This is what we, in Australia, appear to have achieved. It’s a graph of the daily number of Covid 19 cases from late January to early May. It’s THE graph. The one we have been urged to flatten. The experts told us the consequences would be dire if we didn’t flatten it.

Not only has it been flattened, it has been turned right over on itself. This is an impressive result. There seems to be a slight uptick from the 4th to the 8th of May, but this can probably be put down to the outbreak of specific clusters in Victoria and NSW. We are told these clusters are being addressed. Watch this space!

It’s not over yet. Not by a long shot. Privations of one form or another will persist for some considerable time. My reading of the situation is that relaxations must be trialed with great caution, slowly and carefully, with an eye to pulling back if necessary should the curve trend upwards again. Otherwise, there is the risk that everything gained so far will be lost.

Imagine you are sheltering safely with others in a cave. One of your companions puts his/her head cautiously round the lip of the cave to see if the grizzly bear is gone yet. If the bear is gone, then perhaps everyone inside can, with appropriate care and with eyes peeled, venture outside to frolic in the land of beer and skittles.

That, I suggest, is where we’re at.

We arrived at this point because mostly we learnt to follow the science. We listened to the experts. Science told us to wash our hands and we did. Science told us to keep our distance and we did. Science told us stay at home and we did. Some would insist this was just common sense but, as I have argued in a previous blog, what is science if not an extension of common sense?

So now that our faith in science has been renewed, after a sorry period when we chose to play whack-a-mole when confronted by expert opinion, where do we go now? Well you might ask.

And funny you should mention it. There is another curve needing to be flattened. It’s the curve of CO2 levels in the atmosphere versus time. The consequences will be similarly dire if we don’t flatten this one and, in fact, turn it over on itself. The evidence base tells us this quite clearly. There is no room here for skepticism or denial.

No worries, you say. We’ve done it once and we can do it again. All in a day’s work. Or, in the case of the Covid curve, four to five month’s work.

And there lies the rub. Dealing with the CO2 curve, as opposed to the Covid curve, won’t be a mere four-month’s work. It will be more like four decades. A generation or more. The horizontal axis of this curve won’t be from January 2020 to May 2020. It will be from January 2020 to January 2060.

This time it will be a marathon not a sprint. Are we up to it?

There is a wonderful word in the German language: ‘sitzfleisch‘. It has two meanings, one simple and one more subtle. The simple meaning is ‘bum’, i.e. the flesh you sit on. The subtler meaning, less amenable to translation into English, is ‘stick-at-it-ness’. The ability to stay with it for the duration. To sit on the problem (and on your bum) until the job is done.

Do we have the requisite sitzfleisch?