In my upcoming movie, The Story of Change, I talk about how deep, lasting social change—the kind of change achieved by the civil rights movement, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and the early environmental movement—always starts with a group of people committed to a Big Idea for how things could be better. Not just a little better for a few people, but a whole lot better for everyone.
And yet, these days, when we’re faced with huge threats—from growing wealth inequality to disruption of the global climate—we seem to get stuck in small-bore solutions that fail to get to the root of these problems: an economy that puts short-term corporate profits ahead of everything else.
The fact is that many of us already share a Big Idea for a better world. Instead of a wasteful, growth-at-all-costs economy that fails both people and the planet, hundreds of millions of us want a new economy that puts safe products, a healthy environment and happy people first.
Today, three-quarters of my fellow Americans support tougher laws on toxic chemicals and more than 80 percent want clean energy laws. Eighty-five percent think corporations should have less influence in government and more than six in 10 Americans say the government should attempt to reduce the gap between the wealthy and less-well-off. Maybe that’s why a 2011 Pew Research Center poll found ‘progressive’ to be the most positively viewed political label in America.
Now sure, we may not know exactly what a better future will look like—in many ways, we haven’t invented it yet. But every day we’re making remarkable advances in renewable energy and safer chemicals; more and more businesses are figuring out how to do well for themselves and their workers; and more and more citizens are standing up for themselves, and their neighbors, in their local communities and at the state and national level.
So, where are we headed? What’s our destination?
- Safe products. “Safe” goes beyond seat belts and airbags (although they save thousands of lives a year). I mean products that don’t trash the planet, the people who make them or the people who use them—products made without toxic chemicals, manufactured under safe and fair conditions, powered by clean energy, and that can be reused, repaired or recycled.
This may seem like a no brainer, but our economy has been headed in the opposite direction for decades now. And while there are great examples of companies both making products responsibly and making responsible products, the trend is still toward cheap products manufactured in ways that harm the people who make them and the planet. We can do better.
- A healthy planet. Currently we’re living as if we have more than one Earth—each year we use 1.5 times the resources our planet can produce and generate 1.5 times as much waste as the planet can assimilate. In How Much Is Enough? The Consumer Society and the Future of the Eart, Alan Durning says that in the last 75 years, Americans alone have used up more of the Earth’s resources as all previous generations combined. To prevent further damage, we have to start living within our means.
- Happier people. Stuff and happiness have an odd relationship. Up to a point, more Stuff does add to happiness. If you don’t have a roof over your head and food on the table and some other basic necessities, more stuff can make you happier. But after a point, after our basic needs are met, it gets more complicated. At some point, the value added by more stuff is outweighed by the added costs—the sales price, maintenance, storing, upgrading, insuring—of all that Stuff.
We have more and cooler Stuff than our grandparents, but less of what really makes us happy: leisure time with friends and family, meaning and purpose in our lives, a sense of community and connection to society. More than 70 percent of Americans earning a median income or above say they would give up income in exchange for more time with family and friends. Imagine that!
Setting our GPS correctly—toward an economy that supports safe products, a healthy planet and happy people—is important because there are going to be lots of bends in the road to that future, and sometimes, the road itself may not be entirely clear.
But as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” We’ve got a pretty good idea where we’re headed. For those of us committed to that more sustainable and just world, the trick is turning that sentiment into action—even before we know all the details of the journey ahead.
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In Major Win for Indigenous Rights, Supreme Court Rules Much of Eastern Oklahoma Is Still a Reservation
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
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Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.
The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.
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By Julia Vergin
It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
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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Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.
EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.
Climate models are predicting faster warming of the North Atlantic Ocean, which will shift the Gulf Stream. NASA
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