How We Broke the World: Black Elephants

As I look back over the last 20 years, what all four of these global calamities have in common is that they are all “black elephants,” a term coined by the environmentalist Adam Sweidan. A black elephant is a cross between “a black swan” — an unlikely, unexpected event with enormous ramifications — and the “elephant in the room” — a looming disaster that is visible to everyone, yet no one wants to address.

Thomas Friedman

COVID-19 is not the only disaster the world is facing and they all have early warnings signs that are being ignored. The “perfect storm” will come if we continue to ignore the early warnings. SARS-CoV infected around 8000 people and killed nearly 800 (1 in 10) people. The numbers are small because there was prompt, coordinated action. MERS-CoV infected around 2500 people and killed 858 (3 to 4 in 10). COVID-19, the disease, is caused by SARS-Cov2 virus. The response has been too little, too late.

Extreme weather events are becoming more common. Friedman prefers “global climate wierding” to “global warming” or “climate change”, more politically loaded terms. And admittedly easier to deny. “There can’t be global warming, it snowed in my backyard.”

Financial crises are also becoming more common. Two or more of these foreseeable crises on top of each other are devastating. And preventable by putting the buffers, the regulations, the firewalls, etc. back in place.

Alas, there is no herd immunity to greed.

Thomas Friedman
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