The Ferry, the Bomb and the Vaccine


‘Hi Camp, how is the summer going at the bookstore?’

It’s been a great so far. People seem to have more time to read and the village is busy, awash with staycationers and locals. And every ferry is packed, I hear.’

‘Yes, the ferry, the perennial peeve around here. It has taken a big financial hit during this pandemic time but the ferry corporation acts like a business rather than an essential service and part of our coastal highway system. Yes, they have lost money, but so has everybody else except the toilet paper and mask makers. It’s an antiquated system but instead of modernising they react and twist and bob about in the churning waters of today’s fragile economy.’

‘Nobody knows why they can’t implement an automated system whereby residents apply for a renewable resident card or a windshield bar code with monthly billing, very much like a toll bridge. Instead they have ferry employees counting passengers with hand held clickers and asking every boarder repetitive questions, a task that could easily be automated, speeding up boarding and improving efficiency.’

‘You should be the ferry chairman Camp or the transportation minister.’

We both quenched our thirsts and looked out at the bustling summery harbour.

‘You know what’s worrying me besides the covid and the US election,’ Camp asked rhetorically. ‘It’s the new nuclear arms race.’

‘We don’t hear a lot about that these days. It’s a case of complacency, since it’s not on anybody’s mind,’ I said.

‘That’s what’s worrying me,’ Camp nodded. ‘After the cold war ended, the deployed nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia have been reduced by nearly 90 percent, but we are not safer today—quite the reverse. After decades of building just enough weapons to deter attack, China is now aggressively modernizing and enlarging its small nuclear arsenal. Russia and the US are modernizing theirs as well with entire menus of new weapons.’

‘And the Doomsday Clock is still close to midnight,’ I guessed.

‘Yes, In January the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Clock –  a subjective measure of humanity’s proximity to self-annihilation –  closer to midnight than at any time since its establishment in 1947. Globally, non-proliferation efforts are faltering. Trump has withdrawn the US from the Iran nuclear deal and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, after accusing Russia of cheating. The Hibakusha, which are the atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are pleased that 82 countries have signed a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, created in 2017. It invokes their unacceptable suffering in its preamble. Yet, no country with nuclear weapons has signed up to it. Nor has Japan, which shelters under America’s nuclear umbrella.’

‘What do you think about Russia’s covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, which they claim is ready for the public and first out of the gate?’ I said, finishing my first pint.

‘The name itself speaks volumes,’ Camp said. ‘Like Sputnik, which won the space race for Russia, this is also a race, as much political as scientific and as much about prestige at home as snubbing the rest of the world.’

‘Let’s hope it’s safe and effective,’ I said. ‘I don’t really care who wins the vaccine race as long as it controls and disarms this virus.’

‘Therein lies the crux of the matter,’ Camp said. ‘Will it be safe for all, for some or for a short or a long time, or do we all have to carry a mouth spray against the virus. In various, tasty flavours of course.’

Vicky was on her way with two refills and I still have a hard time seeing her wear a mask like this was a hospital ward and not a pub.

‘When will you stop wearing a mask? I asked her.

‘When Bonnie Henry tells me it’s ok and that we’re safe without it.’

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