Hidden Damages: August Spotlight 2022

posted by Lyric Hughes Hale on August 22, 2022 - 12:00am

Preparing for a business trip to Washington, I began to sort through clothing I have not worn for some time: suits and dressy dresses. As I pulled them out of the closet, I noticed some small holes. Was I really that hard on my travel wardrobe back in the day and just hadn’t noticed? I turned my attention to the cashmere sweaters that were the staple of my work-at-home Covid uniform for the past three years here in wintry Chicago, and found that they too were, well, moth-eaten. A couple of the brazen creatures, who prefer natural and luxury fabrics, began flittering around as I moved more shelves of clothing.

I put the green suit I wore to speak at Davos, the purple power suit I wore to my most important meetings, and the black St John’s that went with me everywhere immediately into sealed bags to take to my dry cleaner. She told me that I was not alone. During Covid, while our closets were undisturbed, the moths got busy. In the end, in spite of the memories, most of my wardrobe was beyond her skills as seamstress.

After investing in preventative measures at Container Store, and contemplating starting a GoFundMe for replacements, I wondered about the costs of the common clothes moth. I discovered The Journal of Economic Etymology, a publication of the Society of Economic Etymology which was established in 1889. Insects, a scourge since biblical times, outnumber people 1.4 billion to one and in aggregate outweigh each of us by 300 times. Although they are a vital part of our ecosystem, some cause outsize damage, especially to agriculture. I noted that most scholarly articles about the pesky tineola bisselliella appeared not recently, but after WWI and during the Great Depression.

Definitely a big nuisance to me personally, but this episode evoked broader concerns. Are there other hidden costs of Covid that will reveal themselves over time, just as we are getting comfortable again? Alarmingly, Lancet published a study this week that found evidence of lasting neurological damage in patients who have had Covid. From the Washington Post:

The analysis, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford and drawing on health records data from more than 1 million people around the world, found that while the risks of many common psychiatric disorders returned to normal within a couple of months, people remained at increased risk for dementia, epilepsy, psychosis and cognitive deficit (or brain fog) two years after contracting covid.

Although we have worried about the mental health effects of the pandemic on children, the study found that in a large sample of 185,000 children that the psychiatric effects dissipated more quickly than in adults, but that there was a significant increase in neurological disorders, especially epilepsy. The study covered two years, beginning in January of 2020. Obviously, we cannot know if the effects will lessen or increase over the next 5, 10, or 20 years.

Science which is the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, published an article about the probable source of Covid, stating that the likely location was unsurprisingly, Wuhan. However, the Chinese government has still not shared needed data, and conditions on the ground in China have only worsened since Covid emerged. Without transparency in global health care, the situation we have just experienced will likely repeat itself.

George Yeo, former brigadeer general and minister for foreign affairs of Singapore gave a measured and knowlegable speech a couple of weeks ago about what is going on in China today as well as its historical response to epidemics. His conclusion: Covid is just a dress rehearsal for a much more serious pandemic, and we had better get prepared today. Well worth a listen to his presentation.

I thought about happier times as I tossed out racks of my size 6 apparel that sadly no longer fit anyway, a condition which I have decided to blame on the pandemic. To me, it all connects to an obvious question: are our economic assumptions about inflation and monetary policy, as well as geopolitics also full of holes? Time to clean out our intellectual closet, to get rid of ideas we cherish but which don’t work anymore, and gird ourselves for a world in which we are economically dependent on our erstwhile enemies.

Perhaps lepidoptera, one of nature’s most successful orders of living creatures, can teach us something about survival.


Aug 5, 2017 / National Geographic

Simon Worrall

Without Bugs We Might All Be Dead

There are 1.4 billion insects for each one of us. Though you often need a microscope to see them, insects are “the lever pullers of the world,” says David MacNeal, author of Bugged. They do everything from feeding us to cleaning up waste to generating $57 billion for the U.S. economy alone.

November 5th, 2018 / Intechopen.com

Renata Bažok et al from Moths edited by Farzana Khan Perveen

Moths of Economic Importance in the Maize and Sugar Beet Production

August 17, 2022 / Lancet

Maxime Taquet et al

Neurological and psychiatric risk trajectories after SARS-CoV-2 infection

COVID-19 is associated with increased risks of neurological and psychiatric sequelae in the weeks and months thereafter. How long these risks remain, whether they affect children and adults similarly, and whether SARS-CoV-2 variants differ in their risk profiles remains unclear.

August 18, 2022/ Science

Jon Cohen

Anywhere But Here

China now insists the pandemic didn’t start within its borders. Its scientists are publishing a flurry of papers pointing the finger elsewhere.

July 13, 2022


An Afternoon with Mr George Yeo: A Private Luncheon for LKYSPP Benefactors & Friends

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Back to school here in Chicago on Monday. I hope that you all had a refreshing summer. As always, your comments are most welcome and are open to both paid and unpaid subscribers. Thank you for your continued support!