health

These are some of the topics (among others) that I hope to publish posts on over the next year or so:

  • Solid Answers to the Ubiquitous Question: “But what can I do about climate change?” — Specific Actions and Choices
  • Elections 2024: Key Tools for Voting and Democracy
  • Making the Shift from Climate Worrier to Warrior (or Guardian)—Fueled by Love, Loss, and Fury
  • Nature-Based Climate Solutions (Carbon Sinks) + Habitat and Species Protection
  • Organizations for Women’s Rights, Health, Liberty, and Equality
  • Environ/mental: Connections Between Environmental Health and Mental Health
  • Flood Prevention / Stormwater Management Strategies
  • Ecological and Equitable Economic Prosperity (and De-Growth)
  • Peace and Human Rights Groups 
  • (Anti) Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons Info.  (a resource listing)
  • PFAS / PFOA: “Forever Chemicals”
  • The Dangers of Glyphosate (“Roundup”) and other Toxic and Deadly Herbicides and Pesticides
  • If I Had Millions of $$…This is How I’d Use and Redistribute the Money

Check back soon to see some of these posts!  In the meantime, please check out our current and past posts. Thank you for reading The Green Spotlight and sharing the information with others.

Also: In addition to The Green Spotlight’s Facebook page, we now have a presence on Post.News and Bluesky (as we’re spending less time on Twitter and may temporarily or permanently suspend our Twitter account at some point).

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December 19, 2023
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Public health (and individual health) depend on environmental health. 

While many conditions—e.g., cancers, neurological diseases and disorders, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes—have genetic risk factors, and some can also be triggered or worsened by certain viruses or by lifestyle choices (diet and exercise), many diseases are much more likely to occur when certain environmental exposures are also present. Prevention of diseases should not just be focused on lifestyle choices, but should also focus on protecting everyone by banning the environmental toxins that many of us are exposed to.

Many known and probable/suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors (including “obesogens”), and neurotoxins are in products that we use every day, and we’re also regularly exposed to toxins through our air, water, and soil/food.

Industrial, agricultural, and janitorial workers, and people living in low-income (or Industrial Ag.) communities, often suffer the greatest exposures to toxins (and therefore, often have shorter lifespans), but all of us face these risks to some degree, no matter how “healthy” our lifestyle or how wealthy our neighborhood is. We should all be outraged that any one of us and many of our loved ones could end up suffering or dying from diseases or disorders that are often caused—at least in part—by our typically involuntary exposures to toxic chemicals that should not be manufactured or used or emitted into the environment. Our society and regulatory agencies should be using the precautionary principle and keeping harmful chemicals and toxins (including oil, gas, and coal emissions) out of our environment. We must push for changes that protect everyone’s bodies and brains.

Climate destabilization and global heating also create significant problems for public health (and safety and survival), in so many ways: from extreme heat to other climate-driven disasters (wildfires and smoke, flooding, drought, etc.), to the increased incidence and geographic spread of infectious (and mosquito-and tick-borne) diseases, as well as the very real mental health impacts of climate destabilization and traumatizing disasters. Any time you’re working to mitigate and slow climate change, you’re also working to protect public health.

Here’s a list of our posts that are most directly related to health:

And these are some organizations that are focused on environmental and public health:

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October 11, 2023
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I much prefer focusing on preventive health than on emergency triage. I’d rather be writing about how to prevent climate destabilization and global heating from getting worse (and I’ve been doing that for years and will continue to do that), but tragically, we have entered the age of climate consequences, and adaptation has become necessary. The climate outcomes that scientists have been warning us about for decades are here, now, everywhere, and getting worse every year. Climate instability is already causing widespread suffering, misery, displacement and migration, medical emergencies, and death. If people continue to accept and allow the burning of fossil fuels (and the degradation of our natural environment) going forward, we will get to where we are headed: we will turn our once quite habitable and hospitable Earth into an uninhabitable planet more like Mars. We are creating Hell on Earth.

Globally, this has been the hottest summer on record (which has included the hottest day, hottest week, and hottest month ever recorded)—and it’s not just because of El Niño. The last decade (which included years with a heat-tempering La Niña) has also been the hottest decade ever recorded. Unlike the “heat waves” of the past, we are now experiencing more frequent “heat domes” with unprecedented, sweltering, record-shattering daytime and night-time temperatures, across large swaths of the planet, lingering for longer periods of time. The air, land, oceans and most other water bodies are now hotter than ever, with devastating and cascading consequences for all living things.

When we’re extremely hot, it can be hard to move, hard to work, hard to think, hard to function, hard to cope, and sometimes even hard to stay alive. Heat typically kills more people than any other type of extreme weather event in the U.S.  The number of heat-related deaths is often greatly underestimated, as heat is not usually listed as the “cause of death,” even when heat is what precipitated the organ failure or heart attack or other final outcome. This study estimated that there are approximately 12,000 premature deaths from heat exposure in the U.S. each year, and it projected that that number will rise to 50,000-110,000 premature deaths per year due to increased warming. Another study found that heat killed approximately 61,000 people in Europe during the summer of 2022. Correspondingly, emergency room visits skyrocket during heat waves.

Our bodies (and the bodies of other living organisms) can only survive temperatures within a certain range. High humidity can make it even harder to withstand high temperatures (which is why weather reports typically include a “heat index” or might even talk about the “wet-bulb” temperature.) Air pollution also tends to worsen during periods of excessive heat, which makes heat waves even more deadly. Studies show that the risk of a fatal heart attack may double during heat wave days and fine particulate pollution days.

Prolonged exposure to excessive heat can cause heat cramps, heat rash, dehydration (note: severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention), heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (which also requires immediate medical attention and can be fatal). See the graphic above for tips on how to tell the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and what to do if someone is showing symptoms of these.

Those who are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of extreme heat include: homeless/unhoused people (and their pets), older people, people who work outdoors (e.g., farmworkers, landscapers, construction and road workers, etc.), people who work and/or live in non-air-conditioned spaces, people who live or work in urban areas or “heat island” zones (areas that have a lot of dark and unshaded surfaces, such as asphalt pavement and roofs, and relatively few trees or green spaces), infants and young children, people with pre-existing health conditions or disabilities, pregnant women, incarcerated people, first responders, and athletes, as well as livestock, pets, and wildlife.

Basic tips for survival, health, and greater comfort in high heat:

  • Always stay well-hydrated (i.e., drink plenty of water throughout the day). Keep a water bottle with you wherever you go (but don’t leave plastic bottles in hot cars or sitting in the sun, where the heat will soften the plastic, which will then leach into your water). Also eat foods that are hydrating (e.g. fresh fruits, such as watermelon and cucumber). Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeinated or super-sugary drinks.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing.
  • Avoid going out into the heat (or exercising, watering your garden, or driving) during the hottest parts of the day (afternoon through early evening). Cancel or reschedule activities as needed. Early morning is the coolest time of day.
  • If you’ve been sweating a lot, drink even more, eat something salty, and make sure you’re getting plenty of electrolytes (potassium, sodium, calcium) and other minerals and nutrients.
  • If you’re feeling too hot, wipe a cold, wet washcloth on your face and body and/or run cold water over your feet and hands or head; or put some water in a spray bottle and spritz yourself as needed; or when you can, take a cool shower or bath. Or you can sit in front of a fan with a cool, damp towel on you or between you and the fan. If someone is over-heating (e.g., showing signs of heat exhaustion), put cold water (or ice/ice water) on the neck, armpits, inner thighs, and other places where heat gets trapped and a lot of blood vessels are just beneath skin, to help cool down the person faster.
  • No one should be left sitting in a non-air-conditioned, stationary car when it’s hot out (especially infants, children, elderly people, and pets). Rolling the windows down does not keep cars cool enough when the sun is beating on them.
  • If you’re outdoors: Stay in the shade as much as possible, and drink extra water. Take regular breaks from any physical exertion, or avoid it if possible. If you have a hand free, use a parasol (or an umbrella) to shade yourself from the sun.
  • If you’re indoors and you don’t have air conditioning (or you’re trying to minimize your use of the A/C to conserve energy or money, or to keep the grid from collapsing): Use fans (or evaporative “swamp” coolers in really dry climates). Cover your windows by closing the shades, blinds, curtains, or shutters. If you don’t have opaque or thermal window coverings, you could temporarily put up big sheets of cardboard or rigid foam or hang thick blankets or tarps inside or outside your south- and west-facing windows (and/or your windows that get the most direct sunlight) to keep the heat/sun out. Avoid running the oven, stove, dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer on the hottest days, and especially during the hottest hours of the day. Turn off any lights that aren’t needed (especially any lamps that are still using old incandescent bulbs or halogen bulbs, as they emit a surprising amount of heat). Unplug appliances or electronics that you aren’t using. If it gets cool at night—or any time it’s cooler outdoors than in—open your windows to get a cross-breeze; you can also use one fan as an exhaust fan to help push the warmer indoor air outside. It can be too hot to share a bed with someone else; if there’s nowhere else to sleep, you might find that sleeping on a floor is the coolest place to be. If you have a basement, that is probably the coolest area in your house.
  • Make sure you have a lot of ice (and/or ice packs) in your freezer and/or coolers, especially in case there is a power outage and you need to use the ice to keep yourself cool until you can get to an air-conditioned space.
  • If your house is too hot and you’re able to drive somewhere close, spend some of the afternoon hours in air-conditioned spaces, such as a library, mall/store/cafe, movie theater, or community center.
  • Click here for additional ”Tips from readers on keeping cool without A/C” (NPR).
  • Conventional air conditioners (especially old window units) use a lot of energy (and are therefore expensive to operate). And every time we use air conditioners to cool interior spaces, we’re heating the planet up even more. Much better air conditioning technologies now exist, and even better ones may be available soon. One option to consider is having a “heat pump” installed (also known as a ductless mini-split system). These are much more efficient than traditional air conditioners, and there are tax incentives and rebates that you might be eligible for. Or in very dry climates, many people use evaporative “swamp” coolers rather than air conditioners. Whole-house attic fans can also help reduce the need for air conditioning. (Note: If you are replacing/getting rid of an old air conditioner, make sure that your HVAC company properly recovers and disposes of its refrigerants. A/C refrigerant emissions are a major contributor to global warming!)
  • Scroll down to the section below on “Design strategies and investments,” for additional suggestions for keeping your home cool.
  • Check on your neighbors and friends, especially elderly or disabled people and people who don’t have air-conditioning (or who are experiencing a power outage). Make sure they are not showing signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke (see graphic above). If you have air conditioning and a little extra space, invite others who don’t have A/C to come over to your house. Or let others borrow or keep any extra fans you may have.
  • Share information about local cooling centers that are open in your community or county. Print and post/distribute that information at homeless shelters and service centers, senior centers, soup kitchens, food banks, and libraries (and through social media and community websites, e.g., NextDoor). Find out if there are local Mutual Aid groups or others who are helping distribute water or assisting people in need. If your town does not provide a cooling center (or a mobile cooling bus), contact your Mayor or city council or local emergency services department to request one, or help find a location that could serve as one (e.g., community center, church, etc.).
  • You could leave some bottles/gallons of water in front of your house, in a fully shaded area, with a sign letting people know they can take one if they need it. And you could donate non-disposable (and disposable) water bottles (or clean gallon jugs with caps) to a local homeless shelter or organization.
  • On days/nights with particularly extreme heat, if you are able, you could offer to pay for (or you could crowd-fund) an air-conditioned motel room for a homeless person or family or for people who don’t have air conditioning. Or make a donation to a homeless/low-income services group that is assisting people in your area or in a region that is even hotter.

Animals

  • Pets: Do not make pets stay outside (or in a dog house) if it’s cooler in your house. When they must be outside, make sure they can remain in full shade and have plenty of water (you could even fill a small kiddie pool for them to sit in or drink from). Do not walk dogs on artificial grass or on hot pavement (especially black asphalt, but on any pavement when it’s hot out); it will burn their paws. Do not leave pets unattended in your car without air conditioning running. Click here for information on hot weather safety (and signs of heat stroke) for pets. If you see someone else’s pet in distress or in danger, call 911 or your local Humane Society or ASPCA.
  • Livestock and horses: Give them plenty of water every day (making sure they never run out) and access to shaded and well-ventilated areas (with a good cross-breeze and if indoors, also fans, if possible). If they have no shade trees (or not enough to shade all of them throughout the afternoon) or a large-en0ugh shade shelter outside, put up some type of shade canopies (e.g. canvas carports) for them. Hose them off with cool water when you can, or provide ice blocks for them to lick, or sprinklers, wading pools, or water misters when possible.
  • Wildlife: Put a bowl of clean water out daily for wildlife in your area (ideally in both your front and back yards); thoroughly wash the bowl out every day, if possible. I like to use a light-colored ceramic (or white plastic) bowl that won’t absorb much extra heat. (Note: Absurdly, many outdoor hoses have lead in them. Buy/use a lead-free hose, or get drinking water directly from a faucet.) Don’t set out deep buckets of water that tiny animals could fall into and not be able to climb out of. You can also leave fruit and vegetable scraps and other healthy food out for wildlife. And if there is no shade in your yard, you could put up a shade canopy/sail or make a temporary shade shelter (e.g., with old sheets or large cardboard boxes). Shade as much of your paved areas as you can to reduce the heat absorption on your property. If you see an animal in distress or in danger, contact your local wildlife rescue group.

Plants & Trees

  • Water plants at their base (near the roots) early in the morning. (On especially hot days, they might also need some water in the evening, but don’t soak plants too much before night-time.) Young trees (and new plants, planted within the last couple of years) especially will need more watering during heat waves. Older, established trees may need some water every few days during heat waves.
  • Move potted (portable) plants to shadier areas or cooler areas (e.g. a shaded potting shed).
  • On especially hot/sunny days, you could put shade cloth over the most vulnerable plants, or shade them with an umbrella.
  • Put a few inches of mulch (e.g., grass clippings, fallen leaves, wood mulch) around the base of plants (and place mulch several inches away from the base of trees). Do not buy peat.
  • Do not prune (or fertilize) plants on hot days.
  • Crops can benefit from having solar panels placed between rows for shading.
  • Organically grown crops and plants (and native plants) have been shown to have greater resilience to heat than chemically-grown (and non-native) crops and plants.
  • Some plants will simply not be able to survive the increase in temperatures, and we’ll need to replace some plants with more drought- and heat-adapted plants over time.
  • You can find lots of additional tips regarding how to protect plants and trees during heat by doing an online search.

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Design strategies and investments:

The tips above mostly cover immediate or short-term steps you can take to protect yourself and other living things from heat. Here are some design strategies and investments to consider, which require a little more planning or preparation time:

  • Put thermal window coverings on your windows (e.g., thermal honeycomb blinds or shades), particularly on large windows and west- and south-facing windows.
  • Add shade trees, awnings, or overhangs to your property (particularly outside of west- and south-facing windows and over dark, paved surfaces).
  • Make sure your home has enough insulation (especially in the attic and walls). This will also help you during cold periods.
  • When it’s time to replace your roof, choose light-colored roofing (and/or solar roofing tiles, or solar panels to shade the roof).
  • When it’s time to repave your driveway (or pathways), choose a light-colored paving material or pavers (rather than black asphalt paving), or better yet, replace some paved areas with light-colored pervious materials or vegetation. (Also ask your city to use light-colored paving materials.)
  • When choosing a car, in addition to choosing an electric or hybrid vehicle, choose one that’s a light color (e.g., white, silver) so it will not absorb as much heat.
  • Do NOT use artificial turf (fake grass). It becomes incredibly hot, even hotter than black asphalt, in the sun, and it can cause burns. Replace astroturf with native or adapted drought-tolerant plants, groundcovers, or a clover lawn. Replace astroturf sports fields with real (but drought-tolerant) grass.
  • Solar photovoltaic panels can provide shade over roofs, pavement, and between rows of crops.
  • Consider getting an electric battery backup system for your home; ideally, this would be tied into a solar photovoltaic system to keep your power (and cooling) on during extended power outages. You can also get an electric/solar generator to use during power outages (or off grid).
  • When designing any new home (or building), designers should consider incorporating passive cooling techniques. One ancient, passive cooling technique is the “wind catcher” design. And some building materials, such as rammed earth, have thermal properties that help keep homes cool in summer and warm in winter.
  • There are SO MANY things we can all do (and our society, government, and industry must do) to try to stop global heating from getting worse. Please check out and commit yourself to some of our climate solutions in our other posts.

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Sign this petition:

Urge OSHA to implement immediate heat standards
(Note: These standards also must be enforced everywhere.)

Articles:

Useful resources on heat health/safety:

Related posts:

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July 27, 2023
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I know that no one really wants to think about or hear about COVID anymore. People are tired of it, “over it,” and “done with it.” But unfortunately, it’s not done with us; it’s not over, and it may not be for quite some time, as it keeps mutating into new variants. As of the end of February 2023, there are still more than 22,000 people hospitalized with COVID across the U.S.  For the years 2020-2022 (the last three years in a row), COVID-19 has remained the 3rd most common cause of death in the United States (behind only cancer and heart disease), and among adults and children, it’s the top cause of death among all infectious and respiratory diseases (beating out flu and pneumonia). “In January and February of 2022, COVID-19 was the number 1 cause of death for people ages 45-84.” (Source) In total, according to data from the World Health Organization, as of February 19, 2023, “more than 757 million confirmed cases of COVID and over 6.8 million COVID deaths have been reported globally.” And in the United States, COVID has killed more than 1.1 million people (with confirmed cases of COVID) so far (as of February 2023), but that’s most likely a significant undercount, given the much higher number of “excess deaths.”  Meanwhile, recent research has found that at least 10% of serious COVID infections result in Long COVID, which is an often debilitating illness. More than 65 million people worldwide are already suffering from Long COVID. Many people with Long COVID are not able to work or function well in daily life.

Many of us who work on climate issues have noticed (with sadness and dismay) the similarities in the way that many people have been dealing (or not dealing) with the COVID pandemic and with the climate crisis. Too many people are living in denial: choosing to deny, ignore, dismiss or downplay real problems. Denial is a very powerful coping mechanism, often used when we feel overwhelmed or powerless or fearful about something, but denial often goes too far, way beyond where it serves us well, and then it can become dangerous and even deadly. Many people want so badly to not be seen as over-reacting to something that they over-correct and under-react. It seems to be the human condition to often be scared of all the wrong (low-risk) things, while dismissing and ignoring the real risks that we should be concerned about and doing something about.

And then some people are behaving as if they have a death wish or have lost any type of basic survival instinct, or even any desire to protect others (whether they be family, friends, co-workers, the many immunocompromised folks they may come across, let alone their community or humanity at large) from sickness or potential death or disability. It’s been sobering to see how non-chalant, callous, and even sociopathic some people have been about this. This is another way in which some people’s response to COVID has been similar to people’s response to the climate crisis. A disheartening number of people have shown that they are unwilling to accept or tolerate the most minor inconveniences or sacrifices (e.g., wearing a mask in certain situations; or, say, flying less frequently or choosing a more fuel-efficient, less polluting vehicle) for the collective good (even when doing so is also for their own good/safety/health or that of their own family members). This extreme level of individualism is particularly acute in the United States, where too many people seem to be stuck in an adolescent “I can and will do whatever I want” (regardless of the consequences or the harm to others) frame of mind, and some have thrown toddler-grade tantrums in response to things like mask mandates or even to polite requests or suggestions.

The Scientist article and diagramThere are many important and substantiated facts about COVID that many people seem to be unaware of, in part because many public health leaders and public officials have not been sharing the facts or data or basing policies on them, having seemingly given up on trying to stop or slow the pandemic, possibly because of all the public backlash and hostility they’ve received during past attempts to institute protections (and necessary mitigations/restrictions) to save lives. There are, however, some medical experts and scientists (e.g., epidemiologists, virologists, immunologists, doctors, nurses) who continue to try to get people to understand the reality of the situation and what people (and government and other institutions) should be doing to get it under control. As with the climate crisis, individual and voluntary actions and state-specific protections (though they are helpful and important) are simply not enough to solve or put an end to this collective, global problem.

The following are 10 important facts people should (but often don’t) know about COVID. This isn’t alarmism or fear-mongering. Please see the list of articles further down for more details and research data. If more people were aware of what the current reality is, they might be more likely to take all viable and appropriate precautions:

  1. It appears that many people’s immune systems have been impaired/damaged/dysregulated by having had COVID in the past, and experts are finding that that COVID-caused immunodeficiency (or immunosuppression) is most likely why so many people (including and especially kids and infants) have gotten so ill from the flu, RSV, and any other bug that comes along. (It’s not actually due to so-called “immunity debt,” which is a questionable concept.). It’s also why so many people have been getting bacterial infections that can send them to the hospital (e.g., pneumonia, Strep / scarlet fever, Staph, UTIs, etc.): because their bodies’ immune systems can’t fight them off on their own. Untreated (or untreatable) bacterial infections can lead to sepsis and death.
  2. People can readily get reinfected with COVID (i.e., having had COVID does not mean you are immune from getting it again, especially as the virus keeps mutating), and sometimes people fare worse on later infections than the first.
  3. COVID can cause significant mental, neurological, and blood clotting/circulatory problems (e.g. strokes, embolisms, heart attacks) and long-term/permanent organ damage (e.g., heart, lungs, liver, brain, kidneys, intestines, etc.) and even diabetes—months or years after the initial infection, and even in people who had a relatively mild or even asymptomatic case of COVID in its acute phase. These risks go up with each additional COVID infection.
  4. COVID infections seem to be able to reactivate dormant viruses or infections that someone has had in the past (e.g., mono: EBV; lyme, etc.).
  5. Many hospitals and other workplaces are understaffed because their staff has had so much COVID-related illness, and a lot of people with Long COVID haven’t been able to go back to work due to their ongoing, debilitating symptoms.
  6. Getting the latest COVID booster (vaccine) drastically reduces one’s chances of being hospitalized or dying of COVID. It also seems to reduce the chances of getting Long COVID.
  7. Airplane air filtration is rarely as good as the airlines claim. When people bring air quality monitors on-board, they typically find very poor levels of ventilation, not just when the plane is on the ground but also when it’s in flight. Bear in mind that on almost any flight you’re on, at least one person is likely to have COVID (or some other infectious disease). It is very important to wear a good mask throughout any flight you’re on (and to not remove the mask). I’ve known numerous people who have gotten COVID (and other viruses) after being on flights.
  8. If you’re traveling/flying (or going to be with a group of people indoors), the experts advise that you: isolate for at least a few days before and after the flights/visits/events; take a COVID test (ideally a PCR test) before and a few days after the trip/visit (for several days in a row, as tests—especially at-home rapid tests—sometimes won’t show a Positive result until someone has had the virus for 5 or more days); always wear an N95 (or KN95 or KF94) mask when indoors with a group (or when you’re with a medically vulnerable or immunocompromised person) or on public transportation or when you experience any potential symptoms; and ventilate indoor air as much as possible (opening windows or using HEPA filtration or Corsi-Rosenthal Box filters are the best strategies).
  9. If you have had (or currently have or think you might have) COVID, you may want to ask your doctor about whether it’s safe for you to take some type of anti-coagulant (blood thinner) for a while, to prevent blood clots. One natural blood-thinning supplement (which may be safer and more effective than baby aspirin) is called Nattokinase; it can be found at some natural foods and supplement stores or websites. In addition, to help lower your chances of getting COVID or of preventing a COVID infection from becoming serious, do what you can to keep your immune system functioning properly, e.g., get plenty of sleep; eat nutritious organic (and unprocessed) foods; and make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D3, other necessary vitamins (like C, the B vitamins, etc.). You could also look into taking supplements like Quercetin (which also has blood-thinning properties) and/or medicinal mushrooms (see Dr. Weil’s info; and Host Defense products). (Note: I am not a medical professional, and you should consult with a medical professional before taking anything.)
  10. If you don’t know whether you’ve had the COVID virus in the past, you can get the “nucleocapsid antibody” test for COVID (offered by various labs, including LabCorp). This is the only type of COVID antibody test that can identify past exposure to the virus itself and not also pick up on antibodies developed from vaccination. This might be helpful information to have in case you end up getting any Long COVID symptoms (or sudden changes in your cardiovascular health or other brain or organ issues) down the road. Research is ongoing to identify the best treatments for various Long COVID symptoms and conditions.

Please take a look at some of these useful, recent articles and research findings about COVID and Long COVID:

I also recommend reading the articles on COVID and Long COVID that were written by Ed Yong between 2020-2022.

Some of the top doctors, scientists, and other experts I recommend following re. COVID and public health are: Eric Topol, Wes Ely, Claire Taylor, Elizabeth Jacobs, Ziyad Al-Aly, Peter Hotez, Erin C. Sanders, Taison Bell, Celine Gounder, Theresa Chapple, Julia Raifman, Angela Rasmussen, Lucky Tran, Megan Ranney, Shikha Jain, Lisa Iannatone, Dr. Natalia, Nurse Kelsey; Hannah Davis, Morgan Stephens, and others included here.

Some groups and resources you might want to know about and follow online are: Voices of COVID, Faces of COVID, Survivor Corps, COVID Survivors for Change, Patient-Led Research Collaborative for Long COVID, Putrino Lab, Long Covid Research Initiative, The Long COVID Survival Guide, Long COVID Advocacy, Long COVID Justice, Long Covid Kids, Project N95, Mask Together America, Marked By COVID, and others included here.

Other useful resources:

Related post:

COVID Response and Relief: Ways to help or to get help or information

 

See our COVID/Long COVID/Public Health Twitter list for updates and new findings.

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February 28, 2023
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More than two dozen of The Green Spotlight’s previous posts have covered or touched on green products (and green companies). Below is a list of many of those posts, which have covered everything from gifts to clothing to home/building-related products and equipment, as well as other types of goods. Many of the products mentioned in these posts would make good and useful gifts (for holidays, birthdays, etc.).

The following are just a few of my favorite companies that make or sell products: Patagonia, EarthKind, W.S. Badger Co., Host Defense/Fungi Perfecti, and Booda Organics. Some places where you can fairly readily find green(er) products include: local food coops and farmer’s/crafts markets, organic nurseries and farm stands, thrift/consignment and antique stores and used bookstores (reused products), Natural Grocers, Sprouts, ThriveMarket.com, and RealGoods.com. Also take a look at some of the “zero-waste” stores online.

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December 5, 2022
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Studies have shown that exposure to various environmental toxins—which people can be exposed to via the air, water, soil, or the use of certain products—seem very likely to contribute to the development of a number of neurological and neurodegenerative disorders and diseases (including Alzheimer’s, other types of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, MS) and can also harm neurological development (e.g., intelligence) in children and babies’ developing brains.

My father died of complications related to Parkinson’s disease, after enduring the myriad physical and cognitive indignities of that disease for many years. So this issue is very personal for me. But everyone should take it very personally that any one of us and many of our loved ones could end up suffering or dying from neurological or other diseases (such as cancers) that are often caused—at least in part—by our typically involuntary exposures to toxic chemicals that should not be manufactured or used or emitted into the environment. My dad was definitely exposed to some of the chemicals and air pollutants that have recently been associated with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. That makes me angry. It should make everyone angry and motivated to push for changes that protect everyone’s bodies and brains.

Some alarming facts and statistics to consider:

  • At least one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. (It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.) Deaths from Alzheimer’s more than doubled between 2000 and 2019. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
  • COVID-19 is causing a significant increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia. In 2020, COVID contributed to a 17% increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths! (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
  • Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, after Alzheimer’s disease. (Source: Parkinson’s Foundation)
  • Globally, disability and death due to Parkinson’s disease are increasing faster than for any other neurological disorder. The prevalence of PD has doubled in the past 25 years. PD is the most common movement disorder. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Air pollution is associated with approximately 7 million premature deaths every year, worldwide. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Almost the entire global population (99%) breathes air that exceeds WHO guideline limits and contains high levels of pollutants. (Source: World Health Organization)

While many neurological and other diseases can have genetic risk factors, and some can also be triggered or worsened by certain viruses, or by lifestyle (e.g. diet, exercise) choices, many diseases are more likely to occur when certain environmental exposures are also factors. Public health (and individual health) depend on environmental health. Prevention of these diseases should not just be focused on lifestyle choices, but should focus on protecting all of us by banning the environmental toxins that anyone can be exposed to.

Neurotoxins (toxins that studies have linked to neurological disorders/damage) include, but are not limited to:

  • certain types of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides (e.g. paraquat, glyphosate/Roundup, maneb, etc.);
  • chemical solvents (e.g., trichloroethylene: TCE);
  • mercury (exposure primarily comes from coal power plant pollution, but it can also come from silver/amalgam dental fillings and from the cremation of those fillings, and from the ingestion of some types of seafood, as well as other sources) as well as lead and other heavy metals;
  • particulate air pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels, via power plants and via vehicles and other forms of transport (as well as particulates from wildfire smoke, which is increasing each year due to climate-driven heat and drought).

These are some recent Parkinson’s-specific articles and resources:

And these are a few articles on environmental risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia, and various other types of neurological disorders/brain damage:

Beyond Pesticides has compiled summaries of many recent studies and findings on the various neurological (and other health) effects associated with exposure to various chemical pesticides (and herbicides, fungicides, and related toxins):


ACTIONS

Please sign this petition:
Tell the EPA: Ban Paraquat, an herbicide linked to Parkinson’s disease

And you can sign these other petitions from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and from Beyond Pesticides.

You could also join the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) study (whether you have Parkinson’s or not) to help further the research.

At the very least, please share the information provided in this post. And buy only organically grown food (and plants/seeds); avoid the use (and unsafe disposal) of toxic chemicals and hazardous products whenever possible; do what you can to reduce air pollution (e.g. minimize how much you fly or drive; and reduce material consumption/purchases); and support policies, public officials, candidates, and companies that promote non-toxic alternatives to the many chemical-intensive and polluting products and industries that are killing so many people and damaging our brains.

______

For additional information on the connection between environmental toxins and public health (and organizations that are focused on these issues and trying to prevent or reduce these problems), please see our past posts on:

Environmental Health / Public Health

Health Impacts of Toxic Chemicals and Pollutants

Here’s a small selection of the organizations focused on these issues:

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September 29, 2022
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We’re all going to need to muster up as much resilience, generosity, patience, kindness, empathy, courage, adaptability, resourcefulness, and creativity as we can, to get through the tough times our families, communities, country, and world are facing during this unprecedented crisis. Things may continue to get worse in many places for a while, and it’s going to be a long haul with multiple waves and no known end date. We’re not only facing a pandemic (a global infectious disease and public health crisis), but also an economic crisis of poverty, disability, food insecurity (hunger), eviction, and homelessness (issues made much worse by the United States’ existing health care/insurance crisis, and by economic inequality, exploitative corporate practices, environmental and institutional racism and injustice, corruption), all of which have left many people in desperate need of assistance, in every community. (And tragically, the climate crisis will exacerbate all of these problems, and create disasters on top of disasters.) Our society is entering an extended period of great loss, disruption, hardship, and suffering.

Soon, all of us will know people who have been sick with the COVID-19 coronavirus (and many of us will know people who have died from it or who suffer from chronic Long Covid symptoms or post-COVID organ/brain damage) as well as numerous people who are suffering financially and emotionally from it. Millions of people are struggling to pay their rent (or mortgage) and utilities, exorbitant medical bills, and/or burial costs. Healthcare workers and other essential workers are having to work overly long and extremely stressful hours and risking their lives to do so, and they are short-staffed due to co-workers who are ill. Most people don’t want to ask friends or family for help, even when they desperately need it (and not everyone has family members or close friends who are in a position to help). So reach out to find out what people you know are going through and what they might need. And if you need help, do reach out to others and to groups that can offer assistance (see below). You are not alone, and there will be people who are able and willing to help you, even if your family and friends are not able to.

If you’re not in dire straits (e.g., if you and your family have your health, an adequate income, health insurance, and/or you still have some savings to get you and your family through an emergency or an extended rough patch), please consider using at least some of your “stimulus” payment money (or your tax refund or savings, if any) to help others who are in need, whether they are friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, friends of friends, strangers, or small local businesses that are struggling. Ask whether people need help with paying rent or buying food, etc.

Alternatively, if you have extra time or skills, services, assistance, or resources to offer, offer those—e.g., food, meals, good masks (ideally NIOSH-approved N95), test kits, plants or seeds, housing (e.g., guest units), babysitting, online schooling, tutoring, or homework help, etc.

If you can help people directly, do that. Otherwise or in addition, try to support (donate to or volunteer for) some of the established groups that are actively helping people in need, such as these:

What other national groups would you recommend that people support? Please add them in the Comments. Also see the links to additional resources at the end of this post.

Also support (donate to or volunteer for):

  • local Mutual Aid and disaster/emergency response groups and any local relief funds set up by community orgs/foundations or community banks and credit unions
  • local food banks/pantries
  • your area’s Meals on Wheels
  • Legal Aid groups (and lawyers providing free, pro bono assistance)
  • your region’s United Way
  • your region’s Red Cross
  • domestic violence shelters and groups
  • child abuse and fostering groups
  • homeless and affordable housing groups; shelters
  • refugee, detainee, and undocumented immigrant protection groups
  • small farmers; farmer’s markets and CSAs
  • reproductive rights/care groups and funds
  • mental health advocacy groups
  • senior centers and support orgs, e.g. AARP Advocates
  • prisoners’ rights groups
  • animal shelters (consider fostering an animal if you have the time, health, and resources)
  • small businesses, and people out of work (including independent/freelance/gig workers and undocumented workers, who pay taxes but can’t collect unemployment)
  • independent bookstores (see IndieBound.org to find stores near you; order books from them online when their stores have to be closed); please do not buy from Amazon, which has put many bookstores and small businesses out of business

And here are additional actions you can take to make a difference:

  1. Buy NIOSH-approved N95 masks (or at least KN95 masks) and at-home tests, and give them away (or sell them at cost if need be) to friends, neighbors, healthcare workers, other essential workers (e.g., grocery/delivery workers, domestic workers, etc.), and homeless outreach centers. Find out if your area has a local group that is collecting/donating masks or equipment. (See ProjectN95.org for info on vetted masks and tests.)
  2. Offer to pick up groceries (or prescriptions or other essential supplies) for a near-by senior, someone with health conditions or immune system issues (including people undergoing cancer treatment or who have an auto-immune disorder), or someone who’s sick.
  3. Reach out to at least one friend, neighbor, or relative each day or each week (by phone, email, FaceTime/Duo, or mail) to see how they’re doing.
  4. Join an existing Mutual Aid group in your area (or consider creating one if there isn’t one already).
  5. Think of any skills, services, items, assets, or resources you can offer (or barter/trade/exchange or lend) to others, e.g., surplus food items, meals, or plants/seeds; babysitting, homeschooling/education, petsitting or fostering, professional services; guest units or quarantine spaces (including vacation rentals, trailers, studios, etc.).
  6. If you’re healthy, donate blood. You can do so through Red Cross blood drives. And if you’ve recovered from COVID, you can donate your plasma to help COVID patients.
  7. If you see or hear questionable or potentially dangerous information (misinformation or disinformation) being spread, check fact-checking sites (e.g., Factcheck.org, Politifact.com, Snopes.com; or reputable medical/health/infectious disease sources and experts) and send/post their links or findings, to share facts and to counter disinformation.
  8. Thank essential workers (e.g., healthcare, grocery, restaurant, and delivery workers/drivers, your mail carrier and post office workers, cashiers, etc.), with verbal thanks, thank-you cards, tips or gift cards, or gifts (e.g., masks, tests, soap, hand sanitizer, food, seeds, tea, flowers, etc.). For example, I left a thank-you note, a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a box of tea in our mail box for our mail carrier.
  9. Think about and prepare your official Advance Health Care Directive (AKA Living Will), DNR (if applicable), Power of Attorney and Medical/Health Care Proxy/Surrogate documents, and your last will & testament, as well as burial/funeral preferences or arrangements. Make sure all of your official documents are made legal and official through witness signatures, and notarized when required, and give copies to your loved ones and your doctor (also post a copy on your fridge, and have someone bring a copy to the hospital if you go to the ER or are hospitalized). Organize other important papers and instructions for your next of kin, and let them know where to find them.
  10. Make sure you’re registered to vote at your current address. Fill out your state’s application to get an absentee/mail-in ballot ASAP (if you live in a state where you don’t currently need an “excuse” or if you have one of their valid excuses to vote by mail; more states will soon make absentee voting easier or even the default), or see if your state allows Early Voting (to avoid crowds and lines). Click here for links to your state’s Secretary of State site and other voting resources. Help young or first-time voters get registered (and make sure they know how to fill out the forms and ballots.)
  11. Plant some food (even if you don’t have any garden/yard space and it’s just a couple of pots on a window sill; start where you are; do what you can). If your area doesn’t have a nursery that sells organic plants and seeds, you can order organic seeds online. Or plant a fruit or nut tree, if you can. If you have extra seeds or a surplus harvest, share them with neighbors and friends.
  12. Build a Little Free Pantry/Library (or just put a “Free Stuff” Box) in front of your house or somewhere in your neighborhood, where people can leave or take non-perishable foods, toiletries, books, or other items. Or if there’s already a Little Free Pantry/Library in your neighborhood, you could leave items in it. You can also donate food to local food banks/drives, and donate needed items to homeless shelters.
  13. Buy stamps or other supplies from (or send packages through) the U.S. Postal Service via USPS.com, to help keep them afloat until adequate federal funding comes through. The economic/pandemic shutdown (and employees out sick) aren’t the only reason the USPS is in trouble; this article explains another reason: an absurd law that was passed in 2006 that “requires the Postal Service, which receives no taxpayer subsidies, to pre-fund its retirees’ health benefits up to the year 2056. This is a $5 billion per year cost; it is a requirement that no other entity, private or public, has to make. Without this obligation, the Post Office actually turns a profit.”

Doing these types of useful and helpful things can also help you feel better during this time of stress, worry, uncertainty, and upheaval, which is putting a strain on everyone’s physicalmental, and emotional health. You need to take good care of yourself to be able to take care of and support others. So also try to establish some self-care practices and healthy coping mechanisms to maintain some resilience and sanity. Here are a few suggestions of things you could try to do for a least a few minutes each day:

  • Go outside. Walk, or at least sit in the sun. When possible, go be in nature, and when that isn’t possible, at least go on a walk down your street or to a local park.
  • Stretch and breathe deeply. Or meditate.
  • Garden (e.g., plant things or pull weeds).
  • Make/eat a good meal. Try something new. (Eat nourishing and nutritious things that will give you strength and help keep your immune system strong.)
  • Spend time with animals, when possible.
  • Look for, recognize, create, and share beauty.
  • Watch something comedic, or read something funny.
  • Listen to some music. (You can dance if you want to!)
  • Read helpful advice from wise and calming people (e.g., Pema Chodron).
  • Seek out a therapist for online sessions.
  • Do productive stuff, like cleaning the house or organizing and purging stuff in your house (going through mail piles; organizing your desk, files, closets, drawers/cabinets, garage, shed, etc.). Recycle old papers. Give away items you don’t need or want.
  • Have a cup of tea.
  • And get lots of good, deep sleep. If you aren’t able to get enough sleep at night, take a nap if you’re able to.

Thank you to all of the helpers, of all stripes, everywhere. Let’s all help each other get through this. Be well.

 

Other useful tips, information, and resources:

 

Related posts:

 

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April 27, 2020
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Here are a few TED Talks that I’d recommend watching, in addition to the talks that I posted in the past (see Part I and Part II).

A Healthy Economy Should Be Designed to Thrive, Not Grow / Kate Raworth

 

How to Turn Climate Anxiety into Action / Renee Lertzman

 

The Shocking Danger of Mountaintop Removal (Coal Mining)—and Why It Must End / Michael Hendryx

 

A Climate Change Solution that’s Right Under Our Feet (Soil) / Asmeret Asefa Berhe

 

How Empowering Women and Girls Can Help Stop Global Warming / Katherine Wilkinson

 

This Could Be Why You’re Depressed or Anxious / Johann Hari (author of Lost Connections)

 

More:

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March 30, 2020
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We post daily morsels of illuminating information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page. If you have a Facebook account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” or “Followed” the page) and Share the page with your friends.

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the various topics that it covers. We hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

Here’s a sampling of some topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last month or so, including both good news and bad:

  • Ireland is completely divesting from fossil fuels (and has also banned fracking)
  • TransMountain pipeline approvals revoked by court
  • Protect the Protest: a new alliance of environmental and civil liberties groups
  • In 40 states, electricity from renewable sources is cheaper than the existing power supply
  • Air pollution causes lower IQ and other neurological deficits and diseases
  • Climate grief and depression
  • Traverse City, Michigan and Denver, Colorado set 100% renewable energy goals
  • Mexican President plans to ban fracking
  • Monsanto ordered to pay $289 million as jury rules Roundup caused man’s cancer
  • Poisonous red tides and toxic algae blooms worse than ever in Florida this summer
  • Teenagers’ climate lawsuit moves forward
  • Administration proposes weakening the Endangered Species Act
  • PFAS contamination in Michigan
  • Wildfires and heat waves around the world, including at the Arctic Circle
  • Quotations, photos, videos, cartoons, etc.

 

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August 31, 2018
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