Monday, 13 April 2020

Situating Geoethics in the Pandemocene

1. Introduction

Pandemics are more than outbreaks of diseases. To face it, our modern way of life is a bunch of pandemics. Hence, time to face them, thoroughly and as such – geosciences included. 

A little semantics first; the ancient Greek origin of the word pandemic means ‘all’ (pan) and ‘people’ (demos); that is, something common to all humans. Pandemic applied as a medical term may serve as one example. Broader meanings are, for example, “…globalization, the most thoroughgoing socioeconomic upheaval since the Industrial Revolution, which has set off a pandemic of retrogressive nationalism, regional separatism, and religious extremism” (Martin Filler, New York Review of Books, 24 Sept. 2009, [*]). This quote illustrates nicely that a pandemic mainly is a cultural thing, something deeply rooted in human behaviour. How the “coronavirus” emerged (markets), how the illness COVID-19 did spread through societies (travel), or what works to confine the outbreaks (social distancing) - any of these courses is mainly cultural. 

Humans, now seven Billion and soon eleven Billion people, who are needing a decent life on Earth require a globalised society for provision of food, goods and security. There is little alternative to it. Under such circumstances, globalisation is not a question of whether, although it is a profound question of how. The manner how the production of food and goods, the use of commodities and natural resources is done that is a concern for all people, that is, it is pandemic. The exponential growth of the number of human people of the last two centuries has wiped any alternative away. Unhappily that period left us with an unpleasant common heritage of humankind. The manner how the production of food and goods, the use of commodities and natural resources was done in the recent past led to anthropogenic global change. Climate change is only the single best-known example. Anthropogenic global change, like climate change, concerns all people; hence, it is a pandemic. 

Turning to the geoscientists, recognising that the Holocene has ended (Waters et al. 2016) is acknowledging that the pandemics reached the geological record (Zalasiewicz et al. 2019). Hence, as debated since two decades renaming the current times ‘Anthropocene’ seems valid (Bohle and Bilham 2019); ‘Pandemocene’ may be an unthought alternative.

2. Societal contexts of the geosciences

Geosciences or Earth sciences are an amalgam of fundamental and applied research fields mainly within but also beyond natural sciences, as well as specific engineering disciplines and commercial undertakings on various scales, ranging from individual chartered experts to state-owned or multinational private corporations. Together, these geosciences disciplines nourish a corpus of stewardship knowledge about natural processes that can inform how people could act within the Earth system (Lenton and Latour 2018; Ogden et al. 2013; Redman and Miller 2015; Steffen et al. 2011). Contemporary geoscience knowledge is, therefore, of very high operational value for the functioning of modern societies. That geoscience knowledge alone, however, does not guide how people ought to act. That issue is addressed by ethics, in general, and in the specific form of professional ethics such as contemporary geoethics [**]. However, even in the absence of guidance as to how to act, the geoscientist’s expert knowledge comes with responsibility for the individual scientist, as a professional and as a citizen, towards people and communities. 

2.1 Can Geoscientists help to cure the Pandemics of the Anthropocene?

Are geoscientists needed, as the medical caretakers in times of a health pandemic, among other workers, to cure the Anthropocene? If yes, are they ready to join forces to face the pandemics of the Anthropocene? Do the societal contexts and the ethical framework of their disciplines enable them to render a contribution?

In general terms, science and research shall serve society (Bernal 1939), and responsible science and innovation is a public good (Blok 2018; Murphy, C., Gardoni, P., Bashir, H., Harris, C. E., & Masad 2015). These insights have taken root in contemporary societies (United Nations 2013) and, although still questioned to some degree, they have become operationalised (Schneider et al. 2019). Like many other natural science communities, the geosciences communities have strengthened their ethical frameworks in the last decade; using the label ‘geoethics’. 

The Cape Town Statement on Geoethics (Di Capua, Peppoloni, and Bobrowsky 2017) outlines an actor-centric virtue-ethic for professional geoscientists. It promotes to act responsibly and knowledge-based. It emphasizes the societal context of the geosciences. However, its scope is intra-professional as summarised in its concluding paragraph “Raising the (geo)ethical awareness and competences of the members of the geoscience community is essential, also to increase trust and credibility among the public. This can best be achieved in the near future by two means: by promoting more effectively existing guidance such as codes of ethics/conduct and research integrity statements; and by introducing geoethics into geoscience curricula, to make geoethics a basic feature of the training and professional activity of geoscientists.” 

2.2 The soft side of geosciences, geoethics.

When thinking about probable futures, it deems necessary to go beyond a mainly intra-disciplinary setting of geoethics. Intra-disciplinary frames, like the Cape Town Statement on Geoethics, are advantageous framework, unquestionable. They provide a solid foundation inter-discipinary and extra-discipliary settings (Peppoloni, Bilham, and Di Capua 2019). However, geoethics may be strengthened for use by any citizen (Bohle and Marone 2019).

Strengthening geoethics may be a choice in the Holocene, although it is a must in the Pandemocene because citizens’ actions should ‘be judged… where they fall on a scale of care and neglect” because “[w]hen humans formed an independent relation with the Earth, we were left to choose between a path of care and a path of neglect.’ (Hamilton 2017; p. 150, emphasise in the original). When facing that claim, tools are required. Geoethics for geoscientists is a specific tool. A more generic tool is needed. The foundations of geoethical thinking can be expanded through the works of Kohlberg and Jonas, namely about moral adequacy of normative frameworks[1] (Kohlberg 1981) and the imperative of responsibility for those who deploy technologies (Jonas 1984). Combining these approaches with geoethics approach, a ‘geoethical rationale’ emerges. It promotes six normative preferences: ‘actor-centric, virtue-ethics focused, responsibility focused, knowledge-based, all-actor-inclusive, and universal rights-based’ (Table 1). 

A framework like the ‘geoethical rationale’ may be suitable guidance of citizens in the Anthropocene (or Pandemocene). At a more modest scale of action, the normative preferences of the geoethical rationale may help citizens, who also are geoscientists, to reach out beyond their professional spheres. On the path towards this endeavour, the question arises why geoscientists should be among the ‘health workers’, who are needed to mitigate the risks of the Pandemocene. 

3 A pandemic of anthropogenic global change

3.1 Past and Present

During prehistoric and historical periods, humankind modified natural environments to appropriate resources for living and wellbeing (Ellis 2015; Fuentes 2016; Ruddiman 2018). Contemporary societies apply geosciences extensively for their economic, societal and cultural activities (Bohle 2017; Gill and Bullough 2017; Krausmann et al. 2013, 2017; Rosol, Nelson, and Renn 2017). These activities bind, through global supply chains, the entire globe into one social-ecological system (Reyers et al. 2018) that intersects deeply with the physical and biological systems of the Earth. Crafts-persons, technicians, architects and engineers apply geoscience knowledge, at least implicitly, when altering natural environments or creating artefacts, e.g. extraction of minerals, the laying the foundations for buildings, or managing floodplains. Artists, poets or philosophers of any time or culture refer to the Earth for co-shaping human identity. Contemporary geoscience knowledge seeps into modern thinking and dealings (Moores 1997; Peppoloni and Di Capua 2012), often without being identified as such (Bohle 2015; Bohle, Sibilla, and Casals I Graells 2017), and rarely put forward so openly as in the metaphorical title of the book by the geochemists Langmuir and Broecker (Langmuir and Broecker 2012), ‘How to build a habitable planet’.

Large-scale infrastructures like shore defences, hydropower plants or urban dwellings visibly interact with the geosphere and are a physical expression of how people situate themselves on Earth; views that alter through history (Ellis 2011; Fressoz 2012; Purdy 2015). Whatever the philosophical concepts are that frame the construction of these infrastructures, they could not have been built without a profound geoscience culture (Brown et al. 2017; Häusler 2018; Ruddiman et al. 2015; Wysession et al. 2012) that includes scientific understanding, technological know-how and societal justifications. Likewise, purposefully designed global production systems or consumption patterns couple human activity with the geosphere at a planetary scale. The coupling happens through cycles of matter, energy and information (Haff 2014b; Rosol et al. 2018; Zalasiewicz et al. 2016) that are mostly invisible. Greenhouse gas emissions are well-known as the most prominent example, although a similar case could be made for nitrogen or the global agriculture system (Campbell et al. 2017; Morseletto 2019; Zhang et al. 2015). 

During the last century, humankind's activities have intersected the geosphere in a much more extensive and intricate manner than ever before, either directly or intermediated through the biosphere (Barnosky et al. 2012; Steffen et al. 2015). Over some decades, the increasing number of people living on Earth and more notably the profligate consumption of resources in the affluent industrialised regions has culminated in a pandemic of anthropogenic change (Kunnas 2017; Steffen et al. 2011; Zalasiewicz et al. 2014). The notion ‘Anthropocene’ should be used while also acknowledging the responsibilities, political mechanisms and social processes that led to the current state of the globe, that finally make the Pandemocene. Anthropogenic global change is about how people, given hegemonic systems of cultural values, choices and lifestyles, govern the appropriation of biotic and abiotic resources from natural environments at a planetary scale (Wright et al. 2018). This description of the contemporary ‘human condition’ would be the essence of a geological epoch named the ‘Anthropocene’. Naming it suchlike is an overdue act (Bohle and Bilham 2019). 

3.2 Scriptum Futurum Recycled

About two years ago, in 2017, I wrote a piece for the Salzburg Global Seminar # 593 [***], stating that “new complexities, irritating disruptions of trusted practices, and accelerating change seem to characterize our times. Uncertainty about the future is acknowledged by many. The rate of change is unmeasured; hence, it is felt”. Back in 2017, the participants of the seminar were asked: What will it mean to be human in 2050 or 2100? Now, the disruption of the habitual daily doings may come with accelerated pace because of the COVID-19 health pandemic. 

The years 2050 or 2100 deem far away, somehow. It will be times when my children and grandchildren will be getting as old as I am now, respectively. I wondered, at time of writing in 2017: “Hence, what is 'The New' that is up to us, in a world of somehow self-driving cars, subsistence fishermen and first climate refugees? Our views focus' on the next corner, the next turn of a road. Where are the signposts? Who has a sketch of the roads ahead? Does vision lack? What marks the debates? The technology-fascinated disagree. Nevertheless, their vision is just 'scale-up,' massively to reach a singularity.” At the time of writing in 2017, I offered ten statements. Each implied a considerable alteration of the present state of people's dealings; some deemed clear-cut, some were underlying. 

Today I take out the statement #10 (Our outpost on Moon and Mars may be reopened soon after the burial of the bodies of the early colonists on Earth.) and modify #1, namely replacing ‘emergencies’ with ‘pandemics’ and advancing their onset. I made both changes because time seems to shorten before entering the difficult decades 2020-2040. Now, my scriptum futurum runs as follows:

  1. People overcame the multiple societal-environmental pandemics of the 2020/2030-ties; then life-expectancy had stalled globally. During this crisis, luckily, the use of arms of mass destruction got hindered; although some 'conventional warfare' occurred.
  2. By 2050, collaborative Earth System Governance has emerged, and the life-expectancy (number of healthy years) of people started to increase again.
  3. In most regions, the species extinction rates got capped. The deterioration of vital global ecosystems has halted.
  4. In 2100, the global human population has stabilized at little less than 11 Billion people; slow decline seems possible now. Open societies have led to about equal levels of development in all urbanized regions.
  5. Networks and circular supply-chains enforce participatory handling of societal-environmental problems, including large-scale migration of people.
  6. Joint efforts are ongoing to relocate people from the ocean shorelines (and some other now uninhabitable zones); 'managed human retreat' because of sea-level rise and 'rebuilding of (coastal) urban areas' is a global policy.
  7. The rate of change of societal-environmental systems has been capped, and the diversity of the 'human niche' is made a 'species goal’'
  8. Most production systems use processes that are derived from synthetic biology with embedded quantum-technologies.
  9. Since 2050, emotions emerged spontaneously in complex information systems, and since then, they consolidated into stable societal features. Since then, such ‘feeling systems' and the various (collective and individual) 'people-tool systems' got a dedicated legal status in most countries.

The current turmoil of early 2020, which is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, indeed “stretch our imagination to the breaking point. Hence, Irritation!” Notwithstanding the current turmoil, I stay by the metaphorical description about the exit-strategy made three years ago: 

(1) For many of our fellow citizens, 'The Future,' with capital "F," is the march towards "About-the-Same." It may be a bit more of the same. For most people, The Future is nothing that is 'made.' It is something to be endured. Moreover, disasters or war deem ready to disrupt its regular gait. It is this aeon-old view, "Nihil sub sole novum" (nothing new under the sun) that for many provide a sense of security. Astonishingly, 'The Future' is a reference frame. It embeds our myopic starring at the next turn of events. However, what to do when this reference frame seems to change, to wobble and, hence gets uncertain. Then, menacingly, ‘The Unknown' frames the stages of our plays. Irritatingly, 'The Counter-Intuitive' seems to consolidate out of our plays. Threateningly, they block the way back. The horsemen of the modern apocalypse, 'The New,' 'The Unknown,' and 'The Counter-Intuitive' threat with insecurity, loss of competences, altered divisions of societies, and lost sense!

(2) Some people relish the 'The New,' 'The Unknown,' and 'The Counter-Intuitive’. Artists,
Explorers, Scientists feel a deep sensual pleasure when confronting them, as a person and as citizens. The artist's psyche, the explorer's spirits, the innovator's minds, the researcher's souls are resources vibrating with imagination and passion. Hence, nurtured by them, the citizenries may confront Quantum-Technology, Earth System Sciences, Artificial Intelligences, and Synthetic Biology. Then the citizenries will draft the new 'guides to these galaxies.' They will tell, whether '42' is still the right answer, why your towel might be sufficient, and who moved the restaurant(s) at the end of the universe(s)? [##] 

(3) Only as citizens, artists, cultural practitioners, inventors, and scientists can push the boundaries of the human imagination. As citizens, jointly they may move beyond the familiar and transcend the borders towards the future. Nevertheless, are they ready to assume this task? Do they invest collaboratively in path-changing discoveries, different fates of our planet, and charting pathways to liveable futures? Only then, 'The New', 'The Unknown', and 'The Counter-Intuitive' will face the broad, vigorous smile of 'The Imaginator'- Surrender!

4 Conclusion: Planetary human agency and geosciences

How societies alter natural environments depends on their technological means, cultural views on how to deploy them, the scientific insights that underpin these technological means and cultural views, and the economic conditions, cultural constraints and available resources. Together they determine which ‘endeavours’ of anthropogenic change are possible or desirable to undertake. The principal human endeavour in contemporary times is to operate a ‘technosphere’ at the planetary scale (Castree 2017; Haff 2014a, 2014b; Herrmann-Pillath 2018; Leach et al. 2018; Redman and Miller 2015; Steffen et al. 2011), which is the essence of the Pandemocene. 

Within society’s corpus of technological means, cultural views and scientific insights, geoscience knowledge has the potential to fundamentally shape the direction, effectiveness and efficiency of anthropogenic change of Earth system dynamics. To that end, when answering questions about the Earth system like ‘where to situate humankind’, ‘how to change processes’ or ‘what features to safeguard’, the geosciences provide ‘instruments’. Such instruments are Earth science literacy, insights into the origin of Earth including its development through aeons and understanding how Earth system dynamics operate, and, finally, geoethical thinking to guide about the ‘ought to be’. When considering the anthropogenic global change in its daily societal context, people need geoscience knowledge because any given individual interacts with the Earth system, be it only as a consumer of resources. Furthermore, citizens need insights into the functioning of the Earth system to engage in better-informed decision making. A dedicated responsibility of geoscientists results from the specific function that they have within contemporary societies because of the corpus of expertise that they can offer. 

To summarise, geosciences are instrumental in making anthropogenic global change happen, that making it a Pandemic. Therefore, geoscientists are its co-architects who should assume the responsibility that comes with their role as agents of technology-driven change. In this context, how geoscientists use their expertise is not an impartial matter. They are called to duty to offer cures in the Pandemocene; that is the essence of geoethics.
updated 14th April 

Acknowledgement: This post is a shortened version of a text (10.13140/RG.2.2.28145.22886) that draws on two upcoming conferences contributions (“Taking responsibility: Geo-societal studies of alternative futures,” EGU2020, Vienna, with Martin Kowarsch, MCC; “Geoethics for Operating in the Human Niche” GGM’20, Porto, inspired by E. Marone), a paper published in 2019 (“The ‘Anthropocene Proposal’: A Possible Quandary and A Work-Around” with N. Bilham, and a blog post prepared for the Salzburg Global Seminar #593.

[*]; consulted 11th April 2020;
[**]; consulted 11th April 2020;
[***]; consulted 11th April 2020
[#] alzburg Global Seminar #593 "The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology and Making Sense of the Future" (Salzburg, 20-25 February 2018);
[##] See plots in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams;
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[1] The highest level of moral adequacy, Kohlberg’s ‘upper post-conventional level’, is described by a morality that is based on individual human rights and justice, by acts that are based on universal ethical principles, and by principled self-conscience and mutual respect. Kohlberg’s grading (relative to ‘societal conventions’) involves (i) acceptance of imposed rules (lower & upper pre-conventional levels); (ii) relationships of convenience (lower conventional level); (iii) compliance with law & order (upper conventional level); (iv) agreed social contracts (lower post-conventional level); (v) the agent acts in line with ethical principles (upper post-conventional level);

Friday, 10 April 2020

El fabricant de sabó i el coronavirus

"Temps era temps, hi havia un home que feia sabó..." - així comença la historia que voldria explicar. Certament, no es tracta d'un conte de fades, ja que també parla de nombres, i de com aquests descriuen la propagació de la pandèmia de Coronavirus.   Però ja que aquesta és un llibre tancat per tanta gent, aquí va el conte:

L'amarg conte de l'arrogant fabricant de sabó Exsder i el seu amic el fabricant de caixes.

Ens situem en una petita alemanya. Els ciutadans, conscients, segueixen generalment les noves regles de distanciament social. Escoles i comerços en general romanen closos, i tan sols algunes empreses continuen actives. Tan sols el coronavirus s'escampa a pleret de persona en persona. La gent, majoritàriament, roman sana. Desgraciadament n'hi ha que emmalalteixen, i ensems en mor algú.

Aquí arriba, doncs, el conte del fabricant de sabó. Hauria d'il·lustrar el funcionament del coronavirus, espero:
Hi havia una vegada un simpàtic fabricant de sabó anomenat Lisder. Al començament d'aquest conte posseeix 100 peces de sabó emmagatzemades. Cada dia en produeix 10 de noves, que emmagatzema per vendre-les al mercat de primavera, el Maig.
Com evolucionaran aquestes reserves els propers 10 dies?, al primer, segon, tercer... desè dia? Creixerà en 110, 120, 130 peces, fins 200. Després de 20, 30, 40, 50 jorns, posseirà 300, 400, 500, 600 peces. A Maig n'haurà uns centenars per vendre'n. D'això s'anomena creixement lineal!.
El cas de l'arrogant fabricant de sabó anomenat Exsder és diferent. Aquest també en produeix, però cada dia en genera un 10% del que té emmagatzemat el dia anterior. A l'inici d'aquest conte té 100 peces de sabó al magatzem. El primer dia, per tant, n'augmenta a 110, el segon a 121, el tercer a 133 i així va succeint a 146, 161, 177, 195, 214, 236 i 259 peces de sabó. Amb aquest ritme, després de 20, 30, 40, 50 dies n'obtindrà 673, 1745, 4526 i, finalment, 11739 de peces de sabó emmagatzemades.
És obvi: en breu Exsder, l'arrogant fabricant de sabó, haurà triomfat per sobre del seu col·lega Lisder. Inicialment amb poca diferencia, tan sols unes poques peces més per part d'Exsder, però a partir d'un cert moment la producció augmenta. El nombre de peces de sabó s'enlaira!.
Setmanalment la producció d'Exsder es duplica, mentre que el tranquil Lisder en produirà 70 durant el mateix període.
Tanmateix, ambdós comparteixen un problema: com emmagatzemar la producció?. Per sort els dos tenen amics productors de caixes de sabó. Aquests normalment poden fabricar-ne una de 100 peces diàriament.
Aquest ritme plau al fabricant simpàtic: cada deu dies té una caixa, aconseguint emmagatzemar adequadament la producció. Ambdós, el fabricant de caixes i el de sabó, s'entenen. Un fa sabó, l'altre caixes i ambdós satisfets. Cap peca queda sense lloc. Al Maig, el simpàtic fabricant de sabó podrà servir els mercats amb cinc o sis caixes curulles. I si no han mort, viuen i treballen encara.
El cas de l'arrogant fabricant de sabó va per altres verals. El fabricant de caixes li entrega la primera el primer dia. La segona caixa la necessitarà en una setmana, és a dir, tres dies abans de quan el fabricant simpàtic la necessiti.
A partir d'aquí s'apilen. Les caixes següents es necessitaran pels dies 11, 14 i 17. Dels dies 19 a 25 n'haurà de proveir una al jorn. Ha de començar a treballar en exclusiva per aquest saboner. Aleshores el treball esdevé encara més exigent. A partir del dia 36 seran necessàries 3 caixes al dia, a partir del 40, quatres. A partir del 50, el fabricant arrogant en necessitarà 10 diàries.

Impossible!. El fabricant de caixes no sap què fer, està cremat, malalt i encara pitjor. A partir del 25, el fabricant de caixes de sabó està esgotat, les peces de sabó s'apilen arreu desordenadament, cada vagada n'hi ha més i més... el món s'ofega en peces de sabó!.

I és així com funciona aquesta nova malaltia infecciosa, el coronavirus. 
El nombre de contagis creix com les peces de sabó d'Exsder. A l'inici el procés és pausat, Exsder en produïa unes poques més que el seu col·lega Lisder. Traduït del conte a la realitat, indica que tan sols un petit nombre de persones estan infectades, però que ràpidament es perd el control.

I això no es un conte de sopar de duro.
És un simple càlcul:
Estem a 29 de Març del 2020 en el petit poble des d'on escric. En aquest dia, 18 persones són reconegudes com contagiades amb el coronavirus. Sembla comparativament innocu en una població d'uns 20.000 habitants. Percentualment és la normal a Alemanya. Si el nombre de 18 afectats en una població es calcula per 100.000 habitants, donaria una xifra de 90 afectats. Aquesta encara es manté dins del marge acceptable. Comparat amb d'altres regions, actualment estan en 300-400 casos per 100.000 habitants.
Tanmateix, el nombre d'asimptomàtics és més alt en el nostre cas. Aquesta és una de les característiques del coronavirus.
Encara se n'hi poden afegir tres més:
1. En comparació al nombre d'habitants, els casos són pocs, cosa que ens indica que encara hi ha molta gent que pot contagiar-se.
2. El virus s'escampa irregularment. Això ens indica que hi ha mots punts blancs en el mapa de contagis on encara hi pot aparèixer.
3. El nombre de casos en àrees infectades por créixer bruscament.
En la darrera observació s'hi amaga el fenomen de creixement exponencial. En les dues primeres s'hi descriuen les condicions en que aquest es pot produir.
El creixement exponencial es típic dels éssers vius amb un gran nombre de reproductors, com ara els virus, les algues o l'ésser humà. Les malalties contagioses en són tan sols una mostra.
Què significa en termes d'infeccions corona? Per què els nombres descrits són difícils de capir? Doncs degut a la inexperiència diària amb el creixement exponencial. Generalment l'observem lineal. Qui es dedica a observar el creixement de les algues d'un estanyol?

De la fabricació de sabó a la propagació del coronavirus.

Si hi ha 100 persones contagiades i l'índex de contagi és del 10%, aquestes 100 persones en contagiaran en 10, 20, 30, 40 y 50 dies, respectivament, 259, 673, 1.745, 4.526 y 11.739 altres persones. Per tant, com se'ls pot proporcionar tractament mèdic? Quants llits d'hospital romanen lliures?
Aquest problema en la realitat correspon, en el conte, al del fabricant de caixes proveïdor d'Exsder: impossible de cobrir la necessitat.
En l'actual situació, a Italià, els índexs diari de creixement de contagis primers és del 10%. Cada set dies el nombre de contagis es duplica. A Alemanya és encara més ràpid: s'ha duplicat cada 5 dies fins el 29 de Març.
L'índex de contagi de la regió on es localitza el meu poble és vora el 13%, més que del 10%. S'estabilitzà sols uns dies. És un pronòstic simple: ja que si el 17 de Març hi haurien 100 contagiats, i el creixement esperat seria del 10%, el creixement correspondria al càlcul següent (els nombres reals els escric entre parèntesi):
18 de Març 110 (134), 19 de Març 121 (157), 20 de Març 133 (179), 21 de Març, 146 (202), 22 de Març 161 (219), 23 de Març 177 (224), 24 de Març 195 (254), 25 de Març 214 (277), 26 de Març 236 (315) 27 de Març 259 (335).
Tanmateix, l'índex de creixement supera el 10%; aproximadament el 13%. Amb un índex de creixement parell, prop de 1/1000 de la població de la regió estaria contagiada el 27 de Març. En el dia 50, corresponent a 6 de Maig, una de cada set persones estaria malalta, és a dir 58.277 persones. Si l'índex es mantingués en el 10% des del 18 de Març fins el 6 de Maig, hi hauria "tan sols" 11.739 persones malaltes. És a dir, 46.538 persones menys que amb un índex del 13%.
Al moment d'escriure aquestes línies, el destí de les 356 persones del meu districte identificades amb el contagi és el següent: vora 85 curades. Un decés. Per tant coneixem el destí del 25% restant. Vora un 10% de contagis han d'anar a l'hospital. D'aquest, una de cada dues precisarà tractament intensiu. A dia d'avui els hospitals de la regió encara tenen la capacitat d'atendre els casos. Tanmateix, si l'índex de creixement actual continués, la capacitat màxima s'esgotaria en qüestió de dies. Llavors la situació es tensaria. No són contes de sopar de duro: son matemàtiques.
Conclusió: es fa necessària la reducció dels índex de contagi. Un nombre inferior de contagis respecte les setmanes precedents es fa necessari. Per això necessitem totes les mesures de "distanciament social" possibles. Redueixen la probabilitat que una persona infectada asimptomàtica pugui contagiar-ne d'altres.
Descontrolat, el virus es comporta com n'Exsder, l'arrogant fabricant de sabó. Es fa impossible proporcionar l'atenció adequada.
Mesures com la quarantena i el distanciament social, així com l'augment de la higiene, n'alenteixen l'expansió i és per això que és tan important per poder cuidar les persones malaltes.
Fi del conte
Si-us-plau, roman a casa!

El fabricante de jabon y el coronavirus

Había una vez un hombre que hacía jabón..." - así es como empieza la historia que quiero contar.  La verdad sea dicha, no es un cuento de hadas, ya que también habla de números y de cómo describen la propagación de la pandemia del Coronavirus.  Pero ya que para muchos ésta es como un libro cerrado, aquí va la historia:

La amarga historia del arrogante fabricante de jabón Exsder y su amigo el fabricante de cajas.

Estamos en una pequeña villa campestre alemana. Los ciudadanos concienzados generalmente siguen las nuevas reglas de distancia social. Las escuelas, y la mayoría de las tiendas están cerradas, y algunas empresas todavía siguen trabajando. Sólo el coronavirus está ocupado saltando de persona a persona siempre que puede. La gente, en su mayor parte, se mantiene saludable. Por desgracia, algunos se enferman y tristemente mueren.

Aquí llega pues la historia del fabricante de jabón. Deberia ilustrar el funcionamiento del coronavirus, espero:

Había una vez un simpático fabricante de jabón llamado Lisder. Al inicio de esta historia posee 100 piezas de jabón almacenadas. Cada día produce 10 nuevas piezas, que guarda en su almacén para venderlas en los mercados de primavera, en mayo.
¿Cómo evolucionarán sus reservas en los próximos 10 días? ¿En el primero, segundo, tercer... décimo día? Crecerá: 110, 120, 130 piezas, hasta 200. Después de 20, 30, 40, 50 días, poseerá 300, 400, 500, 600 piezas. En mayo, tendrá varios cientos de piezas a para vender. ¡A ésto se le llama un crecimiento lineal!
El caso del arrogante fabricante de jabón, llamado Exsder, es diferente. También éste produce jabón. Pero cada día genera el 10% del jabón almacenado el día anterior. Al principio de esta historia, tiene 100 piezas de jabón en su almacén. En el primer dia, por tanto, aumenta a 110; el segundo dia 121, en el tercero 133. Así va subiendo a 146, 161, 177, 195, 214, 236 y 259 piezas de jabón.  Si continúa así, después de 20, 30, 40, 50 días  tendrá 673, 1.745, 4.526, y finalmente 11.739  piezas de jabón almacenadas.
Es obvio: en poco tiempo, Exsder, el arrogante fabricante de jabón, habrá tenido mucho más éxito que su colega Lisder. Al principio la diferencia es insignificante, sólo hay algunas piezas de más por parte de Exsder. Pero a partir de cierto momento la producción aumenta. El número de piezas de jabón se dispara!. Cada siete dias la producción de Exsder se dobla, mientras que el tranquilo Lisder producirá 70 piezas en el mismo periodo.
No obstante, ambos productores comparten un mismo problema: que hacer con lo almacenado?. Por suerte, los fabricantes de jabón tienen amigos que producen cajas para guardar las piezas de jabón. Normalmente, un fabricante de cajas puede fabricar una caja para 100 piezas de jabón al dia.
Este ritmo es adecuado para el fabricante simpático: cada diez dias obtiene su caja y consigue almacenar sus piezas adecuadamente. Ambos, el fabricante de jabón Lisder y el fabricante de cajas, trabajan bien juntos. Uno hace jabones, el otro las cajas y ambos satisfechos. No se queda ninguna pieza de jabón suelta. En mayo, el simpático fabricante de jabón podrá ir a los mercados con cinco o seis cajas de jabón. Y si no han muerto, todavía  viven y trabajan hoy en dia.
El caso del arrogante fabricante de jabón transcurre de una manera diferente. El fabricante de cajas le entregará la primera en el primer dia. La segunda caja la necesitará al cabo de siete dias, es decir tres dias antes de cuando el fabricante simpático la necesite.
A partir de aquí se agolpan. Las siguientes cajas serán necesarias los dias 11, 14 y 17. De los dias 19 a 25 el fabricante de cajas ya deberá fabricar una al dia. Acaba trabajando exclusivamente para el fabricante arrogante. Entonces el trabajo empieza a ser mas exigente: dos cajas al dia. A partir del dia 36, se necesitan 3 cajas al dia, a partir del 40, cuatro de ellas. A partir del dia 50, el fabricante arrogante de jabón necesitará 10 cajas al dia.
No es posible! El fabricante de cajas no sabe que hacer, está quemado, enfermo y aún peor. A partir del dia 25, el fabricante de cajas de jabón ya no puede más, las piezas de jabón se apilan de qualquier manera por cualquier sitio, cada vez hay más y más… el mundo se está ahogando en pastillas de jabón!

Y es así con la nueva enfermedad infecciosa, el coronavirus.
El número de población infectada crece como la montaña de pastillas de jabón del arrogante fabricante Exsder. Al principio el proceso andaba pausado. Exsder producía diariamente unas pocas pastillas más que su colega Lisder. Traducido de la historia a la realidad, eso queria decir que sólo un pequeño numero de personas estan infectadas. Pero rapidamente se pierde el control!

Y esto no es un cuento de hadas.
Es un simple cálculo:
Es 29 de marzo de 2020 en el pequeño pueblo desde donde escribo. Este dia 18 personas estan reconocidas como contagiadas con el coronavirus. Suena comparativamente inocuo en una población de unos 20.000 habitantes. En terminos percentuales, la ratio es la normal de Alemania. Si el numero de 18 afectados en una población se calculan por 100.000 habitantes, daría una cirfra de 90 afectados. Esta cifra aún estaría en el margen aceptable. Comparativamente con otras regiones, actualmente estan en 300-400 casos por 100,000 habitantes.
Sin embargo, el numero de gente que está infectada pero que no muestra síntomas es mucho más alto en nuestro caso. Ésta es una de las peculiridades del coronavirus.
Todavía se pueden añadir tres características más:
  1. En comparación al numero de población, los casos son pocos, la cual cosa indiaca que todavía hay mucha gente que puede infectarse.
  2. El virus se esparce de manera irregular . Esto indica que hay muchos puntos blancos en el mapa de infecciones en que todavía puede aparecer el virus.
  3.  El número de casos en las areas afectada puede crecer bruscamente.

Tras la tercera observación se esconde un fenómeno de crecimiento exponencial. La primera y segunda observaciones describe las condiciones en que éste crecimiento exponencial puede producirse.
El crecimiento exponencial es típico del crecimiento en seres vivos con un gran numero de reproductores, como los virus, las algas o el ser humano. Las enfermedades contagiosas son sólo un ejemplo.
Que significa esto en términos de infecciones corona? Por qué los números que se describen son tan difíciles de concebir? Pues porque nuestra experiencia diaria con el concepto de crecimiento tiene poco que ver con el crecimiento exponencial. Generalmente observamos el crecimiento lineal. Quien se dedica a observar el crecimiento de las algas en un estanque?

De la fabricación de jabón a la propagación del coronavirus.

Si hay 100 personas infectadas en una población y la tasa de infección es del 10%, estas 100 personas infectaran en 10, 20, 30, 40 y 50 días, respecivamente, 259, 673, 1.745, 4.526 y 11.739 otras personas. ¿ Por consiguiente, cómo se les puede proporcionar tratamiento médico? ¿Cuántas camas de hospital están disponibles?
Este problema en la realidad corresponde, en el cuento de hadas, al del fabricante de cajas de jabón para proveer a Exsder: ¡es imposible cubrir la necesidad!
En la situación actual, en Italia, los índices de crecimiento de personas infectadas por primerva vez diariamente es del 10 %. Cada siete dias, el numero de personas infectadas en ese país se dobla. En Alemania es más veloz: ha doblado cada cinco dias hasta el 29 de Marzo.
El índice de infección de la región donde se localiza mi población está cerca del 13% más que del 10%. Se estabilizó durante unos dias. Es un pronóstico simple. dado que el 17 de Marzo habrían 100 infectados, y el crecimiento esperado seria del 10%, el crecimiento seguiría el cálculo siguiente (Los números reales los escribo entre paréntesis):
18 de marzo 110 (134), 19 de marzo 121 (157), 20 de marzo 133 (179), 21 de marzo, 146 (202), 22 de marzo 161 (219), 23 de marzo 177 (224), 24 de marzo 195 (254), 25 de marzo 214 (277), 26 de marzo 236 (315) 27 de marzo 259 (335).
Sin embargo, la tasa de crecimiento está por encima del 10%; aproximadamente del 13%.  Con una tasa de crecimiento del 13%, cerca de 1/1000 de la población de la región  estaría infectada el 27 de marzo. En el dia 50, correspondiente a 6 de mayo, una de cada siete personas estará enferma, es decir 58.277 personas. Si la tasa de crecimiento se mantuviera en el 10% desde el 18 de marzo hasta el 6 de mayo, habría "sólo" 11.739 personas enfermas. Es decir, 46.538 personas menos que con una tasa del 13% predicho.
En el momento de escribir estas lineas, el destino de las 356 personas identificadas como infectadas en mi distrito, es la siguiente: alrededorde de 85 están curadas. Una persona murió.  Así que sabemos el destino de alrededor del 25% de la población restante. Alrededor del 10% de las personas infectadas tienen que ir al hospital. De éstas, una de cada dos necesitará cuidados intensivos. Hoy en día, los hospitales de la región todavía pueden proveer esta capacidad para la población. Sin embargo, si la tasa de crecimiento actual de las infecciones por coronavirus continuara, la capacidad total de nuestra región en cuidados intensivos alcanzaría su máximo en pocos días. Entonces la situación se tensaria. No son cuentos de hadas, son matemáticas.
Conclusión: Es necesario reducir la tasa de crecimiento de la infección. Un número inferior de infecciones debería ocurrir respeto las semanas anteriores. Por eso necesitamos todas las medidas de "distancia social" posibles.  Reducen la probabilidad de que una persona infectada sin síntomas visibles  pueda infectar a otras personas.
Incontrolable, el virus se comporta como Exsder, el arrogante fabricante de jabón.   Se hace imposible proporcionar la atención necesaria.
Medidas como la cuarentena y la distancia social, así como el aumento de la higiene, ralentizan la propagación y, por ello es tan importante para poder cuidar a las personas enfermas.
Fin de la historia
Por favor, quédate en casa!

Gracias Robert!

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Il produttore di sapone e il coronavirus

"C'era una volta un uomo che fabbricava sapone..." – cosi inizia la storia che voglio raccontarvi oggi.  A dire il vero non è proprio una favola, perché ci parla anche di numeri e di come questi spiegano la propagazione della pandemia di Coronavirus.  Siccome per molti si tratta di un libro inaccessibile, ecco la storia:

L'amara storia del dispotico produttore di sapone Exsder e  del suo amico che fabbricava scatole.  
Eccoci qui in una piccola cittadina tedesca di pianura.   La stragrande maggioranza dei buoni cittadini aderisce alle nuove regole di distanziamento sociale. Le scuole e la gran parte dei negozi sono chiusi, alcune imprese continuano a lavorare. Solo il coronavirus si diverte a saltare da persona a persona, ovunque gli sia lasciato margine di manovra. Le persone, per la maggior parte, rimangono in buona salute. Altri ahimè si ammalano e muoiono miseramente.  
Ed ecco la storia del produttore di sapone.
Spero che rivelerà il modus operandi del coronavirus:

C'era una volta un gentile produttore di sapone, chiamiamolo  Lisder. All'inizio di questa storia aveva 100 saponette in magazzino. Ogni giorno ne produceva  10 nuovi pezzi che trasportava nel magazzino per la vendita nei principali mercati  di primavera nel mese di maggio.  
Come evolverà  il suo magazzino nei prossimi 10 giorni? Il primo, il secondo, il terzo ... Il decimo giorno? La sua scorta aumenterà: 110, 120, 130 pezzi, fino a 200. Dopo 20, 30, 40, 50 giorni, possiederà 300, 400, 500, 600 pezzi di sapone. Nel mese di maggio, avrà diverse centinaia di saponette pronte per la vendita. Avremo un incremento lineare!
Le cose vanno diversamente per il dispotico produttore di sapone che chiameremo Exsder. Anche lui fabbrica sapone. Ma ogni giorno metteva in produzione il 10% dello stock a magazzino del giorno prima. All'inizio di questa storia aveva 100 saponette in magazzino. La prima notte, ne ha 110, la seconda 121, la terza 133. E cosi via: 146, 161, 177, 195, 214, 236 e 259. Continuando così, dopo 20, 30, 40 e, 50 giorni avrà 673, 1.745, 4.526, e infine 11.739  saponette in magazzino.  
È un gioco da ragazzi: dopo un po', Exsder, il produttore dispotico, mostrerà risultati molto migliori rispetto al suo collega Lisder.  Per i primi giorni la differenza non sarà troppo significativa. Exsder produce solo pochi saponi in più.  Ma poi la produzione aumenta. Il numero di  saponette sale alle stelle! Ogni sette giorni, lo stock di Exsder raddoppia, mentre il placido Lisder avrà prodotto solo 70 pezzi aggiuntivi.
Tuttavia, entrambi i produttori di sapone dovranno affrontare un problema: cosa fare con tutto questo stock? I nostri produttori fortunatamente hanno degli amici che producono scatole capaci di contenere 100  saponette, la produzione normale è di una scatola a giorno.
Tale ritmo di produzione é perfetto per il fabbricante gentile : ogni dieci giorni, riceve la sua scatola e la certezza che i suoi beni sono ben conservati. I due produttori, Lisder e l’amico che gli fornisce le scatole, lavorano in perfetta collaborazione.  Uno fa i suoi saponi, l'altro le sue scatole, e tutti ne ricavano soddisfazione.  Nessuna saponetta rimane senza imballaggio. In maggio il produttore di sapone amichevole può andare ai mercati di primavera con cinque o sei confezioni di sapone. E fino ad oggi, se non sono morti, è così che i nostri due compari continuano a lavorare.   
Per il produttore di sapone dispotico la storia è diversa. Il  produttore di scatole consegnerà la sua prima scatola il primo giorno.  La sua seconda scatola già il settimo giorno, tre giorni prima  che il  produttore  di sapone amichevole abbia bisogno  della sua.
Poi tutto va molto veloce. Le scatole successive sono necessarie l’11esimo, 14esimo, e 17 esimo  giorno. Dal 19esimo al 25esimo giorno il produttore deve produrre una scatola al giorno. Lavora solo per l'arrogante produttore di sapone. Dopo di che diventa più difficile: due scatole al giorno, poi dal 36esimo  giorno è già a tre scatole al giorno, dal 40esimo giorno a quattro scatole al giorno. Dal cinquantesimo   giorno deve  produrre 10 scatole al giorno.
Non è sostenibile!  Il produttore di scatole non sa più dove sbattere la testa, burnout, malattia... e peggio ancora. E’ cosi che dal 25esimo giorno, il produttore di scatole non riesce a tenere il passo, le saponette non imballate si accumulano sempre di più - e ogni giorno ne arrivano in numero crescente... Il mondo sta soffocando sotto il sapone!
Ed è esattamente quello che sta succedendo con questa nuova malattia infettiva, il coronavirus.
Il numero di persone contagiate sta aumentando come i saponi del produttore dispotico Exsder. Si inizia lentamente: ogni giorno Exsder ha solo pochi saponi in più rispetto a Lisder. Il parallelo tra favola e realtà è presto fatto, questo significa che all'inizio solo poche persone sono contagiate. Ma il contagio è rapidamente fuori controllo!
E non è una favola.
Ma un semplice calcolo
Note aggiuntive
È il 29 marzo 2020 nella città di cui sto parlando. Ad oggi, 18 persone sono state dichiarate infettate da coronavirus. Puo’ sembrare relativamente innocuo per una città di 20. 000 abitanti. Questa percentuale è attualmente la norma in Germania.  Se vogliamo estrapolare questo numero di 18 pazienti in una piccola città e applicarlo ad una di 100.000 abitanti, 90 persone risulterebbero colpite.  E rimarremmo ancora nella norma. A titolo di confronto è bene sapere che attualmente ci sono in altre regioni da 300 a 400 pazienti per 100.000 abitanti. Tuttavia, il numero di persone infette ma che non presentano sintomi è probabilmentemolto più alto, anche nella nostra cittadina.  Questa è una peculiarità della malattia coronavirus.
Tuttavia, ci sono tre osservazioni da aggiungere:
1.                     Ci sono pochi casi di malattia rispetto alla popolazione.  totale. Significa che un gran numero di persone può ancora essere infettato.
2.                     Il virus si diffonde irregolarmente. Ciò significa che ci sono, sulla mappa delle infezioni, ancora molte macchie bianche dove il virus può ancora apparire.
3.                     Il numero di casi nelle aree colpite può aumentare molto rapidamente e con numeri notevoli.  
Dietro laterza osservazione si cela il fenomeno della crescita esponenziale.  La prima e la seconda osservazione descrivono le condizioni in cui tale crescita esponenziale può verificarsi.
La crescita esponenziale è tipica del forte aumento del numero di esseri viventi, come una popolazione di virus, una fioritura di alghe o dell’ "umanità".  Le malattie contagiose sono solo un esempio.
Che cosa significa questo in termini di infezioni da virus corona?  Perché i numeri che le descrivono sono così difficili da catturare? Perché la nostra esperienza normale di crescita ha poco a che fare con la crescita esponenziale. Generalmente ci soffermiamo ad osservare una crescita lineare. Chi ha mai seguito la proliferazione delle alghe in uno stagno?

Dalla produzione di sapone alla diffusione del coronavirus.

Se ci sono 100 persone infette in una popolazione e il tasso di contagio é del 10%, queste 100 persone infetteranno in 10, 20, 30, 40 e 50 giorni, rispettivamente 259, 673, 1.745, 4.526 e 11.739 altre persone. Ma come sarà possibile garantire loro le cure mediche?  Quanti letti d’ospedale saranno disponibili?
Questo problema corrisponde nella fiaba al problema del costruttore di scatola di Exsder: è impossibile!
Per quanto riguarda la situazione attuale in Italia, il tasso di crescita dei nuovi contagi è del 10% al giorno.  Attualmente, il numero di persone infette raddoppia ogni sette giorni.  In Germania, è più veloce: al 29 marzo da noi il contagio raddoppia circa ogni 5 giorni fino.
Il tasso di crescita nella regione in cui si trova la nostra piccola città è più vicino al 13% che al 10%.  È stabile da qualche giorno. Si tratta di una prognosi semplice: se il 17 marzo 100 persone erano contagiate, sulla base di una crescita del 10%, l'evoluzione dovrebbe erre la seguente (le cifre reali sono tra parentesi):
18 marzo 110 (134), 19 marzo, 121 marzo (157), 20 marzo, 133 (179), 21 marzo 146 (202), 22 marzo, 161 (219), 23 marzo, 177 (224), 24 marzo 195 (254), 25 marzo, 214 (277), 26 marzo, 236 (315) 27 marzo, 259 (335).
Tuttavia, il tasso di crescita è superiore al 10%, piuttosto vicino al 13%.  Con untasso di crescita del 13%, circa 1/1000 della popolazione della regione sarebbe contagiato il 27 marzo. Il 50esimo giorno, vale a dire il 6 maggio, una persona su sette sarà malata: 58.277 persone. Se il tasso di crescita rimanesse al 10% dal 18 marzo al 6 maggio, ci sarebbero "solo" 11.739 persone malate. Cioè, 46.538 persone in meno rispetto a un tasso del 13%.    
Mentre scrivo, il destino delle 356 persone identificate come infette nel mio distretto è il seguente: circa 85 sono guarite.  Una persona è morta.  Quindi conosciamo il destino di circa il 25% della popolazione infetta. Circa il 10% delle persone contagiate deve andare in ospedale. All’incirca una su due sarà in terapia intensiva.  Oggi, gli ospedali della regione possono ancora provvedere alle necessità della popolazione. Tuttavia, se l'attuale tasso di crescita del contagio da coronavirus continuasse, la capacità totale della nostra regione di accogliere malati in terapia intensiva sarebbe raggiunta entro pochi giorni. Dopo tutto diventerebbe più complicato. Queste non sono favole, è matematica.


Il tasso di crescita del contagio deve essere ridotto.    Meno persone devono ammalarsi rispetto alle ultime settimane. Ecco perché abbiamo bisogno di "distanza sociale" e di tutte le misure che cio’ comporta.  Tali misure riducono la probabilità che una persona infetta senza sintomi visibili sia in grado di infettare altre persone.

Incontrollabile, il virus si comporta come Exsder, l’arrogante produttore di sapone, diventa impossibile fornire le cure necessarie.
Misure come la quarantena e il distanziamento sociale, nonché l'aumento dell'igiene, rallentano la diffusione e sono quindi tanto più importanti se si vuole aiutare a curare le persone malate.  

Fine della storia.
Restate a casa!

p.s. Gracie Anna !