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There is a lot to be grateful for, even this year

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | November 25, 2020
Zooming with my grandchild

SABA on the “pomputer”

In this year of the election, pandemic, and general mayhem, we still have a lot to be grateful for.

First, Americans voted to avoid the lure of a false Messiah (a charismatic and egocentric exploiter of grievances and purveyor of false hopes) – and chose democracy and sanity.

Second, Joe Biden as president-elect. He was the electable alternative that prevented a further civil and political decline. I don’t believe that any other Democratic candidate would have won. More than that, I salute him for being proudly in the middle – willing to negotiate with foes and reach compromises, underemphasizing identity politics, and highlighting that we are all Americans—and humans—who need one another and should strive for a better world.

I worried that our political climate will further polarize until we perceive that we have to choose between two extremes, like Europe between the world wars. I hope that the election of Biden will contain this trend.

Third, scientists for taking advantage of new biotechnology to produce a vaccine within a year—a fantastic speed of discovery. And doctors and other medical professionals for putting themselves at risk to treat COVID patients. Within a few months, medical professionals had improved COVID treatments, cutting fatality rates by half, and alleviating suffering and pain. They displayed an immense capacity for ‘learning by doing’ and defied early predictions despite many policy missteps. We expected 2.2 million fatalities and a 25% reduction in GNP; the damages are much smaller. We emphasize our failures, but we also need to recognize our achievements.

Fourth, essential workers, who continue to provide food and medicine, fuel, security, and clothing, despite personal risk and low pay. I admire how smoothly our food and other retail supply chains adapted to drastic changes during the pandemic- and recognize the high price that many workers paid as they lost their jobs. I also realize that markets do not always reflect essential values and that we need to improve the protection and rewards of these essential contributors.

Fifth, science in general for allowing me to reach 73 years and feel like I never passed fifty (or maybe sixty), helping my senior colleague be creative and alive. We sometimes underappreciate the increase in life expectancy around the world over the past 100 years (average life expectancy is close to 70- it was below 40 in 1900).

Sixth, Zoom, Teams, and other video conferencing software for enabling us to connect and have personal and business interactions from a distance. I sometimes hate zooming, but it would be worse without it. This new technology allows us the comfort of working from home and will stay with us long after COVID has passed.

Seventh, my family (actually they are first) for providing the warmth, support, and small pleasures that make me treasure life. Leorah and the dogs, some friends, and family on zoom have made social distancing tolerable and even enjoyable.

Eighth, the University of California, Berkeley and in particular The Rausser College of Natural Resources, and my ARE department for providing me resources and knowledge, access to new opportunities that made my career adventuresome and rewarding. I have been fortunate to land in an academic situation that has matched my desire to mix rigor and relevance, theory, and practice, and allow me to grow as a person and a professional.

Ninth, my colleagues, collaborators, supporters, and partners in research projects, and special initiatives (ELP, MDP, ICABR) who augmented my skills, provided inspiration and friendship and made arduous tasks actually fun.

Tenth, electronic art and entertainment. In the low moments, when I feel a prisoner in my own house, being able to read a book or a magazine, watch a movie or a television series gives me freedom and allows my imagination to soar. I always enjoy the NBA playoffs, but this year was special. It provided a glimpse into a world without a pandemic and in its own way a sense of normalcy and hope.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Comments to “There is a lot to be grateful for, even this year

  1. Happy Thanks Giving David…A brilliant blog which is most aspiring for me in the midst of a globally challenging period but many moments for remaining positive and thankful to all the bounties of life. I look forward to a great future ahead for all the people of the World.

    Once again Happy Thanks Giving to you and your family…Stay Blessed.

  2. Bravo!Bravo!David for your good and positive essay that is encouraging. At that age…. keep it up. Happy Thanksgiving day.

  3. Thanks for your post, David. We have many reasons for gratitude and you’ve identified many of them. Your mentoring of and caring for me are among my reasons for gratitude.

  4. Thanks, David. There is indeed much to be thankful for! I had the chance to spend this time in the countryside (tropical Brazil) and discover many things about nature and particularly pollinators that I would have never had the time to do before.

  5. Thank you, David, for this thoughtful list of the sorts of things for which we all can be grateful. Family, good friends, and our faithful and amusing pets are also at the top of my list. And with the Biden Administration comes the chance for positive change in our federal agencies and the people they serve. Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Whenever there are low moments in life, reflecting on what we can be grateful for has the capacity for lifting us out of that “low”. Well done David. I really liked what you wrote.

  7. David
    very nicely stated and timely! I would like to emphasize that, as you, I am thankful for a democratic process that continually improves voting opportunities, from the 15th and 19th amendments to the constitutions to the enormous voter registration and turnout of the 2020 election. But mostly for a democratic process that continues to strive for diversity, equity and inclusion beyond voting and extending to physical and economic spheres, from the 5th and 14th amendments to the civil rights movement of the 1960s to the civil rights movement of today.

  8. David,
    Thank you for this. I wasn’t inclined to be quite so thankful this year, but you make the optimists case with a nice combination of facts and grace.

  9. Great positive post David! Wonderful to have a sense of optimism again (and at my age). Let’s hope Biden and Harris can help us breach the chasm that has divided our country and hindered the critical role of science.

    Wishing you and your family a most happy Thanksgiving together.



  10. David and Leorah

    Happy Thanksgiving!
    A warm, wonderful post. We indeed have a lot to be thankful for.


  11. Thanks David for reminding all of us the things that we should be grateful for in this challenging year. Couldn’t agree more. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  12. David, a beautiful essay, thoughtful and moving; makes me realize I have many of the same things to be thankful for during these challenging times — which suddenly promise to become less challenging and more hopeful for the reasons you mention: the election and the breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of the plague.

    And a Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family as well!

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