Pope Francis to Hold First-Ever Gathering of Mayors at Vatican to Rev Up Fight Against Climate Change
Pope Francis is certainly putting his muscle where his mouth is when it comes to climate change. Just a month after his groundbreaking Encyclical on the topic, the Vatican will host a workshop called "Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of Cities," followed by a symposium on "Prosperity, People and Planet: Achieving Sustainable Development in Our Cities.”
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He has invited mayors from around the world to the gathering, taking place next Tuesday and Wednesday. It's the first time an international group of mayors has gathered at the Vatican and the fact that they're doing so to address the impacts of climate change on the poor shows what a high priority the issue is for Pope Francis. About 60 mayors are scheduled to attend from every corner of the globe, from big cities like Mexico City and New York, and small cities like Soroti, Uganda, with a population of about 40,000. The Pope is expected to address the gathering.
“I am deeply thankful that Pope Francis is tackling issues of such grave importance not only to my city of Minneapolis but to the world," said Mayor Betsy Hodges. "I look forward to learning how Minneapolis can join hands in global efforts around climate change and ending the factors that contribute to 21st century trade in human beings, and to share the successes we that we as a city have achieved.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said, “Seattle is an innovative leader in sustainability and carbon reduction, but too often the benefits of our progress are not equitably shared. Our most at-risk communities, low-income families and communities of color are disproportionally impacted by climate change. Seattle is committed to changing this through our Equity and Environment Initiative to ensure strong social justice outcomes in our environmental policy. I’m humbled to have the opportunity to share this experience with global leaders as we heed the Pope’s call for action."
At a press conference in the Vatican yesterday to talk about the upcoming event, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences which is hosting it, explained that climate change and modern slavery are "interconnected emergencies." "Although the poor and the excluded have the least effect on climate change, they are the most exposed to the terrible threat posed by human-induced climate disruption," he said.
Bishop Sanchez referred to the Pope's words in the recent Encyclical, "The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life," adding, "As the Pontifical Academy of Sciences has shown in several studies, available as free downloads on our website www.pas.va, this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level. Moreover, it’s difficult not to link it to extreme weather events such as prolonged drought, heat waves and destructive storms, which are becoming more and more frequent. Humanity, therefore, is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it."
He went on to explain the importance of mayors in making these changes.
"Following the Encyclical, our commitment is to make the whole of society aware of these phenomena and of the human responsibilities of these crises and to react firmly, as a new moral imperative for all of humanity in favor of the common good," he said. "In this fundamental moral context, cities and their mayors play a key role. Currently, most of humanity is concentrated in formal and informal urban settlements, and this trend is set to increase. Although the poor and the excluded have the least effect on climate change and often live on the outskirts of the city, they are the most exposed to the terrible threat posed by human-induced climate disruption."
"We intend for the mayors to commit to promoting the empowerment of the poor and of those who live in vulnerable conditions in our cities and in our urban settlements, reducing their exposure to extreme weather events caused by radical environmental, economic and social instabilities, which create fertile ground for forced migration and human trafficking," said Sanchez. "In short, we would like our cities and urban settlements to become more socially inclusive, safe, resilient and ecologically integrated."
Some of the U.S. mayors who are committed to attending include those from San Francisco, Seattle, Boulder, New Orleans, San Jose, Boston, Minneapolis and Birmingham, Alabama, as well as California Gov. Jerry Brown, who said, "This unprecedented gathering of global leaders is a wake-up call to face up to the common threats of climate change and human exploitation."
New York Mayor Bill DiBlasio is among those who will address the conference.
"Pope Francis has been one of the world’s most powerful voices on fighting income inequality, and Mayor de Blasio shares the pope’s belief that addressing climate change is essential to that fight,” said City Hall spokeswoman Monica Klein.
"This is a call to the marketplace: the biggest energy customer you’ll find is ready to put our money where our mouth is when it comes to renewable power,” said DiBlasio. “Our administration has made an unprecedented commitment to dramatically reducing our environmental footprint, becoming the largest city in the world to commit to 80x50. Now, by leveraging our energy purchasing power, we aim to catalyze new capacity, chart a path to powering 100 percent of city government from renewables and make clear why New York City remains a global leader in the fight against climate change.”
Mayors are also coming from Oslo, Paris, Berlin, Vancouver, Rome, Florence, Naples, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Bogota, Stockholm, Madrid, Algiers, Tehran, Kochi and Kingston in Jamaica. They're traveling from Nigeria, Gabon, South Africa, Botswana, Senegal and Mozambique.
The mayors planning to attend expressed excitement about the importance of this event and what it could accomplish.
"I am very much looking forward to discuss sustainable development of our cities to reduce global climate change and, by arranging this symposium, the Vatican is contributing to finding the viable long-term solutions we all work towards," said Oslo Mayor Stian Berger Røsland. "When we say humans must, and can, reduce our climate gas emissions, people do not envision a good public transport system or responsible building legislation. But when cities emit 70 percent of the world’s CO2, clearly, we do have game-changing tools."
“Boulder is honored to join in discussion with Pope Francis and this group of global cities that have shown leadership through their actions to address the climate crisis," said Mayor Matthew Appelbaum. "The City of Boulder has long prioritized environmental stewardship and sustainability. Boulder and all local governments have essential roles in developing and implementing policies and technical solutions to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change, and working together to find innovative and responsible environmental actions that can be adopted globally.”
"Here in Jamaica we are constantly reminded of our contribution to and the effects of human-induced climate change as we experience hotter days and nights, less rainfall and longer periods of drought," said Kingston Mayor Dr. Angela Brown Burke. “And even as global and economic development are top of the agenda, we are mindful of our symbiotic relationship with the environment—the oxygen that is produced by plants is vital to our continued existence and plants cannot survive without the carbon dioxide we exhale. I am grateful that we have been afforded the opportunity to participate in these meetings where we can explore and share ideas on how we can live up to our God-given mandate as ordained custodians of the Earth.”
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Why You Should Wash Fresh Produce<p>Global pandemic or not, properly washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a good habit to practice to minimize the ingestion of potentially harmful residues and germs.</p><p>Fresh produce is handled by numerous people before you purchase it from the grocery store or the farmers market. It's best to assume that not every hand that has touched fresh produce has been clean.</p><p>With all of the people constantly bustling through these environments, it's also safe to assume that much of the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fresh-vs-frozen-fruit-and-vegetables" target="_blank">fresh produce</a> you purchase has been coughed on, sneezed on, and breathed on as well.</p><p>Adequately washing fresh fruits and vegetables before you eat them can significantly reduce residues that may be left on them during their journey to your kitchen.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a proven way to remove germs and unwanted residues from their surfaces before eating them.</p>
Best Produce Cleaning Methods<p>While rinsing fresh produce with water has long been the traditional method of preparing fruits and veggies before consumption, the current pandemic has many people wondering whether that's enough to really clean them.</p><p>Some people have advocated the use of soap, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/white-vinegar" target="_blank">vinegar</a>, lemon juice, or even commercial cleaners like bleach as an added measure.</p><p>However, health and food safety experts, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), strongly urge consumers not to take this advice and stick with plain water.</p><p>Using such substances may pose further health dangers, and they're unnecessary to remove the most harmful residues from produce. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/chlorine-poisoning" target="_blank">Ingesting commercial cleaning chemicals</a> like bleach can be lethal and should never be used to clean food.</p><p>Furthermore, substances like lemon juice, vinegar, and produce washes have not been shown to be any more effective at cleaning produce than plain water — and may even leave additional deposits on food.</p><p>While some research has suggested that using neutral electrolyzed water or a baking soda bath can be even more effective at removing certain substances, the consensus continues to be that cool tap water is sufficient in most cases.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>The best way to wash fresh produce before eating it is with cool water. Using other substances is largely unnecessary. Plus they're often not as effective as water and gentle friction. Commercial cleaners should never be used on food.</p>
How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables With Water<p>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables in cool water before eating them is a good practice when it comes to health hygiene and food safety.</p><p>Note that fresh produce should not be washed until right before you're ready to eat it. Washing fruits and vegetables before storing them may create an environment in which bacterial growth is more likely.</p><p>Before you begin washing fresh produce, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-should-you-wash-your-hands" target="_blank">wash your hands well</a> with soap and water. Be sure that any utensils, sinks, and surfaces you're using to prepare your produce are also thoroughly cleaned first.</p><p>Begin by cutting away any bruised or visibly rotten areas of fresh produce. If you're handling a fruit or vegetable that'll be peeled, such as an orange, wash it before peeling it to prevent any surface bacteria from entering the flesh.</p><p>The general methods to wash produce are as follows:</p><ul><li><strong>Firm produce.</strong> Fruits with firmer skins like apples, lemons, and pears, as well as <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/root-vegetables" target="_blank">root vegetables</a> like potatoes, carrots, and turnips, can benefit from being brushed with a clean, soft bristle to better remove residues from their pores.</li><li><strong>Leafy greens.</strong> Spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, leeks, and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and bok choy should have their outermost layer removed, then be submerged in a bowl of cool water, swished, drained, and rinsed with fresh water.</li><li><strong>Delicate produce.</strong> Berries, mushrooms, and other types of produce that are more likely to fall apart can be cleaned with a steady stream of water and gentle friction using your fingers to remove grit.</li></ul><p>Once you have thoroughly rinsed your produce, dry it using a clean paper or cloth towel. More fragile produce can be laid out on the towel and gently patted or rolled around to dry them without damaging them.</p><p>Before consuming your fruits and veggies, follow the simple steps above to minimize the amount of germs and substances that may be on them.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Most fresh fruits and veggies can gently be scrubbed under cold running water (using a clean soft brush for those with firmer skins) and then dried. It can help to soak, drain, and rinse produce that has more dirt-trapping layers.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Practicing good food hygiene is an important health habit. Washing fresh produce helps minimize surface germs and residues that could make you sick.</p><p>Recent fears during the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/coronavirus" target="_blank">COVID-19 pandemic</a> have caused many people to wonder whether more aggressive washing methods, such as using soap or commercial cleaners on fresh produce, are better.</p><p>Health professionals agree that this isn't recommended or necessary — and could even be dangerous. Most fruits and vegetables can be sufficiently cleaned with cool water and light friction right before eating them.</p><p>Produce that has more layers and surface area can be more thoroughly washed by swishing it in a bowl of cool water to remove dirt particles.</p><p>Fresh fruits and vegetables offer a number of healthy nutrients and should continue to be eaten, as long as safe cleaning methods are practiced.</p>
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From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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