Prevention or Mitigation

Siderea picks up the idea of Covid as social innoculation for dealing with climate change. She points out that we are happier discussing how to prevent climate catastrophe, than how to cope with living through a catastrophe which is now all but inevitable:

And I think that, in an important way, discussion of preventing climate change became and continues to serve as an emotionally preferable distraction from discussing what it meant that we haven’t prevented the climate change. It was too scary to think about what climate change might mean in our personal lives and in our families and communities, so changing the topic to preventing it was a way to avoid thinking about that.

This time last year, I thought I was mentally ready for Corona. I was wrong.

I was over-prepared for the acute aspects of Covid, and under-prepared for the chronic aspects. I was ready for death, danger and grief – but not for boredom.

That’s partly because of the pattern Siderea describes, of focussing on preventing rather than living with problems. The omnipresent low-grade suffering of lockdown isn’t something you escape, it’s something you mitigate.

I don’t think Covid is unusual in that. Natural disasters mean days of fleeing in terror, followed by months or years of displacement, moving through various levels of shelter and temporary accommodation, making do without most of the mundane aspects of the life you are used to. The same with war – worry less about being shot, and more about the grinding shortages, restrictions and lost opportunities.

But even in hindsight, I’m not sure what I would have done to prepare myself better mentally. All the psychological aspects feel interdependent, with no isolated section you could emphasise in order to be better at surviving a pandemic. ‘Become mentally more stable and resilient’ is advice which is correct, but entirely useless.

Written on March 1, 2021