Are you feeling discouraged these days? I am. I just look around my country and the world and I don’t feel good. I really don’t like what I see. First, the belligerence of the strong man, killing thousands of innocent civilians and destroying so much of a beautiful country, Ukraine, and its people. Another Marcos in the Philippines. Continued revelations of government and church intergenerational abuse, even genocide, of Indigenous peoples. Lockdowns in China, causing the most vibrant cities in the world to turn into ghost towns. Wanton Israeli attacks against Palestinians and the murder of a journalist; and the murders of many journalists and environmentalists every year. An old rusty irreparable ship ready to spill a million gallons of oil off the coast of Yemen. Pending famines and widespread hunger, especially in the Horn of Africa, but also in many other areas. Gang warfare in Haiti and El Salvador. Tens of millions around the world displaced from their homes due to conflict and environment. Destructive oppression in Ethiopia. Another strongman in Brazil intent of destroying Earth’s Garden of Eden with soybean farms for animal fodder. Protesters taking over downtown Ottawa because they don’t want to protect themselves and others from a global pandemic. A big Covid-19 outbreak in North Korea. Child slave labour used to get us chocolate. Then there’s the UK government with its lockdown parties and now even considering breaking its Brexit commitments, as foolish as that seemed five years ago. The whole anti-science and conspiracy theory world with so many adherents. Social media, once so promising, now the vehicle of lies, attacks, pornography and prejudice. Racially and ethnically motivated hate crimes and mass murders. And what about the Canadian government’s approval last week of $10b in loan guarantees to see the completion of the fiasco pipeline they bought a few years ago, just after they gave approval to a huge oil extraction project (Bay du Nord) off of Newfoundland? And then there’s the USA, now becoming a false beacon of hope in a desperate world as it descends into a political cesspool where democracy surely doesn’t mean what it used to, where the rights of women are about to be diminished, books are banned and school curriculum rigged, and dishonest politicians by the dozen with their leader still swinging his driver.
And I haven’t even mentioned current monetary, food and fuel inflation and all the all too many other climate crisis and biodiversity issues. The list seems endless. We seem to be really heading down a giant rabbit hole. What we will find there, in the next months, in the coming years? I see a hungry crocodile waiting.
For sure, I personally am not the worst off by far, only suffering from emotional turmoil for the time being. I live in one of the freest and safest countries in the world with very little hassle, great education, free health care, moderate wealth, family blessings and life-long friendships, no unfulfilled needs. But, the question is ‘where are we as a whole headed?’ When I begin to think of an answer, I mostly keep quiet, not wanting to upset those around me. But the truth isn’t easy and all citizens must start taking the world much more seriously. Those with much power, who have the loudest voice, the biggest stick, even the biggest carrot, seem to only want to grab all they can. But, we have only one life, one world, one Earth. It’s great for some, OK for many and oh so tragic for too many. When will we start to turn things around? We won’t unless we and our governments start taking the tough decisions needed.
Tough decisions are evident in today’s Planetary Health Weekly (#20 of 2022):
CLIMATE CRISIS UPDATES:
Revealed: the ‘carbon bombs’ set to trigger catastrophic climate breakdown,
15 million people face humanitarian crisis due to drought in the Horn of Africa,
U.S. announces $3B electric vehicle battery production,
New Mexico wildfires: here’s the latest on the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire & Cerro Pelado fire,
California drought could with many Los Angeles lawns,
Utilities push back against growth of rooftop solar panels,
Fridays for Future protests call for peace and climate justice,
UN committee condemns Canada over alleged human rights violations,
Financing Putin’s war of Europe: fossil fuel imports from Russia during the invasion of Ukraine,
Covid-19 caused a surge in polio cases – a vaccine expert explains how,
South Africa urges Africa’s first Covid-19 vaccine plant to keep its doors open,
Japanese researcher suggests ties between omicron variant and severe hepatitis in children,
Association of primary care physicians per capita with Covid-19 vaccination rates among US counties,
Vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks on the rise in Africa,
‘Covid’s not the real problem’: why Ghana’s vaccination drive is stagnating,
Shanghai’s Covid-19 lockdown is not even close to over,
Covid-19’s dull death toll is nearly three times higher than reported – WHO data suggests,
Covid deaths no longer overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated,
BEZ’S Blog #5 “Cells, Organs, Individuals, Populations,”
Global food security threatened by land degradation UN report finds,
The world’s biggest fossil fuel firms are quietly planning scores of “carbon bomb” oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits with catastrophic global impacts, a Guardian investigation shows.
The exclusive data shows these firms are in effect placing multibillion-dollar bets against humanity halting global heating. Their huge investments in new fossil fuel production could pay off only if countries fail to rapidly slash carbon emissions, which scientists say is vital.
The oil and gas industry is extremely volatile but extraordinarily profitable, particularly when prices are high, as they are at present. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron have made almost $2tn in profits in the past three decades, while recent price rises led BP’s boss to describe the company as a “cash machine”. Read more at Dezeen
Globally, nationally and locally, the pandemic continues in many to most all countries, but with cases and especially deaths declining. But it remains far from being over. So many people in Canada continue to get infected.
Please remember that the virus is still circulating vociferously and to take care. Vaccination, by all credible accounts, remains the best way to be safe from serious consequences, including long Covid; ensure to get all the shots you can.
Over the last week there continued to be about 4 million new cases (though testing is sorely insufficient and many mild cases go unreported) and again ~13,000 deaths, and about 38 million people received a Covid-19 vaccine (worryingly down ~40%).
See below for global stats and current hotspots, including unbelievably again Britain.
The eradication of wild poliovirus is within sight — but only if the world remains committed and financially invested, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) announced at a virtual event amid World Immunization Week.
The event, Investing in the Promise of a Polio-Free World, marked the launch of GPEI’s investment case for its 2022-2026 polio eradication strategy. It brought together global partners, leaders of polio-affected countries, donors, and health workers to highlight the tactics that will be used to eradicate polio around the world. If fully funded, the organization's strategy would result in the vaccination of 370 million children per year for the next five years. Read more at Global Citizen.
The bulk of vaccinated deaths are among people who did not get a booster shot, according to state data provided to The Post. In two of the states, California and Mississippi, three-quarters of the vaccinated senior citizens who died in January and February did not have booster doses. Regulators in recent weeks have authorized second booster doses for people over the age of 50, but administration of first booster doses has stagnated.
Even though the death rates for the vaccinated elderly and immunocompromised are low, their losses numbered in the thousands when cases exploded, leaving behind blindsided families. But experts say the rising number of vaccinated people dying should not cause panic in those who got shots, the vast majority of whom will survive infections. Instead, they say, these deaths serve as a reminder that vaccines are not foolproof and that those in high-risk groups should consider getting boosted and taking extra precautions during surges.
“Vaccines are one of the most important and longest-lasting tools we have to protect ourselves,” said California State Epidemiologist Erica Pan, citing state estimates showing vaccines have shown to be 85 percent effective in preventing death.
“Unfortunately, that does leave another 15,” she said.
BEZ’S BLOG #5
“Cells, Organs, Individuals, Populations”
Credit: Stephen Bezruchka
Our bodies are just trillions of cells stuck together, and these cells are integrated into communities forming our organs. Your brain, heart, blood, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and skeleton are all specialized cellular systems. What do they need to be healthy? If a group of heart muscle cells are deprived of oxygen or glucose because of a clotted artery, they die and you have a heart attack. Similarly in the brain when you have a stroke. Besides the right quantities of oxygen and glucose, what a group of cells needs depends on the organ. How should we produce healthy organs?
For better health, we are told to eat right, exercise, don't smoke, be easy on alcohol, see our doctor, use a condom, and so on. Unfortunately, none of those guidelines have meaning at the cellular level. You can't tell a cell to exercise; that is not what they can choose to do. Blood cells move through your circulatory system because your heart pumps them. Bone cells are fixed in place. Similarly, you can't tell your lung cells to not inhale cigarette smoke. That is the individual's responsibility rather than the cell's. The same goes for using a condom or eating right. If you keep yourself healthy following the individual precepts, you expect your organs, and their cellular components, to be healthy as well.
Medical care treats cells and organs, not the person. For example you may be advised to take aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid in Canada as Aspirin® is trade-marked by Bayer) to make platelet cells in your blood less sticky to lessen the risk of a heart attack. You may take Prozac®
(fluoxetine) to treat the cells in your brain if you are depressed. Men can take Viagra® (sildenafil) to treat the smooth muscle cells in the corpora cavernosa of the penis to get a strong erection. If you have a heart attack with a clot in a coronary artery you will have a roto-rooter procedure to remove that clot and restore circulation in that artery feeding the heart muscle. If your kidneys aren’t functioning you can be placed on a renal dialysis machine to remove waste products in the blood. If you have an inflamed appendix you will likely have surgery to remove that part of your intestinal tract.
As an emergency doctor I would often see a homeless individual come in wheeling his shopping cart containing all his belongings saying he had been weak and dizzy for six months. Typically I had to see if there was a medical reason to admit him. Such investigations might cost a few thousand dollars. Often I would find no justifiable reason to admit him to the hospital. If the emergency staff were cooperative, and the studies had taken a long time, I might be able to get him a meal tray. But then I would have to street him, perhaps with a prescription for a drug to help with his dizziness that he would likely not be able to afford to fill. If we could treat the individual, rather than their cells and organs, then we would ensure he would have a safe place to live and meaningful work to do. Lacking these treatment options, however, by segregating medical care from human care, we are limited in our ability to treat individuals. Read the rest at Planetary Health Blog/Bez's Blog #5
“We clearly need to stop converting land. … It really is not the optimal way forward. It’s a pathway to disaster,” Barron Joseph Orr, lead scientist at UNCCD, told Devex. But stopping the expansion of agricultural land will create a growing food gap, he said.
“The numbers are very clear, in population and the model of increasing yield: They’re not going to line up. We’re not going to make enough changes in yield to bridge that. So that means we have to do other things [such as] sustainable but intensified production,” Orr said. Read more at Devex
Amaro Maria, 65, a resident of Illeret village in Marsabit County on April 2, 2022. Credit: JOSEPH KANYI
When the World Bank confirmed Kenya’s status as a lower-middle income country in 2015, it opened the country for restrictions on access to international donor funds to purchase RUTFs (ready to use therapeutic foods). Kenya lacks a government entity specifically dedicated to nutrition as it sees nutrition as something that can be merely sorted by lowering seed and fertilizer prices to increase food production. If rains don't come, food insecurity will worsen in Marsabit County to emergency levels. Even if rains come, it will take households longer than usual to reap the benefits of a good season
Last month, 11 children died of hunger in Marsabit and according to Emmanuel Atamba, an agroecologist of the The Route to Food Initiative (RTFI), hunger and starvation is on the rise in Laisamis, North Horr and Saku sub-counties.
According to Dr Bashir Issak, head of the Department of Family Health at Kenya’s Ministry of Health (MoH), child undernutrition affects health, education, and productivity in different ways. The most pressing form of malnutrition in Kenya is protein-energy malnutrition.
“Today, Kenyans are challenged to fight for the right to adequate food for all, with an estimated 3.5 million people facing a severe food security crisis,” he said. Read more at Nation
We’ve all wondered when we take out the recycling just how much of it will be recycled, remade, and repurposed into a new product like we hope. Sadly, only 10 percent of plastics globally are successfully recycled, and there’s a lot of work to do to ensure everything we put in the recycling bin is reused.
Biological researchers from the University of Texas in Austin have developed a new enzyme that can break down plastics, facilitating industrial recycling and even more.
Many industrial methods of plastic recycling involve energy-intensive processes of glycolysis, pyrolysis, and/or methanolysis. Besides these, many plastics are just harmfully burnt in landfills, releasing noxious gasses and wasting what could otherwise be reused. Tackling the problem biologically, however, changes the game.
The new enzyme from UT Austin could give industrial recycling a super boost by breaking down and reusing plastics at the molecular level.
“The possibilities are endless across industries to leverage this leading-edge recycling process,” says Hal Alper, professor in the chemical engineering department at the University of Texas at Austin. Read more at Optimist Daily
As urban population density is only expected to increase in the next few decades, coastal cities vulnerable to rising sea levels need to urgently adapt to these changes to safeguard the wellbeing of their residents. That’s exactly what the South Korean city of Busan is planning with the development of a floating, flood-proof neighborhood.
For the development, the local government partnered with New York City-based startup Oceanix, along with many other actors, including UN-Habitat, a United Nations program for sustainable urban development.
The floating development is the first one for Oceanix, whose cofounders, Itai Madamombe and Marc Collins Chen “were both concerned about sea-level rise and its impact on coastal cities,” says Madamombe. “And we were also concerned about the land shortages in coastal cities and how they drive the price of housing up.” Read more at Optimist Daily.
Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced a freeze on public funding for the TMX project in February. Credit: Hector Vivas/Getty Images
Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau's Cabinet ministers recently approved a special C$10 billion loan guarantee to entice investment in the government-owned Trans Mountain pipeline (TMX) expansion project.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced a freeze on public funding for the TMX project in February. On April 29, Cabinet approved the new transaction, administered under the Canada Account at Export Development Canada, to protect creditors. Read more at Politico.
SPOTLIGHT ON INDIGENOUS WELLNESS
US Identifies More Than 50 Native American Boarding School Burial Sites
A memorial in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the dozens of Indigenous children who died more than a century ago at a nearby federal boarding school. Credit: Susan Montoya Bryan/AP
A first-of-its-kind federal study of Native American boarding schools that for more than a century sought to assimilate indigenous children into white society has identified more than 400 such schools that were supported by the US government and more than 50 associated burial sites, a figure that could grow substantially.
The report released last week by the US interior department expands the number of schools that were known to have operated for 150 years, starting in the early 19th century and coinciding with the removal of tribes from ancestral lands.
The dark history of the boarding schools – children were taken from their families, prohibited from speaking their Native American languages and often abused – has been felt deeply through generations of families.
Many children never returned home. The department’s work focused on burial sites and trying to identify the children and their tribal affiliations is far from complete. Read more at: The Guardian
Quote Of The Week:
Credit: Report Cover
“At no other point in history has humanity faced such an array of familiar and unfamiliar risks and hazards, interacting in a hyper-connected and rapidly changing world,” the summary document warns.
International Health Trends and Perspectives (a new journal based at Toronto Metropolitan University, formerly Ryerson University, Toronto) is dedicating a special issue to the topic of Planetary Health to highlight research, theoretical and community based contributions of scientists, scholars and activists globally. It is inviting manuscripts that are solutions and equity-focused. See the call for papers and details here: https://bit.ly/3tDixHT
November 21-23, 2022: Canadian Conference on Global Health Join us in Toronto for the 28th Canadian Conference on Global Health (CCGH). This year's hybrid event will explore the theme of: "Inclusive Global Health in Uncertain Times: Research and Practice".
FYI#1 SPOTLIGHT ON MEDIA
GB News Appoints Chairman Who Spent Years Promoting Climate Denial
GB News presenters Dan Wootton and Nigel Farage. Credit: YouTube
The new chairman of GB News has a history of sharing articles that dismiss the threat of climate change, sharpening concerns about the TV channel’s role as a platform for opponents of climate action.
Between 2013 and 2017, United Arab Emirates-based investment manager Alan McCormick tweeted numerous articles by climate science deniers, including one calling on readers to “celebrate carbon dioxide”.
McCormick, whose appointment was made public at the end of April, has also tweeted praise for calls for deregulation in the UK by Tory MP Steve Baker, who is leading the NZSG’s backbench revolt against the UK’s 2050 net zero goal.
Catastrophic Health Consequences of the War in Ukraine
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused an abhorrent situation that represents the antithesis of all that medicine and public health strive to achieve. Physicians and other health professionals, who are dedicated to healing and preserving life, are once again on the forefront of emergency aid and humanitarian relief efforts during war. The barbaric attacks affecting Ukrainian civilians, destruction of residential areas and health care centers, devastation of public infrastructures and cities, and blocking of humanitarian corridors have resulted in substantial morbidity and mortality and created a catastrophic health and humanitarian crisis. Reports have recorded 3167 civilian Ukrainian casualties (including 1232 killed and 1935 injured), an estimated 4 million refugees have been forced to flee Ukraine, and 6.5 million people have been internally displaced within the country, including an estimated 4.3 million children (nearly half of the child population of Ukraine).
You look around and you see the world’s problems and solutions. But you also look around and see a lot of opportunities to make the world a better place. You believe in the power of individuals to make a difference — and you want to follow in the footsteps of the many heroes who chose to make a positive difference in their communities and the issues they care about. We broke this article down into how to make a difference in all kinds of ways. Scroll through and pick out an action step or two you can get started with this week. And then bookmark this page so you can come back again another day. There’s no shortage of opportunities for each of us to make a positive impact on the world around us.
"Still Hopeful: Lessons from a Lifetime of Activism": A Review of Maude Barlow's New Book
Credit: Book Cover
Maude Barlow has been on the frontlines of change for most of her life. A prolific author, she has written with passion about social justice issues and exposed injustices here and abroad. Her new book opens with a recollection of being on a panel on the Green New Deal along with noted climate activists David Suzuki and Avi Lewis, in Ottawa, in June 2019.
There was anger and frustration in the air over the worsening climate crisis and the slow pace of meaningful governmental response. Maude Barlow’s message was that citizens should not give up hope, that building a broad-based coalition to advance the Green New Deal was possible.
At the end of the event, a high school student approached Barlow, in tears, thanking her for her message, telling her that she and her friends were afraid for what the future held. That conversation was the impetus for Barlow’s latest book, Still Hopeful: Lessons from a Lifetime of Activism.
Through her four decades of activism, Maude Barlow was the voluntary chairperson of the Council of Canadians and a senior water advisor to the UN General Assembly, among countless other roles within the national and international global justice movement.
Barlow reminds us, “hope is a moral imperative.” The book’s opening lines from famed artist Banksy is one she often quotes in public forums: “When you are tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”
What Is the Real Cost of Academe’s Fixation on Productivity?
Credit: Clare Mallison for the Chronicle
A few months ago, I took part in a virtual conversation at my university about how to rebuild campus relationships fragmented by Covid. Faculty members and administrators asked the same sorts of late-pandemic questions vexing colleges across the country: What could we do to mitigate the isolation and disengagement that everyone — students, professors, staff members — seemed to be feeling? And how could we begin to rebuild the academic and intellectual fellowship lost since the pandemic?
As part of McGill's 200th Anniversary Celebration it places a sharp focus on Global Health; A Selection of Presentations follows
May 18, 2022
Discussing, remembering the
McGill-Ethiopia Community Health Project (1987-1994)
with three former directors, Dr. Charles Larson (moderator, on left), Dr. Joyce Pickering and Dr. David Zakus, together with Dr. Richard Cruess, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the time. Dr. Abdulaziz Addus Adish, Regional Director and Nutrition Adviser (Africa), Nutrition International (and former student of the project) was online from Addis Ababa.
Celebratory Launch of McGill's Global Oncology Program
Above: Dr. Antoine Lutfi (surgeon, health care planner and administrator: Only 1 surgeon per million population and two pathologists for entire country (Ethiopia in 1988 with 50 million people). Over two million breast cancers cases diagnosed every year, with highest rates in Australia and New Zealand.
Below: Drs. Ivan Topisirovic and oncologist colleague, basic medical scientists: in working on mRNA treatments for cervical cancer and linking it to female genital schistosomiasis - "Fundamental scientific research is a very slow process."
Above: Dr. Tim Evans, Director, new School of Population and Global Health Introducing Dr. Victor Dzau and Ruth Cooper-Dzau.
Below: Dr. Victor Dzau and Ruth Cooper-Dzau paying tribute to Dr. Paul Farmer, who passed away last April, and introducing Dr. Agnes Binagwabo, Vice Chancellor and Professor of Pediatrics, University of Global Health Equity, Rwanda and former Minister of Health, Rwanda to give the Victor Dzau and Ruth Cooper-Dzau Distinguished Lecture.
Dr. Agnes Binagwabo presenting on "Closing the Gap on Health Equity"
"We are the same race, just different skin colour."
"We need to regulate the internet like we do cars...Freedom of speech cannot be worth more than the value of life (above)...When there is no trust in government, there is no trust in science."
"Covid-19 didn't create inequities, it exacerbated them." (And informing the 90% of eligible Rwandans are vaccinated.)
She explained five sources of inequities: skin colour (below); socio-economic status; gender' bad governance; and lack of resilient health systems.
"It's unethical for the Government of Canada to recruit our nurses and doctors."
Concluding: "I hope you have nightmares when you sleep."
Street Art, Rue Metcalf, Montreal
Dr. Charles Larson, Interim Director of Global Health Programs, and Professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology
"It doesn't cost any more to save the life of a child with leukemia than the life of a child sick with measles."
Publisher and Editor: Dr. David Zakus Production: Aisha Saleem and Julia Chalmers Social Media: Mahdia Abidi, Shalini Kainth and Ishneer Mankoo Website, Index and Advisory: Eunice Anteh, Gaël Chetaille, Evans Oppong, Jonathan Zakus, Dr. Aimée-Angélique Bouka & Elisabeth Huang Blogs: Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, Aisha Saleem and Dr. Jay Kravitz