven’t gone away. Our relatively brief lockdown won’t solve longer-term urban problems: dependence on fossil fuels, rising carbon emissions, poor air quality, dysfunctional housing markets, loss of biodiversity, divisions between the rich and the poor, low paid work. These are going to need our attention again. The coronavirus crisis has offered a new perspective on these problems – and the limits of the way we have run our urban world over the last few decades. Cities are key nodes in our complex and highly connected global society, facilitating the rapid flow of people, goods and money, the rise of corporate wealth and the privatisation of land, assets and basic services. This has brought gains for some through foreign travel, an abundance of consumer products, inward investment and steady economic growth.

Coronavirus: we're in a real-time laboratory of a more sustainable urban future
Paul Chatterton, University of Leeds

Locks by Lusine + David Wingo

Photomovie (Flickr)

The Prevention Paradox

Christian Drosten, who directs the Institute of Virology at the Charité Hospital in Berlin, was one of those who identified the Sars virus in 2003. As the head of the German public health institute’s reference lab on coronaviruses, he has become the government’s go-to expert on the related virus causing the current pandemic. In an exclusive interview, Drosten admits he fears a second deadly wave of the virus. He explains why Angela Merkel has an advantage over other world leaders – and why the “prevention paradox” keeps him awake at night.

Q: Germany will start to lift its lockdown gradually from Monday. What happens next?
A: At the moment, we are seeing half-empty ICUs in Germany. This is because we started diagnostics early and on a broad scale, and we stopped the epidemic – that is, we brought the reproduction number [a key measure of the spread of the virus] below 1. Now, what I call the “prevention paradox” has set in. People are claiming we over-reacted, there is political and economic pressure to return to normal. The federal plan is to lift lockdown slightly, but because the German states, or Länder, set their own rules, I fear we’re going to see a lot of creativity in the interpretation of that plan. I worry that the reproduction number will start to climb again, and we will have a second wave.

Germany's Covid-19 expert: 'For many, I'm the evil guy crippling the economy'
The Guardian
Laura Spinney 

Silent Zooms for focusing the mind

There are Zooms for pub quizzes, Zooms for dinner parties, Zooms for work meetings and now there is a Zoom for sitting together and not talking at all. Behold, the silent Zoom! On paper, the practice of logging on to a video-conferencing site to sit with strangers for an hour without communicating may hold limited appeal. In practice, silent Zooms have become a lifeline in lockdown for users trying to focus on writing, reading, meditation and more. Author Anne Penketh has been retreating to “a virtual monastic retreat” for an hour every day to work on her novel. Initially, she struggled to understand the concept: what would be the point of Zoom without conversation? Finding silence to write in was not a problem for her, so Penketh was sceptical about what would make silence so productive in a potentially awkward group setting. She became a convert from the very first session.


Hampstead Church


Leek & Potato Flan

American Embassy

Meditative Moment

Private gain must no longer be allowed to elbow out the public good

Adam Smith had an elegant idea when addressing the notorious difficulty that humans face in trying to be smart, efficient and moral. In The Wealth of Nations(1776), he maintained that the baker bakes bread not out of benevolence, but out of self-interest. No doubt, public benefits can result when people pursue what comes easiest: self-interest. And yet: the logic of private interest – the notion that we should just ‘let the market handle it’ – has serious limitations. Particularly in the United States, the lack of an effective health and social policy in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has brought the contradictions into high relief. Around the world, the free market rewards competing, positioning and elbowing, so these have become the most desirable qualifications people can have. Empathy, solidarity or concern for the public good are relegated to the family, houses of worship or activism. Meanwhile, the market and private gain don’t account for social stability, health or happiness. As a result, from Cape Town to Washington, the market system has depleted and ravaged the public sphere – public health, public education, public access to a healthy environment – in favour of private gain.


The Wealth Tax

The government has the potential to raise up to £174bn a year to help cope with the Covid-19 crisis if it taxed wealth at the same rate as income. Richard Murphy, a professor in political economy at City University in London, said income was being taxed at almost 10 times the rate of wealth – and that the disparity should be central to any debate about who should pay for the pandemic.

Wealth tax rise could raise £174bn to tackle Covid-19, expert says
The Guardian
Larry Elliott  

On the Verge of a Planetary Civilization

On the Verge of a Planetary Civilization: A Philosophy of Integral Ecology A free pdf.
In celebration of #EarthDay2020

Piccadilly Circus

Where are we now?

According to official figures, 16,509 people with Covid-19 have so far died in British hospitals. There are no official statistics for deaths in the community, but ONS (Office for National Statistics) data released today shows that of 6,200 Covid-19-related deaths in the week to 10 April, one in six of them happened outside hospital. We are on track for 40,000 deaths by just the end of the first wave of this outbreak, while also having to cope with the astronomical economic costs and heart-rending social implications of being in lockdown for weeks on end.

In this uncertainty, countries that are actively working to contain this virus and keep numbers as low as possible are buying time to build a more informed policy response while also protecting their economies and societies. Others, by letting the virus spread slowly through their populations (only flattening the curve instead of completely stopping the spread), are just gambling with people’s lives, and will be caught in cycles of lockdown/release that will destroy the economy and cause social unrest, as well as increased Covid-19- and non-Covid-19-related deaths.

Crunching the coronavirus curve is better than flattening it, as New Zealand is showing
The Guardian
Devi Sridhar is chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh

Making Scones

How the Indian state of Kerala flattened the coronavirus curve

In early March the alarm bells hadn’t started ringing yet in India: a country with only six confirmed Covid-19 cases, three of them in Kerala. But within a few weeks the nationwide number had increased to 17,000, with cities including Mumbai showing thousands of cases and several hospitals shutting down in panic. Over the same time, Kerala – a relatively prosperous state on the southern tip of the subcontinent – would start to “flatten the curve”. The “Kerala model” is already being held up around the world as a success story. How did it do it?

How the Indian state of Kerala flattened the coronavirus curve
The Guardian
Laura Spinney

KK Shailaja has been hailed as the reason a state of 35 million people has only lost four to the virus. Here’s how the former teacher did it.
On 20 January, KK Shailaja phoned one of her medically trained deputies. She had read online about a dangerous new virus spreading in China. “Will it come to us?” she asked. “Definitely, Madam,” he replied. And so the health minister of the Indian state of Kerala began her preparations. 

Don't turn your home into school

Learning at home does not have to look like school and probably shouldn’t. Watch what your child is doing and try to follow their lead, doing what interests them. Slow down and let the child complete the task themselves, however long it takes, because that is how they learn. Play is a child’s way of exploring the world, learning about consequences, how things fit together and how relationships work.

Don't turn your home into school ... the Lego professor of play on lockdown learning 
The Guardian
Donna Ferguson

Bond Street

It's A Beautiful Day

Music . White Bird

White Bird
Written by David Laflamme / Linda Laflamme
Vocals: David LaFlamme and Patti Santos
Album: It's A Beautiful Day. 1969

White bird
In a golden cage
On a winter's day
In the rain

White bird
In a golden cage

The leaves blow
Across the long, black road
To the darkened skies
In it's rage

But the white bird
Just sits in her cage

White bird must fly
Or she will die

White bird
Dreams of the aspen trees
With their dying leaves
Turning gold

But the white bird
Just sits in her cage
Growing old

White bird must fly
Or she will die
White bird must fly
Or she will die

The sunsets come
The sunsets go
The clouds roll by
And the earth turns old
And the young bird's eyes
Do always glow

She must fly
She must fly
She must fly

White bird
In a golden cage
On a winter's day
In the rain

White bird
In a golden cage

White bird must fly
Or she will die
White bird must fly
Or she will die
White bird must fly
Or she will die

Oxford Street

How The Coronavirus Crisis Began

Much is unknown about the coronavirus currently sweeping the globe. We know that it is deadly and highly contagious, but we don’t know why some people infected with the virus show terrible symptoms while others show none at all, or why children have a better time recovering. Researchers also know that the virus originated in China, but they have many questions about how it emerged. Sensational reports this week have given a boost to the idea that the virus might have accidentally escaped from a lab due to lax safety and security measures ― an idea that is reportedly being investigated by the US intelligence community. But that theory is just a theory. Scientists may not fully understand the nature of the global outbreak of Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus, but there are plenty of reasons to believe it did not stem from a lab accident or some kind of clandestine government cover-up.

Finchley Road

How does coronavirus kill?

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 surges past 2.2 million globally and deaths surpass 150,000, clinicians and pathologists are struggling to understand the damage wrought by the coronavirus as it tears through the body. They are realizing that although the lungs are ground zero, its reach can extend to many organs including the heart and blood vessels, kidneys, gut, and brain. Understanding the rampage could help the doctors on the front lines treat the fraction of infected people who become desperately and sometimes mysteriously ill. Does a dangerous, newly observed tendency to blood clotting transform some mild cases into life-threatening emergencies? Is an overzealous immune response behind the worst cases, suggesting treatment with immune-suppressing drugs could help? What explains the startlingly low blood oxygen that some physicians are reporting in patients who nonetheless are not gasping for breath?

How does coronavirus kill? Clinicians trace a ferocious rampage through the body, from brain to toes
Science Magazine
By Meredith Wadman, Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, Jocelyn Kaiser, Catherine Matacic

Wildlife collapse from climate change predicted to hit suddenly

Climate change could result in a more abrupt collapse of many animal species than previously thought, starting in the next decade if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, according to a study published this month in Nature. The study predicted that large swaths of ecosystems would falter in waves, creating sudden die-offs that would be catastrophic not only for wildlife, but for the humans who depend on it.

Wildlife Collapse From Climate Change Is Predicted to Hit Suddenly and Sooner
New York Times
Catrin Einhorn

This pandemic is only just getting started

Governments around the world are attempting ways to keep jobs and businesses afloat while lockdowns are in place – but the pressure remains to swiftly end such shutdowns. I get that this is going to be a mammoth strain on the economy. But the deaths of many thousands of people would be too: it is simply not possible to thoroughly insulate an economy from the impact of a pandemic of this kind.

No matter how you crunch the numbers, this pandemic is only just getting started
The Guardian
William Hanage

Netherhall Gardens

Coronavirus and trusting our sources of news

The researchers have reviewed how people rate the trustworthiness of different sources for news, and the levels of misinformation that people are encountering. You can access the full report on the Reuters Institute’s webpage. As well as the UK, the survey data was collected from Argentina, Germany, South Korea, Spain and the United States.

Coronavirus and trusting our sources of news
Oxford University

Stuck Inside

Music . Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
Written by: Bob Dylan
Blonde on Blonde. 1966

Oh, the ragman draws circles
Up and down the block
I’d ask him what the matter was
But I know that he don’t talk
And the ladies treat me kindly
And furnish me with tape
But deep inside my heart
I know I can’t escape
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells
Speaking to some French girl
Who says she knows me well
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked
But the post office has been stolen
And the mailbox is locked
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Mona tried to tell me
To stay away from the train line
She said that all the railroad men
Just drink up your blood like wine
An’ I said, “Oh, I didn’t know that
But then again, there’s only one I’ve met
An’ he just smoked my eyelids
An’ punched my cigarette”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Grandpa died last week
And now he’s buried in the rocks
But everybody still talks about
How badly they were shocked
But me, I expected it to happen
I knew he’d lost control
When he built a fire on Main Street
And shot it full of holes
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Now the senator came down here
Showing ev’ryone his gun
Handing out free tickets
To the wedding of his son
An’ me, I nearly got busted
An’ wouldn’t it be my luck
To get caught without a ticket
And be discovered beneath a truck
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Now the preacher looked so baffled
When I asked him why he dressed
With twenty pounds of headlines
Stapled to his chest
But he cursed me when I proved it to him
Then I whispered, “Not even you can hide
You see, you’re just like me
I hope you’re satisfied”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Now the rainman gave me two cures
Then he said, “Jump right in”
The one was Texas medicine
The other was just railroad gin
An’ like a fool I mixed them
An’ it strangled up my mind
An’ now people just get uglier
An’ I have no sense of time
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

When Ruthie says come see her
In her honky-tonk lagoon
Where I can watch her waltz for free
’Neath her Panamanian moon
An’ I say, “Aw come on now
You must know about my debutante”
An’ she says, “Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
Where the neon madmen climb
They all fall there so perfectly
It all seems so well timed
An’ here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music

In the end it will be about the politics

The environmental changes wrought by the coronavirus were first visible from space. Then, as the disease and the lockdown spread, they could be sensed in the sky above our heads, the air in our lungs and even the ground beneath our feet.

While the human toll mounted horrendously from a single case in Wuhan to a global pandemic that has so far killed more than 88,000 people, nature, it seemed, was increasingly able to breathe more easily.

As motorways cleared and factories closed, dirty brown pollution belts shrunk over cities and industrial centres in country after country within days of lockdown. First China, then Italy, now the UK, Germany and dozens of other countries are experiencing temporary falls in carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide of as much as 40%, greatly improving air quality and reducing the risks of asthma, heart attacks and lung disease.

For many experts, it is a glimpse of what the world might look like without fossil fuels. But hopes that humanity could emerge from this horror into a healthier, cleaner world will depend not on the short-term impact of the virus, but on the long-term political decisions made about what follows.

After decades of relentlessly increasing pressure, the human footprint on the earth has suddenly lightened. Air traffic halved by mid-March compared with the same time last year. Last month, road traffic fell in the UK by more than 70%, to levels last seen when the Beatles were in shorts. With less human movement, the planet has literally calmed: seismologists report lower vibrations from “cultural noise” than before the pandemic.

Key environmental indices, which have steadily deteriorated for more than half a century, have paused or improved. In China, the world’s biggest source of carbon, emissions were down about 18% between early February and mid-March – a cut of 250m tonnes, equivalent to more than half the UK’s annual output. Europe is forecast to see a reduction of around 390m tonnes. Significant falls can also be expected in the US, where passenger vehicle traffic – its major source of CO2 – has fallen by nearly 40%. Even assuming a bounceback once the lockdown is lifted, the planet is expected to see its first fall in global emissions since the 2008-9 financial crisis.

Climate crisis: in coronavirus lockdown, nature bounces back – but for how long? 
The Guardian
Jonathan Watts

Protect your lungs, exercise, sleep well and rest

Tom Wingfield, a physician and clinical lecturer in infectious diseases at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, says you should avoid anything that damages your lungs – stop smoking, and don't expose others to secondhand smoke. "Open fires are not great, and if you have allergies that irritate your lungs, avoid what you can." One upside of the lockdown is that air pollution has decreased. And, says Wingfield, "[general aerobic] exercise will help your lungs". There is no magic supplement. The advice is as it's always been: reduce your alcohol consumption, exercise, sleep well and reduce stress. A varied, balanced diet, with lots of vegetables and fruit, is important, but there is little evidence for most vitamin and mineral supplements.

Proper rest and protect your lungs: doctors on what you should really do for your health right now
The Guardian
Emine Saner

Belsize Park

Photomovie . Belsize Park (Flickr)
Music . Intimacy, Ketil Bjørnstad