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Fearing that the Coronavirus pandemic might affect their investments, perception became reality for investors in the world’s stock exchanges as markets see their biggest drop in recent years.
‘Money flees uncertainty’ – You’ve heard it before or read it in print
It vaporizes during civil unrest, it dissipates into thin air when politics goes awry such as when a national leader faces a coup d’é·tat, and it leaves without saying goodbye during natural disasters. In short, the thing we call “money” isn’t our friend at all, in fact, “money” (by which, I mean ‘investment’) is the most fair-weather friend we could have.
And that’s a good thing!
(I hear what you’re thinking, “Is Gordon Gekko writing this post? You know, the whole, “Greed is good,” thing and all that?) Hehehe.
No, Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street isn’t writing this post, I’m merely remarking upon what’s patently obvious in the global marketplace — that the de facto rule is that individual and institutional investors prefer stable and profitable companies and countries to unstable and less profitable companies and countries. Of course.
What it means on the ground is that organizations that prepare in advance for the ‘bad times’ are seen as more stable, and therefore a better long-term investment, and that’s where the money flees to during challenging economic times.
Which is why some countries have a AAA+ credit rating and others don’t. It’s why some companies have triple A credit and others don’t. It’s why some countries need IMF loans and others don’t.
Stayin’ Alive, Yeah!
Being prepared, means staying alive, even while your competitors are dying all around you. (Not literally dying; But that’s the kind of talk you hear on trading floors during the so-called ‘bad times’)
I say ‘bad times’ because, for prepared countries (and companies) there really are no ‘bad times’.
Prepared organizations sail right through recessions, depressions, war, civil unrest, natural disasters and more — precisely because they’re well managed and well-equipped to weather any sort of storm, whether it be political, economic, or even natural disasters that can strike without warning.
Any CFO knows that recessions occur every 25-years. They know their factory (or whatever) is located in a floodplain, or in an active earthquake zone, etc., therefore, long in advance of any of those events occurring, they create a ‘rainy day fund’ to carry the company through a catastrophic period with surprisingly little upset.
The reward for this kind of long-term thinking is that when disaster finally strikes (and it surely will, it’s just a question of when) your organization will carry-on with ‘business as usual’ even as your competitors are dying in the market. It’s called ‘building resiliency’ into your company (or country) and it’s a fine thing.
And that’s the time that your company can go ’round and snap those companies up for ten cents on the dollar. ‘Picking their bones’ as we used to say in the halcyon days of Carl Icahn, investor, corporate raider… and strangely enough… philanthropist. Cool, huh?
Anyway, ‘Fortune favours the prepared’ said Louis Pasteur, and he was right.
So it follows then, that countries that aren’t prepared for Coronavirus version 2019 (called COVID-19 now that it’s been officially named) aren’t going to sail through it unaffected.
Rather, it’s easy to see even at this early stage which countries have engaged in long-term thinking, and have long ago upgraded their medical capacities to handle pandemics such as COVID-19, and although some cases showed up on their healthcare systems they had the ability and the capacity to deal with those cases with immediacy.
And if there’s one thing that pandemic-type viruses hate, it’s timely diagnosis, speedy quarantine and effective treatment.
Consequently, those prepared economies will see little economic impact from COVID-19 or any subsequent mutation of the COVID-19 virus which is likely to be called COVID-20 if it occurs in 2020. And there’s always, always, a mutation eventually, however it’s almost impossible to predict when that mutation will occur. At that time, the treatment for COVID-19 won’t work on COVID-20 (or whatever that mutation gets named) or if it does work, it’s likely to be less than 50% effective. Just sayin’.
Again, those governments that believe in long-term thinking and have prepared in advance of the latest Coronavirus pandemic have already inoculated their economies against the worst of the problem, although they could still (secondarily) be affected by other countries whose economies may now suffer on account of not being prepared.
Therefore, it was the perception of investors who have themselves created the entire ‘Black Monday’ market devaluation by pulling their investments from the stock market. But if there are more countries that are prepared for and respond well to the Coronavirus threat, then today’s market recalibration will turn out to be nothing more than a blip on the year-end 2020 annual report.
But if it turns out that a majority of countries aren’t properly prepared to handle this Coronavirus pandemic then this market slide could last a long time and worsen as thousands more become infected.
And then what happens around November or December 2020 if a new, mutated COVID virus appears?
Just as the markets get back to normal, suddenly a newer and more virulent version of this virus begins to run through the world’s healthcare systems… will they be ready then? Let’s hope so.
More Pandemics are On the Way. So, Let’s be Ready Next Time!
One thing’s for certain. In this increasingly interconnected world, there will be more pandemics and perhaps much more deadly and with a more rapid onset than the COVID-19 virus.
In such an instance, only the countries blessed with leaders who aren’t afraid to make the big decisions (like closing their airports and even their land borders and seaports for 2-weeks to prevent millions more infections from occurring) will survive the next viral onslaught.
In the case of the COVID-19 virus (so far) it looks like the major economies have dodged a bullet, because it turns out that it isn’t the strongest virus, as it’s only able to kill the elderly and the infirm. However, future pandemics may not be as mild as this particular Coronavirus.
We need to get ready. We have so far failed this drill, but Western healthcare systems are quickly ramping-up to meet the present threat. Until governments begin to provide permanent ongoing funding to healthcare providers to help them get more efficient at capturing such viral threats, isolating those who are contagious, and effectively treating those who’ve been exposed to such contagions, we’re living on borrowed time.
Let us thank the medical professionals on the front lines diagnosing, isolating, and treating those people who’ve had exposure to the virus, and thank them for doing much in a short time, with only tepid support (at first) from Western governments. Bravo!
Mountains of coal tip waste could be put to good use via land reclamation from the sea, thereby protecting vulnerable UK coastlines
The UK has two problems that could be solved via a constructive land use approach: One, Great Britain is a small island with a growing population, and Two, since about 1690, the detritus created by coal mining and coal burning has accumulated into veritable mountains of colliery waste which now spills onto rail lines, housing developments, and farming communities during heavy rainstorms. Not to mention that coal ash and fly ash chemical components can leach into local groundwater.
Although the UK’s coal tips may have been built with the best available technology and the best intentions decades ago, some of them are becoming unstable and need to be dealt with soon. Coal tip land is presently unavailable for farming or other any use until the waste is removed and the site cleaned, but that land could easily be turned into forest or crop land once remediated.
The solution seems rather obvious, doesn’t it?
Reclaiming Land from the Sea using Colliery Waste in Sealed Metal Containers, Sunk into Concrete
We see how land has been reclaimed from the sea in the Netherlands for centuries now, and how in the UAE entire islands have been created from nothing more complicated than dumping enough sand into the Persian Gulf and compacting it until the new land has risen above sea level.
Here are some examples of land that has been reclaimed from the sea using basic materials and engineering.
This fascinating video has 15.5 million views on YouTube. Once you start watching, you can’t stop.
In the Netherlands, the entire coastline was changed using a different method where dikes were built some distance out to sea and the seawater was then pumped out, and soil and gravel was used to level the reclaimed land, thereby making it suitable for underground water pipes and sewer lines, and for roads and buildings.
And in Singapore, fully 25% of the country consists of land reclaimed from the sea, with plans to reclaim even more land by 2045.
So, Don’t Tell Me It ‘Can’t Be Done’
It’s being done, every day, all over the world. Creating new land is common in the 21st century. Even Tokyo’s gigantic Haneda Airport was built on land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay. The trick… is to do it in a cost-effective manner.
Filling 55-gallon oil barrels or shipping containers with coal ash and other colliery waste and setting them into wet concrete slurry that hardens before the tide comes back in, is a cheap way of safely storing colliery waste for centuries.
What better use for soggy coal ash than to seal it in metal containers, and securely set the filled containers in plenty of concrete in order to help reclaim hundreds of square miles of land from the UK’s coastal areas, thereby protecting homes and businesses from dangerous storms blowing in from the sea, and consequently increasing the country’s resiliency from sea level rise brought on by global warming?
Tumbling such metal containers off the back of a truck onto coastal areas is a terrible idea, but if the lid is welded shut and each barrel surrounded by 1-foot thick of concrete slurry — once the concrete is cured — those containers won’t be going anywhere for the next 1000-years.
From Great Yarmouth in southeast England to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the northeast, the project would create thousands of jobs and 2020 could be year-1 of a 50-year project. Start with only 1-square-mile this year, and ramp-it-up annually!
Yes, I get it would be a massive and costly undertaking — but the simple fact is that Great Britain isn’t getting any bigger as its population continues to increase — even as the sea rises and massive storms erode more of the country’s land every year.
A 1-mile-wide strip of reclaimed land could be used for many purposes, including wind farms, agricultural land, containerized shipping ports, warehousing, industrial use, and a high speed rail link and motorway to speed people and goods to and from the north.
Each 1-square-mile section would need to rise 40-feet above sea level, be sturdily constructed to weather the fiercest storms, and be covered with plenty of trees and fields to help prevent soil erosion over the decades.
On the Great Britain side of the reclaimed land (not the side facing the North Sea) it could be left to become an inland sea (a fisherman’s paradise!) or in some places local governments may decide to infill those areas to add even more land to their territories.
With a topping of gravel and soil to bring the reclaimed land up to an altitude of 40-feet above sea level, many square miles of land could be added to the UK’s vulnerable coastal areas, and that reclaimed land could be made into truly spectacular golf courses, sports fields, or other recreational uses.
Golfing by the Sea, anyone?
Just under 250-square miles of additional land would be added to the UK’s total land area and this 1-mile-wide strip of land would help to prevent erosion on existing land along England’s east coast, provide better storm defences, protect the country from eventual sea-level rise, and allow an expedited road and high speed rail route for people and goods travelling to the north of the country.
All that’s required to get this programme started is the political will to do it, so if you see merit in such a plan, please email your MP or local government and tell them you want a 1-mile-wide seawall between you and the open sea that would add beauty, recreation, an enhanced transportation corridor and industry to the region, and that colliery waste could be an important part of this great job creator.
Who knew that waste from coal mines and coal-fired power plants could play a part in solving the multiple problems of soil erosion, temporary coastal flooding/storm surges, and eventual (but permanent) sea level rise?