Activists Block Duke Coal Shipment and Link Mountaintop Removal to iCloud
This morning, activists from Greenpeace, RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival), Katuah Earth First! and Keepers of the Mountains Foundation blocked a coal train en route to the Marshall Steam Station, a Duke Energy coal-fired power plant, and branded the cars with the iconic Apple logo.
Four activists, including leaders from the anti-mountaintop removal movement, locked themselves to the rail tracks preventing the train from passing. Other activists branded the train with Apple’s logo to show that Apple’s growing iCloud will be powered by more coal as its Maiden, N.C., data center expands.
“Duke is using datacenter expansion in North Carolina, like Apple’s, to justify reinvesting in old coal-fired power plants and even worse, as an excuse to build new coal and nuclear plants. But if Apple demands renewable energy from Duke Energy to power its iCloud it could help transform both the IT sector’s and North Carolina’s energy economy,” said Gabe Wisnieweski, Greenpeace USA coal campaign director. “Unfortunately, today Apple’s iCloud uses whatever power Duke offers, and this dirty mix currently includes electricity from burning mountaintop removal coal. The climate and communities throughout Appalachia and North Carolina are paying the price for Apple and Duke's short-sighted decisions.”
The Marshall plant burns coal from mountaintop removal, a destructive practice whereby the tops of mountains are blown off to retrieve coal with the debris scraped into adjacent valleys. Air pollution from the Marshall plant causes more than one hundred deaths a year and thousands of asthma attacks. The Marshall Plant is part of the Duke Energy fleet which powers Apple’s iCloud data center in Maiden, North Carolina.
Greenpeace’s recent report, How Clean is Your Cloud? evaluated 14 IT companies based on key elements needed to build a clean cloud, including the electricity supply chain of more than 80 datacenters.2 The report found that Google and Yahoo are showing commitment to clean energy while Apple, Amazon and Microsoft rely on outdated coal and nuclear energy to deliver their clouds.
Apple has made a limited investment in renewable energy to provide a part of the current power for its data center in North Carolina, but as the facility expands and outgrows this supply, more and more electricity will be provided by Duke’s coal-fired power plants. Apple has sought to downplay the amount of electricity it will buy from Duke by saying that its intended capacity for the Maiden data center is only 20 megawatts (MW). However, today Greenpeace uncovered new information that shows that Apple applied for and was granted permits for backup diesel generators that indicate Apple is equipped for a current power demand of 41 MW of electricity for Phase 1 of its Maiden data center.
“Apple should be more transparent about its coal problem, and take steps to start solving it, as other tech companies have,” said Casey Harrell, Greenpeace International IT analyst. "Apple should follow the lead of its Silicon Valley and North Carolina neighbor, Facebook, which has committed to set a policy to build future data centers in locations that have access to renewable energy and to lobby the utilities that provide it power, such as Duke, for more access to renewable energy.”4
“Corporations must understand that the use and demand for coal from bombing mountains in Appalachia is not only destroying one of the oldest most bio-diverse mountain ranges in the United States, but it is also—by releasing carcinogenic heavy metals into our streams—killing Appalachians, and contributing to the sickness and death of countless others outside the area who depend on these headwaters for their water source,” said activist Mickey McCoy, whose community in Kentucky has suffered the ravages of mountaintop removal.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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