Saturday, April 3, 2021

The failure of the precautionary principle

The Post-COVID-19 Blueprint (Part 1): How Precaution Failed | The Risk-Monger - David Zaruk: 

April 6, 2020 - "Ten weeks wasted! As the COVID-19 coronavirus spread throughout Asia in early 2020, Western risk managers did nothing. They hoped … they watched … they told the public to wash their hands. In almost every Western country, no credible risk reduction measures were implemented until it was too late, the outbreak was out of control and lockdowns were the only option.... And their only practical risk regulatory tool, the precautionary principle, was not fit for purpose.

"Precaution is a tool that should only be applied when risk management efforts do not succeed.... In the last two decades though, particularly in the EU, it has become more a strategy of ... unless you can prove, with certainty, that a product, process or substance is safe, then you must take precaution.... Europeans were promised a world of food without pesticides, energy without nuclear reactors and products that were 'chemical free' and any regulator who did not guarantee it, or tried to protect certain technologies with risk management measures, paid dearly. 

"Scientists and innovators have been excluded from public dialogue in precaution debates. The public didn’t want technological solutions; they demanded that the bad things be taken away. In 2019 when the public believed humanity would go extinct in ten years from climate breakdown and ecosystem collapse, no large populations were calling out for more nuclear energy, scientific solutions or innovative technologies – they wanted to ban flying, ban cars, ban meat.... We have limited research in gene editing, tried to sideline medical device technologies and made it uneconomical to develop new generations of antibiotics.... These disgraceful cult elitists campaigned for a world without pharmaceutical companies – I wonder how they feel now. These precautionary zealots were moving toward a plastic-free world not considering how our doctors and nurses relied on plastics to deliver healthcare – I wonder if they require medical support now.... 

"This risk-averse, expedient precautionary mindset was unprepared for the COVID-19 crisis.... Despite loud warnings from Mike Ryan at the WHO, for two months the public wanted to hear that things were fine.... As risk managers in China, South Korea and Singapore were applying risk reduction measures to address their coronavirus outbreaks, as they were providing proper PPE for their front-line medical staff, as they were increasing detection and testing methods and isolating victims, European and American authorities did little more than reassure their populations they were safe.... By the time Western European countries woke up, when Italian hospitals were suddenly overwhelmed, it was too late. The one remaining tool, a tool of last resort (the precautionary principle), was the only way the risk managers could respond: reduce the crisis by locking down entire populations. The lockdowns are precautionary: until you can prove with certainty that it is safe (for the entire society) to go out, then you need to stay in your home. If proper risk reduction measures had been applied early, then a massive loss of social and economic benefits could have been avoided....

"Like other precautionary measures, the lockdowns are practically useless from a risk management perspective. Sorry to be blunt, but these Western lockdowns are not about protecting the public from COVID-19 at all (what risk managers would be tasked to do). The lockdowns are about protecting the healthcare systems from collapsing from unthinkably large numbers requiring ICU beds and ventilators at the same time. Flattening the curve means fattening the curve: allowing the virus to infect more slowly with the hope that some lives could be saved. The only real risk management strategy coming out of the lockdowns is to wait for herd immunity: either with a vaccine to be developed (hopefully in less than 18 months) or, in the meantime, to wait for herd immunity to arrive through the survival of the fittest (with perhaps hundreds of millions dying). Precautionary lockdown measures are merely meant to slow the deadly consequences of failure; slow the failed risk management strategy so fewer people would die outside of overwhelmed hospitals. Our leaders, Western risk managers, are incapable of offering any other solutions. 

 "This didn’t have to happen. Our Western precautionary mindset created an entitled public assuming benefits without risks, no compromises and simple solutions to complex problems. Growing fat from affluence, our populations expect any uncertainty to be managed simply and surely by removing the source of the problem without any need to consider consequences or lost benefits. Over the last two decades, the precautionary principle has been the key means (often only means) to manage any and all hazards in this privileged world without want. Nuclear energy might be a risk? Ban it! Seed breeding technologies have evolved? Not in our food chain. The precautionary principle will save us. We can afford to pay more for renewable energy, organic food and all-natural products. The poor may suffer but they don’t donate to the NGOs pushing precaution and deindustrialisation....

"With no focus on the effects of its consequences, precaution has had a long history of preying on the poor. When the lockdowns were abruptly imposed and large populations lost their jobs, wealthy states could drop cash on their citizens by the trillion. Risk management, on the other hand, is a tool to protect populations from losing benefits and suffering severe consequences. Risk managers would do whatever they could to reduce exposure and prevent a lockdown; they would be able to see in advance how those helicopter trillions would lead to bigger problems long-term.

"Perhaps the most egregious transgression in this weak risk management framework is how the precautionary principle has been exported to developing countries. Many of these countries mirror the EU regulatory decisions either because they lack the risk assessment structure or fear losing export markets. But they lack the prosperity to protect their populations once the consequences of precaution (lost benefits) set in.... Now large developing countries from Nigeria to India are locking down their populations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. How do you practice social distancing in a slum with a population density of one million people per square mile? How do you enforce stay-at-home measures when the homes are not safe or enclosed? How do you keep people off the streets when their livelihoods are there and their governments cannot afford helicopter cash? Once again, precaution works for the wealthy and pays no heed to any suffering imposed on the vulnerable.

"Precaution’s failure to protect populations from the COVID-19 coronavirus has been spectacular. This principle has been shown to merely be an expedient stain remover for cowardly policymakers pushed into a corner by relentless activist interest groups. Tens of millions of the poorest of the poor will likely die from failed lockdowns with no risk management alternatives, likely unaccounted and likely long after the precautionistas have applauded themselves for saving a few lives in the affluent West."

Read more:

No comments:

Post a Comment