Last weekend I had a great discussion with a neighbour about the climate crisis. He being far from a skeptic expressed total dissatisfaction with current leadership and direction and concluded we’re fast tracking towards disaster. I sadly and without reservation had to agree. Where we did disagree, though, was about the prospect of hope for combatting the crisis, with he not having much.
Unlike our Indigenous brothers and sisters we really don’t think too much about the future, certainly not seven generations ahead as they do. Instead we tend to be mostly concerned with the present, with immediate satisfaction, and sometimes the short-term future, especially if a vacation is on the horizon. We mostly just make decisions for the present and short term at best. Isn’t it interesting that most climate crisis goals are all long-term, with 2030 the nearest among them.
Our horizon is so myopic. But later I thought, what if we too would always consider those coming after us, keeping in mind one or (better) two coming generations, in making decisions, not just pledges and promises ? Might that give us a push, an inspiration and the energy needed to try to make a positive difference now? I’m a big believer in incrementalism, including with dealing with the climate and biodiversity crises, though surely we could use some big changes. But this strategy of small steps only works if they lead to progress, each building on the previous, and if they are plenty. If everyone, and not just those directly affected, does this, being motivated by those yet to inherit the world, we might have a chance of getting to those goals. From what we discern today, we know there are already serious problems and they are getting worse. We each need to be motivated to constantly contribute, no matter the size of its immediate impact.
For how are we to reverse climate warming, and biodiversity loss? That there is barely a government on Earth that is actually decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, nor seems to have the will to do it, despite the cacophony of pledges, is appalling. What we really need now is change, little by little, and always forward from governments and all citizens.
Thinking of damage done and a horizon of truth and reconciliation was celebrated two days ago in Canada with National Indigenous Peoples Day. I checked out one of the celebrations at Yonge-Dundas Square in the heart of downtown Toronto and found inspiration (see ENDSHOTS). Now I'm challenged to sustain those good thoughts, that received energy, that motivation to make a difference, with simple changes in my life. Am I and you capable of giving up something today for long term survival and prosperity, for a decent life for generations to come? What will it take to further enable this, outside of an immediate disaster experience? If we can channel our frustrations, even despair, into a positive outlook, simple changes and political activism, we'll be doing well.
In today’s Planetary Health Weekly (#25 of the year) we pass onto you some of that received energy. Read on for:
CLIMATE AND BIODIVERSITY UPDATES:
Qatar World Cup’s carbon-neutrality claim “simply not credible” says report,
Archeology sensation: an ancient city re-emerges in Iraq reservoir,
Will more ‘mouths to hell’ open up because of climate change? We ask a permafrost expert,
California drought will increase CO2 cost of the electricity EVs plug into,
Canadian satellite detects huge burst of methane from Russian coal mine & One site, 95 tons of methane an hour,
EU hypocrisy as a ‘climate champion’ exposed at Bonn Climate Conference & Climate change: Bonn talks end in acrimony over compensation,
Austria to ban gas boilers from 2023,
Dismantle Nord Stream 2 pipeline to head of ecological damage EU groups urge,
Saudi Arabia buys into Canadian tar sands/Oil sands as Norwegian wealth fund declares blacklist,
The Covid capitulation – as the virus accelerates its evolution, humans retrogress,
How often can I be infected with the Coronavirus? New versions of Omicron are masters of immune evasion,
Covid burnout and low pay: the global crisis in nursing,
Learn more about Coronavirus from WHO, THEN
The secret world beneath our feet is mind-blowing – and the key to our planet’s future,
EPA opens civil rights investigation into Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley,’
Middle-class Afghans facing starvation as aid runs out,
Russia's invasion of Ukraine sets off Latin American fertilizer race,
New generation of cancer-preventing vaccines could wipe out tumours before they form,
UK’s largest sandbank is given protection from bottom trawling,
Passport and visa privileges in Global Health,
Mapping vulnerability: why the IPCC’s geography of climate risk is contentious,
New 'National Indigenous Economic Strategy' is first of its kind developed and designed exclusively by Indigenous Peoples,
Urgent quote on the climate crisis by UN Chief,
Eco-Business Impact unveils new sustainability media academy for Asian journalists,
Thresholds of temperature change for mass extinctions,
How to garden with native plants for birds, bees and the climate,
Air Quality Health Index – what’s the air like today in Canada? & Air Quality Health Index explained,
New book: “How to Garden the Low Carbon Way: The Steps You Can Take to Help Combat Climate Change” by Sally Nex,
Momentum for climate education continues to build, and lastly
ENDSHOTS of Toronto celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Do keep reading and be inspired to take small steps. Best, david
David Zakus, Editor and Publisher
National Indigenous Peoples Day, Downtown Toronto, 21 June 2022
SEEKING TRUTH, PEACE, SOLIDATIRY AND VICTORY FOR UKRAINE
Claims that the tournament will be the "first carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup in history" are "far-fetched" and rely on "creative accounting", according to a report released by non-profit advocacy group Carbon Market Watch.
The report found that emissions from the World Cup's new venues, including Zaha Hadid's Al Wakrah Stadium and the Lusail Stadium by Foster + Partners, are up to eight times higher than outlined in the event's own carbon calculations, making them the biggest contributor to the World Cup's overall footprint.
In addition, the offsetting schemes that are being used to compensate for these emissions have a "low level of environmental integrity", the report found.
"The carbon neutrality claim that is being made is simply not credible," said the report's author, policy analyst Gilles Dufrasne. "The evidence suggests that the emissions from this World Cup will be considerably higher than expected by the organisers, and the carbon credits being purchased to offset these emissions are unlikely to have a sufficiently positive impact on the climate." Read more at Dezeen
Globally, nationally and locally, the pandemic continues in many countries. Over the last week, and we seem to now be in a slowly improving pattern with cases slightly down to around 380,000/day and deaths to about 1300/day; and vaccinations up substantially to about 8 million/day (from 3m last week). But, the pandemic is still with us, despite the widespread relaxation of public health mandates, and the new variants (BA2.12.1 & 4/5) are great cause of concern. It's important to remember that last summer all looked great until Omicron arrived.
Vaccination remains the best way to keep safe from serious consequences, including long Covid, in yourself and others. Ensure to get all the shots/boosters you can.
See below for a few global stats and current hotspots.
The United States is now in the midst of a new wave related to Omicron variants BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 with over 90,000 confirmed new cases a day and a 20% increase in hospitalizations in the past 2 weeks. That belies the real toll of the current wave, since most people with symptoms are testing at home or not testing at all; there is essentially no testing for asymptomatic cases. The real number of cases is likely at least 500,000 per day, far greater than any of the US prior waves except Omicron. The bunk that cases are not important is preposterous. They are infections that beget more cases, they beget Long Covid, they beget sickness, hospitalizations and deaths. They are also the underpinning of new variants.
Meanwhile, the CDC propagates delusional thinking that community levels are very low (as my friend Peter Hotez called the “field of greens”) while the real and important data convey that transmission is very high throughout most of the country. Not only does this further beget cases by instilling false confidence, but it is conveniently feeding the myth that the pandemic is over—precisely what everyone wants to believe. Read more at Ground Truths
Beneath our feet is an ecosystem so astonishing that it tests the limits of our imagination. It’s as diverse as a rainforest or a coral reef. We depend on it for 99% of our food, yet we scarcely know it. Soil.
Under one square metre of undisturbed ground in the Earth’s mid-latitudes (which include the UK) there might live several hundred thousand small animals. Roughly 90% of the species to which they belong have yet to be named. One gram of this soil – less than a teaspoonful – contains around a kilometre of fungal filaments. Read more at The Guardian
The EPA probe has raised the hopes of residents in St. John the Baptist Parish who have long questioned a high incidence of cancer among those living near a 53-year-old neoprene plant.
Robert Taylor knows so many people in his Louisiana hometown who have been diagnosed with cancer that it’s easier for him to name those who don’t have the disease.
The 81-year-old Black man lives in St. John the Baptist Parish, a community nestled along a series of bends in the Mississippi River that advocates call “Cancer Alley.” When Taylor and his neighbours discovered they lived near the country’s only neoprene plant and that they have one of the highest cancer risks according to an EPA assessment, they were not completely surprised.
“Our risk for cancer is fifteen-hundred” per million people, said Taylor, who is the executive director of the Concerned Citizens of St. John, a non-profit group that works to fight pollution in the community. Read more at Inside Climate News
A severely malnourished child lies on a bed at the Indira Ghandi Children's Hospital in Kabul. CREDIT: Simon Townsley
Long before the gates open, the queue for food already snakes around the block. Under the watchful gaze of patrolling Taliban guards, hundreds of people in a neighbourhood in Kabul line up to collect their month’s worth of meagre rations.
The economic collapse and hunger which followed the Taliban’s takeover last summer has not spared this once prosperous, middle-class corner of the Afghan capital.
“She would die if we did not have this aid,” said a woman in the queue called Simin, pointing to her daughter Reyhana. Her husband is jobless and the couple must somehow feed six children.
Aid distributions like this have become a critical lifeline in a country where nearly 20 million are short of food. Each family gets a 50kg (110lb) sack of flour, cooking oil, beans and salt.
Yet officials warn they will soon have to cut back programmes as funding gaps bite and they have to lay in stocks for another looming winter crisis. Soaring food prices, a focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and international hesitancy to offer anything that may benefit the Taliban are all undercutting aid efforts. Read more at Telegraph
Portuguesa is an agricultural region known as Venezuela's 'granary.' Credit: Yuri CORTEZ AFP
The first rainy season downpour in Venezuela's western region of Portuguesa has fallen and now it's time to plant corn, a staple in this South American country known for its traditional arepas. But just like much of Latin America, the race is on to find enough fertilizer for the crops.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine 10,000 kilometers away has limited the supply of the key agricultural supplement throughout the region. Some 80% of the 180,000 metric tons of fertilizers used annually in Venezuela are imported, mostly from Russia but also from Ukraine and Belarus, according to the Fedeagro union of agricultural producers.
Western sanctions against Russia and Belarus, as well as Ukraine's difficulties in exporting while under siege, has left the whole of Latin America scrambling to find replacements. Russia is the world's largest exporter of fertilizers with more than 12 percent of the global market, but its sales have been virtually paralyzed by sanctions.
The fertilizer shortfall is a massive obstacle. One hectare of corn crops can produce 10 tons of harvest, but that figure can fall to as low as three or four tons if the conditions are not right.
The whole of Latin America faces the same issue, particularly its two agricultural giants. Last year, Brazil imported almost 81 percent of the 40.5 million tons of fertilizer it used, and 20 percent of that came from Russia, according to the government. Argentina imported 60 percent of its 6.6 million tons, of which 15 percent came from Russia.
Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru are also, to a greater or lesser extent, dependent on Russian fertilizers. Read more at France 24
When Dave Dubin learned at age 29 that he had colon cancer, it wasnt a big surprise. His grandfather and father had both survived the disease. “It was almost the Dubin way, and we just went on,” Dubin says. He had surgery and chemotherapy, but his cancer came back 10 years later. Genetic testing finally found an explanation for his family’s trials: a mutation in a DNA repair gene that lets genetic errors pile up in dividing cells. The disease, Lynch syndrome, comes with up to a 70% lifetime risk of cancer.
Dubin, 55, gets annual colonoscopies, endoscopies, and imaging scans, which caught a third cancer, in his kidney. His eldest son, Zach Dubin, 26, inherited the DNA repair mutation and also regularly gets checked for cancer. “It’s no fun. Nobody enjoys it,” Dave Dubin says—not the 2-day colonoscopy prep and procedure, nor the worrying about possible tumors. The disease also turned him into an activist. He and his family in Haworth, New Jersey, launched a nonprofit, AliveAndKickn, to promote research and awareness of Lynch syndrome, which affects an estimated 1.1 million people in the United States.
Researchers are trying out several vaccine strategies. Some use so-called tumor antigens, molecular markers that are scarce on healthy cells but plentiful on cancer cells. The Lynch vaccine instead targets “neoantigens,” a potent type of antigen only found on tumor cells. Some deploy just a single antigen whereas others use a large number, in a bid to broadly shield against cancer. The best approach is unclear, and developers also face the difficult challenge of measuring success without waiting decades for healthy people to develop cancers.
Early trials are yielding glimmers of promise. If the idea works to prevent one or a few cancers, it could be extended to meet an ambitious goal suggested by President Joe Biden: developing a vaccine that could prevent many types of cancer, modeled on the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines that have helped fight the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are a long way from a general vaccine” to prevent cancer, says medical oncologist Shizuko Sei of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Prevention. “But it could be in the distant future. It’s a stepwise approach.” Read more at Science
A megrim fish on rippled sand at Dogger Bank in the North Sea. Data showed bottom trawling had tripled in occurrence since Brexit. Credit: JNCC/PA
The UK’s largest sandbank has been protected from bottom trawling, an environmentally destructive fishing technique. Activists have been calling on the government for years to stop bottom trawling at Dogger Bank, an important site off the east coast of England for species including sand eels, hermit crabs, flatfish and starfish.
Recent data showed the fishing method, involving weighted nets being dragged across the seabed, had tripled in occurrence in the marine protected area (MPA) since Brexit.
This is despite the area being labelled an MPA. Bottom trawling happens in many of these environmentally significant areas, leading campaigners and experts to refer to them as nothing but “paper parks”. Not only does it disturb species living on the seabed, it is also a significant source of carbon release, as the seabed normally acts as a valuable sink to absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but turns into a carbon source when disturbed. Read more at the Guardian
Years ago, in the 1990s, a young Indian community physician was thrilled to get a fully funded opportunity to attend a summer program in epidemiology at a leading American school of public health. He waited for hours outside the US Consulate for his visa interview. His ‘interview’ lasted seconds. His application was denied, with virtually no questions asked or documents examined. Well, that was my story. While I now have the privilege of living and working in Canada, I still remember that traumatic, demoralizing experience. I know that my experience was neither unique nor exceptional. It is, in fact, the norm in global health.
The field of global health is extraordinarily unequal, with privileged people and institutions in the global North dominating all aspects of global health. In fact, a majority of global health agencies are headquartered in US, UK and Europe, and most global health conferences are held in these countries. One form of privilege, the passports and visas people in high-income countries (HICs) carry, further worsens inequities in global health. And the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened inequities in global travel, making the playing field treacherously uneven.
Right now, triple-vaccinated people in the global North have declared the pandemic over, and are rushing to travel everywhere with an ‘urgency of normal,’ and organizing more and more in-person meetings and courses. While they can travel at short notice and not worry about visas for entering a large number of countries, the reality is vastly different for people in the global South. To begin with, the vaccine apartheid has left nearly 2.8 billion people, mostly people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), waiting for their first vaccine dose. Travel is more expensive now, visas are costly, often hard to get (or take forever), and vaccine proof and/or testing requirements are adding untold complexities and costs. Read more at Forbes
A map on observed human vulnerability from the draft summary for policymakers of the IPCC sixth assessment report Working Group II, which did not make it into the final version. A similar map was published in the full report. Credit: IPCC
For the first time, a major scientific body has identified the number people who live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change: 3.3 to 3.6 billion people – nearly half the world’s population.
The figure in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate impacts and adaptation paints a stark picture of the threat facing humanity. It also ventures into sensitive territory. A map showing how scientists arrived at that number was deemed too misleading and problematic by many national representatives to include in the summary for policymakers. A version of it remains in the underlying report.
It painted much of the African continent red, for “very high” vulnerability, while Caribbean islands threatened by intense hurricanes and sea level rise – but with more money and infrastructure to cope – were depicted as less vulnerable. Australia, where 20 people died recently in extreme flooding, is ranked as one of the safest places to live.
This depiction matters both as a matter of pride – no country wants to be seen as a basket case – and access to resources. Under the UN climate convention, wealthy countries have agreed to provide financing to developing countries, “especially those that are particularly vulnerable”. But there is no agreed method for measuring vulnerability.
While IPCC reports do not prescribe policy, they may influence decisions on which countries merit special treatment. Read more at Climate Change News
SPOTLIGHT ON INDIGENOUS WELLNESS
New National Indigenous Economic Strategy Is First Of Its Kind Developed And Designed Exclusively By Indigenous Peoples
Credit: Strategy cover
A coalition made up of more than 25 Indigenous organizations from across Canada have come together to develop a National Indigenous Economic Strategy. The strategy is the first of its kind to be designed exclusively by Indigenous leaders, institutions and organizations.
According to research which helped create the plan, closing gaps in opportunities for Indigenous communities could boost Canada’s GDP by more than $30 billion. Closing the gaps in economic opportunity could also result in 135,000 more Indigenous people finding employment, totalling $6.9 billion in annual employment income.
Split into four strategic pathways: People, Lands, Infrastructure and Finance, the Strategy includes 107 Calls to Economic Prosperity. Those range from increasing financial literacy, training and networking, to settling land jurisdiction issues and improving Indigenous stewardship, to revenue sharing and capacity building. Read more at CFNR Network
Quote Of The Week:
“The climate crisis is the number one emergency.
Renewables not only fight the climate crisis, they support energy security.
Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century.”
Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations (in a tweet on June 18, 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".
FYI#1 SPOTLIGHT ON MEDIA
EcoBusiness Impact Unveils New Sustainability Media Academy For Asian Journalists
Journalists from across Asia attending a media fellowship on climate change and sustainable development reporting, organised in 2019 by Eco-Business. Credit: Eco-Business
With blistering heatwaves and catastrophic typhoons becoming more frequent than ever in Asia, there is growing demand for information about climate change from the world’s most natural disaster-prone region.
According to a survey about climate change communication conducted by social technology company Meta in partnership with Yale University in 2021, a majority of respondents from the region want to gain more knowledge about the devastating effects of global warming.
To help people better understand such complex issues, EB Impact, the sister non-profit organization of Asia Pacific-based sustainability media organization Eco-Business, in partnership with Meta, has launched a new platform, the Sustainability Media Academy.
Climate change is a critical factor affecting biodiversity. However, the quantitative relationship between temperature change and extinction is unclear. Here, we analyze magnitudes and rates of temperature change and extinction rates of marine fossils through the past 450 million years (Myr).
The results show that both the rate and magnitude of temperature change are significantly positively correlated with the extinction rate of marine animals. Major mass extinctions in the Phanerozoic can be linked to thresholds in climate change (warming or cooling) that equate to magnitudes >5.2 °C and rates >10 °C/Myr. The significant relationship between temperature change and extinction still exists when we exclude the five largest mass extinctions of the Phanerozoic.
Our findings predict that a temperature increase of 5.2 °C above the pre-industrial level at present rates of increase would likely result in mass extinction comparable to that of the major Phanerozoic events, even without other, non-climatic anthropogenic impacts.
How To Garden With Native Plants For Birds, Bees And The Climate
A monarch butterfly on milkweed. Credit: Brett Tryon
Gardening with native plants is a great way to support birds—and birds need all the help they can get. Thanks to habitat loss,
predation from cats,
window collisions, and other threats, bird populations have declined by 29% since 1970. Victims include
common backyard birdslike dark-eyed juncos and white-throated sparrows—the very types of birds that will flock to a native plant garden. Pollinators are the hummingbirds and insects—bees, butterflies, wasps, flies, and beetles—that transfer pollen from flower to flower, fertilizing plants in the process. Pollination is essential to fruit and seed production:
80% of flowering plantsdepend on pollinators to reproduce. Native plants have evolved for a millennia with native insects, so they don’t require pesticides (which would run counter to the goal of supporting pollinators, anyway). And because they are suited to the local climate and soil conditions, they take little maintenance. You’ll want to water them in the first season, but after they are established, native plants don’t need to be irrigated. Why waste precious water if you don’t need to? Because native plants are hardier, they can better withstand extreme weather like droughts or flooding. And their deep roots create healthy soil, prevent erosion, filter and slow stormwater runoff, and capture carbon. All of these features make native plants critical to climate change adaptation.
"How To Garden The Low Carbon Way: The Steps You Can Take to Help Combat Climate Change" by Sally Nex
Credit: Book Cover
Create a beautiful home garden while reducing your carbon footprint along the way. Transform your outdoor space into a low-impact, carbon-absorbing sink with this fantastic gardening guide, packed with ideas to grow a climate-friendly garden that will help protect the planet.
Keen on starting your own garden but unsure about your environmental impact? This guide will give you practical advice on which soil to use, plants that are best for absorbing carbon dioxide, low-carbon fertilizers, and cutting out single-use plastic. What’s more, this garden book is completely backed by scientific research! Share in the delight of eco-conscious gardening when you start using How to Garden the Low Carbon Way as your guide.
Explore the benefits of no-dig gardening, how to use fewer plants, using hedges instead of fences, how to grow shrubs that support wildlife, and more. This green gardening book will make growing your own garden easy, enjoyable and eco-friendly, and includes sections on: • How to grow plants that reduce your carbon footprint • Creating a garden that considers the local wildlife • Tips on setting up your garden, low-impact plants, and best fertilizers to use Green Gardening: Low environmental impact
This book is a simple, step-by-step guide to learn about gardening or to reference as your garden grows. You’ll quickly become acquainted with the benefits of growing a garden that positively contributes to the environment. Plus, you'll have all the fun and rewards a gardening hobby has to offer.
With the world experiencing more frequent and more extreme weather events, climate change education is more important than ever before – a fact increasingly recognized by governments and many stakeholders working in the field of education.
Education can encourage people to change their attitudes and behaviour. It teaches them about the impacts of climate change and how to adapt to it. Education means the voting public can evaluate the soundness of government climate policy decisions; media outlets are empowered to provide reliable, science- and fact-based information on climate change; and consumers of that information can readily distinguish facts from falsehoods.
In addition, education means addressing inequalities, particularly for women and girls who are often disproportionally affected by the climate crisis.
The International Day of Education is an opportunity to take a deeper look at why climate change education is so critical and how UN Climate Change is increasingly working with governments and other key stakeholders to realize everyone’s fundamental right to education, including the implementation of, and universal access to, gender-responsive climate education.
"I’m 63 years old now. If I get 20 more years, I’m going to work everyday to make this a better world for all of us."
"This country’s greatest sin is trying to wipe out all the Indians."
"Let’s create a world where we don’t need reconciliation. Let’s create a world where we don’t have to say we’re sorry to our grandchildren. Let’s lead with love."
"At 54 I found out I’d been adopted, growing up with two loving parents. Then, soon afterward, I found out from my ‘cousin’, with whom I was close and our family's matriarch, that she was my mother. Ever since, and I’m now 63, I’ve worked everyday to make this world a better place for me and you." Tom Rice, Mohawk Musician
Publisher and Editor: Dr. David Zakus Production: Aisha Saleem & 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