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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Montana residents desperate now for clean air to breathe

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Sarah Coefield, an air quality specialist with the Missoula City-County Health Department, writes in the Washington Post:

It’s late August when I get a call from a grandmother. She lives in Seeley Lake, and she’s heard we have air filters that can help with smoke. She needs one for the baby’s room. I explain we don’t have any and tell her how to purchase one. She coughs and goes silent before asking how much they cost. Almost every person I talk to in Seeley Lake has this cough. The family doesn’t have much money, she says, but she promises to order a filter for the child. The next day, the wildfire moves closer, and the county sheriff’s office evacuates her neighborhood. I wonder if the filter will be there when the family returns home. I know the smoke will be.

As an air quality specialist with the county health department here, my job is to understand air pollution, control it as much as possible and help people protect themselves from its effects. I focus on smoke management: issuing permits for outdoor burns and updates about what to expect from the smoke when wildfires send it our way. In a typical wildfire season, my smoke-related responsibilities end when I hit “send” on twice-daily media updates.

If my job were only about fires and how the smoke moves, it would be simple. Not easy, mind you: Wildfire smoke is flashy and weird, and if anyone tells you they can reliably predict its behavior, they’re lying. It’s just that purely focusing on the science would be fun for a smoke nerd like me.

But in July, thunderstorms trekked across western Montana, igniting a ring of fires around Missoula County. One by one, they started blowing up, smothering small towns in smoke. The massive Rice Ridge Fire burns directly above the community of Seeley Lake, and every night, smoke fills the valley, building by the hour and creating dangerous breathing conditions the likes of which we have never seen. To our south, the Lolo Peak Fire sends daily smoke to the Bitterroot Valley, creating frequently hazardous, unbreathable air for its residents. Never have we seen so many wildfires so close to home for so many weeks.

As with most mountain valley communities, Missoula County’s most worrisome and prevalent air pollutant is the fine particulate in wood smoke, so tiny it can enter your bloodstream when you breathe it in. It’s a cumulative pollutant: The more you’re in it, the worse it is for you. The particulate aggravates asthma symptoms and causes reduced lung function and wheeziness. It increases the risk of heart attack and stroke and can damage children’s developing lungs. The elderly, people with heart or lung disease, pregnant women, and children are most at risk. Wildfire health studies are still part of a growing science, but we know the smoke is dangerous. We know there will be more emergency-room visits, more hospital stays and, probably, more deaths. We don’t know its long-term health consequences, and no one knows what six weeks in the worst smoke we have ever seen will mean for the people in Seeley Lake.

At monitoring stations scattered around the county, we measure the mass of fine particulate in the smoke. The National Ambient Air Quality Standard for fine particulate matter averaged over 24 hours is 35 micrograms in a cubic meter of air. Our monitor in Seeley Lake is registering 1,000, as high as the machine goes. It was built without the expectation of ever measuring such concentrations.

When smoke descends on the valley, the world shrinks. Anything more than a block away disappears behind a white wall of smoke. The birds are quiet.

Smoke makes its way through door and window cracks. It follows ventilation systems into homes. Without a filtration system, the indoors provides no refuge. And in rural Montana, where air conditioning is rare, most residents open their windows at night to seek relief from the hot, stuffy summer air, even amid the smoke. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2017 at 8:38 pm

The great nutrient collapse: Global warming is diluting the nutrients in our food

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And not just our food: this will affect all animals, not just humans.

Helena Bottemiller Evich reports in Politico:

Irakli Loladze is a mathematician by training, but he was in a biology lab when he encountered the puzzle that would change his life. It was in 1998, and Loladze was studying for his Ph.D. at Arizona State University. Against a backdrop of glass containers glowing with bright green algae, a biologist told Loladze and a half-dozen other graduate students that scientists had discovered something mysterious about zooplankton.

Zooplankton are microscopic animals that float in the world’s oceans and lakes, and for food they rely on algae, which are essentially tiny plants. Scientists found that they could make algae grow faster by shining more light onto them—increasing the food supply for the zooplankton, which should have flourished. But it didn’t work out that way. When the researchers shined more light on the algae, the algae grew faster, and the tiny animals had lots and lots to eat—but at a certain point they started struggling to survive. This was a paradox. More food should lead to more growth. How could more algae be a problem?

Loladze was technically in the math department, but he loved biology and couldn’t stop thinking about this. The biologists had an idea of what was going on: The increased light was making the algae grow faster, but they ended up containing fewer of the nutrients the zooplankton needed to thrive. By speeding up their growth, the researchers had essentially turned the algae into junk food. The zooplankton had plenty to eat, but their food was less nutritious, and so they were starving.

Loladze used his math training to help measure and explain the algae-zooplankton dynamic. He and his colleagues devised a model that captured the relationship between a food source and a grazer that depends on the food. They published that first paper in 2000. But Loladze was also captivated by a much larger question raised by the experiment: Just how far this problem might extend.

“What struck me is that its application is wider,” Loladze recalled in an interview. Could the same problem affect grass and cows? What about rice and people? “It was kind of a watershed moment for me when I started thinking about human nutrition,” he said.

In the outside world, the problem isn’t that plants are suddenly getting more light: It’s that for years, they’ve been getting more carbon dioxide. Plants rely on both light and carbon dioxide to grow. If shining more light results in faster-growing, less nutritious algae—junk-food algae whose ratio of sugar to nutrients was out of whack—then it seemed logical to assume that ramping up carbon dioxide might do the same. And it could also be playing out in plants all over the planet. What might that mean for the plants that people eat?

What Loladze found is that scientists simply didn’t know. It was already well documented that CO2levels were rising in the atmosphere, but he was astonished at how little research had been done on how it affected the quality of the plants we eat. For the next 17 years, as he pursued his math career, Loladze scoured the scientific literature for any studies and data he could find. The results, as he collected them, all seemed to point in the same direction: The junk-food effect he had learned about in that Arizona lab also appeared to be occurring in fields and forests around the world. “Every leaf and every grass blade on earth makes more and more sugars as CO2 levels keep rising,” Loladze said. “We are witnessing the greatest injection of carbohydrates into the biosphere in human history―[an] injection that dilutes other nutrients in our food supply.”

He published those findings just a few years ago, adding to the concerns of a small but increasingly worried group of researchers who are raising unsettling questions about the future of our food supply. Could carbon dioxide have an effect on human health we haven’t accounted for yet? The answer appears to be yes—and along the way, it has steered Loladze and other scientists, directly into some of the thorniest questions in their profession, including just how hard it is to do research in a field that doesn’t quite exist yet.

IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH, it’s been understood for some time that many of our most important foods have been getting less nutritious. Measurements of fruits and vegetables show that their minerals, vitamin and protein content has measurably dropped over the past 50 to 70 years. Researchers have generally assumed the reason is fairly straightforward: We’ve been breeding and choosing crops for higher yields, rather than nutrition, and higher-yielding crops—whether broccoli, tomatoes, or wheat—tend to be less nutrient-packed.

In 2004, a landmark study of fruits and vegetables found that everything from protein to calcium, iron and vitamin C had declined significantly across most garden crops since 1950. The researchers concluded this could mostly be explained by the varieties we were choosing to grow.

Loladze and a handful of other scientists have come to suspect that’s not the whole story and that the atmosphere itself may be changing the food we eat. Plants need carbon dioxide to live like humans need oxygen. And in the increasingly polarized debate about climate science, one thing that isn’t up for debate is that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising. Before the industrial revolution, the earth’s atmosphere had about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Last year, the planet crossed over the 400 parts per million threshold; scientists predict we will likely reach 550 parts per million within the next half-century—essentially twice the amount that was in the air when Americans started farming with tractors.

If you’re someone who thinks about plant growth, this seems like a good thing. It has also been useful ammunition for politicians looking for reasons to worry less about the implications of climate change. Rep. Lamar Smith, a Republican who chairs the House Committee on Science, recently argued that people shouldn’t be so worried about rising CO2 levels because it’s good for plants, and what’s good for plants is good for us.

“A higher concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere would aid photosynthesis, which in turn contributes to increased plant growth,” the Texas Republican wrote. “This correlates to a greater volume of food production and better quality food.”

But as the zooplankton experiment showed, greater volume and better quality might not go hand-in-hand. In fact, they might be inversely linked. As best scientists can tell, this is what happens: Rising CO2 revs up photosynthesis, the process that helps plants transform sunlight to food. This makes plants grow, but it also leads them to pack in more carbohydrates like glucose at the expense of other nutrients that we depend on, like protein, iron and zinc. . .

Continue reading.

The future looks pretty bleak to me, though of course the GOP denies that there is any problem at all, nothing to see, move along…

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2017 at 12:57 pm

Hillary Clinton used ‘alternate nostril breathing’ after her loss. Here’s why you should, too.

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Kim Weeks writes in the Washington Post:

Hillary Clinton revealed this week she turned to an esoteric breathing technique popular among yogis to heal from her devastating election loss.

She has spoken in the past about using meditation and yoga for calm and balance, but during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night to promote her new campaign memoir she explained and demonstrated alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana in Sanskrit. She said the practice is “very relaxing” and urged Cooper to try it.

By bringing this kind of breath work into the mainstream, Clinton has introduced the world to a practice that has both proven mental and physical health benefits.

Yoga in general, and yoga breathing practices such nadi shodhana, calm the mind and the body. In nadi shodhana, the process of literally alternating breathing between the right and left nostril also helps balance the right and left brain, the right and left lungs, and the right and left sides of the body. Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to slow down a rapid heart rate and to lower blood pressure. It can clear toxins and respiratory systems — shodhana translates to purification and nadi to channels, so the intent of the practice is to cleanse different systems of the mind and body.

Research has also shown that this type of breathing exercise can significantly increase the effectiveness of the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest-and-digest” system that automatically kicks in when we relax or sleep to help restore our body’s equilibrium. But in our hectic, daily lives, when our bodies are in a perpetual state of fight or flight, this calmer part of ourselves is harder to activate.

It’s particularly challenging to access during times of extreme stress, which is why Clinton told Cooper he probably wouldn’t be able to do it in the middle of covering a hurricane. But for everyday stresses, taking the time to breath this way is calming and grounding.

The demands of daily life act on the body the same way, whether you’re running for political office or running late to pick up your toddler at day care. In almost all cases, the body doesn’t register the difference. It just knows that it is stressed, deprived of its need to disengage from activity and be still. So instead we look to power, money, career, relationships and thousands of other things outside ourselves in hopes they will bring us contentment and calm. But life doesn’t work that way. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

Here’s how to try it yourself

1. Take a seat. Sit cross-legged on the floor or use a chair.

2. Curl your right forefinger and middle finger into your palm. You’re getting these two out of the way. Your thumb, ring finger, and pinky finger will be sticking out. You will use your thumb and ring finger to do alternate-nostril breathing.

3. Put your thumb on the right nostril where the nose bone meets cartilage. Put your ring finger on the left nostril in the same place. Rest them there lightly.

4. Breathe normally, but do not breathe through the mouth. Keep it closed. Take a long, slow, deep inhalation through both nostrils. Before exhaling (don’t really pause, just go with it), push in/depress the right nostril to close it off completely. Exhale fully through the left nostril only.

5. Keep the right nostril closed off. Inhale through the left nostril. Before exhaling again (again, no pausing, just keep going), press the left nostril with the ring finger and release the thumb from the right.

6. Exhale through the right nostril only, and then inhale through the right nostril only.

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you’re ready to finish (for maximum benefits do at least 10 rounds). The finishing breath will be an exhale through the left nostril.

8. Take a long, slow breath in through both nostrils, and then exhale through both nostrils.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 September 2017 at 7:40 pm

A set of articles on the heroin crisis. Read about it. It’s worse than you think.

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From David Pell’s newsletter NextDraft:

“Once a bustling industrial town, Huntington, West Virginia has become the epicenter of America’s modern opioid epidemic, with an overdose rate 10 times the national average. This flood of heroin now threatens this Appalachian city with a cycle of generational addiction, lawlessness, and poverty.” The new Netflix documentary Heroin(e) (produced in collaboration with my friends at the excellent Center for Investigative Journalism) tells the story of three women on the front lines of the battle to save small towns from the perfect storm of America’s opioid/heroin disaster. It’s only thirty minutes. Take the time to watch it. Below, I’ve shared a collection of articles to frame this pressing story.

+ Cincinnati Enquirer: Seven days of heroin: This is what an epidemic looks like.

+ “Often omitted from the conversation about the epidemic is the fact that it is also inflicting harm on the American economy, and on a scale not seen in any previous drug crisis.” Even if politicians are not moved by the moral issue, they should be moved by the economic factors. The New Yorker on the cost of the opioid crisis.

+ “Distributors have fed their greed on human frailties and to criminal effect. There is no excuse and should be no forgiveness.” From the Charleston Gazette-Mail: Drug firms poured 780M painkillers into WV amid rise of overdoses.

+ What can a company like Purdue Pharma do to make ends meet when the domestic market finally gets hit with regulations? The family behind the company decided to follow in the deadly footsteps of big tobacco. From the LA Times: OxyContin goes global.

+ Bloomberg: Big Pharma’s Tobacco Moment as Star Lawyers Push Opioid Suits.

+ When American states started to legalize marijuana, drug cartels saw the writing on the wall. They knew they’d need a new source of income, and the opioid crisis provided them with a market of addicts suddenly facing a legal crackdown on pain pill mills. From the great Don Winslow: El Chapo and The Secret History of the Heroin Crisis.

+ And for a look at the rise of pill mills (a hurricane that hit Florida long before Irma), check out the book American Pain, by John Temple.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 September 2017 at 2:00 pm

The media gets the opioid crisis wrong. Here is the truth.

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Anne Case, the Alexander Stewart 1886 professor of economics and public affairs emeritus at Princeton University, and Angus Deaton, the Dwight D. Eisenhower professor of economics and international affairs emeritus at Princeton University and the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics, write in the Washington Post:

Lawmakers and the media have devoted much of their attention recently to deaths from opioid overdoses, as well as to the broader “deaths of despair” that include suicides and deaths from alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis. But despite the intense focus on the topic, misinformation about the epidemic runs rampant.

By conventional wisdom, tackling this crisis would require extending Medicaid and improving how it functions, cracking down on prescription painkillers and getting more health-care resources into rural communities.

But that’s not exactly right. To correct the record, here are four points to bear in mind:

Medicaid isn’t the problem (and isn’t the solution). Critics of Medicaid argue that the program enables the epidemic by paying for prescription opioids. In fact, Princeton University researchers Janet Currie and Molly Schnell calculate that only 8 percent of all opioid prescriptions from January 2006 to March 2015 were paid for by Medicaid, based on data from QuintilesIMS, a leading health-care information company.

Medicaid can help addicts by providing a range of evidence-based therapies. This is correct and, like many others, we think treatment is a good idea. As such, we are also concerned about the effects that reductions in Medicaid could have on the epidemic. But Medicaid proponents often greatly overstate what can be expected from treatment in general, and Medicaid in particular. Many addicts deny their addiction and either do not seek or do not adhere to treatment once started. “Evidence-based” typically means there has been a randomized, controlled trial that has demonstrated effectiveness. But trials include only those who seek treatment — and say nothing about those who avoid it. A trial is deemed successful when the treatment is proved better than nothing (or at least a placebo) — even if only a few people end up benefiting from it.

It is not all about opioids. Policymakers often speak as if the epidemic will be over as soon as we tackle both legal and illegal opioids. Better control of opioids is essential, but, even without opioid deaths, there would still be as many or more deaths from suicide and liver diseases. Opioids are like guns handed out in a suicide ward; they have certainly made the total epidemic much worse, but they are not the cause of the underlying depression. We suspect that deaths of despair among those without a university degree are primarily the result of a 40-year stagnation of median real wages and a long-term decline in the number of well-paying jobs for those without a bachelor’s degree. Falling labor force participation, sluggish wage growth, and associated dysfunctional marriage and child-rearing patterns have undermined the meaning of working people’s lives as well.

The crisis has hit men and women about equally.  . .

Continue reading.

Also note: “Here’s How Big Pharma Helped Set New Pain Guidelines,” by Kevin Drum, on the origins of the crisis we now face.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 September 2017 at 3:44 pm

Naomi Oreskes on the Politics of Climate Change

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A Five Books interview with Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University:

The risks of climate change are increasingly clear and urgent. And yet, in the United States and some other countries, policies to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions do not seem to be working. The US President has called climate change a hoax and pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement. And about 6.5 percent of global GDP — about 5 trillion dollars a year — goes to subsidising fossil fuels. How did we get into this situation in the first place?

Scientists have known for a long time that an increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases—produced by burning fossil fuel—could change the climate. By the late 1970s, it was clear that greenhouse gases were accumulating in the atmosphere, and scientists concluded that this would cause effects, probably by the end of the century. However, the observable effects came sooner than they expected: in 1988, scientists at NASA led by James Hansen, concluded that anthropogenic climate change was underway.

Hansen’s work got a good deal of attention. He testified in Congress. It was reported in the New York Times. And that same year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created, in anticipation that the world would need good scientific information to inform policy decisions on the issue. Most scientists involved at the time thought that there would soon be a political response. And there was, but it was not the one they expected.

Until that time, there was no political resistance to climate science. Many climate scientists were Republicans, and throughout most of the post-war period, Republican political and business leaders had supported scientific research as strongly, if not more strongly, than Democratic leaders did. But, in the 1980s—just as the reality of climate change was being established scientifically—some people began to realise that if anthropogenic climate change was as dangerous as scientists thought, it would require government action to deal with it. In particular it would require government intervention in the marketplace, such as regulation or taxation to reduce or even eliminate the use of fossil fuels.

In this sense, it was similar to acid rain and stratospheric ozone depletion, as well as to the problem of tobacco use. If you were a liberal Democrat, and you didn’t have any particular objection to government intervention in the marketplace, that wasn’t a problem for you, and there was no particular reason to object to the scientific findings. But if you were a conservative Republican who objected to those interventions, then it was a problem for you.

Some conservatives — particularly a group of Cold War scientists with links to the Reagan administration, who feared that government intervention in the marketplace was the slippery slope to socialism — began to question the science around all these issues. In our work, we discovered that they had also worked with the tobacco industry, on the grounds that controlling tobacco would lead to an increase government control of our lives in general. Today that argument is often referred to as the problem of the “nanny state,” but they thought it was much more nefarious than that. They equated government control of the marketplace with Soviet-style totalitarianism. In this, they took inspiration from the neo-liberal economist, Milton Friedman, and his mentor, Frederick von Hayek.

Working with the tobacco industry, they developed a set of strategies and tactics to intended to undermine the scientific evidence of the harms of smoking and prevent the government from controlling tobacco or even trying to discourage its use. They now applied those strategies and tactics to climate change.

At first, their arguments were taken up by conservative and libertarian think tanks in Washington, DC, such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the CATO Institute, and the George C Marshall institute, who started to promote doubt and uncertainty about climate science. But soon, the fossil fuel industry was funding them. An alliance developed between powerful fossil fuel companies, such as Exxon Mobil and Peabody Coal, and think tanks such as CATO, to promote doubt about climate science and prevent government action. In the mid 1990s, it became their goal to prevent the US from signing the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Although the UNFCCC had been signed in 1992 by a Republican President — George H.W. Bush — by the late 1990s nearly all Republicans had aligned against it. And things went downhill from there. As the scientific evidence of climate change became stronger, and Democrats accepted it and started to propose legislation to deal with it, Republicans became more and more entrenched in rejecting it. Things went from bad to worse, as, at first, only extremists in the Republican party went into fully-fledged denial, but by the late 2000s, climate change denial had become routine. If you look at the candidates who ran in the Republican primary in 2016, only John Kasich had a position consistent with the findings of the scientific community. Donald Trump, of course, infamously claims climate change is a hoax, but Ted Cruz propagated the canard that warming had stopped in the 2000s. So in various ways, most Republicans in recent years have taken positions that refuse to accept the scientific evidence. And here we are. There are other elements to the story too, like the various advertising campaigns that fossil fuel companies ran to cast doubt upon climate science, but that is the core of the matter. In short, a confluence of economic interest and political ideology, which came to dominate conservative thinking in the USA, has led to the wholesale rejection of the findings of climate scientists by American conservatives as individuals and by the Republican party as an institution.

You’ve recently published a paper about ExxonMobil’s communications strategy from 1977 to 2014. What do your findings tell us about the state of the politics of climate change?

It tells us that things are bad for a reason. Many people want to say that we’re in this mess because people don’t think straight, are irrational, or aren’t clear-headed about dangers that they think are far in the future. And, of course, there’s an element of that in this story, but there’s also a very big elephant in the room, which is the long history of organised systematic climate change denial. My paper co-written with Geoffrey Supran speaks to that. Other people have already written about some of the activities that ExxonMobil was involved with in the past, such as the Global Climate Coalition, a group that in the 1990s worked to prevent the United States from signing on to Kyoto by trying to challenge the scientific basis for it. We tried to do something a little more systematic than what had been done before. Two years ago, the Los Angeles Timesand Inside Climate News published a series of investigative journalism pieces in which they looked at archival documents that reflected the work that ExxonMobil had done on the issue of climate change going back to the 1970s. They showed that the company was well aware as long ago as 1979 of climate change as a risk that would affect their business and had some interesting and serious climate science research going on even within the company. They also found that company employees were collaborating with academics at New York University and in government laboratories to try and better understand the potential threat and what it might mean for the petroleum industry.

When the Los Angeles Times and Inside Climate News published their articles ExxonMobil claimed they were false and wrong, and that the reporters had cherry-picked the documents. On its website, the corporation issued a challenge. They posted a set of documents that they claimed supported their claims, and refuted the ICN and LA Times. And they challenged the public, saying “read the documents” and make up your own mind.

Geoffrey Supran and I took up the challenge. We read all the documents that Inside Climate News published, we read all the documents that ExxonMobil claimed refuted the Inside Climate News findings, and we also read a set of advertorials – paid advertisements – that ExxonMobil had taken out mostly in the 1990s and early 2000s. And we compared these different communications. What our comprehensive comparison shows beyond any reasonable doubt is that inside ExxonMobil there was a conversation going on that was fully consistent with the evolving science that climate change was real, that it was a serious threat, and that it could lead to oil and gas assets being stranded, but in public ExxonMobil made a decision to run a series of advertisements aimed at the American people in which the message was a message of uncertainty and doubt. Since we published our paper, ExxonMobil has continued to mislead the public about its history of misleading the public.

Your first book choice is The Great Derangement by Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh. Those who know him as a novelist may wonder what he has to say about the politics of climate change.

Quite a lot, as anyone who reads the book will see. It’s absolutely fascinating on a number of levels. First, we have a famous, articulate and politically astute novelist taking up the issue of climate change. I think that’s extremely important because one of the arguments that Amitav makes in this book, which I agree with one hundred percent, is that for too long this problem has been discussed as scientific question; it’s mostly been covered by science journalists and written up in the science pages of the newspapers. But it’s fundamentally no longer a scientificquestion. The science — the key scientific issues — have been resolved now for a long time, but it’s a political question because we have to do something about it. It’s an economic question because it has to do with how we run our economies based on fossil fuels, and it’s also a deeply historical question.

Amitav looks at the long history of fossil fuel exploitation and the way it’s linked to colonialism and post-colonialism, and to make the argument that if we’re going to fix this problem, we have to understand the larger historical, economic, and social context as well. The book is also an explicit call for humanists — writers and authors and novelists and others — to become engaged and think through: How did we get into this situation? And how do we get out of it? And as Amitav says, it’s a kind of derangement. We’re on a path that is going to lead to tremendous destruction — what has just happened this week in Houston and Mumbai and Barbuda is exhibit A — and yet most of us are going about our lives as if nothing particularly special is happening. And, as we know, American politicians are going about their lives still in many cases in denial about the basic framework of this problem.

You called Houston exhibit A, but if more and more extreme weather events are part of climate change one could say it’s exhibit F.

You’re right, I only said exhibit A in the sense that it’s the most obvious and immediate right in this moment in American life. But, of course, you’re absolutely right. We’ve had Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, the Russian fires of a few years ago, and the European heat waves of 2003, not to mention the recent floods in South Asia. There have been all kinds of incidents where we have seen what I call the human face of global warming. We’ve seen how climate change is already impacting people – causing damage and causing death – but somehow we don’t assimilate that. This is the point that Amitav Ghosh is calling ‘the great derangement’, that there is something frankly deranged about having all these things happening in front of our faces that are terrifically costly – both in terms of monetary damages and impacts on people’s lives – and yet somehow we don’t connect the dots. As you say, we could call this exhibit F and we have not connected the dots from A to B to C to D to E to F and also, I would say, to ExxonMobil and all of the fossil fuels companies that even today are continuing to explore for still more oil and gas reserves. That is a kind of craziness.

Roy Scranton, the author of your second choice, Learning to Die in the Anthropocenewrites “civilizations have throughout history marched blindly toward disaster, because humans are wired to believe that tomorrow will be much like today”. He also says that “The biggest problem climate change poses isn’t how the Department of Defense should plan for resource wars, whether we should put up sea walls to protect [Manhattan], or when we should abandon Miami. It won’t be addressed by buying a Prius, or signing a treaty…The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead.” It seems a very negative place to start.

It is a very dark book and, by recommending it, I’m not suggesting I necessarily agree with everything in it or even necessarily agree with his ultimately bleak assessment, but I do think it’s an extremely important book. I say that for two reasons. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 September 2017 at 2:05 pm

New Study—Like Several Old Studies—Favors Fat Over Carbs

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Nicholas Bakalar reports in the NY Times:

High carbohydrate intake is associated with a higher risk of mortality, and high fat intake with a lower risk, researchers report.

An international team of scientists studied diet and mortality in 135,335 people between 35 and 70 years old in 18 countries, following them for an average of more than seven years. Diet information depended on self-reports, and the scientists controlled for factors including age, sex, smoking, physical activity and body mass index. The study is in The Lancet.

Compared with people who ate the lowest 20 percent of carbohydrates, those who ate the highest 20 percent had a 28 percent increased risk of death. But high carbohydrate intake was not associated with cardiovascular death.

People with the highest 20 percent in total fat intake — an average of 35.3 percent of calories from fat — had about a 23 percent reduced risk of death compared with the lowest 20 percent (an average of 10.6 percent of calories from fat). Consuming higher saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat were all associated with lower mortality. Higher fat diets were also associated with a lower risk of stroke.

“Guidelines recommend low saturated fat, and some recommend really low amounts,” said a co-author, Andrew Mente, an epidemiologist at McMaster University in Ontario. “Our study, which captures intake at the lowest levels, shows that this may be harmful.” . . .

Continue reading.

See also: “A Decades-Old Study, Rediscovered, Challenges Advice on Saturated Fat.”

And I always recommend Nina Teicholz’s book The Big Fat Surprise.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 September 2017 at 8:33 pm

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