Neglect Over Climate Change Is Putting My Generation of Skiers on Styrofoam Snow
Local political officials recently committed Park City, Utah to the front lines of the international struggle to avert catastrophic global warming by signing on to Climate Reality's "I am Pro-Snow" campaign. As a 17-year-old cold-weather athlete attending the Winter Sports School in Park City, I applaud their leadership. City leaders have already helped to make Park City one of America's most energy efficient municipalities.
Mayor Jack Thomas told me, "We have to act responsibly. Reliable winter weather is our economic driver." Last month the National Weather Service declared this July the hottest month ever recorded since measurements began in 1860. Some experts are now predicting the end of skiing in North America by the close of this century. This isn't scaremongering; it's already happening!
Everywhere I travel on the tournament circuit, from the Alps to Mt. Hood and from New Zealand's Coronet Park to Iceland, athletes and industry workers are complaining about shrinking glaciers, dwindling snowpack, unpredictable snowfalls and shorter winters. The winter melt starts two weeks earlier in Colorado than it did in the 1970s, says World Olympic X Games Champion Chris Davenport, who is a board member of the industry group Protect Our Winters.
Davenport explained that while glaciers are shrinking and snowpack disappearing on every continent, climate models predict the coastal range ski areas will be the first to close for lack of snow. "The economic devastation in the Pacific northwest ski region over the past few years is consistent with that modeling."
Canyons ski ambassador Kaylin Richardson told me that the days of reliable snow in the Andes are gone. "All over the globe, we are watching the snow thin and seasons shorten—even in Colorado and especially in the Alps, South America and New Zealand."
In New Hampshire, the mean winter temperature has warmed nearly 4 degrees over the past century, with much of that happening since 1970. Poor snow years have increased 22 percent in the Northeast over the past six decades, while average snowpack in the Cascades has declined 25 percent. During the same period, the Swiss Alps have seen a 15-to-25 percent decrease in winter snow.
According to Protect Our Winters, skiing brings in $18 billion and supports 66,000 jobs in 31 winter sports states. The organization estimates that the North American ski industry lost between 13,000 and 27,000 jobs from 1999 to 2010 due to shortened ski seasons and reduced snowpack.
Deer Valley's owner Lessing Stern told me that climate change has become the ski industry's central preoccupation. "Everybody is focused on it now." Operators are already suffering billions dollar costs from lost ski days and snowmaking attributable to global warming. "We used to think that we could make it to 2050 before we hit a wall but now the indicators are that it's going to happen even earlier. Our industry is going to be in deep trouble."
Stern believes that Deer Valley is among the best situated North American ski areas to resist job killing warming due to its north facing slopes, high altitude and the absence of the jagged rocks that require a much deeper base. Nevertheless, Deer Valley has invested tens of millions of dollars to achieve an impressive 73 percent snowmaking coverage. Other resorts lag with 30 percent or less. Stern explains that bankers will no longer loan money to ski areas unless they can demonstrate majority coverage by snow blowers. Stern says that if the industry is to survive, it will need to develop artificial all-weather polymer based snow material. For kids my age, the idea of skiing on Styrofoam is part of the grim dystopian future. Let's face it, you adults are handing us a science fiction nightmare!
It may seem frivolous to fret about the demise of winter skiing when climate change is already melting the Arctic, drowning coastal cities and causing extreme weather cataclysms including historic droughts, fires, floods and hurricanes that take lives, destroy livelihoods, trigger wars and create millions of environmental refugees. But it's important for all of us to recognize that even here, in the affluent heart of Utah—the stable center of the U.S., we can't hide from Big Carbon's climate chaos.
Park City's initiatives are common sense, but our local politicians are working against immensely wealthy and powerful carbon tycoons who control the Congress and many state elected officials. Oil and coal industry robber barons invest in politicians who obligingly pass laws that give them vast subsidies, hurt renewable power like wind and solar and make it easy to build pipelines and fracking wells and hard to build solar plants. While their money subverts our democracy, their greed is deeding us an apocalyptical legacy of famine, floods and Styrofoam snow. Is it any wonder that many in my generation look at carbon and see not a legitimate business enterprise but a suicide pact for humanity and an assault on God's creation?
Finn Kennedy is a 17-year-old competitive freestyle skier and grandson of Robert F. Kennedy. This article originally appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune.
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By Brian Bienkowski
Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds pass on health problems to future generations, including deformities, reduced survival, and reproductive problems, according to a new study.
Low Levels Lead to Generational Impacts<p>Researchers exposed inland silverside fish to bifenthrin, levonorgestrel, ethinylestradiol, and trenbolone to levels currently found in waterways.</p><p>"Our concentrations were actually on the low end" of what is found in the wild, DeCourten said, adding that it was low amounts of chemicals in parts per trillion.</p><p>Bifenthrin is a pesticide; levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol are synthetic hormones used in birth controls; and trenbolone is a synthetic steroid often given to cattle to bulk them up.</p><p>Such endocrine-disruptors have already been linked to a variety of health problems in directly exposed fish including altered growth, reduced survival, lowered egg production, skewed sex ratios, and negative impacts to immune systems. But what remains less clear is how the exposure may impact future generations.</p><p>For their study, DeCourten and colleagues started the exposure when the fish were embryos and continued it for 21 days.</p><p>They then tracked effects on the exposed fish, and the next two generations.</p>
Inherited Problems<p>DeCourten said the altered DNA methylation is one of the plausible ways that future generations would experience health impacts from previous generations' exposure. Hormone-disrupting compounds have been shown to impact DNA methylation, which is an important marker of how an organism will develop.</p><p>"Methyl groups are added to specific sites on the genome, [the exposure] is not changing the genome itself, but rather how the genome is expressed," she said. "And that can be inherited throughout generations."</p><p>In addition, Brander said there are essentially different "tags" that exist on DNA molecules, which tell genes how to turn on and off. She said the exposure to different compounds may be "influencing which methyl tags get taken on or off as you proceed through generations."</p><p>The researchers said the study should prompt future toxics testing to consider impacts on future generations.</p><p>"The results … throw a wrench in the current approach to regulating chemicals, where it's often short-term testing looking at simple things like growth, survival, and maybe gene expression," Brander said.</p><p>"These findings are telling us we really at least need to consider" the next two generations, she added.</p>
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By Laura Beil
Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."
Vitamin D<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Called "the sunshine vitamin" because the body makes it naturally in the presence of ultraviolet light, <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/vitamin-d-supplements-lose-luster" target="_blank">Vitamin D is one of the most heavily studied</a> supplements (<em>SN: 1/27/19</em>). <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-12/" target="_blank">Certain foods</a>, including fish and fortified milk products, are also high in the vitamin.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>Vitamin D is a hormone building block that helps strengthen the immune system.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections:</strong> In 2017, the <em>British Medical Journal</em> published a meta-analysis that suggested a daily vitamin D supplement <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583" target="_blank">might help prevent respiratory infections</a>, particularly in people who are deficient in the vitamin.</p><p>But one key word here is <em>deficient. </em>That risk is highest during dark winters at high latitudes and among people with more color in their skin (melanin, a pigment that's higher in darker skin, inhibits the production of vitamin D).</p><p>"If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn't stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference," says Susan Lanham-New, head of the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Surrey in England.</p><p>And taking too much can create new health problems, stressing certain internal organs and leading to a dangerously high calcium buildup in the blood. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 to 800 International Units per day, and the upper limit is considered to be 4,000 IUs per day.</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin D and COVID-19:</strong> Few studies have looked directly at whether vitamin D makes a difference in COVID.</p>
Zinc<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Zinc, a mineral found in cells all over the body, is found naturally in certain meats, beans and oysters.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>It plays several supportive roles in the immune system, which is why zinc lozenges are always hot sellers in cold and flu season. Zinc also helps with cell division and growth.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457799/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies of using zinc for colds</a> — which are frequently caused by coronaviruses — suggest that using a supplement right after symptoms start might make them go away quicker. That said, a clinical trial from researchers in Finland and the United Kingdom, published in January in <em>BMJ Open</em> <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/1/e031662" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">did not find any value for zinc lozenges</a> for the treatment of colds. Some researchers have theorized that inconsistencies in data for colds may be explained by varying amounts of zinc released in different lozenges.</p><p><strong>What we know about zinc and COVID-19:</strong> The mineral is promising enough that it was added to some early studies of hydroxychloroquine, a drug tested early in the pandemic. (Studies have since shown that <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/covid-19-coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-no-evidence-treatment" target="_blank">hydroxychloroquine can't prevent or treat COVID-19</a> (<em>SN: 8/2/20</em>).)</p>
Vitamin C<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Also called L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C has a long list of roles in the body. It's found naturally in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, peppers and tomatoes.</p><p><strong>Why it might help:</strong> It's a potent antioxidant that's important for a healthy immune system and preventing inflammation.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong>Thomas cautions that the data on vitamin C are often contradictory. One review from Chinese researchers, published in February in the <em>Journal of Medical Virolog</em>y, looked at <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmv.25707" target="_blank">what is already known about vitamin C</a> and other supplements that might have a role in COVID-19 treatment. Among other encouraging signs, human studies find a lower incidence of pneumonia among people taking vitamin C, "suggesting that vitamin C might prevent the susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions."</p><p>But for preventing colds, a 2013 Cochrane review of 29 studies <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">didn't support the idea</a> that vitamin C supplements could help in the general population. However, the authors wrote, given that vitamin C is cheap and safe, "it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial."</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin C and COVID-19: </strong>About a dozen studies are under way or planned to examine whether vitamin C added to coronavirus treatment helps with symptoms or survival, including Thomas' study at the Cleveland Clinic.</p><p>In a review published online in July in <em>Nutrition</em>, researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium concluded that the <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vitamin may help prevent infection</a> and tamp down the dangerous inflammatory reaction that can cause severe symptoms, based on what is known about how the nutrient works in the body.</p><p>Melissa Badowski, a pharmacist who specializes in viral infections at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and colleague Sarah Michienzi published an extensive look at all supplements that might be useful in the coronavirus epidemic. There's <a href="https://www.drugsincontext.com/can-vitamins-and-or-supplements-provide-hope-against-coronavirus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">still not enough evidence to know whether they are helpful</a>, the pair concluded in July in <em>Drugs in Context</em>. "It's not really clear if it's going to benefit patients," Badowski says.</p><p>And while supplements are generally safe, she adds that nothing is risk free. The best way to avoid infection, she says, is still to follow the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts: "Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart."</p>
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