Welcome to this week’s editorial, As a boy I was fascinated with the story of Rip Van Winkle who meets mysterious Dutchmen, imbibes their liquor and falls asleep in the Catskill Mountains, USA, to awake twenty years later to a very changed world, having missed the American Revolution. In more recent times there have been many Sci-Fi stories that have characters in stasis for weeks, years and decades to awake to a new order. In those stories there are marked differences. New technology, new fashions and even new leaders as was the case with Rip Van Winkle. While we have all been ‘asleep’ with our Covid lockdowns across the planet things have changed. Many small things, little things, that are barely worth reporting in mainstream media, insignificant things to most folks that would see them as something nothing. Take for example the massive log jam of ships of the coast of China with reports of 350,000 containers in limbo waiting dispatch. Then there are the ships coming from the rest of Asia, from Europe, South America and North America. Add to those the tens of thousands of dispatches waiting air delivery. And of those deliveries that do make it to our shores we then have the difficulties of our own transport logistics. This weekend Australia Post will be attempting to deal the massive backlog of deliveries that they have caused by a culmination of current COVID-19 restrictions, shortage of staff, and increasing volumes of online orders. And what of those orders? Steadily, and very quietly, the cost of materials has risen. ABC reports that international shipping container costs have increased by as much as 500% and materials such as plastics (pipes, packaging etc) from China have increased by 20 to 30%. We can see the result locally with hardware supplies increasing at such a rate that trades are quoting on day to day prices for wood, glass, aluminium and steel with provisos to account for changes in material costs. ‘Overnight’ rebuilding over 1000 homes lost in the bushfires has become a whole lot more expensive. On top of materials we are now beginning to see the increases come in to our perishables as fruit and vegies climb (for want of pickers and increased transport costs). I’m sure that Rip Van Winkle would be surprised to encounter a $5.90 mango at the supermarket. You can now appreciate the difficulty that mango had in arriving at a Eurobodalla supermarket from a far off tree in Bowen, and its price. Normally picked by underpaid backpackers these mangos then make the journey south, crossing borders seamlessly. For the minute there is no cheap labour, transport costs are rapidly climbing and backlogs are building that has already caused spoilage. The divide between producer and consumer is becoming noticeable. But only if you have your eyes open. Sadly most folk are in a daze of it all.
One thing is for sure. When we do eventually come out of Lock Down there will be noticeable changes. Shops that were once vibrant now shut, homes sold because of foreclosed mortgages, venues that only allow entry if double-vaxed, shortages in stocks on shelves, increases in prices and, of most interest, new requirements around mandatory vaccinations in the workplace. But what else happened while we were in slumber? What domino effect might we be in for? Only time will tell. All we can do is wonder and take each new day as it comes hoping someone is in charge. Until next Lei