Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Long Emergency: Physicians' Viewpoint

The New England Journal of Medicine, to their credit, has several open-access essays on the environmental crisis. A good part of the value-added from these is that they demonstrate the synergy among some important issues that aren't often considered together, and don't get a lot of attention in the corporate media.

Sorenson and Gracia-Trebenino discuss an epidemic that is largely ignored in the United States. Agricultural workers in tropical climates are experiencing radical increases in the incidence of chronic kidney disease and renal failure. While the cause is not fully understood, it appears to be linked to rising temperatures resulting in heat stress and dehydration. This is one more indication that the climate emergency will reduce agricultural production, and render large areas of the planet unsuitable for agriculture and even uninhabitable.

Another inconvenient truth the corporate media largely ignores is that CO2 is not the only harmful emission from burning fossil fuel. Ultra-fine particles -- especially so-called PM2.5, which are microscopic, are inhaled into the alveoli and can pass into the blood stream -- kill people. Actually a lot of people. Every 10 μg per cubic meter increase on a given day raises mortality by 0.68%. A microgram is 1 millionth of a gram. These particles are totally imperceptible. You cannot see them or smell them. There could be trillions of them in the space between you and the person next to you and you would be completely unaware of it. The highest concentrations are within 100 meters or so of highways, and of course airports and truck terminals and other places where poor people are likely to live.

Of course we know what the current administration is doing: pretending none of this is real and eliminating efforts to combat it, in order to satisfy the psychopathic greed of wealthy Republican donors.

J.H. Dunk and colleagues, in discussing the history of physician activism around environmental issues, remind us that the climate crisis has been fully understood since the 1980s, and that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established in 1988. In other words, for 30 years we've been doing essentially nothing while we have known full well that we were running headlong toward unimaginable catastrophe.

You don't need any more reason to devote the very worth of your being to ridding us of the Chosen One, King of Israel. Fast. 


Don Quixote said...

A-fucking-men. Th orange excrescence needs to go and it doesn't really matter how it happens.

Rank and File said...

None of this is new news.

So, the question becomes, what did the last administration do with this info and what will the next administration do, if elected in 2020?

Cervantes said...

Well Obama didn't do enough (of course he couldn't get anything through the Republican congress), but he did quite a lot that the current administration is reversing. What the next administration -- and congress -- will do is of course the critical question.

Rank and File said...

All of the actions taken by Obama appear to be executive orders or memorandums.

This is the problem you tun into when you don’t have a legislative proces.

If you just want to score political point, that’s grea. But, as you can see, it didn’t mean JACK in the end.

Cervantes said...

Well right. But whose fault is that? You might take it up with Mitch McConnell.

Rank and File said...

The system keeps these "Kings" from issuing permanent edicts, as demonstrated. Overall, I think it might be a blessing.

Just imagine Trump issuing permanent executive orders on an unpopular issue that the next president couldn't unwind.

Mark P said...

I live in a medium-sized city that has a limit on certain types of new development because of high PM2.5 levels. A few years ago the local newspaper had an editorial in which they bemoaned the terribly unfair limit, because the particulate matter didn't actually originate here, it was being blown in from the west. The editorial writer mocked the placement of the local measuring station because it was right beneath the tall stack of a coal-fired power plant -- how stupid, he said, because obviously it was going to measure high PM2.5 levels there! I wrote a letter to the editor in which I pointed out that, as you said, elevated PM2.5 levels kill people. I also pointed out that putting the monitoring station close to the base of the power plant stack actually prevents it from measuring any of its emissions except under extremely unusual atmospheric conditions. Those stacks are tall for a reason; it prevents the emissions from reaching the ground until they are diluted below the regulated levels. They didn't print my letter.

Cervantes said...

Well R&F there is a difference between "can" and "should."

Yes, the distribution of PM2.5 around a source is complicated, depends on wind, air temperature and temperature gradients in the air column, sun, topography (including buildings). But generally, it's going to be higher in less desirable places, notably close to highways, which is of course where they put all the affordable housing. There are enormous socio-economic disparities in exposure.

Don Quixote said...

Uh ... ACA was not the result of either an executive order or memorandum under Obama.

Neither was the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Neither was the America Recovery and Investment Act.

Neither was the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act.

Neither was the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Neither was the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Anyway, his actions were also not the result of demented, racist thinking which made him determined because of mental illness to undo all the acts of his predecessor because of skin color.

I know we've had really abhorrent presidents--think both Bushes, Andrew Jackson, Eisenhower, Polk, Coolidge, Wilson ... the list goes on ... but we've never had a sitting executive who was this mentally deranged, megalomaniacal, narcissistically disturbed, or utterly ignorant and repugnant.

Just think, out of 325,000,000 Americans, we managed to pick the worst one imaginable. And still, many Americans approve of him. I'd say our mental health as a nation is desperately compromised.

I'd say our political process is completely broken.

Cervantes said...

Well, most of that legislation passed in the first two years while the Dems had both houses of Congress. Unfortunately none of it had to do with the environment.

I don't think I'd put Eisenhower on that list, BTW. Not sure why you do.

Don Quixote said...

There are different versions of the reputed quote. Perhaps it's erroneous? ...

Cervantes said...

Eisenhower's casual racism was of course characteristic of his time and class, but in this case, he didn't act on it at least. Note that Johnson, despite talking like a typical white Southerner of his time, was the greatest presidential champion of civil rights and racial equality of all time, and of course he stimulated the exodus of white racists from the Democratic to the Republican party. Make of it what you will.

Don Quixote said...

Right. There is endemic racist bias, and then there is blatant, harmful racism. Ike was a good man.