We have yet to arrive at the near-future dystopia described in Paolo Bacigalupi’s incredible novel The Windup Girl, but there are signs we’re moving in that direction.
In the novel, Earth has been catastrophically altered by climate change. Civilization is in ruins. Only the wealthy have the means to rise above the misery of daily life. The rest are, well, nobody cares about them.
Aside from steadily worsening climate change and our desperation to maintain the flow of cheap fossil fuels undercutting our inadequate efforts to mitigate the damage, we’re stepping across the threshold of a new phase in the Covid-19 pandemic: From now on, students and school personnel won’t be required to mask up. Data gathering is slacking off, and Covid-related restrictions are being dumpstered in our haste to Get Back To Normal.
I’m sure many will see the Bacigalupi citation as overly dramatic, but I’m beginning to glimpse a future where Covid is always a dangerous presence, taking a toll on the most vulnerable among us. And we become, if we haven’t already, inured to death tolls that used to scare us half to death. Figuratively. And we accept that many, many people will be disabled by long Covid. There’s a lot of bad news on that front, which I’ll get to.
I see a future where people like me will wear masks all the time and will abstain from crowded situations indefinitely. I’ve found myself wondering if I’d ever eat in a restaurant again or attend a concert or travel for recreational purposes. I sure don’t feel safe doing any of that now, and I have no idea when I will. And I find myself wondering if people like me matter anymore.Continue reading