Post-Sochi: Environmentalists Call on Olympic Committee to Consider Future Game’s Climate Impacts
A letter was sent to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday from Global Greengrants Fund asking it to change course on how it chooses future Olympic sites and to call on Russian authorities to release imprisoned environmentalists. The request comes as a final report cataloguing the extensive environmental destruction has been released, and as jailed Russian environmental activist, Yevgeny Vitishko, continues his hunger strike and is transferred to a penal colony for a three-year sentence.
“The environmental destruction caused by the Sochi Games, and the arrest and imprisonment of environmentalists who are simply trying to get the word out, is unconscionable,” said Terry Odendahl, executive director and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund. “The Olympic Charter says it is committed to ‘building a peaceful and better world by educating youth,’ and the Sochi Olympics have violated that charter.”
The Russian environmental organization, Environmental Watch on North Caucasus, a grantee partner of Global Greengrants, compiled an 85-page report that highlights destruction of forests, rivers and wildlife habitat caused by building the Sochi Games in the middle of the once-pristine Sochi National Park. According to Environmental Watch, the construction effort was possible because officials violated or gutted Russian environmental laws, and when Environmental Watch raised these concerns, the organization’s staff was detained, harassed, exiled or jailed. Selections of the report translated into English are available here.
In addition to highlighting the damage to Sochi National Park and the human rights abuses, the Global Greengrants letter also requests that the IOC consider the climate change impacts of building new Olympic venues every two years.
“In this era of climate change, building these small new Olympic cities every two years, which then forces local activists to defend the environment with their lives, is climate denial compounded by an egregious violation of environmental justice and human rights,” continued Odendahl.
The environmental and human rights violations of the Sochi games have been reported in the international press, including Time, Outside Magazine, Washington Post and New York Times, shedding a shameful light on these Olympics and the International Olympic Committee’s venue selection for the 2014 Games.
Global Greengrants called on the IOC to intervene and help free the Russian environmental activists, acknowledge the environmental destruction by urging the Russian government to address it and to create truly sustainable Olympics in the future.
“Our partners in Sochi are just like you and me. They are ordinary citizens and scientists, concerned about the environment and the well-being of our planet. But they’re being treated like criminals,” Odendahl said. “Freezing bank accounts, detaining, harassing, exiling and jailing environmental activists—that’s the environmental legacy of the Sochi Olympics? The IOC needs to make sure this never happens again.”
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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