Everyone has a different Covid reality. That could be important

The role of chance in politics is often underrated.  The impact of Covid in different countries might illustrate this.

Take New Zealand and the UK, for example.  It’s difficult to think of a time when the mood in each country – to the extent that such a thing can actually be gauged – has been so divergent.

Continue reading “Everyone has a different Covid reality. That could be important”

Our post-covid future: the downside of working from home and the grim lessons office owners should learn from the retail sector

Post-Covid trends in workplace choices and the implications for the office market are the subjects of two recent articles drawn to our attention.

An article about the modern-day workplace, published in The Conversation, is headed How the pandemic will shape the workplace trends of 2021. 

It reminds us that the economist John Maynard Keynes  in 1930 predicted the amount we work would gradually shrink to as little as 15 hours a week as technology made us more productive.

It didn’t happen.  Rather, we began to spend extra time away from home

 … due to commuting and suburban living patterns, which we often forget are recent historical inventions.

An article in the New York Times,  headed The Future of Offices When Workers Have a Choice, reminds us that at the end of the 19th century, most American urbanites walked to work.

As late as 1930, Manhattan’s residential population was larger than it is today, meaning the city was more mixed in terms of land use, not dominated by office towers.

In the post-Covid society, the author surmises, many people will again prefer to work within walking or biking distance of home. Continue reading “Our post-covid future: the downside of working from home and the grim lessons office owners should learn from the retail sector”

Covid: an endgame taking shape?

Things are moving fast on Covid, perhaps faster than we realise.  But as Europe painfully grinds its way through a second lockdown, it’s easy to miss this.

First of all, it’s more of a lockdown-lite this time.  Policy is more nuanced and – although most people are too polite to say – has more or less converged on a Swedish approach.

Secondly, the second wave so far looks less deadly. Excess mortality is considerably below the levels of earlier in the year. And while the institutional response hardly rates as an exemplar, there are plenty of signs of successful adaptation, of government policy certainly and, perhaps more importantly, of individual and business behaviour.

Continue reading “Covid: an endgame taking shape?”

A year in the life of an Octopus

A regret.  Point of Order doesn’t cover octopi with sufficient rigour and detail.

So it’s a pleasure to recommend to readers looking to expand their knowledge the Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher.

The plot is sui generis.  Craig Foster, a film-maker in crisis, retires to an isolated cottage on the far edge of the world (the Cape of Good Hope).  Each day he swims in the kelp forest at the joining point of the land and the ocean, until he knows it as well as his home, indeed it becomes his home.

And it is also the home of the Octopus. 

Continue reading “A year in the life of an Octopus”

There’s nothing new about the concept of end of life choice

This post was written by David Barber, media adviser and newsletter editor for the End of Life Choice Society

There is nothing new about the concept of a doctor helping to hasten the end of somebody who is already dying to spare further pain and suffering.

It is not some fanciful New Age idea, as some seem to think in the lead-up to this month’s referendum on the End of Life Choice Act.

Euthanasia (the word translates as “good death” in Greek) was practised in Ancient Greece and Rome, where writers and philosophers reported that good emperors prayed for a dignified and pain-free farewell.

After becoming the first country to allow women to vote, in 1893, New Zealand developed a trailblazing reputation for social reform, but has fallen behind in legalising medical assistance to die, which is seen by advocates as the last human right denied citizens – the right to die when and how one chooses. Continue reading “There’s nothing new about the concept of end of life choice”

Covid news not bad; political and economic news not good

This far into the epidemic it’s interesting what we know and extraordinary what we don’t. Which is more significant: the knowledge or the ignorance?

So what is happening:

  • Daily cases in many European countries are rising sharply but recorded death and excess mortality rates are not – so far.
  • In the US, the daily case and death rates have been falling for two months, from a late summer bump.
  • And in Australia and New Zealand, we are seeing just how hard it is to eliminate the disease.

The data has lots of possible interpretations, which certainly helps if you’ve got a particular case to support.  But one piece of good news is that the fear factor is coming in at the lower end of expectations.

Continue reading “Covid news not bad; political and economic news not good”

White participation in Black Lives Matter and statue toppling portend the dawning of a new era

Like Black Lives Matter, the knock-down-a-statue movement has become global, from NZ to the United Kingdom, Belgium to the United States.

Supporters argue these statues, invariably of men, represent unacceptable standards of today.  Others, including Deputy PM Winston Peters, say no, what is needed are explanations of the history and events which made the individuals unacceptable today.

Historian Simon Schama, writing in the Financial Times,  says

“ … let them disappear not into canals, ponds or rubbish dumps, since arbitrary acts of destruction shut down debate quite as much as uncritical reverence. Better, surely, to relocate them to museums where, properly curated, they can trigger genuine debate and historical education.” Continue reading “White participation in Black Lives Matter and statue toppling portend the dawning of a new era”

Covid: still plenty of known unknowns

As folk step out to enjoy their new-found freedom (and not just in NZ), it’s worth bearing in mind that we are still mired in uncertainty.  Indeed, the sense that the data is not good enough and governments are feeling their way as they go along, is perhaps even stronger now than it was a few weeks ago.

So a few high-level principles might help in thinking about the future. Continue reading “Covid: still plenty of known unknowns”

What can we learn from the UK mortality data?

Data reliability has bedevilled the task of analysing and responding to the Covid-19 outbreak.  So there might be something to be gleaned from recent UK mortality data.

It captures and breaks down the weekly deaths in England and Wales, which normally average a little more 10,000.

But in the week to 3 April there were 16,387 (60% above the average of the last five years) and 18,500 in the following week (some 80% over the average).  Continue reading “What can we learn from the UK mortality data?”