Which Is the Biggest Threat to Americans: Zika, Cancer or ISIS?
The unfolding information about the Zika virus and saddening images of babies infected with microcephaly should really scare us all.
Zika isn’t an epidemic. It is endemic—meaning it is here to stay. And we have no means of establishing an immunity or an antidote in sight.
Of course, many of those infected will be people who are not pregnant and may only suffer mild symptoms.
Others, however, will give birth to children stricken with diseases, malformations and even premature death. Then there is the number of women who will elect not to have children, at least in the short term.
When these two groups are coupled together, there is a reasonable prospect that Zika, if not contained, could have significant long-term effects on the world’s demographics: fewer children born, more children in need of extensive care, more children dying in tropical countries.
Knowing a Threat When You See It
I’m not an expert on diseases. There are others far more qualified to discuss the medical elements than I am.
But I know a threat when I see it.
There are three kinds of threats.
Zika is what is called an naturogenic threat. It comes naturally from nature. It isn’t what we call an anthropogenic threat—an unintended product of human activity on nature like pollution and climate change. And it isn’t the product of deliberate human malfeasance—like terrorism and war.
Manufacturing a Threat
I guess the last type is the only threat that politicians really care about.
Maybe that’s because these are the only kinds of threats that they can even remotely plausibly suggest they can do something about—preferably using muscular and provocative terms that make them sound like “leaders.”
Nobody is going to “kick nature’s ass,” as those of us who recently lived through Winter Storm Jonas on the East Coast will testify. But you can make the claim when talking about the Islamic State or ISIS—as Sarah Palin recently promised that Donald Trump would do.
So maybe that is why, during the last Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses, Marco Rubio chose to use the term “apocalyptic” in reference to ISIS. And why Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz talked about “destroying” them.
In fact, a quick examination of the transcript of the debate reveals that ISIS was mentioned 44 times. In contrast, climate change was mentioned only three times—all in one question to Marco Rubio about how he might have once expressed the view that it was real. And Zika? Or Ebola? They were not mentioned at all.
I believe that these small details tell you a lot about how threats are constructed in America.
We let our politicians tell us what should be our greatest fears. And they serve us really badly. Of course, ISIS is a group with evil intent who behave barbarically. But they do not and will not have the ability to invade the U.S. and kill Americans in their beds. This does not mean that they should not be opposed. But they should not, I would argue, dominate our debate about foreign policy.
Public health (or that more fashionable term “global health”), on the other hand, should. Zika or Ebola or dengue fever—which accounts for almost 100 million infections a year—may actually kill us in our beds. But talking about that isn’t sexy.
Indeed, the work on this problem is disparagingly left to “geeks” and scientists.
So despite the growing threats posed to the U.S. by these diseases, Congress’ appropriations for expenditures on global health have stagnated in the last two years and really gone nowhere since 2010.
President Obama’s initiative to find a cure for cancer—presaged, like most things in American politics, by an episode of the West Wing—was also ignored by the Republicans in their debate. This despite the fact that cancer is projected to kill just shy of 600,000 Americans this year.
What Threats Will Americans Care About?
So with the primary season upon us at last, we are left with a familiar question.
If Americans are so indeed angry, disgusted and anguished—so “sick of politics”—why do they let blustering politicians define what is important to them? Like telling them what they should fear when that is so patently false.
H.L. Mencken is reputed to have said that,
"No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."
He obviously had little regard for the average American.
Yet the evidence suggests he is wrong. Every time that America is pronounced on the verge of demise, it astonishingly finds a way to adapt and rejuvenate itself—like the resurgence of the U.S. economy since 2008.
And let’s hope that American voters can ignore the rabble-rousing of politicians and figure out what really threatens them in the months ahead.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
- New Clues Help Monarch Butterfly Conservation Efforts - EcoWatch ›
- Monarch Butterflies Will Be Protected Under Historic Deal - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
California faces another "critically dry year" according to state officials, and a destructive wildfire season looms on its horizon. But in a state that welcomes innovation, water efficacy approaches and drought management could replenish California, increasingly threatened by the climate's new extremes.
- Remarkable Drop in Colorado River Water Use Sign of Climate ... ›
- California Faces a Future of Extreme Weather - EcoWatch ›
Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
- 14 Countries Commit to Ocean Sustainability Initiative - EcoWatch ›
- These 11 Innovations Are Protecting Ocean Life - EcoWatch ›
- How Innovation Is Driving the Blue Economy - EcoWatch ›