Fresh Air and Sunshine

It is strange, but now sadly predictable, that in the critical heat of a crisis, common sense is always the first to leave. Watching it all unfold before your eyes is so frustrating, especially when someone comes along with the results of research which seems to prove what your grannie could have told you long ago.  

Today we had the results from a study in a scientific journal, the “Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology”, which find, surprise, surprise, that sunlight can kill the virus in about 30 minutes and being cooked up inside isn’t a great idea.

“Forcing people to remain indoors may have increased contagion among same household dwellers and among patients and personnel inside the same hospital or geriatric facilities.  In contrast, healthy people outdoors, receiving sunlight could have been exposed to a lower viral dose with more chances for mounting an efficient immune response.”

Now I cannot pretend for a minute that I know anything about the subject and there will be other scientist, especially those who favoured the lock-down method of combating the virus, who would take the opposing view, but when the science is not at all clear, I guess it is best to go with common sense.

One thing I do know a bit about is building. Yesterday I read about a study carried out by the Ministry of Housing responsible for building regulations in England. It came up with the finding, again surprise, surprise, that living in a hermetically sealed environment can seriously damage your health. Now I remember being at a seminar when the new regulations over air leakage in new buildings in Scotland were introduced. These define how air tight a new home should be, with strict tests to ensure that a building is compliant. I felt uneasy about it at the time and couldn’t see how this sat easily with the other important requirement, that a dwelling should be properly ventilated. Now we learn that there are serious risks to health directly associate with this regulation. It causes overheating in houses leaving people “stewing in their beds” with consequential “loss of productivity, domestic abuse and even deaths”. The push towards air tightness was driven, of course, by the need to be energy efficient and this is understandable, but the side effect doesn’t seem to have been properly considered.

It is astonishing how the focus on one specific objective seems to create a blindness to other equally important factors. The virus is racing through the population so we lock people in their homes to prevent its spread, not having considered that maybe that action might actually make matters worse. Air leakage from dwellings contributes to heat loss, energy inefficiency and ultimately global warming so we hermetically seal our homes, not having considered that maybe the consequential loss of ventilation might be a really bad thing.

I genuinely wonder how this happens. Is it because people become so locked into their own professionally specialised bubble that they can’t see the wood for the trees.  Is it because the way politics works, the immediate threat or issue, the one the media has locked on to, has to be the one we fixated on and it gets all the attention and resources? Or is it quite simply that, somewhere along the line, we have lost that virtue that we used to call common sense?

Crawford Mackenzie

8 thoughts on “Fresh Air and Sunshine

  1. The advice was to NOT stay indoors and shut windows, even for those advised to shield because of their health status, who could sit and walk in garden or in balcony, or at least open windows if they had no outdoor space. Most care homes have outdoor seating and patios. For the rest of us there was not only permission, but active encouragement to exercise outdoors. We regularly walk the lanes around our village and we have never seen as many folk walking there as we have in the past 12 weeks.

    • Yes that will be true and being aware of more people taking exercise has been out experience too. But the overarching message, the strap line on the podium, was “STAY HOME” with exercise (at first very restricted and heavily policed), essential things like food and medication and mercy missions, being the exceptions. The second part of the equation “PROTECT THE NHS” was certainly achieved but whether this policy did ever or will ever “SAVE LIVES” is debatable and I doubt it very much. I suspect that it actually put lives unnecessarily at risk. But could be wrong on that.

  2. Common sense – is that just your old zeitgeist in mufti? Or do you mean rationality? Or does it stand for what most people (common) think they know? Or the bleeding obvious, or what?

    • Common sense, that’s a hard one to define. Though I suppose if you use a word you should be able to define it. (and I have avoided looking up dictionaries and definitions but trying to work from my understanding)

      It is rational, I think. It is certainly not irrational. But it is also a feeling, a shared feeling about what seems to make sense. The question is, “who shares it? and I think on this it would be a broad grouping of people who may disagree on lots of other things but would still agree on what seems obvious, maybe what they may regard as being self-evident. How broad that grouping would be, I don’t know, but I would resist the idea that It might be purely a relative phenomena – common sense in one group being different for common sense in an other. I think taking that route makes the word pretty much meaningless. Maybe that is what you are suggesting?. If it is not common to all humanity it is not common. That leads me to think that is universal in the way that I think having a moral conscience is universal and like conscience it can be suppressed or silenced in an individual or group.

      My point, in the piece was that leaders, politicians, lawmakers and governments can get into situations where they become fixated on one issue (usually the one that they perceive most affects the ground base of their support) and loose sight of the whole. And this can create a blindness to another equally and sometimes more important issue which most people can see and think is patently obvious. Thus what I think was the disaster of the lock-down policy and the pursuit of hermetically sealed homes.

      • Mmm, on the basis you outline you could make a case for atheism in that it is a widely shared stance (or feeling), certainly in the UK. My own approach is more like that of Pascal’s Il faut parier (you’ve got to gamble). He was talking about religious faith but the principle can be generalised. In short, we can never be certain so we have to put our money somewhere. In a situation like Covid or Fukushima 2011 we note what the “experts” are saying and then what? For one thing the reliability or otherwise of expertise will vary in type and quality dependent on the area of knowledge or experience that is in question, as for instance between biology and economics. In regard to the latter, which I have studied at very modest undergraduate level, the question is not whether I accept that one economist or another knows what they are talking about. Rather, acquiring the discipline, even at my introductory level, is to acquire the skill and understanding to do some evaluation on one’s own account. Of course, if I am at all sensible, I will pay attention to the experts, claimed or otherwise, but I will always, as an adult, keep something in reserve. This is for me like going to the doctor. I pay attention to her expertise but base that on a judgment call on the probabilities. Given not only the variability in the reliability of the expert and the huge refraction in the medium by which his or her expert knowledge ordinarily reaches us, we are making these judgment calls all the time. You might call it a very risk averse form of gambling. That’s how I get to my take on Covid – that the lock-down, brutal and
        damaging as it is, has been the right approach. The passing of time may or may not get us nearer certainty on the rights or wrongs. Having family in Tokyo the Fukushima case-study was terrifying and fascinating. Early on we knew that TEPCO were into lying and cover-ups and on the bounce from that there were calls for evacuation of the 40 million people in the Kanto plain. How could a lay person navigate that? I should write that one up someday, perhaps.

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