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What Does Our Nation's Standing Rock Moment Look Like?
By Mark Trahant
It's easy for me to dismiss 2016 as a horrible year.
There have been eight years of relative progress on issues I care about, from the climate to equality. The election reversed that. Big Oil is now in charge of the environment, a senator with a history of hate is now in charge of the Justice Department, and the new government seems to be of the billionaires, for the billionaires, and by the billionaires.
The Latin phrase for horrible year rings hollow when you think about the events of this year and the Lakota phrase mni wiconi. Water is life. Make no mistake: Year 2016 is an inspirational and historic moment. Standing Rock is no longer just a geographic location but words that call each of us to do more. Standing Rock is a reminder that people standing together can do amazing things when facing injustice.
Think about the ways we have been seduced by our own progress. In September, for example, President Barack Obama praised the Paris agreement on climate change and called it "the single best chance that we have to deal with a problem that could end up transforming this planet in a way that makes it very difficult for us to deal with all the other challenges that we may face." Lofty words. Yet the actual government actions to implement those words have been, at best, limited. Baby steps. Imagine a framework that starts with the promise of Paris and then builds decisions based on that. In that scenario there would have been no debate about the Dakota Access Pipeline because we wouldn't need it.
But at least for the next four years, the government will be the adversary. The entire apparatus of state will look more like the Morton County Sheriff's office than our ally. We will all face water cannons rather than comforting language. But we can be clear about the challenges ahead knowing that the government is absolutely wrong about the very nature of the problem.
So what does our nation's Standing Rock moment look like?
In some ways it's already unfolding. The BP Statistical Review, an energy industry outlook, reports that carbon emissions in 2015 already showed "the lowest growth in emissions in nearly a quarter of a century, other than in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis." Similar data show we are driving fewer miles and there is steady growth in renewable energy sources. And there's this tell: The amount of capital that's being invested in clean energy development, $328 billion, is the most ever.
Federal processes will delay the Dakota Access Pipeline beyond its promised January 2017 operational target date, and litigation with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe could delay the project for many more months. And every day, every week, and every month of delay makes the Dakota Access Pipeline less compelling from a financial point of view.
Oil production in the Bakken region was down in 2016 by some 13,000 barrels a day. The oil industry hopes that the new Trump administration will change that and flip the switch that brings back consumption. In fact, oil companies, as well as the state of North Dakota, cling to the idea that oil production will magically double to around 2 million barrels a day. And that idea is bolstered by upticks in oil prices, new well production, and more drilling.
But the opposite is possible. We can continue to shrink our oil appetites. We can set Standing Rock as the framework for consumption. This is one way to challenge the oil uber alles mentality of the Trump administration. We walk. We adjust the temperature in our houses. We measure our own carbon consumption with the goal of reducing it by 20 percent or more.
Standing Rock captured our imagination. And while it was only one battle, the tribe and its allies showed the world how to defeat powerful forces. Now the larger test is making further oil production irrelevant.
Mni wiconi. And in 2017, that means we pick up the fight in new ways.
Mark Trahant is an independent journalist and a journalism professor at the University of North Dakota. He's a member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. His most recent project is TrahantReports.com. He is a contributing editor at YES! Follow him on Twitter at @TrahantReports. Reposted with permission from your media associate Yes! Magazine.
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A central player in the fight against the novel coronavirus is our immune system. It protects us against the invader and can even be helpful for its therapy. But sometimes it can turn against us.
How does our immune system react to the coronavirus?<p>The coronavirus is — like any other virus — not much more than a shell around genetic material and a few proteins. To replicate, it needs a host in the form of a living cell. Once infected, this cell does what the virus commands it to do: copy information, assemble it, release it.</p><p>But this does not go unnoticed. Within a few minutes, the body's immune defense system intervenes with its innate response: Granulocytes, scavenger cells and killer cells from the blood and lymphatic system stream in to fight the virus. They are supported by numerous plasma proteins that either act as messengers or help to destroy the virus.</p><p>For many viruses and bacteria, this initial activity of the immune system is already sufficient to fight an intruder. It often happens very quickly and efficiently. We often notice only small signs that the system is working: We have a cold, a fever. </p>
Is there an immunity? How long does it last?<p>The good news is that it is very likely there is an immunity. This is suggested by the proximity to other viruses, epidemiological data and animal experiments. Researchers <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.13.990226v1" target="_blank">infected four rhesus monkeys,</a> a species close to humans, with SARS-CoV-2. The monkeys showed symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, developed neutralizing antibodies and recovered after a few days. When the recovered animals were reinfected with the virus, they no longer developed any symptoms: They were immune. </p><p>The bad news: It is not (yet) known how long the immunity will last. It depends on whether a patient has successfully developed neutralizing antibodies. Achim Hörauf estimates that the immunity should last at least one year. Within this year, every new contact with the virus acts as a kind of booster vaccination, which in turn might prolong the immunity.</p><p>"The virus is so new that nobody has a reasonable immune response," says the immunologist. He believes that lifelong immunity is unlikely. This "privilege" is reserved for viruses that remain in the body for a long time and give our immune system a virtually permanent opportunity to get to know it. Since the coronavirus is an RNA (and not a DNA) virus, it cannot permanently settle in the body, says Hörauf.</p><p>The Heidelberg immunologist <a href="https://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/immunologie/immunologie" target="_blank">Stefan Meuer</a> predicts that the novel coronavirus will also mutate like all viruses. He assumes that this could be the case in 10 to 15 years: "At some point, the acquired immunity will no longer be of any use to us because then another coronavirus will return, against which the protection that has now been formed will not help us because the virus has changed in such a way that the antibodies are no longer responsible. And then no vaccination will help either."</p>
How can we take advantage of the antibody response of the immune system?<p>Researchers are already collecting plasma from people who have successfully survived an infection with SARS-CoV-2 and are using it to treat a limited number of patients suffering from COVID-19. The underlying principle: <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-drugs-can-antibodies-from-survivors-help/a-52806428" target="_blank">passive immunization.</a> The studies carried out to date have shown positive results, but they have usually been carried out on only a few people.</p><p>At best, passive immunization is used only when the patient's own immune system has already started to work against the virus, says Achim Hörauf: "The longer you can leave the patients alone with the infection before you protect them with passive immunization, the better." Only through active immunization can one be protected in the long term. At the same time, it is difficult to recognize the right point in time.</p><p>PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are currently used to find out whether a person is infected with the coronavirus. With the help of PCR, it is not possible to tell whether or not there is reproducible viral RNA; it is just a proof of whether the virus is still present, dead or alive. A PCR test cannot tell us whether our immune system has already intervened, i.e. whether we have had contact with the virus in the past, have formed antibodies and are now protected. Researchers are therefore working on tests that check our blood for the presence of antibodies. They are already in use in Singapore, for example, and are nearing completion in the USA. With the help of these tests, it would finally be possible to gain an overview <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/corona-confusion-how-to-make-sense-of-the-numbers-and-terminology/a-52825433" target="_blank">of the unclear case numbers.</a> In addition, people who have developed antibodies against the virus could be used at the forefront of health care, for example. An "immunity passport" is even under discussion.</p>
Is it possible to become infected and/or ill several times with the coronavirus?<p>"According to all we know, it is not possible with the same pathogen," says Achim Hörauf. It is possible to become infected with other coronaviruses or viruses from the SARS or MERS group if their spike proteins look different. "As far as the current epidemic is concerned, it can be assumed that people who have been through COVID-19 will not become ill from it for the time being and will not transmit the virus any further," he says.</p>
How long before you're no longer contagious?<p>A study <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2196-x" target="_blank">carried out on the first coronavirus patients in Germany</a> showed that no viruses that are capable of replication can be found from day eight after the onset of symptoms, even though PCR can still detect up to 100,000 gene copies per sample. This could change the current quarantine recommendations in the future.</p><p>According to the Robert Koch Institute, patients can currently be discharged from hospital if they show two negative PCR samples from the throat within 24 hours. If they have had a severe case of the disease, they should remain in domestic isolation for another two weeks. For each discharge, whether from hospital or home isolation, they should have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours.</p>
Why do people react differently to the virus?<p>While some people get off with a mild cold, others are put on ventilators or even die of SARS-Cov-2. Especially people with <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-who-is-particularly-at-risk-and-why/a-52710881" target="_blank">pre-existing conditions</a> and older people seem to be worst-affected by the virus. Why? This is the hottest question at the moment.</p><p>It will still take a very, very long time to understand the mechanistic, biological basis for why some people are so much more severely affected than others, virologist Angela Rasmussen told <em>The Scientist</em>. "The virus is important, but the host response is at least as important, if not more important," her colleague Stanley Perlman told the magazine.</p><p>Stefan Meuer sees a fundamental survival principle of nature in the different equipment and activity of our immune systems: "If we were all the same, one and the same virus could wipe out the entire human species at once. Due to the genetic range, it is quite normal that some people die from a viral disease while others do not even notice it. "</p><p>Achim Hörauf also suspects immunological variants that could be genetically determined. Since interstitial pneumonia is observed with the coronavirus, the focus is probably on an overreaction of the immune system. However, it is also possible that each person affected may have been loaded with a different dose of the virus, which in turn leads to different outcomes. And finally, it makes a difference how robust the body and lungs are: Competitive athletes simply have more lung volume than long-time smokers. </p>
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