Much of what we talk about today involves private interest vs. public interest. Clearly global oil companies act in their private interest by creating a long known, though useful, poison to the planet and many of its inhabitants. They are clearly driven by profit, obfuscating their societal responsibilities, ignoring laws, and taking public money to proliferate, even co-opting the public and at best trying to mislead about the future. Through a process of greenwashing they continue telling us we can have a great future by continuing to mine and use more and more fossil fuels, all the while talking about a transition to a new green energy economy and how they are going to bring it on.
Similar could be said with the Covid-19 tragedy. First it’s a tragedy of unimaginable sickness and death the world over. And secondly it has fallen into a giant social chasm, separating the vast majority from a small minority...all without a rational or logical base, except for the tension between public vs. private interest. The problem arises, though, when some opinions, on one side of the chasm, are not based on reality, in research or facts, and have little logic and much misunderstanding, again all driven by private over public interest. I find it amazing how a small minority of ill-informed anti-vax and anit-mandate protesters can garner so much attention and credence, when basically all professional and scientific positions are against them. They do, though, have a small garage full of bought, discredited scientists, politicians and social media directing and advocating their cause and betraying society, just as the oil industry has been doing for many decades now.
Many people are still, today, dying from Covid-19 in desperate situations (about 70,000 globally this past week) wreaking havoc on health care systems and those working in them. This is not a joke. And that’s why health care decision makers (think doctors and nurses) do not rely on isolated articles in obscure journals to guide their practice. And when there's a safe and proven intervention, they use it and advocate for it. They go with the overwhelming evidence of their training, personal experience and peers, often transmitted in reputable journals. For instance, Ivermectin doesn’t work in the treatment of Covid-19 (though plenty powerful in fighting river blindness or onchocechiasis). But untrained proponents all have readily at hand a published article or two falsely supporting its benefit, only to find upon investigating them that they are published in obscure journals, or on YouTube, conspiracy websites, Instagram, etc.; all being used to mislead the public. They have no effect (other than disbelief and disgust) on those directly involved in the treatment and care of those sick or in public health working to protect society.
I feel that there’s just too much ‘me, me, me’ these days, and not enough ‘us, us, us.’ For sure people have to first care for their health and welfare, including being rational and educated, which also carries a responsibility to ensure accurate sources of such education. But we must also care for our neighbour's welfare too, including those far away and out of sight. Whether it be the climate crisis or Covid-19, to deal with them we must think more collectively, not prize profit over life, and really get down to reducing and mitigating the causes and adapting to the outcomes. I’m still waiting for one announcement by the Government of Canada of anything that will slow our overall emissions of greenhouse gases this year, just one! I heard its pledges at COP26, but our emissions continue to rise. As we continue to march onward polluting more, heating up Earth to temperatures not seen in millions of years, we must hold our governments to account for their promises and rhetoric which win them headlines in elections and COPs. And we must also hold ourselves to account.
In today’s Planetary Health Weekly(#5 of 2022) there’s lots of important news to help us in this journey. Read on about:
CLIMATE CRISIS UPDATES:
COP26 the Glasgow climate pact (achievements at a glance),
The world’s economy will need a total reboot to reach net-zero,
Which emits more carbon dioxide: volcanoes or human activities? (Spoiler: humans by at least 60X),
Climate change and the astrobiology of the Anthropocene,
Wind-driven California wildfire above Big Sur forces hundreds to flee area,
Florida’s so cold now that iguanas are freezing, dropping to ground,
Canada launches applications for $200 million fund to support pollution-cutting projects through the Low Carbon Economy Fund,
Thousands of carcasses of pigs drowned in B.C. floods pose no threat to environment, composting plant says,
Oil producers are flush with cash – now what will they do with it? and
Germany’s Vice-Chancellor and Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action denounces plan to label nuclear energy ‘green’ in Brussels,
E-cigarette users who test positive for Covid-19 are more likely to experience Covid-19 symptoms,
Anti-science gathering in Washington D.C. is the legacy of Donald Trump’s miracle cure promises,
Canadian university races former Chinese partner to make a Covid-19 booster,
Omicron subvariant BS.2 raises new questions about puzzling evolution of virus behind Covid-19,
Researchers find newer variants of SARS-CoV-2 can infect mice, unlike the original version of the virus,
Antibodies in blood soon after Covid-19 onset may predict severity,
Children in sub-Saharan Africa dying of Covid-19 at a higher rate than others, and
Covid-19 blamed for the greatest drop in life expectancy in Canada since 1921, THEN
Repeated exposure to major disasters has long-term mental health impacts,
Private game reserve in South Africa bemoans lack of government support after four rhinos killed,
Humanitarian access overview: a snapshot of the most challenging contexts around the world,
Few countries offer a good place to die: good health resources help, but only when used the right way,
Read “Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future” by David Grinspoon to gain some optimism,
A new catalyst for more efficient green hydrogen production,
Rushing headlong into electrification, the West is replacing one energy master with another,
Importing of hunting trophies banned to protect world’s threatened species,
Indigenous Services Canada Covid-19 update,
93 possible burial sites found in initial search at another former B.C. residential school,
Quote that the pulse of keeping the 1.5 degree goal alive is weak,
New video traces the promise, perils of carbon offsets,
Climate change: how do we know?
RCMP investigating Winnipeg scientists fired from lab for possible transfer of intellectual property to China,
How much did ancient land-clearing fires in New Zealand affect the climate?
New book: “Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival” by Richard Heinberg,
Higher education and the crisis of democracy, and lastly,
ENDSHOTS of winter’s beauty among Land Facts You Need To Know (replacing Covid-19 stats this week, for a change!).
It's, as usual, a lot to digest, but wishing you good reading and happy journeys. Best, david
After 13 days of intense negotiations, COP26 concluded on 13th November 2021 with every Party at COP26 - representing almost 200 countries - agreeing the Glasgow Climate Pact. This global agreement will accelerate action on climate this decade, and finally completes the Paris Rulebook.
A record-breaking number of delegates gathered in Glasgow for this critical COP. Powerful progress has been made since the UK was designated the incoming Presidency. The aim of the UK COP26 Presidency was to keep alive the hope of limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5C, and the Glasgow Climate Pact does just that (though as it's President said 'the pulse is weak'). Combined with increased ambition and action from countries, 1.5C remains in sight, but it will only be achieved if every country delivers on what they have pledged (and more).
The UK Presidency gave significantly more focus to championing real world sectoral action than ever before. For the first time, COP agreed a position on phasing down unabated coal power.
The Glasgow Climate Pact is the climax of two years of fervent diplomacy and ambition raising. The Presidency’s work focused on delivering the Glasgow Climate Pact and driving action across the globe on:
Mitigation - reducing emissions
Adaptation - helping those already impacted by climate change
Finance - enabling countries to deliver on their climate goals
Collaboration - working together to deliver even greater action
The UK Presidency made some progress on each of its four goals, full details of which are included in the following document. The Glasgow Climate Pact will speed up the pace of climate action. However, even with the action committed both during and before COP26, communities around the world will continue to feel the impact of our changing planet, we must continue the work of COP26 with concerted and immediate global effort to deliver on all pledges. Read more at UK COP26
Human activities emit 60 or more times the amount of carbon dioxide released by volcanoes each year. Large, violent eruptions may match the rate of human emissions for the few hours that they last, but they are too rare and fleeting to rival humanity’s annual emissions.
Today, rather than warming global climate, volcanic eruptions often have the opposite effect. That's because carbon dioxide isn't the only thing that volcanoes inject into the atmosphere. Even small eruptions often produce volcanic ash and aerosol particles. Today, rather than warming global climate, volcanic eruptions often have the opposite effect. That's because carbon dioxide isn't the only thing that volcanoes inject into the atmosphere. Even small eruptions often produce volcanic ash and aerosol particles.
Globally, nationally and locally, it continues to be mind-boggling, perhaps even more than before, now with Omicron and the angst to reopen. Covid-19, though, is still going crazy. Cases have spiked to the greatest increases ever, though some countries are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it's not near being over yet, despite what some say about learning to live with the virus.
Over the last week there were about 21 million new cases (down ~18%) and 70,000 deaths (up again, this week ~10%). About 118 million people received a vaccine, down again now about ~25%, while distribution still remains grossly distorted though it's improving a wee bit. In Canada it just seems to be a mess.
"It is the plague in seemingly all sincerity." Bob Woodward
People who use electronic cigarettes and test positive for COVID-19 have a higher frequency of experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, compared to people who don't vape, according to new research from Mayo Clinic.
The study, which is published in the Journal of Primary Care & Community Health, finds that people who vape and test positive for COVID-19 symptoms have a higher frequency of experiencing symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches and pain, chest pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of the sense of smell or taste. Also, the study finds that people who vape and also smoke tobacco, and who test positive for COVID-19, complained of labored breathing and had more frequent emergency department visits than those who did not vape.
"The study was designed to compare the frequency of common COVID-19 symptoms, such as loss of taste or smell, headache, muscle aches and chest tightness in COVID patients who vaped, compared with those who were not vapers," says David McFadden, M.D., a Mayo Clinic internist and the study's first author. "We interviewed more than 280 COVID-positive vapers and compared them with 1,445 COVID-positive people of the same age and gender, and who don't vape. All of these common COVID symptoms were reported more frequently among people who vape." Read more at Science Daily
Repeated exposure to major disasters does not make people mentally stronger, a recent study from the Texas A&M University School of Public Health found: individuals who have been repeatedly exposed to major disasters show a reduction in mental health scores.
Additionally, the research team found that the more experience the individuals had with such events, the lower their mental health was.
"We discovered the reverse of the adage 'what does not kill you makes you stronger,'" said the study's lead author Garett Sansom, research assistant professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health at the School of Public Health.
Sansom and a team of Texas A&M researchers studied individuals from the Houston area, which is susceptible to hurricanes and flooding as well as industrial emergencies. The results of the study were published recently in the journal Natural Hazards. Read more at Science Daily
During a recent routine patrol an anti-poaching unit found four rhinos dead and one injured, with their horns hacked off at Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve, just outside Cape Town, South Africa.
Johan van Schalkwyk, group marketing manager for Aquila Collection, a portfolio of private game reserves in the Western Cape (including Inverdoorn), told Daily Maverick, “There were five rhinos injured and four of them succumbed to their injuries. One is still alive and mobile.”
Van Schalkwyk said that of the four rhinos found by the anti-poaching unit, two had already succumbed to their injuries, while the remaining two, although still alive, were heavily injured. They later died – one was pregnant.
At approximately 10:30pm the game reserve’s Anti-Poaching Unit raised the alarm and activated a tracking operation to find the fifth missing rhino on the 10,000 hectare game reserve, while the management, conservation teams, wildlife veterinarians, law enforcement and others were notified and dispatched to the scene. At about 2am the unit found a fifth injured female rhino, shot in the face, still alive.
Van Schalkwyk said that large-calibre rifle rounds from silenced weapons were found on the scene and patrols were intensified to protect all against the heavily armed perpetrators. Read more at Daily Maverick
ACAPS Humanitarian Access Overview provides a snapshot of the most challenging contexts for humanitarian access.
ACAPS analysts considered nine variables to rank and compare humanitarian access levels world- wide. Crisis-affected populations in more than 70 countries are not receiving the humanitarian assistance they need because of access constraints.
No new countries have entered the ranking since the last Humanitarian Access Overview from July 20211. In line with the previous report, the indicators ‘restrictions and obstruction to services and assistance’ and ‘environmental constraints’ are the most common challenges throughout the crisis, scoring the highest among the considered indicators.
This report includes scoreboards for all the countries assessed. Analytical narratives are provided only for countries scored between levels 3–5 (i.e. high, very high and extreme constraints). Read more at ACAPS
Among the most troubling scenes from the COVID-19 era are the images of patients dying in isolation, unable to be with loved ones during their final moments. But even before the pandemic, harrowing deaths were all too common in most parts of the world, a new survey of end-of-life care shows.
The study, detailed in three papers to be published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, ranked 81 countries on how well their health systems provide for the physical and mental wellbeing of patients at the end of life. Only six countries earned grades of A, while 36 earned Ds or Fs. (UK at #1; Canada #22; USA #43)
Additional details may be found on a website created by the Lien Centre for Palliative Care, part of the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.
"Society should also be judged on how well people die," says Eric Finkelstein, a palliative care expert and professor with Duke-NUS and the Duke Global Health Institute in Durham, North Carolina, who led the study. "Many individuals in both the developed and developing world die very badly -- not at their place of choice, without dignity, or compassion, with a limited understanding about their illness, after spending down much of their savings, and often with regret about their course of treatment. These things are very common." Read more at Science Daily
NASA Astrobiologist and renowned scientist Dr. David Grinspoon brings readers an optimistic message about humanity's future in the face of climate change. For the first time in Earth's history, our planet is experiencing a confluence of rapidly accelerating changes prompted by one species: humans. Climate change is only the most visible of the modifications we've made--up until this point, inadvertently--to the planet. And our current behavior threatens not only our own future but that of countless other creatures. By comparing Earth's story to those of other planets, astrobiologist David Grinspoon shows what a strange and novel development it is for a species to evolve to build machines, and ultimately, global societies with world-shaping influence.
Without minimizing the challenges of this century, Grinspoon suggests that our present moment is not only one of peril, but also great potential, especially when viewed from a 10,000-year perspective. Our species has surmounted the threat of extinction before, thanks to our innate ingenuity and ability to adapt, and there's every reason to believe we can do so again.
Our challenge now is to awaken to our role as a force of planetary change, and to grow into this task. We must become graceful planetary engineers, conscious shapers of our environment and caretakers of Earth's biosphere. This is a perspective that begs us to ask not just what future do we want to avoid, but what do we seek to build? What kind of world do we want? Are humans the worst thing or the best thing to ever happen to our planet? Today we stand at a pivotal juncture, and the answer will depend on the choices we make. Read more at Amazon
The climate crisis requires ramping up usage of renewable energy sources like solar and wind, but with intermittent availability, scalable energy storage is a challenge.
Hydrogen -- especially carbon-free green hydrogen -- has emerged as a promising clean energy carrier and storage option for renewable energy such as solar and wind. It adds no carbon emissions to the atmosphere, but currently is costly and complex to create.
One way to produce green hydrogen is electrochemical water splitting. This process involves running electricity through water in the presence of catalysts (reaction-enhancing substances) to yield hydrogen and oxygen.
Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have developed a new water-splitting process and material that maximize the efficiency of producing green hydrogen, making it an affordable and accessible option for industrial partners that want to convert to green hydrogen for renewable energy storage instead of conventional, carbon-emitting hydrogen production from natural gas. Read more at Science Daily
The United States and its allies, such as Canada, the UK, the European Union, Australia, Japan and South Korea, face a dilemma when it comes to the global electrification of the transportation system and the switch from fossil fuels to cleaner forms of energy.
Importing hunting trophies from thousands of endangered and threatened species, including lions, rhinos, elephants, and polar bears, is set to be banned, under new measures announced by U.K. Environment Secretary George Eustice today.
The new ban will apply to imports of hunting trophies from endangered and threatened animals into Great Britain, supporting long-term species conservation and protecting some of the world’s most endangered and threatened animals – including the frequently killed ‘Big Five’ (lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and water buffalos).
In the last 50 years, there has been a 60% decline in wildlife globally. This ban will be among the toughest in the world and will protect a range of species including nearly 6,000 animals that are currently threatened by international trade. The Ban will also cover over 1,000 additional species which are considered near-threatened or worse, such as African buffalo, zebra and reindeer – going further than the Government’s initial manifesto commitment to prohibit the import of hunting trophies from endangered species.
The Government consulted on a ban in 2019 and received over 44,000 responses which showed clear public and conservation group support for tighter restrictions with 86% supporting further action. Read more at Gov UK
Indigenous Students at St. Joseph's Mission Residential School in Williams Lake, B.C., in 1943. Credit: DESCHÂTELETS-NDC ARCHIVES
First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities across Canada are continuing their efforts in responding to COVID-19, with support from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).
As the number of active outbreaks and active cases are hopefully reaching their peak, we will continue to work with Indigenous communities to slow the spread of COVID-19 and work towards recovery.
As of January 25, 2022, over 86% of individuals aged 12 and older in First Nations, Inuit and territorial communities have received a second dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine. With the recent approval of pediatric vaccines, over 43% of individuals aged 5 to 11 have received at least one dose.
First Nations, Inuit and Métis have access to vaccines. Vaccine clinics are well underway in Indigenous communities across the country. Now is the time to get your vaccine. Protect your community, your Elders and your family. In the event that First Nations peoples and Inuit need to travel out of their community to get to their vaccination appointment, the applicable travel costs will be covered by non-insured health benefits.
As of January 26, 2022, the following case counts has been reported from First Nations communities:
70,482 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, of which 6,851 are the Omicron variant
5,509 active cases
64,374 recovered cases
This past week, there is an 0.8% (41 cases) increase in the average daily active case counts from the week before (January 20, 2022). Read more at Nation Talk
Williams Lake First Nation Kúkpi7 Willie Sellars and councillors released the first-phase geophysical findings, after launching its land survey with ground-penetrating radar in June.
“This journey has led our investigation team into the darkest recesses of human behaviour,” said Sellars. “Our team has recorded not only stories involving the murder and disappearance of children and infants, they have listened to countless stories of systematic torture, starvation, rape and sexual assault of children at St. Joseph’s Mission.”
The findings were shared with the chiefs of all impacted nations ahead of time in a private meeting — a “critical milestone” in the path to reconciliation, said Sellars.
Quote Of The Week: Keeping COP26 Alive
“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action. We must now move forward together and deliver on the expectations set out in the Glasgow Climate Pact. It is up to all of us to sustain our lodestar of keeping 1.5 degrees within reach and to continue our efforts to get finance flowing and boost adaptation. After the collective dedication which has delivered the Glasgow Climate Pact, our work here cannot be wasted.“
Explainer: New Video Traces The Promise, Perils Of Carbon Offsets
“Have you ever wondered if [carbon offsets] are actually legit?” is the opening line in a recent video from Deutche Welle’s YouTube channel Planet A.
The video is meant for anyone trying to understand just what it means to offset that (longed for) flight to see family—and just how far to trust a mechanism that allows fossil fuel companies, no less, to declare themselves zero-carbon.
The answer: it’s complicated.
Using the example of a non-profit project in northern Germany that uses offset dollars to restore local degraded peatlands to their natural state as extremely rich carbon storehouses, the video makes clear that offsets can be “legit” if several criteria are all met: a project actually reduces carbon emissions, more or less permanently; the carbon emissions produced would not otherwise have occurred; and “bragging rights” (who gets to claim the offset: in this case, the German airline that directs consumer dollars to the peatland restoration project) are clear and traceable to one beneficiary. That’s easy enough in the case of a single German airline underwriting a peatland project in its home nation; not easy at all when corporate offsetting goals begin to overlap with national ones, as they do when the same German airline seeks further offsets via tree planting projects in Nicaragua.
Trouble is, these conditions are very rarely met, especially in the case of “voluntary” offsets that tend to be poorly regulated.
This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ancient ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased dramatically since the Industrial Revolution compared to paleoclimatologic (past climate) measurements over the past 800,000 years. Credit: Luthi, D., et al.. 2008; Etheridge, D.M., et al. 2010; Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record
Earth's climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 11,700 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.
The current warming trend is of particular significance because it is unequivocally the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over millennia.1 It is undeniable that human activities have warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land and that widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred. Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.
RCMP Investigating Winnipeg Scientists Fired From Lab For Possible Transfer Of Intellectual Property To China
Credit: John Woods/ The Canadian Press
The RCMP are investigating whether two scientists dismissed from Canada’s top-security infectious-disease laboratory passed on Canadian intellectual property to China, including to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The investigation centres on the possibility that materials such as plasma DNA molecules, which could be used to recreate vaccines or viruses, were transferred to Chinese authorities without the approval of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
The Globe and Mail has also learned that the RCMP have been informed that Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng, recently relocated to China after they were fired in January, 2021 from the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg.
How Much Did Ancient Land-Clearing Fires In New Zealand Affect The Climate?
Credit: Matias Delacroix/NurPhoto via Getty Images
There’s new evidence, this time from the Southern Hemisphere, that human activities altered Earth’s atmosphere long before the start of the fossil-fueled industrial age that kicked global warming into high gear.
Research published last October in Nature suggests that soot from the land-burning practices of the seafaring Polynesians that settled New Zealand spread widely around the Southern Hemisphere. The detailed analysis of six ice cores from Antarctica found a sharp spike in depositions of climate-altering black carbon starting in about 1300.
Using models of winds in the Southern Hemisphere, along with other records showing possible sources of black carbon, the scientists found that the most likely source was fires started by the Māori to clear forests for agriculture and to ease their hunts as they settled the islands.
“Higher education is broken,” wrote historian Niall Ferguson in a November 8, 2021, Bloomberg commentary. To help fix it, he has helped to create the University of Austin, a new institution that is supposed to be free of the growing leftist intolerance found at too many universities nowadays. According to Ferguson, that intolerance is evident not only among faculties, but, more ominously, among administrators at elite universities such as MIT and Harvard. As politically centrist faculty members at any major public university can attest, the situation appears no better there, either.
The heart of the problem identified by critics such as Ferguson is that universities have been abandoning the ideal of what used to be called a “liberal education.” It was once accepted that a good education included more than just technical subjects. An appreciation for history, literature and the arts was considered essential to prepare the young for the professional and other roles they aspired to fill. This was also important in secondary and even primary schools as well, where students should be exposed to a simplified form of the same program as part of creating informed and democratic citizens.
Publisher and Editor: Dr. David Zakus Production: Julia Chalmers & Aisha Saleem 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. Jay Kravitz and Aisha Saleem