It’s again David vs Goliath. Ukraine vs. Russia. Global health vs. a pandemic and many other ‘plagues’ causing disease, social disruption and suffering around the world. It's Paul Farmer (RIP) vs. great challenges in Haiti. Environment(alists) vs. big oil, forest destroyers, illegal fishers, and irresponsible and cruel mining companies, Indigenous vs. colonizers, Truth/fact and science vs. lies and ignorance. Ocean vs. warming, acidification and plastic. Being a David myself, and swinging my slingshot against great odds for over 40 years, I know we must and will win. Why? Because we have experience, knowledge, science, the Earth and all future generations on our side. But it isn't be easy nor quick, neither in Ukraine nor in the forests, lands, water or air, nor in the primary care clinics and hospitals everywhere. We cannot let such forces of destruction, greed, war, bullies and evil prevail. And now it's even the Environment against Russia, as its aggression and hate consumes the airwaves, readily overtaking news of the just released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC, the world’s authoritative scientific voice on the climate crisis). But this report makes it clear: "Any further delay (in global action ) will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all." This is a message that can't be set aside.
I’ve also been motivated by the outright heroism of the Ukrainian people and their leadership. Their president is incredible and his press conference today had me wiping my eyes. Taking a cue from him and his people, we in planetary health can emulate their vision of victory against all the Goliaths. We must get done with the Putin madness and that of other autocrats who only care for themselves and those close to them. The suffering surely needs to end, but the prognosis is not good. Australia is being hit hard again with exceptional flooding. East Africa is in a devastating drought. Famine is looming in Yemen. The western areas of northern America just had another incredible atmospheric river. It seems like I've pushed the repeat button. The climate crisis is not going away, Despots will die but these disasters won’t. They are only getting more frequent and intense, just as the IPPC report details.
We have to smarten up, take cues from the brave, stand up for our principles, counter the mis-information, accept change in our lives and get everyone on board. The slingshot is loaded. Let's take aim.
In today’s Planetary Health Weekly (#9 of 2022) you'll read about many targets:
CLIMATE CRISIS UPDATES:
New IPCC Report: Addressing Climate Change Is Now About Damage Control
U.S. and China stop bickering and announce surprise climate agreement deal,
Welp, scientists say Antarctic sea ice is at a record low,
‘We need help’: another cyclone batters Madagascar,
FEMA administrator says powerful storms ‘new normal’ in era of climate change,
The future of global coal production (2021-2024F),
COVAX vaccine supply outpaces demand for 1st time but other hurdles remain,
Estimating the impact of Covid-19 vaccines allocation inequalities,
Omicron BA.2 variant is spreading in U.S. and may soon pick up speed,
Lost, distorted senses on rise in wake of Covid – ‘Nothing tastes as good as it used to,’
Prevalence and durability of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among unvaccinated U.S. adults by history of Covid-19,
Sowing distrust: when physicians spread unscientific information about Covid-19,
Study shows young, healthy adults died from Covid-19 due to ECMO (blood oxygenation) shortage,
Protection against the Omicron variant from previous SARS-CoV-2 infection,
WHO announces second hub in South Korea to help lower income countries produce Covid vaccines,
Teachers flee classrooms in droves to avoid Covid,
A convoy revved by foreign actors spreading lies,
Ottawa protests: conspiracies and accusations of betrayal as police end blockade,
Our new Canadian disgrace: harassing TV journalists,
I fled my country Chile to find freedom in Canada – let’s not lose sight of what freedom really means, THEN
In new setback for eradication campaign, poliovirus from Pakistan shows up in Africa,
Unprecedented oil spill catches researcher in Peru off guard,
Poison in the air mapped across the U.S.,
The secret killer in your food (trans fats),
Just 14 cases – Guinea worm disease nears eradication,
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome pledge US$300 million to CEPI for Covid-19 pandemic response and to accelerate epidemic preparedness,
‘Degrowth’ doesn’t just mean the economy – it’s also the culture,
Is Putin’s Ukraine invasion about fossil fuels?
In medieval Europe a Pandemic changed work forever – can it happen again?
Canadian government announced $40 billion Indigenous child welfare settlement, largest in history,
Quote… , EJAtlas – global atlas of environmental justice,
Understanding oceans: why UNESCO wants to map 80% of the world’s seabed,
The Commitment To Development Index 2021,
A year after Trump purge, ‘alt-tech’ offers far right purge,
United States: anti-human rights events of 2020,
Strike your wife gently if they ignore advice says Malaysian minister,
New book: “Not One, Not Even One: A Memoir of Life-altering Experiences in Sierra Leone, West Africa” by Nancy Edwards,
International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022: history, theme and significance of this day, and finally
ENDSHOTS from Puerto Vallarta, México to calm the soul.
Please do keep reading. Best, david
David Zakus, Editor and Publisher
LEMURS JUST SOUTH OF PUERTO VALLARTA, JALISCO, MÉXICO
Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, Chile. Credit: Kike Calvo/ZUMA
Scientists have long warned that time is of the essence to stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Now, in a new international report released on Monday, they argue the clock is also ticking on efforts to adapt to the devastating consequences of climate change. Rising seas, scorching wildfires, and devastating droughts already jeopardize billions of people worldwide—these, and other climate impacts, are expected to get much worse over the coming decades.
“Any further delay” in global action, the report says, “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
The new report is the second of three parts of the latest global assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, a body of leading climate experts from around the world. The first report, which the United Nations secretary-general called a “code red for humanity,” was released last summer and addressed the physical science of climate change, warning that global warming was “widespread, rapid, and intensifying.” This week’s report highlights climate impacts and ways to adapt to them, and the third, slated for publication in April, will focus on ways to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
If the first report in the series conjured up a harrowing vision of a world on the brink of climate catastrophe, this week’s analysis brings that world into sharper detail. Region by region, the document describes “widespread, pervasive impacts” to ecosystems, people, settlements, and infrastructure. Read more at Mother Jones
The world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters have agreed on a framework to fight climate change.
Spokesmen for the US and China made the surprise announcement at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) last November. The two countries reached an agreement that included setting more ambitious emissions-cutting goals, cutting down on deforestation, and developing stronger initiatives to crack down on methane throughout the 2020s.
With the new framework, both sides hope to stay within the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit on global warming — an ambitious goal originally set during the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.
“Climate change is becoming an increasingly urgent challenge,” Xie Zhenhua, spokesman for China’s delegation, said to the press at the conference. “We hope this join declaration will help achieve success at COP26.” Read more at Futurism
Globally, nationally and locally, the pandemic continues to inflict serious damage with Omicron still spreading widely, but there are now declines. The situation is improving in Canada and elsewhere, but cases continue to spike in some countries, with Hong Kong having a terrible go of it. But it's not near being over, despite the widespread relaxation of restrictions with poor statistical backup.
Over the last week there were about 11 million new cases (down ~10% though testing is now sorely insufficient) and 55,000 deaths (down about 20%). About 107 million people received a vaccine, down ~20%, while COVAX distribution is catching up with demand; access now being the issue, especially for those in Africa.
"It is the plague in seemingly all sincerity." Bob Woodward
The global project to share COVID-19 vaccines is struggling to place more than 300 million doses in the latest sign the problem with vaccinating the world is now more about demand than supply.
Last year, wealthy nations snapped up most of the available shots to inoculate their own citizens first, meaning less than a third of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated so far compared with more than 70% in richer nations.
As supply and donations have ramped up, however, poorer nations are facing hurdles such as gaps in cold-chain stortage, vaccine hesitancy and a lack of money to support distribution networks.
In January, COVAX, the global vaccine program run by Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), had 436 million vaccines to allocate to countries, according to a document published in mid-February. Read more at Global News
A wild poliovirus has made a leap from Pakistan to the African continent, where it has paralyzed a 3-year-old girl in Malawi—the first wild polio case in the country since 1992.
The case, announced on 17 February by the Malawi government, is the latest setback for the global campaign to end polio once and for all. But the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) hopes it can limit the damage by stopping the outbreak quickly.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last two countries that are endemic for the wild virus, which means circulation there has never stopped. Occasionally, the virus spills over from these entrenched reservoirs. The last “exportation” from the region was in 2013, when a virus from Pakistan sparked an outbreak in Syria.
Africa is battling big outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio, which occur in areas of low immunization when the live but attenuated virus in the oral polio vaccine reverts and regains its ability to paralyze and spread. But the last known case of wild polio on the continent occurred in 2016 in Borno state in Nigeria, and Africa was officially certified free of wild poliovirus in August 2020.
Because polio spreads quickly and “silently”—just about one in 200 infected children becomes paralyzed—even a single detection of the virus is considered an outbreak. But GPEI has a history of quashing these imported outbreaks quickly with rapid vaccination campaigns; the goal is to stop them within 6 months, before the virus becomes entrenched. Read more at Science
A viscous, black wave rolled onto the beach of the seaside town of Ancón, near Lima, Peru, just as Deyvis Huamán and his team arrived to assess the situation. Two days earlier, on 15 January, thousands of barrels of crude oil spilled from a refinery to the south of there. Heavy swells had slammed the coastline after the violent eruption of a volcano near Tonga, more than 10,300 kilometres away.
“We were astonished,” says Huamán, a conservation biologist with Peru’s National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State (SERNANP) in Lima. The oil coated everything — rocks, seaweed, crabs — setting a scene unlike anything Huamán had experienced before. Although Peru is no stranger to oil spills, which have mostly occurred off its northern coast and in its Amazon jungle, this is the most damaging to pollute its marine waters, and the largest to take place near its heavily populated capital, Lima. Read more at Nature
(Left) Brittany Madison gives her 3-year-old niece, K’ryah, an asthma treatment, which K’ryah takes twice a day. (Right) The ExxonMobil Baytown complex is seen from Oklahoma Street in Baytown. Credit: Article
The EPA allows polluters to turn neighborhoods into “sacrifice zones” where residents breathe carcinogens. ProPublica reveals where these places are in a first-of-its-kind map and data analysis.
From the urban sprawl of Houston to the riverways of Virginia, air pollution from industrial plants is elevating the cancer risk of an estimated quarter of a million Americans to a level the federal government considers unacceptable.
Some of these hot spots of toxic air are infamous. An 85-mile stretch of the Mississippi River in Louisiana that’s thronged with oil refineries and chemical plants has earned the nickname Cancer Alley. Many other such areas remain unknown, even to residents breathing in the contaminated air.
Until now and they have all been mapped for a better understanding. Read more at ProPublica
You might never have heard of it. You may not even know it’s there. But if by you buy certain foods from a supermarket – even foods that seem completely harmless, brands that are regularly eaten by children – you will, without realising, have swallowed it.
By now, it’s in your arteries, it’s on your hips – and despite the fact that it is a banned food substance in some countries in the world, the majority of people in this country are still blinkered to its dangers.
Its name is trans fat and it is the dangerous doyenne of the convenience food world. Read more at Love Food
Children in Sudan collect water using filters to remove guinea worm larvae.Credit: Maggie Fick/AP/Shutterstock
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the world, another disease could be on its way out. Only 14 cases of infection with Guinea worm — a parasite that causes painful skin lesions — were reported in humans in 2021.
This is the lowest tally ever for an infection that, as recently as the 1980s, was found in more than 20 countries and infected 3.5 million people a year (see ‘On the way out’) — however, a remaining reservoir for the parasite in animals means eradication could be a while off, if indeed it is possible, say some scientists.
“It’s pretty amazing,” says Adam Weiss, director of the Guinea Worm Eradication Program of the Carter Center, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The centre announced the numbers in late January. “Fourteen people on a planet of almost eight billion. It’s mind-bending to think about.”
The reduction — nearly a 50% drop compared with the 27 cases reported in 2020 — is the result of a near 40-year effort by international organizations and national governments to rid the world of Guinea worm. If it succeeds, the condition will join smallpox and rinderpest (a virus that mainly infected cattle and buffalo) as the only diseases to have been purposefully eradicated in human history.
The International Task Force for Disease Eradication currently has eight diseases identified as potentially eradicable. In addition to Guinea worm, these are poliomyelitis, mumps, rubella, lymphatic filariasis, cysticercosis, measles, and yaws. Read more at Nature
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome have each pledged US$150 million for a total of US$300 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global partnership launched five years ago this week by the governments of Norway and India, the Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and the World Economic Forum. The pledges come ahead of a global replenishment conference in March to support CEPI’s visionary five-year plan to better prepare for, prevent and equitably respond to future epidemics and pandemics.
“As the world responds to the challenge of a rapidly evolving virus, the need to deliver new, lifesaving tools has never been more urgent,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation. “Our work over the past 20 years has taught us that early investment in research and development can save lives and prevent worst-case scenarios. Five years ago, following the Ebola and Zika epidemics, our foundation helped launch CEPI. Today, we’re increasing our commitment and pledging an additional $150 million to help CEPI accelerate the development of safe and effective vaccines against emerging variants of the coronavirus and to prepare for, and possibly even prevent, the next pandemic.” Read more at Gates Foundation
Demonstrators take part in the march for a Clean Energy Revolution on July 24, 2016 in Philadelphia. Photo by Becker1999 / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The global conversation about climate change has revolved largely around a single, misguided idea: that we can replace carbon-intensive technologies with cleaner ones and reach the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions without fundamentally altering our economy. In other words, that we can achieve, and indefinitely maintain, green growth.
But a competing narrative argues that infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible and that even supposedly green technologies will perpetuate the extraction of natural resources and the destruction of the natural environment. Even if these technologies help us mitigate climate change to an extent, they might backfire, for example, by disrupting biodiversity. In this narrative, the underlying problem lies not in the so-called cleanliness of our technologies but in our compulsion to keep growing our economies. Read more at National Observer
Credit: 2017 John Martin Rare Book Room, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, Iowa City, IA 52242-1098 Image: Pieter Bruegel, The Triumph of Death (detail), c. 1562, oil on panel, 117 x 162 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid
In the wake of a devastating pandemic, millions of people are dead and many more have had their lives upended. Many of those who survive, worn down by a sense of futility in their work and by the impassable gap between the wealthy and everyone else, refuse to return to their old jobs or are quitting en masse. Tired of being overworked and underpaid, they feel they deserve a better life.
This could be a story about today, but it is also the pattern that emerged across Europe in the aftermath of one of the deadliest pandemics in recorded history, the Black Death.
The struggles over wages and the value of labour that defined the post-plague years were in some ways as dramatic as the pandemic itself. Eventually, Europe erupted into violence. Given where we are right now, it’s worth paying attention to the chain of events that led, link by link, from pandemic to panic to bloody uprising.
The Black Death, as we now call it, burned its way across the Eurasian continent from 1347 to 1351. It is thought to have been an infectious fever caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, likely transmitted from rodents to humans by the bite of infected fleas carried by the rats. Arab historian Ibn Khaldun recalled with horror, “Civilization both in the East and the West was visited by a destructive plague which devastated nations and caused populations to vanish. It swallowed up many of the good things of civilization and wiped them out.’’ Read more at NY Times
Ottawa announced in January it had secured agreements in principle to compensate First Nations children harmed by its underfunding of child welfare, revealing for the first time early details about what the historic arrangement will cover. Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said the $40-billion settlement marks the largest in Canadian history.
It comes after six weeks of negotiating with the parties, which included the Assembly of First Nations, Chiefs of Ontario and lawyers for two related class-action lawsuits. "No amount of money can reverse the harms experienced by First Nations children," he told a news conference in Ottawa.
Of the billions earmarked to be spent on the matter — the figure was first reported as part of December's fiscal update — $20 billion will pay for compensation, and the other $20 billion will be spent on reforming the system over five years. Read more at North Shore News
Quote Of The Week:
Credit: Partners in Health
Paul Edward Farmer (October 26, 1959 – February 21, 2022) was an American medical anthropologist and physician, cofounder and chief strategist of Partners In Health, and Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard University.
"The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world."
"The essence of global health equity is the idea that something so precious as health might be viewed as a right."
"For me, an area of moral clarity is: you're in front of someone who's suffering and you have the tools at your disposal to alleviate that suffering or even eradicate it, and you act."
Asked once, what is the most effective way to equalize access to medical services among all social classes? He replied:
"If we focus on people who are shut out of the system, and the primary determinant is social class, then that will be the best intervention that we could make.
"EJ Atlas" - Global Atlas Of Environmental Justice
Credit: EJ Atlas
The EJAtlas is a work in progress. Newly documented cases of environmental injustice and information are continuously added to the platform. However, many are still undocumented and new ones arise. Please note that the absence of data does not indicate the absence of conflict.
Around 80% of the world’s ocean floors will be mapped by 2030, pledged the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on February 10, 2022. At present, only 20% seabed has been mapped and studied, the UN agency in charge of ocean sciences said.
The repository of knowledge will be gained through studying the topology and depth of sea floors to identify the following:
Location of ocean faults
Workings of ocean currents and tides
Transport of sediments
Data gathered from this survey will help understand seismic and tsunami risks, sustainable fisheries resources, ways to deal with oil spills, air crashes and shipwrecks as well as potential for offshore infrastructure. “They also have a major role to play in assessing the future effects of climate change, whether it be temperature increases or sea level rise.”
The UN agency called for mobilization of the 150 member states of its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the private sector to carry out this exercise.
Important human rights failings of the United States were laid bare in 2020.
The grossly disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black, brown, and Native people, connected to longstanding disparities in health, education and economic status, revealed the enduring effects of past overtly racist laws and policies and continuing impediments to equality. The police killing of George Floyd in May, and a series of other police killings of Black people, sparked massive and largely peaceful protests, which in many instances were met with brutality by local and federal law enforcement agents.
The administration of President Donald Trump continued to dismantle the United States asylum system, limit access to health care for women, undermine consumer protections against predatory lenders and abusive debt collectors, and weaken regulations that reduce pollution and address climate change. After election officials across the US tallied the votes for the presidential election, determining that Joe Biden was the president-elect, Trump made baseless allegations of voter fraud.
Outrage As Malaysian Female Minister Advises Husbands To Beat Their 'Stubborn' Wives 'Gently' To Discipline Them For 'Unruly' Behaviour
Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff, Malaysian deputy minister for women, family and community development. Credit: DailyMail.com
A Malaysian female minister has sparked outrage after she advised husbands to beat their 'stubborn' wives 'gently' to discipline them for 'unruly' behaviour.
Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff, the deputy minister for women, family and community development, was accused of 'normalising' domestic violence by urging men to strike their wives to show how strict he is and 'how much he wants her to change'.
In a two-minute video posted on Instagram called 'Mother's Tips', the deputy minister firstly advised husbands to 'discipline' their 'stubborn' wives by speaking to them. But if they did not change their behaviour, then they should sleep apart from them for three days.
"Not One, Not Even One: A Memoir Of Life-Altering Experiences In Sierra Leone, West Africa" by Nancy Christine Edwards
Credit: Book Cover
In 1978, Nancy Edwards left Canada as a CUSO volunteer for Sierra Leone, where she spent three years working as a community health nurse and two years evaluating primary health care programs. Her stories of village life convey the ravages of tuberculosis; threats of witchcraft; and tragedies of deaths related to pregnancy, childbirth, and newborn tetanus. She celebrates local advocates for health improvements—mothers, traditional birth attendants, and village health committees.
Acutely aware of her role as a cultural outsider, the author reveals how she learned about the power of ancestors and the women’s Secret Society among the Mende people. Four decades after her arrival in Sierra Leone, Edwards comes to grips with her stance on the cultural practice of female circumcision. She takes us behind-the-scenes, describing how her West African experiences shaped her life and research career in nursing, healthcare, epidemiology and education.
Though steeped in hardship, tension, and conflict, "Not One, Not Even One" is buffered by humour, heartened by breakthroughs and shifting perspectives, and propelled by fierce hopes for the future.
International Day of Women And Girls In Science 2022: History, Theme And Significance Of This Day
Credit: Shatakshi Mehra
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is observed by the United Nations (UN) on 11 February each year. The day aims to promote the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. It also aims to raise awareness about the contribution of women and girls in the field of science and technology. This year marks the seventh observance of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science and had a particular focus on water.
A significant gender gap exists in STEM fields till date. The Commission on the Status of Women, in 2011, adopted a report at its 55th session, which called for equal access to decent work and full employment and “participation of women and girls in education, training and science and technology”, as per the website of the United Nations.
In 2013, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution which recognized that participation of girls in women in STEM research and innovation is crucial for achieving gender equality. In the year 2015, UNGA declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
The day is implemented by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and UN-Women, in coordination with civil society institutions.
Publisher and Editor: Dr. David Zakus Production: Julia Chalmers & Aisha Saleem Social Media: Mahdia Abidi, Shalini Kainth and Ishneer Mankoo Website, Index and Advisory: Eunice Anteh, Gaël Chetaille, Evans Oppong, Jonathan Zakus, Dr. Aimée-Angélique Bouka & Elisabeth Huang Blogs: Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, Aisha Saleem and Dr. Jay Kravitz