I just can’t believe how upset I got this week when reading some news from Canada. All the while in a beautiful peaceful rural area outside of Chiangmai, Thailand where I’ve had a couple outstanding experiences, including one with elephants (see ENDSHOTS). But according to a recent article in the Toronto Star:
"The six largest companies in the Alberta oil sands, that form the Pathways Alliance, collectively booked a record profit of more than $35 billion in 2022, but spent only $500 million on a plan to capture emissions by 2030. Meanwhile, the companies have asked for public funding to cover more than half of their $16.5-billion climate change mitigation project.
But, "collectively, they shelled out $32.1 billion on share buybacks, which boost the stock price, and $16.7 billion on dividends — direct cash payments to shareholders. They also spent $17.5 billion reducing their debt and another $16.3 billion on capital investment in their oil and gas production. But when it came to their plan to reduce emissions, their spending was only half a billion dollars — 1.4% of their profits."
I'm baffled. It just further confirms to me we are being deceived and hung out to dry by not only big oil and tar sands companies but also by our seemingly sold-out governments.
The Alliance hasn’t even started any construction on their illusionary smoke screen carbon capture project. With their actions and products they continue spewing gigantic amounts of carbon into our collective atmosphere and invest in more of it. All without any regard for what it’s doing to us now and to those in the future. These folks must be stopped now to prevent further damage to our collective home, by either closing them or imposing serious regulation or taxes to force them to begin cutting their emissions and halting all further construction. The Alliance members and their policies are reprehensible. And for sure governments must stop all their billions of subsidies immediately. How do subsidies for carbon extraction make any sense at all?
That all this continues in Canada is unbelievably saddening and discouraging, and makes me ashamed. Where are our leaders? Where is our Prime Minister and his Minister of Environment and Climate Change? Maybe having climate change in the minister’s title means he is to promote climate change and further destruction. I know there are some positive actions. But my oh my, I’m full of anxiety and anger this beautiful day in Thailand and so tired of being played for stupid. Whatever happened to our Canadian culture of caring, of social responsibility, humility, thrift and working for the collective. Seeing our world continuously and recklessly being destroyed for personal gain of great wealth goes against us all. Imagine how many solar panels could be installed with $30b.
Do read on in today’s Planetary Health Weekly (#11 of 2023) about this and more on our well-being, environment and health. There is never a shortage of big news and it seems to be accelerating. My heart is broken about the disasters in Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi. Next week from Cambodia.
David Zakus, Editor and Publisher
MAE WANG RIVER
35 KM SW OF CHIANGMAI, THAILAND
March 12, 2023
IN COMPLETE SOLIDARITY WITH UKRAINE SEEKING PEACE AND VICTORY
"Reminiscences" Portrait of the war veteran, Nurse Bogdanova (Artist: G. Chuiko) in: "The Way Artists See It" (1994) by A. Grando, founder and director of the Central Museum of Medicine of Ukraine in Kyiv; p. 139. ISBN
Biggest Carbon Credit Certifier to Replace its Rainforest Offsets Scheme
Credit: Angela Ponce/ The Guardian
The world’s leading carbon credit certifier – used by Disney, Shell, Gucci and other big corporations for climate claims – has said it will phase out and replace its rainforest offsets programme by mid-2025. Earlier this year a Guardian investigation found the existing scheme was flawed. Verra has since committed to scrapping its rainforest protection programme by July 2025 and introducing new rules, which it is developing. A senior Verra figure said this week it was time to move on from the current system.
In January, a nine-month investigation by the Guardian, the German weekly Die Zeit, and SourceMaterial found widespread problems with the system. Analysis of a significant proportion of Verra projects indicated more than 90% of its rainforest offset credits do not represent genuine carbon reductions.
From the band Pearl Jam to easyJet, Lavazza to the housebuilder Berkeley Group, Verra’s rainforest carbon offsets have been used by internationally renowned companies. Some have labelled their products “carbon neutral”, or told their consumers they can fly, buy new clothes or eat certain foods without making the climate crisis worse. In Singapore and Colombia, companies can buy the offsets instead of paying carbon taxes.
The investigation indicated that many claims based on the rainforest credits, which are generated by predicting deforestation that would have happened in the absence of the conservation projects, were largely meaningless, putting organisations that buy the offsets at risk of greenwashing. Verra heavily disputed the findings and said it remained committed to rainforest conservation schemes.
How companies use carbon offsetting to hit emission goals:
These Oilsands Companies Raked in $35B Last Year. Now, They're Asking for Public Money to Help Fight Climate Change
Credit: Canadian Natural Resources LTD, Cenovus Energy INC, ConocoPhillips Company, Imperial Oil LTD, Suncor Energy INC/ Toronto Star Graphic
Despite having more than doubled their profits last year, Canadian oilsands companies are spending little on a highly touted carbon-capture project to transform their oil from some of the world’s dirtiest to its cleanest. The six companies that form the Pathways Alliance collectively booked a record profit of more than $35 billion in 2022, but spent only $500 million on a plan to capture emissions from the oilsands, pipe them across Alberta and pump them underground by 2030. Meanwhile, the companies have asked for public funding to cover more than half of their $16.5-billion climate change mitigation project.
Over the past several months, the Pathways Alliance has gone on a public relations offensive, taking out full-page ads in newspapers and 30-second spots on podcasts to promote the carbon capture and storage plan, saying it will help Canada achieve climate change goals by reducing emissions in the oilsands to net zero by 2050. “There will likely never again be a period where this type of profit is generated in the oil industry,” said David Macdonald, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “The stars have aligned for the oil gas companies to make those investments if they wanted to — but it’s not happening.”
A look at the financial reports of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc., ConocoPhillips Company, Imperial Oil Ltd., MEG Energy, and Suncor Energy Inc., shows the companies spent far more on priorities other than climate change. Collectively, they shelled out $32.1 billion on share buybacks, which boost the stock price, and $16.7 billion on dividends — direct cash payments to shareholders. They also spent $17.5 billion reducing their debt and another $16.3 billion on capital investment in their oil and gas production. But when it came to their plan to reduce emissions, their spending was only half a billion dollars — 1.4 percent of their profits. Meanwhile, emissions from the oilsands have been growing. According to the government's national carbon inventory, emissions have more than doubled since 2005.
Antarctic sea ice has likely shrunk to a record low, US scientists announced on Monday, raising concerns that the climate crisis is increasingly destabilising the frozen continent. The 2023 minimum is the lowest in 45 years of satellite record-keeping, according to preliminary findings from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder. Antarctica reached its minimum extent for the year at 691,000 million square miles on 21 February, researchers said, beating the record low set in 2022 by 52,500 square miles.
The downward trend in sea ice may be a signal that global warming is finally affecting the floating ice around Antarctica, but it will take several more years to be confident of it. Lower sea ice extent means ocean waves will pound the coast of the giant ice sheet, further reducing ice shelves around Antarctica. The South Pole region has so far escaped the accelerated melting taking place on the ice sheets of Greenland and the Arctic. But melting has increased in the past decade, and with less sea ice comes more danger for Antarctica’s large glaciers. Dark ocean water absorbs more of the sun’s heat, which would typically bounce off the white ice. NSIDC senior research scientist and University of Manitoba professor Julienne Stroeve said: “The sea ice helps to buffer large floating ice shelves and major outlet glaciers such as Pine Island and Thwaites, and if these glaciers begin a more rapid runaway loss of land ice, it could trigger a dramatic increase in sea level rise rates before the end of this century.”
The estimated cost of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project has increased once again, this time to $30.9 billion. Trans Mountain Corp. blamed the latest cost overruns on a number of factors, including inflation, labour and supply chain challenges, flooding in B.C., and unexpected major archeological discoveries along the route. The new price tag is a 44 per cent increase from the $21.4 billion cost projection placed on the pipeline expansion project a year ago, and more than double an earlier estimate of $12.6 billion. Previous cost increases were blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic, scheduling pressures related to permitting processes, and route changes to avoid culturally and environmentally sensitive areas, among other things.
“Canada has among the world’s highest standards for the protection of people, the environment, and Indigenous participation when building major infrastructure projects,“ said Trans Mountain Corp. CEO Dawn Farrell in a news release Friday. “By including these commitments into the Project design and development from the beginning, we have ensured the Project will provide economic benefits to Canadians well into the future.”
The 1,150-km Trans Mountain pipeline is Canada’s only pipeline system transporting oil from Alberta to the West Coast. Its expansion will increase the pipeline’s capacity from 590,000 barrels per day to a total of 890,000 barrels per day, supporting Canadian crude oil production growth and ensuring access to global energy markets. However, even before the latest cost increase, some critics were suggesting the project no longer makes economic sense. A report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer last June found the federal government stands to lose money from its investment in the pipeline, and suggested that if the project were cancelled at that time, the government would need to write off more than $14 billion in assets.
The federal government has indicated it does not wish to be the long-term owner of Trans Mountain, and intends to launch a divestment process after the expansion project has been “further derisked.” Several Indigenous-led initiatives have previously indicated their intent to pursue ownership of the pipeline.
Construction of the project is currently close to 80 per cent complete, with mechanical completion expected to occur at the end of this year, and the pipeline expected to be in-service in the first quarter of 2024.
‘We Survived the Terrifying Disease that Inspired Contagion – Our Blood May Help to Treat It’.
Harith Pukhari, research associate at the University of Malaya, collects blood from Nipah virus survivor Hoon Keong Goh Credit: Jack Taylor
At one point, the stench from the rotting carcasses was so intense the primary school was forced to close. In a bid to curb a “terrifying” virus spreading among farmers, the Malaysian army was deployed to kill close to one million pigs in this sleepy region, 50 miles south of Kuala Lumpur. In 1999, Sungai Nipah village was ground zero in an infectious disease outbreak that killed 105 people, infected a further 160, and destroyed a billion-dollar pig-farming industry. “It was a big tragedy,” says Prof Dato CT Tan, a neurologist who treated many of the patients at the University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC). “You look at a family, two or three people were sick – some died, some [were] in a vegetative state. And it’s not just their health, they’d lost everything, because [they had been] pig farming for three generations.”
Initially misdiagnosed as Japanese encephalitis – prompting a mosquito-spraying strategy that did nothing to prevent fatalities – scientists eventually discovered in March 1999 that they were dealing with a dangerous new zoonotic pathogen. They called it Nipah. More than two decades later, and despite repeated outbreaks, there are still no vaccines or drugs to specifically target the virus, which is deemed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others to have “serious epidemic potential”. The virus, which inspired the film Contagion about a global pandemic, attacks the brain and has a fatality rate as high as 70 per cent.
Now, survivors from the first outbreak are giving their blood to scientists racing to develop vaccines, in a push to prevent a similar scenario ever unfolding again.
By analysing the blood of 24 survivors in Sungai Nipah – and comparing that to samples from 24 people in the community unaffected by the virus – the researchers aim to gather critical data which could guide the development of much-needed vaccines, as well as the assays used to test their performance. At least eight groups, including the team behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, are currently working on vaccine candidates that could benefit from the UM’s work.
Malawi Launches Campaign to End Deadly Cholera Outbreak
Health workers treat cholera patients at the Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe central Malawi on Jan. 11, 2023 Credit: AP
Health rights campaigners in Malawi are welcoming a national campaign against a record cholera outbreak, which has affected all 29 districts in the country and killed nearly 1,400 people. President Lazarus Chakwera launched the campaign Monday, pledging to reduce the transmission and mortality rate of the water-borne illness. Chakwera said the spread is largely because people in the country are not following good hygiene practices. "And because the behavior is not changing, the situation has become dire," he said. "So far, over 1,300 funerals have happened around the country because of cholera. And the disease is still spreading at an alarming rate. We are getting between 500 to 600 cholera cases every day in our health facilities throughout the country." The campaign, known as "Tithetse Kolera" or "Let's end cholera," focuses on repairing water kiosks across the country and helping people construct toilets in their homes.
Chakwera said statistics show that about 40 percent of Malawians do not have toilets and instead use the bush to relieve themselves. Several organizations in Malawi have long been running campaigns against the practice of open defecation, but with little result. Health authorities say they hope the campaign will help reduce the cholera fatality rate from the current 3.6% to 1%. Health rights campaigner George Jobe welcomed the campaign, but said the government should go further by ending myths and misinformation associated with the outbreak. In the meantime, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and United Nations have pledged their support toward the success of the cholera campaign. Local media have reported that Malawi needs an additional $40 million for an effective cholera response.
Was the Covid Pandemic Bad for Mental Health? It Depends Who You Ask
A report has been seized upon to argue that lockdown had little effect on mental health – but the truth is more nuanced.
Imagine that your teenager was a star athlete, on track for a university athletics scholarship. But then they develop long Covid at the height of the pandemic, meaning they no longer had the lung capacity to run, let alone live independently. If that was your experience, you’re likely to think the government didn’t do enough to protect children from Covid-19, or vaccinate them fast enough. On the other hand, what if your child developed an eating disorder due to social isolation and depression? In that case, you might think that lockdown measures were disproportionate. If you lost a loved one to the disease, then you might blame the government for doing too little. If your small business of 20 years shut down, you might blame the government for doing too much.
The point is that all our views on the pandemic, whether we’re a teacher, pub owner, healthcare worker or even a scientist, are coloured by our personal experiences of this huge, global storm.
I’ve been thinking about this in light of a new study that attempts to make sense of the effect the pandemic has had on our mental health. The latest British Medical Journal systematic review, from a Canadian team of researchers, looks at more than 100 studies from around the world and concludes that the pandemic didn’t result in any major changes in general mental health and anxiety symptoms, and only minimal changes in depression. This has led to headlines such as “Mental-health crisis from Covid pandemic was minimal”. What’s needed here is nuance. Only that can capture what has undoubtedly been a traumatic few years – in which millions of people have felt loss, anger and frustration. And this is where general studies on “everyone’s mental health” are misleading.
The pandemic didn’t affect everyone equally. Groups that were badly affected include those with existing mental health conditions, children, people living with disabilities, adolescents and those without financial or social security nets. The BMJ study does highlight some of these groups and notes that the study didn’t capture the views of children. Children universally faced a difficult few years during a formative time, whether through losing caregivers to the virus, through school closures, or being more exposed to abusive adults inside their homes.
The problem is that studies such as the BMJ’s are used either to argue that lockdowns don’t have any significant impact on population mental health (and, therefore, are not as bad as predicted), or by others to argue that such research itself is flawed completely. This doesn’t help us. Instead, we need to start coming together on how we heal as a society and recognise that each person’s experience from 2020 to 2022 heavily shapes how they interpret what happened and why.
NOTE: After three years of around-the-clock tracking of COVID-19 data from around the world, Johns Hopkins has discontinued the Coronavirus Resource Center’s operations. The site’s two raw data repositories will remain accessible for information collected from 1/22/20 to 3/10/23 on cases, deaths, vaccines, testing and demographics. Thanks so much .
"It is the plague in seemingly all sincerity." Bob Woodward
And it does seem to be waning.
BEZ'S BLOG #15
Adaptive hikers on Ute trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. Credit: Quinn Brett
Are there any benefits to having adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)? What we explored in Blog #12 suggested mostly harms.
In the clinical setting suggesting that people be screened for ACEs is sometimes met with asking why do it when there is no treatment for them.
Within clinical medicine there tends to be a reluctance to look for conditions for which little or nothing of benefit can be done. Dr. Felitti, who developed the concept of ACEs, recognizes that victims acknowledging negative ACE impact can also be impacted positively. And we've mentioned Van Der Kolk's continuous best seller The Body Keeps the Score as evidence of a major effect of recognition.
Similar findings have been reported for some Gulf War and Vietnam veterans who may have developed better coping mechanisms to deal with stressful life events after ACEs.
There may be Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG). In such cases those who have had ACEs or other forms of trauma had positive changes resulting from their struggles. A student of mine, a Ukrainian doctor, is studying PTG among those exposed to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
PTG entered the academic realm with Tedeschi and Calhoun's 2004 paper Posttraumatic growth: conceptual foundations and empirical evidence which has been cited over 8600 times to date which is strong evidence of its impact. The 1953 epoch-launching Watson and Crick paper on the structure of DNA has received only twice that number. Let's explore the key ideas of PTG.
Post-traumatic growth is a process and an outcome, namely the experience of positive changes in oneself through the struggle with traumatic events. In contrast to resilience, which refers to recovering from illness or trauma, PTG is a transformative response to a new level of functioning. Things get better! There is a process involving one's belief's about how the world works, rumination over the trauma, leading to acceptance of the changed world and being further ahead than before the hardship.
Negative experiences can foster recognizing one's personal strength. It can lead to exploring new possibilities, as well as improving relationships, leading to spiritual growth.
Many factors can facilitate PTG. One is an expert companion to listen, tolerate and be there for the long haul. Such a person can take the pressure off of you. There are vast cultural differences in this process and there are not predictable stages. Action instead of or in addition to talk may be required. Psychotherapy and other clinical interventions may also help you emerge stronger.
There is now a vast literature on the healing power of nature in its various forms. I have always sought out mountains as a sustaining and healing force in my life. So-called green therapy can be prescribed and paid for by the healthcare system in other countries than the United States. In Canada those with physical disabilities can be provided with free adaptive devices to allow them to be in the mountains and other natural environments. I once organized a conference for the Wilderness Medical Society on the theme of “Wilderness as Medicine for the Disabled.”
How does the country in which you reside impact post-traumatic growth? Are you better off experiencing an earthquake in Japan or in the United States? There are few studies making such comparisons. One looked at PTSD and PTG among US and Japanese college students. American students scored better on PTG than Japanese. The study suggested differences in cognitive processing employed by US and Japanese. Americans focus on individual attributes, looking for the good, while Japanese have a more holistic perspective. As a general tendency Americans tend to beat their chests optimistically and say everything is great. Japanese do not want to stand out this way. Such cultural differences can be found with those in other countries.
So far our population health approach has considered more precisely defined outcomes such as mortality which is difficult to fudge. PTSD and PTG are softer outcomes and so leave much to cultural interpretations.
Nevertheless, what hurts you may help you live a better, more meaningful life.
Haiti – “Conditions of Nightmarish Violence” says United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, on Tuesday said the people of Haiti are enduring “conditions of nightmarish violence”. In his Global Update to the UN Human Rights Council, Türk said heavily armed gangs control services and access in large sections of the capital and the country “perpetrating frequent killings, abductions, random sniper attacks and a horrifying level of sexual violence.
“The situation calls for a combination of responses: turbo-charging the political process towards free and transparent elections; fully implementing the arms embargo; effective sanctions against those who sponsor and direct armed gangs; and international support to build up the capacity of Haiti’s police and judicial systems to fight pervasive impunity and corruption,” he told the Council. Turk also said there was a need for the deployment of "a time-bound specialized support force, with human rights safeguards".
Caribbean Community (Caricom) governments reiterated their resolve to continue efforts to encourage dialogue among Haitian stakeholders and to support efforts at finding solutions to the multi-dimensional crisis facing the country.
Alberta Oilsands Spill Hidden from First Nation an Audacious Act of ‘Environmental Racism’
Jane Fonda watches as Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam speaks during a press conference for Indigenous rights in Edmonton on Jan. 11, 2017. Credit: The Canadian Press/ Jason Franson
Federal politicians have joined the chorus of anger over Imperial Oil’s failure to alert a downriver First Nations community of a massive release of oilsands tailings first reported last May.
“This is an outrageous act of environmental racism,” Green Party co-leader Elizabeth May told Canada’s National Observer. Her comments came the day after Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam released a statement accusing Imperial Oil of hiding the massive spill from the nation. In two separate incidents, the wastewater spilled and seeped into the forest and wetland near the Muskeg and Firebag rivers, which flow into the Athabasca River.
Chief Adam said his nation was unaware tailings from Imperial’s Kearl site were spilling over and leaking into the ground, despite the fact the nation has a contract with Imperial Oil requiring the company inform them of such matters. Imperial Oil had multiple chances to share the news in person, Chief Adam said, but stayed silent until the provincial regulator issued an environmental protection order on Feb. 6.
In a written statement, Imperial vice-president of oilsands mining Jamie Long acknowledged the community’s “concerns about delays in receiving additional information” and expressed regret to Chief Adam that the company’s “communications did not meet the expectations of the ACFN community.” This “cavalier public relations response” is “outrageous,” said May. “Why are they apologizing for their communication style instead of for poisoning people and land and waters and wildlife?”
To say that the release of tailings — one of the most poisonous, dangerous substances that can be produced from these sites — is not resulting in any ecological or environmental damage is “a very far reach,” said Desjarlais. “I even go so far as to suggest that it's misleading to Canadians on the true damages and dangers of the release of tailings. Would the executive of Imperial Oil be happy to eat a fish that his tailings ponds went into?” “I think it’s fair to qualify this as contempt,” said Pauzé. “The substances released by this oilsands production are highly toxic: I am shocked, yet not surprised, by this lack of transparency and accountability.”
Distracted driving is any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from the road such as texting, talking on the phone, eating, or even changing the radio station. Distracted driving is a serious problem that has been increasing in recent years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is a factor in at least nine deaths and 1,000 injuries each day in the United States alone. In 2016, a study found that nearly 50 percent of drivers admitted to, while driving, sending a text message, reading a text message, using social media or checking their phone for directions. Overall, nearly 60 percent of respondents admitted to using their cell phone at least once while driving.
A 2018 survey of more than 3,300 drivers by American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety illustrates a disconnect in driver behavior. Nearly half (49%) report talking on a hand-held device and nearly 35% have sent a text or an email while driving. While driving, cell phone usage creates enormous potential for injuries and deaths on roads. In 2020, 3,142 people in the U.S. were victims of distracted driving and killed in motor vehicle crashes.
UNESCO Conference Tackles Disinformation, Hate Speech
A photograph taken from the top of the Eiffel Tower shows an aerial view of Paris, with the UNESCO headquarters building, July 15, 2020. Credit: AFP
Participants at a recent global U.N. conference in France's capital urged the international community to find better safeguards against online disinformation and hate speech. Hundreds of officials, tech firm representatives, academics and members of civil society were invited to the two-day meeting hosted by the United Nation's cultural fund to brainstorm how to best vet content while upholding human rights.
UNESCO has warned that despite their benefits in communication and knowledge sharing, social media platforms rely on algorithms that "often prioritize engagement over safety and human rights." "Our communication systems today are insidiously manipulating us," Maria Ressa told attendees. "We focus only on content moderation. It's like there is a polluted river. We take a glass ... we clean up the water and then dump it back,” she said. But "what we have to do is to go all the way to the factory polluting the river, shut it down and then resuscitate the river."
She said that at the height of online campaigns against her for her work, she had received up to 98 hate messages an hour. A little over half sought to undermine her credibility as a journalist, including false claims that she peddled "fake news," she said. The rest were personal attacks targeting her gender, "skin color and sexuality" or even "threats of rape and murder."
"This must stop. The international community needs, from now on, to work to give effective answers to this challenging question of our times.", says Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula.
"Many countries around the world have issued or are currently considering national legislation to address the spread of harmful content," UNESCO said in a statement ahead of the conference. But "some of this legislation risks infringing the human rights of their populations, particularly the right to freedom of expression and opinion," it warned.
Education Cannot Wait raises $826M, EU and UK Pledges Disappoint
Students attending class under tree near the Hagajin Libah Primary School, under a program launched by Education Cannot Wait, which aims to support the education of 746,000 children affected by crises in Ethiopia. Credit: Nahom Tesfaye/ UNICEF Ethiopia/ CC BY-NC-ND
Education Cannot Wait has raised $826 million toward its global work supporting children affected by war, climate disasters, and other humanitarian crises to get an education, meeting about half the fund’s overall target and disappointing advocates. ECW — the United Nations fund for education in emergencies — hoped to raise closer to its $1.5 billion goal in new financing after securing money from new donors at a pledging conference held in Switzerland last week.
The money will support the ECW’s work over the next four years to help 20 million children and adolescents living in emergency and crisis in places such as Syria and Afghanistan to continue learning, which the fund estimates needs at least $1.5 billion to pay for its new four-year strategy. The plan includes work on preventing child labor, early marriage, trafficking, and providing safe schools in countries such as Nigeria, where Boko Haram Islamist rebel group has abducted girls. Other programs include expanding online learning and double-shift schools, as seen in Lebanon where local children are taught in the morning and Syrian refugee children in the afternoons.
To date, ECW says it has reached some 7 million children in more than 40 countries where education has been adversely impacted by conflict, climate change, forced displacement, and other protracted crises. But the need is growing, and ECW estimates 222 million children are currently not in school or learning very little. That number has tripled from 75 million in 2015.
Germany was the biggest donor at the conference, pledging €210 million (about $225 million) in total to be spread over the next four years. The United Kingdom made the second-highest contribution, pledging a total of £80 million through 2026.
Civil society groups criticized the U.K. for lowering its contribution by £10 million compared to 2019. The European Union’s €25 million pledge was also singled out for criticism.
"Who Gets Believed?: When the Truth Isn't Enough" by Dina Nayeri
Credit: Book Cover/ Goodreads
“Dina Nayeri’s powerful writing confronts issues that are key to the refugee experience.”—Viet Thanh Nguyen
From the author of The Ungrateful Refugee—finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Kirkus Prize—Who Gets Believed? is a groundbreaking book about persuasion and performance that asks unsettling questions about lies, truths, and the difference between being believed and being dismissed in situations spanning asylum interviews, emergency rooms, consulting jobs and family life.
Why are honest asylum seekers dismissed as liars? Former refugee and award-winning author Dina Nayeri begins with this question, turning to shocking and illuminating case studies in this book, which grows into a reckoning with our culture’s views on believability. From persuading a doctor that she’d prefer a C-section to learning to “bullshit gracefully” at McKinsey to struggling, in her personal life, to believe her troubled brother-in-law, Nayeri explores an aspect of our society that is rarely held up to the light. For readers of David Grann, Malcolm Gladwell and Atul Gawande, Who Gets Believed? is a book as deeply personal as it is profound in its reflections on morals, language, human psychology, and the unspoken social codes that determine how we relate to one another.
"Where Ecuador and many other developing nations shine is in generating happiness at a more sustainable level of consumption. The Happy Planet Index, compiled by the UK-based New Economics Foundation, combines measures of self- reported well-being, life expectancy, inequality and ecological footprint. By those standards, Ecuador was a top-ten nation. Most very highly developed countries don't even make the top twenty, with the United States plummeting to 108th out of 140 measured countries, and Canada sinking to 85th place. In effect, the richest countries have an efficiency problem: they are squandering consumption without transforming much of it into joy." Page 39
J.B. MacKinnon, author of "The Day the World Stops Shopping- How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves"
Oranges are a popular fruit all around the world, ranking right up there with apples and bananas as a global favorite. Originally, oranges were mainly eaten for dessert. Orange juice, one of the most common ways to enjoy oranges today, didn’t become popular until the 1920s. But nowadays, oranges are well known for their vitamin C content and are often recommended as a go-to food when under the weather.
Are Oranges Sustainable
Unfortunately, as healthy as oranges are, when it comes to their social and environmental impact, not everything is peachy (or orangey?) in orange-land.
The orange industry often relies on migrant farmworkers to grow, harvest, and pack the fruit; and sometimes, they’re treated very badly. For just one horribly disturbing example, there’s the Italian migrant labor controversy of the past decade. Thousands of migrant workers, predominantly from Africa, but many from Eastern Europe, travel to find seasonal work harvesting fruits and vegetables in western Europe. But more than 80% of the migrants working in agriculture there don’t have an employment contract.
A 2012 investigation into migrant workers in Southern Italy’s orange industry found that many were sleeping on the ground and living without water, electricity, or basic hygienic services. This is largely because some farmers were taking advantage of cheap labor supply through the use of middlemen, or gangmasters. And even though not all conditions are as extreme as those discovered in Italy in 2012, the commercial orange juice industry is rife with problems like discrimination, low wages, and poor working conditions. In Brazil, which is the world’s largest producer of oranges, orange production also contributes to deforestation of tropical rainforests. Unfortunately, oranges are also subject to the overuse of agricultural chemicals.
Choosing Ethically Grown Oranges
What can you do to help combat these issues and vote with your dollar? One of the best ways is to buy organic oranges grown as close to you as possible — especially if you live in California, Texas, Florida, or in a country with a warm enough climate to grow oranges. You can also lean into organic and fair-trade certified options.
Perhaps the most helpful certification is the one that comes from the Rainforest Alliance. This certification indicates that the oranges or orange juice were grown in a way that was fair to the farmworkers and better for the planet.
This image was created on Midjourney using the following test prompt: a technical illustration of a woman sitting behind a desktop computer on a long table, isometric view, 3D rendering, realistic, 4K
Generative AI explained by AI
The above infographic - from illustrations and icons to the text descriptions - was created using generative AI tools such as Midjourney. The text below was also generated using ChatGPT based on specific prompts.
Generative AI: An Introduction
Generative AI refers to a category of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that generate new outputs based on the data they have been trained on. Unlike traditional AI systems that are designed to recognize patterns and make predictions, generative AI creates new content in the form of images, text, audio, and more. Generative AI uses a type of deep learning called generative adversarial networks (GANs) to create new content. Generative AI has a wide range of applications including images, text, and audio
People have concerns that generative AI and automation will lead to job displacement and unemployment, as machines become capable of performing tasks that were previously done by humans. They worry that the increasing use of AI will lead to a shrinking job market, particularly in industries such as manufacturing, customer service, and data entry. Generative Ai has the potential to disrupt several industries including advertising, art and design, and entertainment.
Overall, while there are valid concerns about the impact of AI on the job market, there are also many potential benefits that could positively impact workers and the economy.
June 22-23, 2023: Positive Zero Transport Futures and Mobility Network will host the Emerging Mobility Scholars Conference at the University of Toronto. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows across Canadian institutions are invited to join in person at the University of Toronto to exchange ideas and showcase research relative to mobility and climate change. https://www.mobilitynetwork.ut...
Publisher and Editor: Dr. David Zakus Production: Emily Aurora Long and Julia Chalmers Social Media: Shalini Kainth, Mahdia Abidi and Ishneer Mankoo Website, Index and Advisory: Edward Milner, Carlos Jimenez, Eunice Anteh, Gaël Chetaille, Evans Oppong, Jonathan Zakus, Dr. Aimée-Angélique Bouka & Elisabeth Huang
Bloggers: Edward Milner, Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, Aisha Saleem and Dr. Jay Kravitz (RIP)