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5 Podcasts to Inspire You on Climate

Climate
Mary Robinson and Maeve Higgins host the Mothers of Invention podcast. Mothers of Invention

Most days, the news on climate can be tough. Carbon dioxide levels reaching new heights. Glaciers melting even faster than we thought. White House officials celebrating the prospect of an ice-free Arctic. Not a whole lot of good ways to spin these.

But here's the good news. There are a lot of smart and committed people working to solve this. And if you need a bit of hope, a bit of inspiration, we've got five podcasts with conversations and stories that'll light a fire inside, change how you think about the crisis, and get you ready to fight again.

Because the truth is, sometimes we all need it. Enjoy.


1. Mothers of Invention: A Second Chance at Life

If you've ever looked at the climate crisis and got lost heading down that "IT'S. SO. BIG. WHAT. CAN. WE. DO?" rabbit hole, listen to Mothers of Invention. If you appreciate flat-out inspiring stories of women thinking big, thinking boldly, thinking smart, and just generally applying feet to rear ends on climate, listen to Mothers of Invention.

Actually, just skip the qualifiers: Listen to Mothers of Invention.

Now two seasons along, Mothers of Invention takes on the climate crisis from a feminist perspective, all with more wit, humor and warmth than should be legal. Hosted by former Irish President (and long-time social justice activist) Mary Robinson and comedian Maeve Higgins, the show's manifesto is simple: "Climate change is a man-made problem – with a feminist solution!"

And they've got the stories to prove it. Picking just one episode is like trying to pick one flavor of ice cream from a menu with 100 delicious choices, but we say start by jumping in with the fourth episode in season two, A Second Chance at Life. (And then going back to the start.)

Now go listen.

2. Displaced: Mary Robinson

Double-dipping with Mary Robinson here, but worth it.

Today, there are more people displaced from their homes and on the move than at any point since World War II. It seems like you can't watch the news for more than five minutes without hearing about migration and some part of this displacement crisis. But what you won't often hear is how the climate crisis is one of the greatest factors behind it, with rising temperatures and longer droughts crippling farms and communities across the planet (to name only a couple reasons).

In the April 9 episode of Vox Media's Displaced, host Ravi Gurumurthy of the International Rescue Committee talks to Mary Robinson about how the climate crisis is already forcing millions from their homes in search of a better life and how this trend will shape the twenty-first century.

For listeners in developed nations, the conversation is a call to rediscover the clarity of conscience and act. After all, Mary Robinson has spent much of her life and career fighting to make this world fairer for the most vulnerable. Listen to the quiet righteous indignation bubbling through every syllable as she talks about the inequities of a planet where those least responsible for our changing climate suffer its cruelest impacts and you'll want to do the same.

Listen here.

3. With Friends Like These: You Can't Build Things With Pitchforks and Torches

Back in 2010, then-Republican Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina committed the cardinal sin of telling a radio host the climate crisis already fueling stronger hurricanes and wicked wildfires was, you know, real, and humans might have something to do with that.

After a pair of oil billionaires whose name rhymes with "smoke" helped make sure he was free to pursue other career opportunities outside of Congress, Inglis became a leading voice for a conservative approach to solving the crisis.

In this 2017 episode of Crooked Media's podcast With Friends Like These, he talks to host Ana Maria Cox about why conservatives should be all about climate action and what progressives can do to bring them into the movement. You don't have to agree with everything he says or every position he's taken to appreciate his perspective and see how we can build a truly diverse coalition to win. After all, that's the only way we will.

4. Longform: David Wallace-Wells

"It is worse, much worse than you think."

David Wallace-Wells begins his moving meditation on the climate crisis, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, with a haymaker and doesn't let up for 230 pages, charting how the crisis is already transforming every aspect of life on earth and the unconscionable catastrophe waiting for us if we don't act.

It's probably the most terrifying book published in English in 2019 (so far). And – judging by the extraordinary response it's getting, with people everywhere grappling with the truly existential threat we face – it might be the most important.

For years, the Longform podcast team – Aaron Lammer, Max Linskey and Evan Ratliff – have talked to some of the most interesting writers, critics, media voices and more.

For the May 1 episode of the Longform podcast (which if you're not familiar, hosts some of the most intriguing conversations with the writers, media voices, and more shaping culture today), he sits down with Max Linskey to talk about the book, the incredible reception and the stark, historic choice we have today.

Listen here.

5. The Ezra Klein Show: Meet the Policy Architect Behind the Green New Deal

Even before it was introduced, the Green New Deal was being attacked. Mostly – rather cynically – by people who haven't bothered to actually read – much less understand – it. Sadly, it's meant there's a whole lot of confusion about what the Green New Deal actually is and is trying to do.

So if you've ever wondered, "What's the deal with the Green New Deal?" you owe it to yourself to listen to Rhiana Gunn-Wright. She's the whip-smart policy expert charged with the small matter of turning the big-picture goals of the Green New Deal into a practical set of policies that can drive a just transition to clean energy, helping the U.S. slash emissions while creating millions of green jobs and revitalizing communities from coast to coast. In Marvel movies, they give capes to people for this kind of stuff.

Gunn-Wright is also a powerful and compelling voice for connecting climate action and social justice. It's a subject that's only just starting to get the attention it deserves, and if you've read about the Green New Deal and wondered why it's so committed to justice, listen to her conversation with David Roberts filling in on The Ezra Klein Show. She might make you a believer too.

Listen here.

If listening to these conversations on the climate crisis has you thinking, "What can I do?", we've got an answer. Join us in Minneapolis from August 2-4 and train with former Vice President Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader.

You'll learn just how the crisis is transforming our world and how together we can solve it. You'll also learn what you can do and develop the skills and know-how to mobilize your friends, family, neighbors, and more to act while we still have time.

As we say, give us three days. We'll give you the tools to change the world.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Climate Reality Project.

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Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Niq Steele / Getty Images

By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach

The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.

We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.

Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.

What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?

The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.

Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.

It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.

Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.

Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.


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Democratic presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders greet each other with a safe elbow bump before the start of the Democratic Party 2020 presidential debate in a CNN Washington Bureau studio in Washington, DC on March 15, 2020. Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.

"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."

The climate panel—co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry—recommended that the Democratic Party commit to "eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035," massively expanding investments in clean energy sources, and "achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030."

In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."

"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."

 

The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.

Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."

"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."

Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."

"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.

On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.

Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.

"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."

 

Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."

Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."

"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."

"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.