The curve. I know you are always just ahead of it.
You surf and pivot. Obviously. But are you helping to flatten it, the curve?
Information Is Beautiful has gone from being an informative thread of lovely data visualising graphic design to an informative book of lovely data visualising graphic design to becoming an almost verifiably trusted information source, it seems, and David McCandless’ collection of charts on Coronovirus does do a typically clear job of contextualising the now offcial pandemic.
But, at time of writing, I think it’s missing something. Something potentially a bit vital for real context. Reference to the impact curve.
Data should speak dispassionately, of course. Take all the drama out of the story, right analitics priests? But I wonder if this is just another in an immediately unfurling loo roll list of Previously Sensible Seeming assumptions, bouncing down the stairs in streaming seconds while we panic waddle to the bathroom door with pants at our ankles, trying to keep the conference call on mute. Assumptions that dawning real human planet consequences really rather want to challenge us about.
Because all data is human. Always. And so is its interpretation. Edited. Cultural. Biased. There are implications of who is behind the numbers, recorded or omitted.
What role can dumb ol’ you and me play in the numbers of an epidemic?
The impact curve of this virus is essentially a forecast of how a more focussed spike of cases, landing closer together on world health systems, is more likely to disrupt all the other life-saving work going on in hospitals, regardless of how recover-fromable this virus may be in the supposedly cool headed data. If we can slow down the spread of this resiliently virulent virus, and so crucially “spread” its cost to ICUs, wards, surgeries, patients’ waiting times and nursing staff’s nerves across a wider period, together we might actually tip its impact below the Collapse The NHS Or Italy line on the graph. By all making some behaviour changes now, not waiting for government.
Were we to actually manage this, we’d undoubtedly then wonder what all the bleedin’ fuss was about. Like Y2K. Cuh.
The same principle is being applied by more of us attempting to tread out a growing desire for environmental action: “If we all did our bit, it would all add up.”
That’s true. But it’s fluffing slow. More conscious shopping, eating, traveling… it can feel like a mucus drop in the ocean compared to the corporate and national level changes needed to shift CO2 behaviours. Especially while your brother in law is still driving his Hummer to Corner News to pick up his paper.
So there’s nothing like a good bit of drama to fluff the politics into action, is there? But how the hell can you and I or your brother in law draw lines on this?
Christopher Mims suggests this: “Here is the paradox and obligation of living in a democracy experiencing a pandemic: we are all going to decide, *collectively*, through our daily actions, through decisions we are making right now, if we are going to overwhelm our healthcare system or not.”
Left to think for ourselves, where would you and I shrink the horizon line of our influence to? What should we begin to exclude – consumery retail, leisure centres, yoga classes, the shared work space, the coffee house, the supermarket? The school run? ..The weed run?
And if we did feel obligated to self isolate even before being diagnosed with Covid 19, how would this impact the real metric already straining the redlines of us all at the moment – wider wellbeing?
How do we manage this? Our mental health. After years of grinding division, austerity and rain. (It has been raining for years now, officially; you don’t remember the sun.) Or drought. How do you make the most of a potential lock down, drastically reducing physical human interaction, or even weather on the skin, all while knowing your business could go dry fast and the more vulnerable of your loved ones are at some sort of infectious risk?
Many are saying widely, Covid 19 is forcing our hand to look at the endemic ways culture has normalised some very damaging behaviours to us and the material natural world we’re part of – the nature of our travel, valuation, time, comforts and purposes. And it is, perhaps, a call to embrace complexity. I mean, don’t announce this in the CoOp, while the customer infront of you is arguing with the manager about their right to clear the shelves of bog roll, it won’t help any.
But having to really think about our every interaction – blimey. It’s nuts. But it might wake us up in a new way to the miasmic interconnectedness of our lives – to system, soil and society. To each other. If we treat it as someone else’s problem, and nothing to do with business as usual, we’ll be waiting for non existent parents to turn up and tell us what to do. Or over-stretched health care professionals.
Does adult human planet behaviour partly look like us dumb lot trying to “flatten the curve” wherever we are day to day, by actually thinking about everything and everyone we touch? Some funny new greeting protocols and behaviours to slow down Covid 19’s spread. It’d be an interesting take on consumer activism – to really think biologically, to spread behaviour. But perhaps the best way to do it would be intentionally – with solidarity. Even, amid the sobering reality of it, finding a bit of stoic celebration at the suspension of the matrix. If rain days were snow days.
Could we manage a two week Christmas Day? Or is that idea just too much trauma?
And what might the world look like, emerging from our bunker?
How do we reconfigure ourselves to get ahead of the curve on crises? To take ourselves with us, as it were, and out smart our own behaviours? We have just so many problems to solve at once – but they are all ultimately interconnected. And cultural. Behaviours born out of beliefs. Perhaps, as we face such a disruption to our interconnected lives, instead of worrying about what the impact might be on me, on you, we should be wondering what what impact we’d like to make. And who needs us to.