There’s just so much angst these days, with crises lurking around almost every corner. Two nights ago a friend told me how her young daughter just told her that the world needs a major correction, a more serious commitment from governments to address the climate crisis. I couldn't agree more. This young person can see right through our adult bafflegab and policy blather. First there are those still pushing for and funding fossil fuel development believing it isn’t harmful to our collective existence. Even right now our Prime Minister is considering giving the Canadian oil industry two extra years (to 2032) to meet our nation's climate goals. What have these companies been doing for the last decade and now declaring they need more time? We know the answer: nothing, except for greenwashing, pretending to be doing something, and making huge profits. And as if the 2030 targets are just Canada's and not the world's.
Then, there’s still the pandemic, which while currently raging again, though mercifully in a less dangerous way, some still deny the pandemic and the value of vaccines, perhaps not knowing that there would be so much more sickness and death without them; and maybe oblivious to the fact that the vast majority of those still hospitalized and dying are unvaccinated. Why is it, too, that our public health leaders remain silent while many keep spreading their lies and misinformation? It’s painful to listen to, especially when most perpetrators haven’t the slightest clue about science, natural history and the care and treatment of the sick, let alone about respect for their neighbour (and nurses).
Seek and you shall find, it’s said; and what we seek is fact and truth, life and peace, and action. With science still the best way to getting closer to what's factual in nature, it's not perfect either and it often lacks the social and political considerations to use it well. But it does give us facts, risk calculations and levels of certainty regarding many issues, including health and disease and environmental crises. People study for many years to become environmental and health care professionals, many of whom become teachers to pass on knowledge gained by study and research (i.e. systematic observation and analysis). Why would anyone reject such education and research and concentrate on spreading absurd ideas of what only they think is right?
The science of the climate crisis is now sealed in a way almost unheard of in scientific debate; that too of the existence and seriousness of Covid-19 and the value of vaccines - and we continue to learn more everyday.
The amount of misinformation and outright mistruths, though, on the internet, in social media and the minds of many begs belief, especially when you see who it is propounding them, those being mostly uneducated in science, even social science. Much of it seems to be fabricated and spun just to be in opposition, to actually oppose science and education, and to for sure misrepresent them.
But, what is it we are seeking, and if we can answer that perhaps we can achieve some concurrence and alignment and move forward without so much division. Perhaps we can agree on the general goal of protecting and improving health, and the well-being of the environment, Why continue to deny that the billions of tons of CO2 we’ve pumped into the atmosphere through our activities is the cause of global warming, especially knowing that the science of how it works is already over a hundred years old? Why deny that vaccines don’t work, even when the latest Omicron subvariant, BA.5, is still restrained by vaccines that weren’t even designed for it and in the face of mountains of research data and widely observed effects. Some of them believe that the vaccines are causing more deaths than the virus (as per an article I saw on Steve Kirsch's fringe and bizarre website). What is to be gained by spreading such garbage except for personal gain, appearing anti-establishment and perhaps the desire to cause division in society or gain some moments of notoriety and good pay. Their lack of education, knowledge and integrity keeps them from writing in established media and followers encourage them by keeping their sites loaded with clicks and donations.
We benefit from science in all aspects of our lives, with electronic communications, longer healthier lives, fruits in winter, planes to fly on, medical care, nutrition information and an understanding of life not possible before it began. Since our brains evolved to be curious, inquisitive and ingenious at developing tools of work and measurement we have learned so much. Why would some want to throw it out in support of made-up beliefs about the climate crisis and the pandemic? What arrogance and lack of perspective. I just hope that that young girl will soon see the reset she requests, that our major decision makers get it together quickly. Otherwise, we will totally fail her future. And the deniers and selfish will be to blame.
In today’s Planetary Health Weekly (#30 of 2022) we examine some of these problems and give a few hopeful answers:
CLIMATE & BIODIVERSITY UPDATES:
The amount of Greenland ice that melted last weekend could cover West Virginia in a foot of water,
UN adds record Siberia temperature to extreme weather archive,
We don’t have a full picture of the planet’s shrinking biodiversity; here’s why,
Monarch butterflies added to international list of threatened species, China braces for an even hotter weekend as temperatures climb,
Can nuclear waste become batteries that last for thousands of years?
NASA releases startling image of Lake Mead shrinkage (1-2 minute video),
A plea to make widespread environmental damage an international crime (ecocide) takes centre stage at The Hague,
Covid cases are rising across Canada; where are the country’s top doctors?
Duration of shedding of culturable virus in SARS-CoV-2 Omicron (BA.1) infection,
Association between BNT162b2 vaccination and long Covid after infections not requiring hospitalization in health care,
Eating disorder diagnoses in children and adolescents in Norway before vs during the Covid-19 pandemic,
Ramaphosa warns G7 leaders of new aim for patent waiver on Covid therapeutics and diagnostics (and about fertilizer independence and the Just Energy Transition),
First Nations in northern Ontario facing Covid surge amid health care worker shortage,
Is BA.5 the ‘reinfection wave’?
How Omicron dodges the immune system, THEN
World Health Organization declares monkeypox a global emergency,
What to know about the Monkeypox outbreak (5 minute video),
Microplastics: polluting our blood, foetuses – and now the dairy and meat we eat,
124 cases of sexual violence by Russians reported in Ukraine says
UN Rep, Battery prices continue to drop – what does that mean for electric cars?
The world’s first operational ‘sand battery’ can store energy for months,
Strong tides along UK coast could create electricity for less than cost of nuclear power,
The coming food catastrophe,
Policy brief: taxing sugar-sweetened beverages,
Court approves final payment for ‘60s Scoop survivors,
Quote on the twin energy and food security crises by Heather Scoffield,
July 29 – August 2, 2022 24th International AIDS Conference in Montreal,
Mapped: the most common illicit drugs in the world,
How a conservative US network undermined Indigenous energy rights in Canada,
The unexpected history and miraculous success of vaccines,
Emirates flight catering opens world’s largest vertical farm,
Newish book: “Year of the Nurse: A 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic Memoir” by Cassandra Alexander,
When educators acknowledge a crisis they empower learning, and lastly
ENDSHOTS of Mid-Summer Garden Flowers - Defying Angst.
The water off the coast of northwest Greenland is a glass-like calm, but the puddles accumulating on the region’s icebergs are a sign that a transformation is underway higher on the ice sheet.
Several days of unusually warm weather in northern Greenland have triggered rapid melting, made visible by the rivers of meltwater rushing into the ocean. Temperatures have been running around 60 degrees Fahrenheit – 10 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year, scientists told CNN.
The amount of ice that melted in Greenland between July 15 and 17 alone – 6 billion tons of water per day – would be enough to fill 7.2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. Put another way, it was enough to cover the entire state of West Virginia with a foot of water.
“The northern melt this past week is not normal, looking at 30 to 40 years of climate averages,” said Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “But melting has been on the increase, and this event was a spike in melt.”. Read more at CNN.
During the International Criminal Court’s annual meeting several months ago, three nations threatened by climate change promoted a fifth international crime, called ecocide. A proposed legal definition for the crime of ecocide: “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.”
Globally, nationally and locally, the pandemic continues in many countries. But many so erroneously feel it's over, whereas it's just getting worse, thanks particularly to Omicron subvariant BA.5 and the lack of collective action. Over the last week, cases continue at about 1,000,000/day; deaths were down slightly to about 2000/day; and vaccinations are up sharply to about 14 million/day (from 5m last week).
The pandemic is still with us and cases and deaths are on the upswing, all from the widespread relaxation of public health measures. How many people do you now see wearing a mask? The BA.5 subvariant is of great concern because of its enhanced ability to spread and evade newly learned immune responses, both post-infection and from vaccines.
Vaccination remains a great way to keep yourself and others safe from serious consequences, including hospitalization and long Covid which is becoming more understood. Get all the shots/boosters you can and practise the other public health measures especially indoors with crowds.
See below for a few global stats and current hotspots:
Credit: Article | Angelica Cugini of Burlington, Ont., says she doesn’t want to ever wear a mask again, even though she’s had COVID-19 four times. Submitted photo
A seventh wave of COVID-19 is sweeping across Canada, but unlike during previous outbreaks, many of the country's top doctors have been largely absent from the public eye.
A seventh wave of COVID-19 is sweeping across Canada, leading to high rates of infection and increased hospitalizations in most provinces. But unlike during previous outbreaks, many of the country’s top doctors have been largely absent from the public eye.
Now, health experts say the public should be getting clearer messaging – that even if virus protection measures like masking and distancing aren’t being mandated by law, they should still be followed.
“I think we should still (be) encouraging people to continue wearing a mask when they’re in public, when they’re on the subway, when they’re in a concert, going to the theater or a sports game,” says Tim Sly, an epidemiologist and professor emeritus with the School of Public Health at Toronto Metropolitan University. Read more at global news.
This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. Credit: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO
The World Health Organization said the expanding monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation that now qualifies as a global emergency, a declaration that could spur further investment in treating the once-rare disease and worsen the scramble for scarce vaccines.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the decision to issue the declaration despite a lack of consensus among members of WHO’s emergency committee. It was the first time the chief of the U.N. health agency has taken such an action.
“In short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations,” Tedros said.
Although monkeypox has been established in parts of central and West Africa for decades, it was not known to spark large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America and elsewhere. Read the blog and more at: the Star
Microplastics are now being found in the meat and dairy we eat every day, according to a new study. A report by environmental non-profit, Plastic Soup Foundation, reveals that 73% of the products they tested contained microplastics - the material left behind when plastics decompose.
The research points to plastics being present in livestock feed as a possible cause of the contamination. Read more at Euro News
Activists hold hands as they protest rape during war and supporting Ukraine in front of the Russian Consulate in New York on May 28, 2022. Credit: Kena Betancur / AFP
The United Nations news center quoted Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, as having said that there have been approximately 124 cases of sexual violence thus reported since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine this past February 24. Earlier this week, Ukrainian news sources had indicated that nearly 22,500 other crimes, including war crimes, had been registered by Ukrainian authorities.
Patten cautioned that the 124 crimes of sexual violence only represent those that have been recorded, so far, and that it is estimated that there are far more crimes that have yet to be registered.
Sexual violence committed by Russian soldiers against Ukrainian civilians has been the focus of numerous investigations since the launch of Russia’s invasion in February, 2022. One such investigation unearthed an intercepted phone call between a Russian soldier and his wife. In the intercept, the Russian woman is heard saying “You go there and rape Ukrainian women, just don’t tell me anything,” to her husband, a soldier in the Rusisan Army who was in Ukraine at that point. The woman though cautioned her husband that the “main thing is to use protection.” Read more at Kyiv Post
In our very first Optimist's Edge article, we wrote about the future of electric cars, and when these would be as affordable to buy as the equivalent petrol or diesel car. Now the facts for 2021 have become available and it is time to update the conclusions and see if they still hold true.
Our prediction: Electric cars as cheap as petrol cars by 2025
The main reason why electric cars are more expensive to buy than the equivalent petrol car is the battery. When Tesla's Model S launched in 2012, the battery in the car cost approximately $30,000. But the price has fallen rapidly, by 85% between 2010 and 2020 and based on Wright's law, it will continue to fall as total production increases.
This means that electric cars will cost as much as petrol cars by 2025. During the second half of the 20s, it will be cheaper to buy an electric car than a petrol car. How many would still choose an ICE car in that scenario?. Read more at Warp News
The Sand battery in its tall grey silo. Credit: Polar Night Energy
How does the sand battery work?
Just like conventional energy storage systems, when excess power is generated through renewable sources than is required, it is directed towards the sand battery. Instead of trying to move electrons from one electrode to the other or power pumps to send water to a higher reservoir, a sand battery uses resistive heating to increase the temperature of the air, which is then transferred to sand through a heat exchanger.
With the melting temperature of the sand in hundreds of degrees Celsius, a tower of sand has a high potential to store energy. More importantly, sand store this energy for many months, making it a viable long-term storage solution.
Naturally, the next question to be asked is if this technology is scalable, and through the establishment of their company, Polar Night Energy, the researchers have attempted to answer that as well. Read more at Interesting Engineering
By invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin will destroy the lives of people far from the battlefield—and on a scale even he may regret. The war is battering a global food system weakened by Covid-19, climate change and an energy shock. Ukraine’s exports of grain and oilseeds have mostly stopped and Russia’s are threatened. Together, the two countries supply 12% of traded calories. Wheat prices, up 53% since the start of the year, jumped a further 6% on May 16th, after India said it would suspend exports because of an alarming heatwave.
The widely accepted idea of a cost-of-living crisis does not begin to capture the gravity of what may lie ahead. António Guterres, the un secretary general, warned on May 18th that the coming months threaten “the spectre of a global food shortage” that could last for years. The high cost of staple foods has already raised the number of people who cannot be sure of getting enough to eat by 440m, to 1.6bn. Nearly 250m are on the brink of famine. If, as is likely, the war drags on and supplies from Russia and Ukraine are limited, hundreds of millions more people could fall into poverty. Political unrest will spread, children will be stunted and people will starve. Read more at Economist
The aim of this brief is to act as a guide for WHO Member States – and, in particular, policy actors from the health sector – that are interested in sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes.
SSB taxes are recommended by WHO as part of a comprehensive set of actions to address diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).
Currently, 10 Member States of the WHO European Region have implemented SSB taxes. Read more at WHO
SPOTLIGHT ON INDIGENOUS WELLNESS
Court Approves Final Payment for ‘60s Scoop Survivors
Judges have signed off on the final compensation payment for ‘60s Scoop survivors, according to the lead lawyer on the class-action settlement.
“There are a lot of cheques (and direct deposits) to go out,” confirmed Doug Lennox of Klein Lawyers. “They should be completed by mid-August.”
Eligible survivors are owed a total of $25,000 each as part of the $875-million Sixties Scoop Settlement Agreement reached with the federal government in 2018.
The agreement compensates Indigenous children for loss of cultural identities after they were “scooped” from their families and placed with non-Indigenous caregivers from the 1960s through the 1990s.
An estimated 25,000 to 30,000 Indigenous children – now known as adult survivors – were affected. (Métis and non-status First Nations people were excluded from the settlement.) . Read more at APTN News
Quote Of The Week:
Credit: The (Toronto) Star
“It would be premature to conclude that the twin energy and food security crises prompted by the Russian invasion are on their way to being resolved and we can now focus on climate. These will be Canada’s, and the world’s, interwoven crises for the long haul: dividing our loyalties, driving up prices, undermining growth, punishing our prosperity and testing our resolve.”
Heather Scoffield, the Star’s Ottawa bureau chief and an economics columnist. From an email on July 23, 2022
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 HealthJoin 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".
Mapped: The Most Common Illicit Drugs in the World
Credit : Article
Mapped: The Most Common Illicit Drugs in the World
Despite strict prohibitory laws around much of the world, many common illicit drugs still see widespread use.
Humans have a storied and complicated relationship with drugs. Defined as chemical substances that cause a change in our physiology or psychology, many drugs are taken medicinally or accepted culturally, like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
But many drugs—including medicines and non-medicinal substances taken as drugs—are taken recreationally and can be abused. Each country and people have their own relationship to drugs, with some embracing the use of specific substances while others shun them outright.
What are the most common drugs that are considered generally illicit in different parts of the world? Today’s graphics use data from the UN’s World Drug Report 2021 to highlight the most prevalent drug used in each country.
Members of the Nuchatlaht First Nation and supporters rally outside the BC supreme court before the start of an Indigenous land title case in Vancouver in March. Credit: Canadian Press/Rex/Shutterstock
A US-based libertarian coalition has spent years pressuring the Canadian government to limit how much Indigenous communities can push back on energy development on their own land, newly reviewed strategy documents reveal.
The Atlas Network partnered with an Ottawa-based thinktank – the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) – which enlisted pro-industry Indigenous representatives in its campaign to provide “a shield against opponents”.
Atlas, which has deep ties to conservative politicians and oil and gas producers, claimed success in reports in 2018 and 2020, arguing its partner was able to discourage the Canadian government from supporting a United Nations declaration that would ensure greater involvement by Indigenous communities.
The Canadian parliament did eventually pass the legislation to begin implementing the declaration in 2021, but observers say the government has made little progress to move it forward.
Meanwhile, Indigenous groups linked to MLI’s campaign – including the Indian Resource Council – continue to appear at conferences, testify to federal committees and get quoted in major media outlets to push the view that Indigenous prosperity is virtually impossible without oil and gas.
Matt Ridley: The Unexpected History and Miraculous Success of Vaccines
Credit: Warp News
At a time when the miraculous success of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 has transformed the battle against the pandemic, it is fitting to recall that the general idea behind vaccination was brought to the attention of the western world, not by brilliant and privileged professors, but by a black slave and a woman.
His name was Onesimus and he lived in Boston, as the property of Cotton Mather, a well-known puritan preacher. Her name was Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu, the literary wife of the British ambassador to Constantinople.
Some time around 1715 Onesimus seems to have told Mather that back in West Africa people were in the habit of deliberately infecting children with a drop of “juice of smallpox” from a survivor, thus making them immune. Mather then came across a report to the Royal Society in London from an Italian physician, Emmanuel Timoni, working in the Ottoman court in Constantinople, which described the same practice in combating smallpox. The Ottomans had got the idea from either China or Africa.
Emirates Flight Catering Opens World’s Largest Vertical Farm in Dubai
Credit: Breaking Travel News
Bustanica has opened the doors to the world’s largest hydroponic farm, backed by an investment of US$40m. The facility is the first vertical farm for Emirates Crop One, the joint venture between Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC), one of the world’s largest catering operations serving more than 100 airlines, and Crop One, an industry leader in technology-driven indoor vertical farming.
Located near Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, the 330,000 sq ft facility is geared to produce more than 1,000,000 kilograms of high-quality leafy greens annually, while requiring 95% less water than conventional agriculture. At any point in time, the facility grows in excess of 1m cultivars (plants), which will provide an output of 3,000 kgs per day.
"YEAR OF THE NURSE: A 2020 COVID-19 PANDEMIC MEMOIR" by Cassandra Alexander
Credit: Book Cover
On April 25th, 2021 at 10:55 in the morning I messaged my chat group of girlfriends from where I work as a nurse on an ICU floor: “Nothing like feeling strongly suicidal at a job where you’re supposed to be keeping people alive,” and then tweeted that my “mental health wasn’t great” and deleted the Twitter app off of my phone because I didn’t want to “overshare.” That I felt like dying. That I would’ve rather died than still be at work. I am not alone.
In 2020 there were roughly four million nurses in America. Only 2.7 million U.S. soldiers fought in the Vietnam War. Those soldiers who came back from Vietnam having witnessed atrocities—and in some cases, participated in them—were changed forever.
You can't send four million people into a wartime-equivalent situation without there being psychological consequences. And yet that’s what America has done.
Nurses spent a year battling a largely unknown assailant. Running low on gear. Fearing we might bring something deadly home. Getting coughed on by people who pretended that our fights were imaginary, that our struggles—watching people die, day after day, no matter what we did—were literally fake.
Nurses are scarred. And unless people understand what we went through and commit to never let anyone lie in the future about public health, we will never become whole.
"Year of the Nurse: A Covid-19 Pandemic Memoir" is Cassandra Alexander's poignant effort to come to grips with suicidal ideation and PTSD after being a covid nurse in an ICU in 2020. Comprised of original essays and her chronological journals, tweets and emails as she attempted to save lives, including her own—this book will let you experience last year from the bedside.
When Educators Acknowledge a Crisis, They Empower Learning
Credit: Richard Drury / Getty Images
Alexandra Sedlovskaya, associate director at the Harvard Business School’s Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning, was shaken by the news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But she still had a class session to lead at the Harvard Extension School, where she teaches a course on self and identity to students from all over the world. “I was in disbelief. I thought of my students—especially students with ties to the region—and their reactions to the news,” she says.
When atrocities occur around the world, they aren’t always addressed in classrooms. But what happens when a singular situation captures our global attention? How do educators properly—and appropriately—address such heavy topics?
We sat down with Sedlovskaya, an expert in diversity, equity, and inclusion in education, to learn how she is navigating conversations about the Russian invasion of Ukraine in her classroom. In this Q&A, we explore her strategies for addressing difficult topics and maintaining focus on her curriculum while also empowering her students and helping them cope.
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, Carlos Jimenez, Evans Oppong, Jonathan Zakus, Dr. Aimée-Angélique Bouka & Elisabeth Huang
Bloggers: Edward Milner, Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, Aisha Saleem and Dr. Jay Kravitz