Donald Trump is not the first head of state to be stricken by COVID-19, especially among those who have taken it lightly. This little flu, this fake news crafted just to annoy him, this Chinese invention that should have miraculously disappeared this past summer, has caused more than 200,000 deaths in the United States, without his seeming to care that much.
But the man who refused to wear a mask has been caught by the pandemic patrol. It is no longer a question of his country’s health status, but of a much more important issue: his reelection. The whole world is riveted on his hospital bed, wondering how the election campaign will turn out with what we hope is a temporarily incapacitated presidential candidate.
At the same time in France, Storm Alex devastated part of the Nice hinterland, leaving in its wake unimaginable damage and many casualties before continuing on its murderous course in Italy. Elsewhere still, California is on fire, Jakarta is sinking below sea level and young Sahelians no longer know what rain looks like.
What does that have to do with anything? The Trump-style COVID-19 crisis can be seen as a metaphor for the climate change crisis. There was no lack of scientific warning signs, the diagnosis was quickly made and solutions proposed. But blindness or personal interests, political calculations and economic realities have obscured the danger and made it impossible to see reality.
Trump’s denial of health issues matches that of climate skeptics, his scientific-religious “intuitions” answer the mirages of those who see humanity’s salvation in exoplanets.
Unfortunately, the virus moves faster than vaccine research, and disasters proceed more quickly than intergalactic rockets. And it’s only when they affect us personally that we can measure the time that is lost. This is as true for Trump as it is for the victims of the Vésubie,* except that the latter could do nothing to prevent it.
*Translator’s note: The Vésubie is a river in the southeast of France, near the city of Nice, which recently was the source of massive flooding in the region due to Storm Alex.