Men go and come, but earth abides – Ecclesiastes, 1,4
I’ve never seen Contagion and I don’t intend to watch it now, purely because I’m living it, like most people on the planet. However, this morning, on a level so miniscule it’s probably not worth talking about, I started to think about how civilisation can slowly vanish, if we’re not careful, and there are signs of this everywhere at present. My tiny little example is that my lawnmower gave up the ghost over the weekend and there’s nobody around to fix it, meaning that my lawn will grow uncontrollably until I get it fixed or buy a new one. Currently, as I look out on the garden, it’s as if the grass has been given a radical haircut, but if weeks or months go by, it’ll start looking like a jungle out there.
There is a great book, Earth Abides, by George R Stewart, published in 1949 and based on a mysterious plague destroying the vast majority of the human race and how, slowly, the modern world ceases to be and people start to live a simpler form of life. It’s both intriguing and depressing and hopefully it’s a situation we can avoid in future. With a bit of luck, those in charge will learn some valuable lessons from COVID-19 and the world won’t find itself in such dire straits again. In the meantime, we’ve got to crack on until things return to some level of normality, although the word on the street is that ‘normal living’ won’t be any time soon.
As avid readers will no doubt be aware, stories about steelmaking and COVID-19 are, quite understandably, dominating this magazine (and the world’s media). Steelmakers are cutting their cloth accordingly, in line with reduced demand for steel from key end-user industries, such as automotive and construction, and now the focus is beginning to shift from ‘battening down the hatches’ to looking ahead and how to get the industry back on its feet again.
In the USA, the Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA) and other members of the Steel Industry Coalition, are urging Congress to invest in American-made infrastructure. According to the SMA, investment in infrastructure – buildings, bridges and transportation – is the key to jump-starting the North American economy and it will certainly help the US structural steel industry get back on its feet; but, as Myra Pinkham points out in this issue, it’s not going to be easy.