People in these countries think their government did a good job of dealing with the pandemic

Spoiler: Most people actually approved of their government's approach.

Which countries handled the coronavirus pandemic the best, according to their citizens.
Photo by Matthew Waring on Unsplash
How well did your country respond to the pandemic?

It's a subjective question, the answers to which are reflected in new research recording the diversity of opinion around the world.

Spoiler alert: globally, more people approved of their own country's response than disapproved.

A Pew Research Center survey of more than 14,000 adults across 14 advanced economies in Europe, Asia, North America and Australia, found 73% thought their own country had done a good job of tackling the coronavirus outbreak.

It's a matter of trust

Respondents' attitude to their own country's pandemic response – and its impact on national unity – were linked to feelings of trust in others, the survey found.

With the exception of the UK and the US, countries believed they handled the pandemic well.

Image: Pew Research Center

Denmark recorded the highest government response approval rating of the countries surveyed (95%), followed closely by Australia.

Support for their government's actions was also shown in countries like South Korea and Canada, along with European nations like Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden, where more than two-thirds of respondents approved.

But a different picture emerged in the US and UK, where delayed action to combat COVID-19 received less emphatic support. More than half of those polled in each country said they thought the pandemic had been handled poorly.

Americans stand out in their belief that they're more divided as a result of the pandemic.

Image: Pew Research Center

Divided or united?

Opinions were also split on whether the pandemic had increased the sense of national unity.

Again, Denmark proved to have the most optimistic outlook with 72% of respondents believing the country more united following the virus outbreak. In Canada, Sweden, South Korea and Australia, over half of respondents believed their country was more united.

Despite approving of their country's response to the pandemic, in European nations like Spain, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands, a majority of people thought their country was more divided post-lockdown.

In the US, in an era of divisive politics and with no coordinated response to the pandemic in place, more than three-quarters of respondents believed their country was now more divided than before the pandemic.

The perceived strength of national unity is linked to trust in others, the report found. As a general principle, people who thought others couldn't be trusted were more likely to see divisions in their own country.

National divisions were most pronounced in France, where almost two-thirds of respondents who think people can't be trusted also see the country as more divided than before the pandemic.

Prevailing view that more international cooperation would have reduced coronavirus cases.

Image: Pew Research Center

The role of international cooperation

But did this perceived drop in national cohesion prevent countries seeking international help to combat the spread of the virus? And would cross-border cooperation have resulted in fewer cases?

For the majority of respondents, the answer was yes.

Across the 14 countries surveyed, 59% of respondents believed greater international cooperation would have reduced the number of coronavirus cases in their own country. In Europe, this average increases to 62%, with seven of the nine countries surveyed expressing belief in the benefits of international cooperation, which was strongest in countries like Belgium, the UK and Spain.

Outside of Europe, support for international cooperation was also notable in the US (58%) and South Korea (59%), according to the report.

In Denmark, however, 78% of people thought international cooperation would not have reduced the number of cases. A majority of people in Australia, Germany, Canada and Japan also held little store in international cooperation to tackle the pandemic.

The World Bank, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and other stakeholders, held a virtual roundtable to devise an action plan to facilitate international cooperations and communications to better tackle the pandemic.

International cooperation is a key element of producing an effective vaccine at scale to protect the global population against COVID-19, according to Chatham House. By working together, researchers, business leaders, policy-makers and other stakeholders can more quickly overcome scientific, regulatory and market challenges to developing and distributing a vaccine.

Reprinted with permission of the World Economic Forum. Read the original article.

A landslide is imminent and so is its tsunami

An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.

Image source: Christian Zimmerman/USGS/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
  • A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
  • Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.

The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source: whrc.org

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source: whrc.org

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

Image source: whrc.org

The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

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Credit: Pixabay
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The common cuttlefish

Credit: Hans Hillewaert via Wikicommons
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