Obama Says Climate Change Is Hazardous to Your Health
This week, President Obama is launching a slew of new initiatives to focus on how climate change affects community health and how those effects can be better addressed. He kicked it off by declaring April 6-12 National Public Health Week to emphasize the importance of engaging the public health system as well as private companies and local governments to take action to mitigate the health impacts of climate change.
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"We know climate change is not a distant threat," said the White House press release. "We are already seeing impacts in communities across the country. And while most Americans see climate change hitting their communities through extreme weather events—from more severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves—there are other threats climate change poses to the American people. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor and some communities of color. Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries."
To meet those challenges, the White House is kicking off a series of actions to engage various stakeholders, identify solutions, provide wider access to climate and health data and other significant information and make sure the next generation of medical professionals is trained to address the ways in which climate change is making people sick.
The President appeared Tuesday at a forum at Howard University with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy to call attention to the initiatives he's announcing this week, as well as more than a dozen public-private partnerships to address community health issues caused by climate change, including commitments from Harvard University, Google, Microsoft and the City of San Francisco.
"We've got to do better in protecting our vulnerable families," said Obama. "You can't cordon yourself off from air."
Obama announced the White House Climate Change and Health Summit later this spring, which will bring together medical and health professionals, academics and other stakeholders to look for ways to reduce climate-related medical issues, and he unveiled a series of executive actions focused on providing informational tools to communities, health professionals and the public.
They include the release of Adaptation in Action by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Public Health Association (APHA); highlighting how seven cities and states are using the CDC's Building Resilience Against Climate Effects framework; and a Health Care Facilities Toolkit from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to serve as a guide for decision-making by health care workers. And, as part of the White House's Climate Data Initiative launched last year, the Obama administration Tuesday made available more than 150 meta-tagged data sets relating to health resilience.
“Fifty years ago, the Surgeon General under President Johnson’s administration first warned the public about the devastating health effects of tobacco use," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "Today, the Obama Administration is bringing the same spotlight to recognizing the dangers that climate disruption poses to the health of our children and our communities. We applaud the Obama Administration for not just recognizing what the best public health research indicates, but taking action by bringing medical experts to the front of the fight for climate action. Even better, the Administration is acting to curb the dangerous conditions that cause these threats by cleaning up carbon pollution from dirty power plants for the first time with the Clean Power Plan and strengthening protections from dangerous smog later this year."
The administration is also promoting a series of events leading up to the summit, including a Community, Culture and Mental Health Workshop at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to discuss what makes communities resilient to climate change. They're also launching a Climate Change and Health Data Challenge to invite coders, analysts and researchers to use the newly released health resilience datasets to find new ways to look at issues and problems and offering data and expertise for the National Day of Civic Hacking June 6 to encourage people to contribute their skills and ideas to solving climate-related health problems.
On Thursday, White House Senior Advisor Brian Deese will host a roundtable discussion with some of the 30 deans of medical, public health and nursing schools that have committed to training their students for a future in which they have to deal with climate change health impacts.
While this week's announcements and events deal with mitigating the results of climate change that is already occurring, the White House press release also made it clear that it was not a substitute for mitigating climate change itself, saying "This week’s actions build on a series of steps we are taking across the administration through the President’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the dangerous levels of carbon pollution that are contributing to climate change, prepare our communities for the impacts that cannot be avoided, and lead internationally."
The Heartland Institute also responded to President Obama's announcement:
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Material Revolutions: Shirts Made from Shellfish, Biodegradable Rum Bottles and Reusable Fast Food Containers
In the age of consumption, sustainability innovations can help shift cultural habits and protect dwindling natural resources. Improvements in source materials, product durability and end-of-life disposal procedures can create consumer products that are better for the Earth throughout their lifecycles. Three recent advancements hope to make a difference.
1. Allbirds Shirts Made From Shellfish<p>Sustainable sneaker start-up <a href="https://www.allbirds.com/pages/apparel" target="_blank">Allbirds</a> is known for its thoughtfulness for consumers and the environment. The four-year-old shoe company has become hugely popular by creating comfortable shoes made from responsibly sourced materials like tencel and wool, reported <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90565358/allbirds-new-clothing-line-includes-t-shirts-made-from-discarded-crab-shells" target="_blank">Fast Company</a>.</p><p>Recently, Allbirds launched its debut apparel line with garments for men and women made with eco-friendly materials that have a low carbon footprint, the report said.</p><p>Introduced along with the line is a new t-shirt material called "TrinoXO," which is made from wool and discarded snow crab shells from Canada's seafood industry, reported <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/20/sustainable-sneaker-start-up-allbirds-is-selling-sweaters-t-shirts.html" target="_blank">CNBC</a> and <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/20/business/allbirds-sustainable-apparel/index.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">CNN</a>. The shells are the "number two discarded resource on earth," Allbirds claims, reported <a href="https://www.menshealth.com/style/a34427585/allbirds-apparel-clothing-line-review/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Men's Health</a>.</p><p>"Discarded material is the holy grail when it comes to sustainable fibers," Jad Finck, Allbirds head of innovation and sustainability, told Fast Company. "It's far better for the environment than getting raw materials from scratch."</p><p>The shells have antimicrobial properties that keep clothes fresh even after hours of wear, without the need to add "extractive" materials like zinc or silver, Men's Health reported. This allows for longer periods of wear between washes, reducing clothes' environmental footprint.</p><p>"We knew we wanted to be a real brand, and had this vision that we'd be an innovation company first, and a product company second," co-founder Joey Zwillinger told <a href="https://www.vogue.com/article/allbirds-launches-clothing" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Vogue</a>. "And our products would solve problems for people in a natural way, and show the world that you don't have to compromise on the planet for amazing products."</p>
2. Bacardi Biodegradable Rum Bottles<p>By 2023, <a href="https://www.bacardi.com/us/en/" target="_blank">Bacardi</a> rum will be sold in 100% biodegradable bottles, <a href="https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201021005281/en/Bacardi-First-in-Fight-Against-Plastic-Pollution-With-100-Biodegradable-Spirits-Bottle" target="_blank">Business Wire</a> reported.</p><p>The alcohol giant is collaborating with Danimer Scientific, a leading developer of biodegradable products, to create the new bottles using the natural oils of plant seeds such as palm, canola and soy, the report said.</p><p>According to <a href="https://sports.yahoo.com/bacardi-to-make-100-biodegradable-spirits-bottle-124436841.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAE1Wl8ONNdph3ID8reylzGM8dbX575Mk96Jw6z3kHZaGjKCz_UgQgxH0Q1n3RNCzhOMBEZ7fAIf8iiOXLRtY9VVHNZsmb-w1VOJnGlzIbuwhmoBo_KOV4dba8FoWrkgmmwwCyQZnRoTL0Uda6HQ4pE5ewGWh2pwQzjS3gKAe1ynm" target="_blank">Yahoo Finance UK</a>, the new bottle will biodegrade in a wide range of environments, including compost, soil, freshwater and seawater. After 18 months, the bottle will disappear completely without leaving microplastics.</p><p>"Nodax PHA is one of the most promising eco-friendly materials in the world today because it delivers the biodegradability that consumers demand without losing the quality feel they receive from traditional plastic," said Danimer Scientific chief marketing & sustainability officer Scott Tuten, reported <a href="https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/bacardi-biodegradable-spirits-bottle-plastic-free-packaging" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Thrillist</a>. "The material provides the best of both worlds, and we look forward to working with Bacardí and incorporating PHA into their iconic packaging."</p><p>Bacardi is also creating a sustainably sourced paper bottle, Yahoo reported.</p><p>The manufacturing of both new bottle types will save energy over petroleum-based plastic ones. Bacardi plans to share the technology with competitors to help in the global fight against <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastic-pollution" target="_self">plastic pollution</a>, and aims to be 100% plastic-free by 2030, reported Thrillist.</p>
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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