May you live through interesting times

There’s a Chinese curse, may you live through interesting times. On a personal level, the Christchurch earthquakes make this pandemic seem like a walk in the park because that was a much tougher period of time for us. Nevertheless, both events brought strange changes and have made me think of the Chinese curse. But there were also good things. The earthquakes got me started in WordPress which got me the job at Automattic which led to my current role with Award Force. It also brought us to Scotland and that has been one of the best decisions we made.

The pandemic has opened up a new world of online schooling for the kids. Their observations so far have been very positive. Elizabeth says that she likes not having to sit on a hard cold wooden floor for assembly and she can have a hot drink on her desk during class. Daniel remarked that there are no naughty kids in his class derailing the lessons. I think Daniel’s regular school has been having problems with disruptive students. There are physical fights in the playground most weeks and Daniel spends lunchtimes in the library or computer room. One advantage of virtual classrooms is they come with a mute button.

In hindsight, it’s surprising that we haven’t had a pandemic on Earth for such a long time. I can remember when SARS was in the news early this century and being amazed that it didn’t spread further around the world. Similarly, when Ebola came to Scotland in 2014 I was relieved but also surprised that it was completely contained. I guess it was always just a matter of time before one of these pathogens would escape our best efforts and that time has come. More frightening for our future is the prospect of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance will mean an end to routine operations. Imagine that world? And yet, we don’t seem to be doing anything to prepare for it or avert it. Most people don’t know this but globally, over 70% of the antibiotics we produce are fed to livestock. Moving to a plant-based diet is the single most important thing we can do to prevent pandemics, to prevent antibiotic resistance, to prevent climate change.

It’s easy to criticise the Chinese for their wet markets but we have factory farms. Over 50 billion chickens are raised and slaughtered every year to feed humans. This doesn’t include male chicks in the egg-laying industry. Biologist and author of Big Farms Make Big Flu says the factory farm production line with its high-density packing of animals with nearly identical genomesfacilitate greater transmission [of pathogens] and recurrent infection“. I hope this pandemic will provide the necessary impetus to help us overcome the inertia and move swiftly to a predominantly plant-based diet.

If you’re in Aberdeen and want to eat more plants then I recommend Foodstory Café. They are a wonderful local business making delicious vegan food but they’ve been hard-hit by this crisis. Their turnover has plummeted and they don’t qualify for any government assistance. To stay afloat, they’ve been working around the clock to move from a physical café and grocery store to an entirely online model. We need to support businesses like this as much as possible during this time so they’re still around when we come out on the other side.


Keep well, stay safe, and eat plants.