This latest IPCC report makes it clear, in plain and easy to understand language: we are not doing well, that we’re heading to pass the 1.5C atmospheric warming tipping point this decade, that it’s unequivocal we are already experiencing climate change (it’s not just something for the future), and that we humans are totally responsible for it, beginning some 200 years ago, but greatly accelerating the process in recent decades. And if drastic measures aren’t taken now/very soon, we’re not going to see a happy future. Again we are being warned by a group with the highest integrity. Imagine someone in upper primary school today (like my grandchildren) who, by 2030, will be entering an adult world made so precarious by our selfishness and wonton ignorance.
“We are all decision makers when it comes to the climate crisis. We decide what the next chapter holds by pushing governments and companies to act, and by getting off fossil fuels ourselves. If humankind is to survive on this planet, we must dramatically reconcile our relationships with the planet and each other, and we know it's totally possible; the choice is ours" (the executive director of the David Suzuki Foundation, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, in an email March 20, 2023).
As I’ve pleaded previously, where are our governments, where are our leaders? But then a sliver of hope appeared this week when catching up on commitments made by Canada’s prime minister and minister of environment and climate change at the COP15 Biodiversity Conference I attended last December in Montreal. Why they aren’t more publicized and explained is beyond me, taking much time just to understand and put them in perspective.
At the conference they, separately, committed to advance a wide-ranging domestic strategy and action plan, including upwards of a billions dollars of funding, particularly for Indigenous-Led Area-Based (ILAB) conservation programs, and to halt and reverse nature loss in Canada - actions hailed as great achievements, great leadership. There was also a promise to deliver a national strategy that commits the government to “raise the bar” to deliver on a great many issues that environmental communities have been promoting and waiting on. Perhaps inured to experiencing little but promises from these and other leaders, I welcome the announcements but remain, well, doubtful.
The environment minister pledged that the action plan will build on existing Canadian priorities but also include new tools and approaches to bend the curve on species loss in the next eight years. This includes further actions to protect a minimum of 30% of Canada’s land and ocean by 2030, a continued prioritization of Indigenous knowledge and conservation, commitments to redirect or eliminate subsidies that harm nature (which is so long overdue), and support for a new federal biodiversity accountability law to drive implementation of the ‘Halt and Reverse Biodiversity Loss’ goal. His speech laid out public commitments but without clear timelines, though it’s expected (hoped for) sometime this year.
We surely don’t want to keep drowning in pledges this coming summer, but for now, in Canada, that’s mostly all we’ve still got, whether it’s about biodiversity or climate. Pledges, including funding commitments, are not meaningless yet aren’t meaningful results. Let’s not lose our focus and get distracted by comforting words. Biodiversity loss and climate crisis goals must be taken together, and action with results must be realized, not forgetting Canada’s and most other governments’ binding commitments in the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce their carbon output "as soon as possible" and to do their best to keep global warming to 1.5C (2.7F) and well below 2C" (3.6 °F). I hope the commitments made just a few months ago don’t go the same way as their GHG commitments. As usual, any good news remains suspect and highly compromised.
Do read on in today’s Planetary Health Weekly (#12 of 2023) for more on the current state of our planet, the good and the bad. Happy Spring. Best, david
David Zakus, Editor and Publisher
NAVUTU DREAMS HOTEL
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
March 22, 2023
IN COMPLETE SOLIDARITY WITH UKRAINE SEEKING PEACE AND VICTORY
Portrait of V. Voino-Yasenetsky (1877-1961), famous surgeon and author of the book “Purulent Surgery”. His methods were broadly used for medical treatment during the war of 1941-1945. Often persecuted for religious convictions, he was also archbishop of the Crimea and Simferopol (Artist: Unknown) in: "The Way Artists See It" (1994) by A. Grando, founder and director of the Central Museum of Medicine of Ukraine in Kyiv; p. 140. ISBN
AND WITH THE BRAVE PROTESTERS IN IRAN (AND AFGHANISTAN)
We Need To Stop Letting Big Oil Fund Our Climate Research
Credit:University of Toronto students joining a Fridays for Future Toronto strike as a contingent in September 2022, demanding fossil-free research and full and transparent divestment. Photo courtesy of Angelina Zahajko
I walked to class in the Earth Sciences Building on a cold fall afternoon, a warm coffee cup pressed against my hands. As I entered the auditorium, my eyes glossed over a plaque next to the door before they found their mark. Inscribed on the wall of the building were the words Imperial Oil.
It is not a secret that Big Oil gives money to the University of Toronto. Little plaques engraved with the names of oil companies line lecture halls throughout the campus, small enough to overlook, but once you start seeing them, you can’t stop. Reminders — fossils — of those who built U of T.
On Nov. 24, 2022, university president Meric Gertler gave the opening remarks at the first U of T Climate Economy Summit and thanked its sponsors, including Imperial Oil and Enbridge. There was no shortage of polluters on the guest list, starting with a morning panel on funding the climate transition with representatives from Canada’s biggest funder of fossil fuels: RBC.
Big Oil Gets Failing Grade On Credible Net-Zero Promises
Canada's former environment minister Catherine McKenna weighs in on new analysis published by InfluenceMap that shows Canada's oil and gas sector's net-zero pledges are not aligned with the climate science. Credit: Alex Tétreault
The net-zero greenhouse gas emissions pledges touted by Canada’s oil and gas sector ring false as the industry continues its push to expand fossil fuel use and oppose climate policy, a new analysis states.
This “net-zero greenwashing” flies in the face of United Nations guidelines on what makes a credible net-zero pledge, according to new analysis by InfluenceMap, an independent think tank that maintains the world's leading database of corporate and industry association lobbying on climate policy.
InfluenceMap examined the climate-related policy messaging and engagement of Canada’s six largest oil and gas companies and the main industry group, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).
Floating Solar Panels On Reservoirs Could Power A Third Of The World, Study Finds
Credit: Elvin Batz, an installer at SPG Solar, checks the pontoon structure and panels of a floating solar array in an irrigation pond in Petaluma, Calif.Credit...Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
Solar panels installed on reservoirs could generate enough electricity to power a third of the world, according to a new study.
Floating photovoltaic systems, known as “floatovoltaics”, also have the added benefits of reducing evaporation by shading the water, as well as preserving land for other uses.
An international team of scientists calculated that 30 per cent coverage of global reservoirs could produce 9,434 terawatt hours (TWh) of power per year. This would meet more than twice the energy demand of the entire US annually.
Annual global energy consumption is estimated to be 22,800 TWh, meaning floatovoltaics on a third of reservoir surfaces could meet a third of global demand.
“Considering the proximity of most reservoirs to population centres and the potential to develop dedicated local power systems, we find that 6,256 communities and/or cities in 124 countries, including 154 metropolises, could be self-sufficient with local floating photovoltaic plants,” the scientists wrote in a new study.
The Future Of Food? Pioneers Hail Advances In Vertical Farming
Recent shortages of some fruit and vegetables have been attributed to crop failures in Europe and Africa brought about by extreme weather driven by climate change as well as the impact of Brexit, labour shortages, the ongoing war in Ukraine driving inflation and a sharp increase in energy prices that has left greenhouse growers struggling to turn a profit.
As the UK imports around 46% of the food it consumes and heavily relies on both imports and its agricultural sector to feed an ever-growing population, experts in Scotland believe vertical farming is a vital solution to concerns around global food security.
The method has been pioneered by the Edinburgh-based company Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) and scientists at the James Hutton Institute.
“If you balance imports and exports, the UK’s deficit in the trade of fruit and vegetables could be reduced annually by at least £1 billion by growing things internally with vertical farming,” said Derek Stewart who directs the Advanced Plant Growth Centre, a £27 million flagship project at the James Hutton Institute.
Nearly 200,000 People Hospitalized As Thailand Chokes On Air Pollution
Credit: Smog lingers over the city as heavy air pollution continues to affect Bangkok, Thailand (EPA)
Nearly 200,000 people have been hospitalised in Thailand this week due to hazardous air pollution, as the country is choking on a thick haze that has engulfed the capital city, Bangkok.
The severe pollution has been caused by a dangerous mix of industrial emissions, agricultural burning, and vehicle fumes.
The rising levels of air pollution in Thailand have put immense pressure on the country’s healthcare services. More than 1.3 million people have fallen sick since the start of the year as a result of air pollution, with nearly 200,000 admitted to hospital this week alone, AFP reported, quoting the public health ministry.
Bangkok, the capital city, is the worst affected with air quality continuing to worsen due to a combination of vehicular pollution, industrial emissions, and smoke from agricultural burning.
On Saturday, the popular tourist destination was ranked the third-most polluted city in the world by monitoring firm IQAir.
The Most Common Long COVID Symptom, According To Doctors
Credit: Harvard Health
There’s a lot the medical community is still sorting out about long COVID, so it’s understandable to have questions if you develop new symptoms without an obvious cause. Could you have long COVID or something else entirely?
It’s important to point out that the answer isn’t always obvious and that long COVID is a diagnosis of exclusion. Meaning, people are typically diagnosed with long COVID after other potential illnesses have been ruled out. But knowing the most common long COVID symptoms can at least give you a clue as to whether post-COVID conditions could be responsible for your currently health issue.
Well, a new study published in Nature Communicationsaims to shed at least some light on common long COVID symptoms. The study analyzed data from 154,068 people in the Veterans Health Administration system who had COVID-19 and compared it to about 5.6 million people with similar characteristics who did not have the virus. The researchers discovered that people who had COVID-19 were 36% more likely to develop long-term gastrointestinal issues they didn’t have before they got the virus. More than 9,600 of those patients who had COVID-19 developed issues with their digestion, intestines, pancreas, or liver.
Of those, the most common issues were gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and peptic ulcer disease, but some experienced GI symptoms like constipation, stomach pain, and diarrhea. “Our results show that people with SARS-CoV-2 infection are at increased risk of gastrointestinal disorders in the post-acute phase of COVID-19,” the researchers wrote. “Post-COVID care should involve attention to gastrointestinal health and disease.”
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.
***After nearly three years of separate reporting of COVID-19 news and updates, the Planetary Health Weekly will now stop its separate reporting and include pertinent COVID-19 stories in the Global Health section starting next week.
Three Covid-19 Figures below from Worldometer March 23, 2023
"It is the plague in seemingly all sincerity." Bob Woodward
It definitely seems to be waning, though number of persons infected with Covid-19 is still high, over 20 million.
Carlos on Food Security in Latin America
Environmental Sustainability of Latin American and the Caribbean Agrifood Systems
Level of water stress of all sectors by major basin, 2018
Mitigating climate change and the degradation of natural resources while increasing the production of safe and nutritious food to eradicate hunger and ensure food security for a rapidly growing population is the most important and urgent challenge facing humanity today.
While the use of conservation technologies can do a lot to improve the environmental sustainability of food systems, only some regions in the world have managed to increase productivity through the use of sustainable production systems. Latin America and the Caribbean is projected as one of the most sustainable regions for food production.
Human Rights In South Africa – Rhetoric vs Reality
Credit: Ibrahim Mayaki
The month of March marks several opportunities for reflections on the challenges relating to the realisation of social justice, human rights and equality at international and national levels, and how this deficit is widening exponentially in South Africa. There is International Women’s Day (8 March), and Human Rights Day in SA (21 March), commemorating the 63rd anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre, when police opened fire on a protest march against the (dom)pass laws, killing 69 people.
It is apposite to reflect on the deviation from the egalitarian human rights ideals as entrenched in the South African Constitution. Chapter 2 of the Constitution incorporates the Bill of Rights which is “a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom”.
The Constitution is opposed to any form of discrimination and religious prejudice: “The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth”.
The ‘David and Goliath’ Battle That Saved Swathes Of The Amazon
‘The future that we are fighting for belongs to all of us,’ says Alexandra Narváez, Ecuadorian Indigenous leader. Credit: Goldman environmental prize
Deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon, an Indigenous group has scored a major win against extraction companies and injustice
Indigenous leaders across the globe are winning gamechanging environmental victories against the odds. In our ‘guardians of the wild’ series, we hear from those who have defeated oil companies, cancelled mining contracts and won the right to stewardship of millions of acres of land, risking their lives to protect the wildest places on our planet.
The ancestral territory of Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narváez lies deep in the tropical rainforest of northern Ecuador, one of the most richly biodiverse places on Earth. The Cofán way of life consists of hunting, wild harvesting and subsistence farming, and depends on the 1,500sq miles of tropical forest, glacial lagoons, snow-capped mountains and rich wetlands that they call home.
“Our territory feeds us and nourishes us spiritually, it gives us everything we need to live,” says Alex Lucitante (main picture), who is from a family of traditional healers.
In 2017, the Cofán found heavy excavating machinery on their lands, and upon further investigation, discovered that the Ecuadorian government had issued 20 large-scale mining concessions [permits], with a further 32 pending, without informing or consulting the Cofán.
Federal Court Approves Plan To Distribute $2.8-Billion Residential Day School Settlement
Georgina Doucette is a respected Elder from the MI’kmaw community of Eskasoni, Nova Scotia, Canada. As a child, she attended the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School — student No. 35. Credit: Trina Roache
Canada’s Federal Court has approved a settlement agreement between the federal government and the 325 First Nations whose members filed a class-action lawsuit over the collective harms they survived at residential schools.
In January, the federal government settled a class-action lawsuit over the collective harms of residential schools out of court for $2.8 billion. Now, a Federal Court justice has approved the agreement along with a plan to distribute the money. In her decision, Justice Ann Marie McDonald called the settlement “historic.”
In the decision, the Federal Court ruled after two 30-day appeal periods, the Canadian government will have 30 additional days before it is expected to transfer funds to a non-profit trust led by First Nations.
The funding is expected to be used for the revival and protection of Indigenous Peoples’ language and culture, the protection and promotion of heritage and the wellness of Indigenous communities and their members. These guidelines, also called the settlement’s four pillars, were developed by the class action’s representative plaintiff.
Each of the bands in the class action is supposed to receive $200,000 to develop a proposal for further funding. Then, the trust is expected to pay bands a portion of the $325 million allocated as a “kick-start fund.” The trust is also expected to give each band involved a share of its available annual investment income.
Toyota Accused Of Trying To Keep Australia “Stuck In Petrol Powered Dark Ages”
Credit: The Driven
Toyota has been slammed for yet another attempt to stall Australia’s shift away from highly polluting vehicles after the government published submissions to its much-anticipated National Electric Vehicle Strategy on Friday.
The final design of the National Electric Vehicle Strategy will be critical not only to the trajectory of Australia’s transport emissions, but will also have a huge impact on the levels of pollution in Australian cities over the coming decade.
Key to this are the ambition of emission standards, the lack of which has been blamed for the crippling delay in deliveries of electric vehicles to Australia, and the lack of affordable EV options.
Toyota is attempting to water down vehicle emissions standards legislation, calling on the government to include loopholes such as “super credits” and “off-cycle credits” that can obscure manufacturers’ true emissions.
“Toyota has mostly negative engagement globally on policy mandating the full electrification of the automotive sector, instead promoting an extended role for ICE-powered vehicles, including hybrids.
“Toyota has also opposed numerous policies mandating the long-term phase-out of internal combustion engine (ICE)-powered vehicles and the introduction of zero-emission vehicle targets in multiple regions in 2021-22.”
In a statement, Ekō campaigner Nish Humphreys said “Australians don’t want to sacrifice our air quality and the safety of our climate so that Toyota can retain a market to keep dumping its outdated technology”
“We need ambitious, mandatory fuel efficiency standards to stop big carmarkers like Toyota from fuelling the climate crisis.” Humphreys said.
If Toyota wants to survive the electric vehicle revolution it should spend less time sabotaging good policies and more time developing EV volume production.
AI Chatbots Are Still Far From Replacing Human Therapists
Automated chatbots can be beneficial to people who may need immediate help, but they are not meant to replace traditional therapy. Credit: Shutterstock
Imagine being stuck in traffic while running late to an important meeting at work. You feel your face overheating as your thoughts start to race along: “they’re going to think I’m a horrible employee,” “my boss never liked me,” “I’m going to get fired.” You reach into your pocket and open an app and send a message. The app replies by prompting you to choose one of three predetermined answers. You select “Get help with a problem.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed six key principles for the ethical use of AI in health care. With their first and second principles — protecting autonomy and promoting human safety — the WHO emphasizes that AI should never be the sole provider of health care.
Institutions Participate In Inaugural SDG Week Canada Launched By CICan, SDSN Canada, UBC
Several institutions across Canada marked the inaugural SDG Week Canada with special events and resources to increase awareness of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The week is co-organized by Colleges and Institutes Canada, SDSN Canada, and the University of British Columbia’s Sustainability Hub. Institutions such as the British Columbia Institute of Technology, Dalhousie University, Lakehead University, and Queen’s University launched webpages outlining how they are contributing to the goals, announced events and workshops related to the topics, and shared their plans for advancing their progress toward SDGs during the upcoming year.
Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) Releases Updated Open-Access SDG Toolkit With New Case Studies
Colleges & Institutes Canada recently released an updated version of its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Toolkit. The toolkit is an open-educational resource that offers practical guidance on the SDGs and how to implement them in postsecondary contexts. The latest iteration also includes 11 new case studies from nine institutions: Canadore College, Collège Ahuntsic, Confederation College, Fanshawe College, Langara College, New Brunswick Community College, Nova Scotia Community College, Selkirk College, and Vancouver Island University. “We hope that others in postsecondary will use this resource to advance the SDGs on more campuses across the country, and that others beyond will be inspired to take their work even further,” said CICan President Denise Amyot.
by Relief Web sponsored by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Credit: Book Cover
In 2022, the Emergency Event Database EM-DAT recorded 387 natural hazards and disasters worldwide, resulting in the loss of 30,704 lives and affecting 185 million individuals. Economic losses totaled around US$ 223.8 billion. Heat waves caused over 16,000 excess deaths in Europe, while droughts affected 88.9 million people in Africa. Hurricane Ian single-handedly caused damage costing US $ 100 billion in the Americas. The human and economic impact of disasters was relatively higher in Africa, e.g., with 16.4 % of the share of deaths compared to 3.8 % in the previous two decades. It was relatively lower in Asia despite Asia experiencing some of the most destructive disasters in 2022.
The total of 387 catastrophic events in 2022 is slightly higher than the average from 2002 to 2021 (370). The occurrence of each type of disaster was also close to the average levels in the last two decades.
“The problem with climate is not supply, it’s demand. The world is awash in oil and other countries will supply the oil if we don’t. The question is, can we reduce demand through substitute technologies?"
Paul Bledsoe, a former climate aide in the Clinton administration who now works at the Progressive Policy Institute, a think tank.
Indonesia Unveils Construction Site Of New Capital City
Worker uses his equipment at the construction site of the new capital city in Penajam Paser Utara, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, Wednesday, March 8, 2023. Indonesia began construction of the new capital in mid 2022, after President Joko Widodo announced that Jakarta — the congested, polluted current capital that is prone to earthquakes and rapidly sinking into the Java Sea — would be retired from capital status. Credit: AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim
Officials promise a “sustainable forest city” that puts the environment at the heart of development and aims to be carbon-neutral by 2045. But the project has been plagued by criticism from environmentalists and Indigenous communities, who say it degrades the environment, further shrinks the habitat of endangered animals such as orangutans and displaces Indigenous people that rely on the land for their livelihoods.
Indonesia began construction of the new capital in mid 2022, after President Joko Widodo announced that Jakarta — the congested, polluted current capital that is prone to earthquakes and rapidly sinking into the Java Sea — would be retired from capital status.
Plans for the new capital — about twice the size of New York City — are grandeur. Officials tout the creation of a futuristic green city centered on forest, parks and food production that utilizes renewable energy resources, “smart” waste management and green buildings.
The world will continue to drown in plastic waste unless a bold and comprehensive set of policy changes are agreed by the UN. To bring about peak plastic consumption, these policies would need to be at the most ambitious end of the spectrum being debated by UN treaty negotiators, which include governments, the petrochemical and consumer goods industries, and environmental groups. This is according to research by Back to Blue, an initiative of Economist Impact and the Nippon Foundation, which models the impact of a selection of policies being considered by world leaders as they draft a legally binding treaty to stem plastic pollution.
We model the impact of: a phased ban on problematic, unnecessary single-use plastic products (SUPPs); a mandatory extended producer responsibility (EPR) regime imposed on brands and retailers that introduce packaging to the market; and a tax on the production of virgin resin designed to redistribute the cost of negative environmental externalities. Our model tests whether any of these, alone or together, can achieve peak plastic consumption before 2050. The analysis is focused on the 19 countries of the G20.
Combined, the policies slow plastic consumption growth, but will not be enough to bring about a peak in plastic consumption by 2050, illustrating the scale of the challenge that lies ahead.
If the negotiators fail to agree on any policy interventions, we project that plastic consumption in the studied G20 countries will nearly double by mid-century.
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: Julia Chalmers and Emily Aurora Long 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)