Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Italians are not singing anymore: No joke for this April 1st

The latest data on the COVID-19 epidemic in Tuscany, similar data describe also the situation in Italy.  The spread of the epidemic has been contained, but the true problems start now (data courtesy of Aldo Piombino

For some years, every year, I published an April's fool joke on Cassandra's Legacy. This year, I was thinking of something, but, really, I couldn't do that. It is no time for jokes. The situation in Italy, as everywhere, is dramatic and the worst has yet to come. Not so much in terms of the epidemic -- although it has hit hard,. But because of the consequences on the economy.

The reaction of the Italian government to the epidemic could have been worse, but it was far from perfect. It was uncertain at the beginning, then haphazard and focused only on day-to-day survival. Mostly, newspapers did what they do best: terrorize people by emphasizing the bad news. People have been bombarded with numbers always out of context, and with fake news exaggerating the threat. Then, politicians quickly discovered that scaring people pays and that, when people are scared, any politician can gain popularity by looking tough. It has been a race to look like the toughest of the pack.

Several prominent leaders from the right took the occasion to blame the European Union for everything and people seem to have swallowed the bait. They lashed out against Europe, Germany, and Angela Merkel, seen as ancestral enemies of Italy, as if we were still living at the time of the Roman Empire. The European flag has been taken down in many offices and government buildings, not yet burned and stepped upon, but I wouldn't be surprised to see that happening. People are seriously talking about using the virus as an excuse to leave the European Union. This is worst than playing with fire: it is more like playing the Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun.

All this has been hard on people. We have been all locked inside our homes for more than 3 weeks, initially people took it as a joke: you heard the story of Italians singing from their windows and their balconies. But now we see an atmosphere of reciprocal suspicions: people have been reporting their neighbors to the police if they saw them walking out of their apartment. And the police took as their duty to sanction, sometimes with criminal charges, people who just interpreted in different ways the decrees of the government. Being locked at home with the police patrolling the streets is a nightmare: a dystopic science fiction movie, something one would never have expected to see in real life.

But the real problem is that the economy is wrecked. We lost the revenues from international tourism and several industrial sectors took such heavy blows that it is hard to see how they could ever recover. Lots of people have lost their jobs and they are at zero income for the foreseeable future. And they still have to pay their rent, their mortgages, their groceries. We have already seen food riots in Southern Italy, that has scared the government which is rushing to provide food stamps for the people who can't buy food. The government is expected to give money to almost everyone. Why not? They can print it, can't they? Sure...........

The good news that the epidemic is abating. Maybe we can still recover -- Italians are known to be resilient and enterprising. But, for this April 1st, there are no jokes to be told.


  1. I have seen many articles doubtful of the EU surviving this event let along the process. I would say if it does survive then it will definitely demonstrate armor. I am not optimistic for the EU or the rest of the global political arrangements not grounded in tribal affiliations. I feel this is an inflection with normal gone so a trial by fire is ahead for everyone. Will the US survive as-is with its political tensions?? That is not to say the EU might use this opportunity to reset to something more realistic in a world of decline. Currently it is caught between the Rock of becoming a United States and the hard place of the North subsidizing the South with traditional EU mechanisms in a time of trial by fire. Does this subsidization become exploitation and or gifting? It will be seen if the union can survive hard times since all it has known is the good times.

  2. Latest from the Diner:


    Gearing Up for Coronavirus Self-Defense


    1. Coming Sunday to a Laptop Near You;



  3. Hello from the USA. We apear to following Italy's timeline on thid side of the Atlantic. I believe I was fortunate enough visit Rome during BAU times.
    The ecomomy is not just Italy or the EU, it's all of NATO and all the world.
    What will replace Business As Usual trendline?

  4. "But the real problem is that the economy is wrecked."

    i am sorry, but i do not see the ending of our human extinction party as a bad thing.

    yes, it sucks when a party ends but it is also inevitable and necessary. reinflating the shredded balloon only makes tomorrow's collapse worse.

    1. I would suggest that Humans need a different Governor/Government.

      "An economy (from Greek οίκος – "household" and νέμoμαι – "manage") is an area of the production, distribution and trade, as well as consumption of goods and services by different agents".

    2. you are right! Anybody have real understand the conclusions and alarm voices published in "The Limits to Growth", 1972 report and forward updates. That's wasn't jokes...

    3. Inevitable, it is perhaps not bad, but it is certainly tragic. The problem with praising the end of B.A.U. is there is nothing to replace it with. Nothing has been prepared so there must be much pain.

  5. The United States - as it mostly existed from the days of the Lewis and Clark Expedition:

    "The Lewis and Clark Expedition from August 31, 1803 to September 25, 1806, also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition, was the first expedition to cross the western portion of the United States. It began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,[1] made its way westward, and crossed the Continental Divide of the Americas before reaching the Pacific coast. The Corps of Discovery was a select group of U.S. Army and civilian volunteers under the command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend Second Lieutenant William Clark".

    A fun video to watch - especially if you are in isolation - and want to see what the U.S. looked like before Industrial Civilization.

    That was when Humans lived in harmony with Nature to a greater extent - Industrial Civilization changed all of that - and now we find that B.A.U. requires dependence upon finite resources - a rigidly structured society which marginalizes those who produce food - idolizes those who attain the status of "Celebrity" - and worships the acquisition of large amounts of material goods.

    What could go wrong?

  6. As much as deaths from the virus are bad, I suspect, as you hint, that the dire lack of economic activity will be much worse, and lead to a lot more deaths.
    So I think everyone needs to get back to work now, it is much the lesser of two evils. But not going to happen.
    What's bad for us should be good for the planet, but even that I am not sure about.

  7. so its ok to joke during a mass extinction event, when untold horrors are being wreaked by humans on other species and priceless habitats, as long as the humans that are responsible are ok. but when the humans are at last getting some WELL DESERVED payback for their rapacious behaviour, and being forced to throttle back a little on their incessant planet eating, jokes are suddenly off limits. personally, nothing gives me as much glee as seeing rich entitled, car driving, frequent flying,useless breeding f...... being finally wheeled off to the morgue in large numbers. lets be honest. humans are the real virus on earth and need a jolly good thinnning out. they made a deal with the devil. that deal was the humans would enjoy the luxury of several hundred years exponential planet eating growth, without bothering to impose any artificial regulation of their ever ballooning population. in return for nature imposing the required brutal die off via the 4 horsemen. a deals a deal, so why the tears. if you are like me, and feel its alot sadder when an entire tropical rainforest gets wiped of the face of the map than when a few million of the irredeemably nasty and populous species responsible for the destruction get their just deserts, maybe THIS the time to joke and make merry.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)