The rich have much to lose, the poor do not

I found this passage from Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement pg 147 deeply unsettling to read in the context of the current crisis. The comparative aspect applies slightly less to Covid than it does in the current crisis but the fragility of affluence seems obviously correct:

It is not impossible, for instance, that in dealing with situations of extraordinary stress the very factors that are considered advantages in coping with extreme weather—education, wealth, and a high degree of social organization—may actually become vulnerabilities. Western food production, for instance, is dangerously resource intensive, requiring something in the range of a “dozen fossil fuel calories for each food calorie.” And Western food distribution systems are so complex that small breakdowns could lead to cascading consequences that culminate in complete collapse. Power failures, for instance, are so rare in advanced countries that they often cause great disruption—including spikes in rates of crime—when they do occur. In many parts of the global south, breakdowns are a way of life, and everybody is used to improvisations and work-arounds. In poor countries, even the middle classes are accustomed to coping with shortages and discomforts of all sorts; in the West, wealth, and habits based upon efficient infrastructures, may have narrowed the threshold of bearable pain to a point where climatic impacts could quickly lead to systemic stress

About Mark