Election Results Signal Growing Concern for the Environment
Yesterday's election results are shaping up to be a mixed bag of victories and defeats for environmentalists and concerned citizens across the country.
In the Virginia gubernatorial race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Tea Party favorite.
McAuliffe’s victory comes after he became the first statewide candidate in the nation to hold his opponent accountable for denying the science of climate change, according to a Sierra Club press release. McAuliffe, who was backed by coalition of environmental organizations, supported the first-ever standards to curb climate-disrupting carbon pollution.
"Tonight in Virginia, the voters have spoken and a climate denier has been denied," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. "By electing Terry McAuliffe, Virginians are sending a clear message: they want a leader who will stand up for good jobs and climate action, not an extremist who will stand with big polluters."
In Maine, after a re-count and hard fought campaign, the citizen-initiated Waterfront Protection Ordinance, that would have blocked a tar sands export facility, was narrowly defeated.
"Today’s vote of 4453 against and 4261 for—a 200 vote margin—on the Waterfront Protection Ordinance to protect South Portland from tar sands is a disappointing outcome for the people of South Portland who worked to protect their community from the risks of dirty tar sands oil," said Natural Resources Council of Maine Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann.
"It is clear to all of us why this vote played out why the vote was so close: oil companies and the American Petroleum Institute poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into South Portland, in one of the biggest expenditures on a local referendum in Maine history," Pohlmann continued. "This money was used to fund a relentless campaign that spread misinformation and fear."
Campaign disclosure reports showed that opponents of the ordinance—made up exclusively of oil companies and the American Petroleum Institute—outspent the citizen’s group Protect South Portland and its allies by six to one, according to Natural Resources Council of Maine. These opponents garnered more than $600,000, primarily from out-of-state oil industry lobbyists.
In Washington State, the hotly-contested Whatcom County Council elections have proved "bad news for big coal," according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The four winning candidates, supported by conservation groups and the Democratic Party, tipped the scale away from the pro-development, Republican-aligned opponents in the seven-member council.
The results could potentially have a major impact on determining whether Western Washington will become home to the proposed Cherry Point coal export terminal, as Whatcom County is a key battleground on the decision.
“Tonight, the people of Whatcom County stood up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in big polluter cash to secure a victory for a healthy future for our communities, our families and our planet," said Natalie McLendon, a Sierra Club volunteer leader in Bellingham, WA.
"With these results, we are confident the council will now take into account all the factors that should be considered when deciding on this coal export terminal—that means weighing the effect on the air and water at Cherry Point, to the impact on the lives of those living and working on the rail line, to the severe implications for our climate crisis, to possible changes in waterfront redevelopment in Bellingham."
As reported by EcoWatch today, Colorado's anti-fracking advocates are celebrating victories in Fort Collins, Boulder and Lafayette, where initiatives passed that will either ban or pause the practice of hydraulic fracturing. Initial results in Broomfield, CO, where Question 300 would prevent any drilling activity that uses hydraulic fracturing for five years, show a tally so close—just 13 votes—that it will force a recount.
Many groups and concerned citizens are hopeful that victories like those in Colorado, Virginia and Washington are signaling an upwards trend in the American public toward prioritizing climate change and other environmental issues.
"Public opinion polls across the country show that the call from voters for clean energy and climate action is loud and clear—now, its time our political leaders listen," Brune continued. "Those running for office now must choose whether they stand with solutions or whether they stand in the way. The climate crisis won’t wait, and neither will we.”
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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