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Vaccine Development

Greta Thunberg Calls Out Vaccine Inequality Between Rich And Poor Countries

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg wants the world to “step their game up” when it comes to vaccine manufacturing, development, and distribution. Specifically, she joins a call from a multitude of climate and human rights activists who are fighting against vaccine inequality after the world’s richest countries purchased a majority of the planet’s Covid-19 doses, leaving those in poorer countries without. 

 The World Health Organization announced this week that 5.2 million new confirmed coronavirus cases have appeared throughout the world within the past week; this marks the largest weekly count yet according to the United Nation’s health agency.

Thunberg recently donated $120,000 from her charitable foundation to the WHO foundation to help buy more Covid vaccines for poor countries where they’re especially needed right now.

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“It is completely unethical that high-income countries are now vaccinating young and healthy people if that happens at the expense of people in risk groups and on the front lines in low- and middle-income countries,” said Thunberg, who was recently invited as a guest for a regular WHO briefing.

“While the development of Covid vaccines in record time is impressive, it’s estimated that one in four people in high-income countries have received them so far, while only one in 500 in middle and lower-income countries have.”

“The international community, governments and vaccine developers must step up their game and address the tragedy that is vaccine inequity. Just with the climate crisis, those who are the most vulnerable need to be prioritized and global problems require global solutions,” she continued. 

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, recently discussed how new Covid cases rose for an eighth straight week in a row around the globe, while Covid-related deaths have been on the rise for the past five weeks straight. 

“Infections among people 25 to 29 are increasing at an alarming rate, possibly as a result of highly contagious variants and increased social mixing among younger adults.”

In total, more than 3 million patients have died within the past year of the pandemic, and more than 141 million residents around the world have been infected, according to Johns Hopkins University which has been collecting data since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Thunberg said people need to “step up for one another. We young people may be the ones who are least affected … by the virus in a direct way. Of course, many young people fail to draw that connection. Not all, but some.”

Writer

Dara McAnulty: Meet The 16-Year-Old Author Who’s Trying To Save The Planet

Dara McAnulty is a 16-year-old published author who, in his novel, discusses life in the Northern Island, advocating for climate change policies, living with autism, and finding peace in a world that is often so cruel.

Luggage

How The Way You Travel Is Affecting Our Planet

This year there have been increased rumblings around the world about climate change with details regarding the way we are all collectively killing the planet seemingly being reported each day, but there are many ways we can do our own little bit to help save the world.

Currently air travel is being cited as the number one enemy in our fight against global warming. The amount of carbon dioxide that an East to West coast flight generates is around one metric ton. And that is a lot. Cutting down on the amount of times you take air travel can be a great way to reduce your own personal carbon footprint.

Earlier this year there was an event at Google Camp that centered on climate change and many high profile names were in attendance, including Barack Obama and the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry as well as environmental champion Leonardo DiCaprio. While the efforts of so many people should be applauded, there were many who thought the 114 private jets that were used to get to the $20 million event was slightly hypocritical.

Another pivotal moment in raising climate change awareness was the rise of environmentalist Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old Swedish girl who sailed around the globe to chastise the Western world for creating an environmental issue that her generation – and generations to come – will have to continue to fix. On the back of Thunberg’s successful cultural movement, the concept of flight shaming – or ‘flygskam’ – has risen.

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The Swedish word originated from an anti-flying movement started by Swedish singer Staffan Lindberg. Lindberg originally wrote an article vowing to give up flying which was also signed by five of his famous friends, including Thunberg’s mother Malena Ernman. Thunberg has taken the campaign – where they suggest people should feel ashamed for using air travel due to the massive negative impact it has on the planet – and incorporated it into her “awareness tour” around Europe.

We are not suggesting you drive each time you travel cross-country, or sail around the world to your next meeting or holiday in Europe, but you can travel more by train. However America has over 3.7 million square miles of landmass meaning there are obstacles here too. For instance, a train journey from Los Angeles to Houston is over 35 hours long and is clearly not feasible for most travelers, but by taking the train on shorter journeys you can “do your bit.”

Currently train travel is the most environmentally friendly way to get around and many passengers are “getting on board” with the idea. The Pacific Surfliner in Southern California has seen an increase in travelers with around 3 million using the train service in 2018. Getting from Hollywood to San Diego takes around three hours, roughly the same time as sitting in a car. The difference being that on a train you can do your work, move around and most importantly, reduce your carbon footprint.

Train travel is also seeing a huge resurgence in popularity in the Northeast Corridor with over 17 million journeys being taken each year.
But if train travel is not the best way for you to get around and you have to rely on your car why not opt for an electric vehicle?

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Not only are electric cars far more beneficial to the planet – each EV has zero exhaust emissions – they can also use renewable energy. By recharging your car from a supply such as a solar powered grid, you would be reducing your greenhouse emissions even further.

And if this was not enough to convince you to trade in your gas powered vehicle to an electric one how about the fact that most electric vehicles are now being made with eco-friendly materials such as bio-based or recycled materials.

Other benefits of driving an electric car are the running costs and health benefits. The cost to charge an electric car works out at roughly a third as much per mile as buying gas. They are also cheaper to maintain thanks to having fewer parts – for example, there are no exhausts systems, starter motors or fuel injection systems as well as many other parts that a conventional car would need.

And with less harmful exhaust emissions the air quality will improve, meaning better air for us to breathe.

So when you are planning your next journey ask yourself these important questions. Can I take my time getting there? Do I really need to fly? Would an electric car – bought or hired – be the better option?

And if you can utilize America’s vast train network make sure you sit back, think about how you have done your bit to help the planet, and enjoy the scenery going past. You will be amazed at what you have been missing.

Recycle

Individual Lifestyle Change’s Will Lead To Systematic Climate Action

Climate change has been an ongoing issue, and recently, there’s been heavy debate over how systematic change for improvement compares to individual lifestyle modifications. To generalize, real major systematic change has to occur if our planet has any chance of recovering from the extensive damage that has already been done to it. However, individual lifestyle adjustments don’t go unrecognized, and do actually make a difference when it comes to improving the Earth’s health. 

“It is really important that scientists, or other messengers who communicate with the public, model those behaviors that reduce carbon emissions to drive their point home. Our new research showed that the carbon footprints of those communicating the science not only affects their credibility, but also affects audience support for the public policies for which the communicators advocated,” Professor Elke Weber, associate director for education at Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment said in an interview.

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Basically, the general public is more likely to support systematic change in policies if those advocating for it are themselves making major changes in their own lifestyles. Especially the individuals in the public eye who are supporting this systematic change, such as Greta Thunberg who often discusses the ways she makes personal life adjustments to reduce her own carbon footprint. When someone like Thunberg is showing her following what she’s doing personally to improve the environment, the individuals who support her message are more likely to do the same, and thus speak up more and demand for more large scale adjustments to made from the government. Thunberg truly is the best example of this; during many of her speeches she advocates a message that demands individual change, while also preaching how if we want a real difference to be made, we need those in power to do something more than anything. 

The reason this comparison is so important is because many individuals know that in order for the planet to truly recover, systematic change is the only real answer, so they just assume that their own personal lifestyle choices don’t matter either way. This couldn’t be any more false, every person who actively is trying to reduce their carbon footprint makes a real impact. While that impact may only go as far as your community, it still matters. Imagine if everyone in your small town cut out single-use plastic products, or rode public transportation every other day instead of driving, the real world results of that don’t go unnoticed!

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“Advocates for energy conservation and for policies that reduce carbon emissions must expect ad hominem arguments based on their own energy use. Such arguments are probably best countered personally, by leading the way and demonstrating how to act in concordance with one’s own beliefs and recommendations, and by being an exemplar others can follow, rather than relying primarily on communicating scientific facts about global warming and its risks,” reports Forbes Magazine. 

Systematically, many changes need to occur. We need direct and clear policies that actively work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase renewable energy, ban toxic and wasteful materials such as single-use plastic, regulate human population increases, and makes public transportation more reliable, safe and accessible to all. These are major steps that need to be taken and they only scratch the surface of the global change that needs to occur in order for the planet to truly survive. However, if individuals are witnessing famous advocates integrating these own policies into their own lives, they’re most likely to do so as well. Forbes reports that out of a survey of 3,600 people, all of them would support at least one of the systematic changes listed above, so imagine the impact if that group just decided to establish those changes into their own lifestyles; the planet would surely thank them.

Climate Change

Studies Detail Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health

One of the concerns associated with climate change is the effects of rising global temperatures, pollution, and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events on human health. Typically, this concern is related to people’s physical health; heavily polluted air can lead to respiratory illnesses, contaminated drinking water can contribute to all manner of illnesses, and extreme weather events can cause traumatic injury as well as dehydration and starvation resulting from damage to infrastructure. But another aspect of the health impacts of climate change is often overlooked, which is the psychological impact of understanding the global threat imposed by the phenomenon.

Climate change has been in the news with increasing frequency lately for a number of reasons. One reason is the increasing number of extreme weather events, some of which have been shown scientifically to have been worse as a result of climate change. Another reason is the work of activists, particularly young people such as Greta Thunberg, to raise awareness about the scope of the impacts of climate change, including the historic global protests on Friday. As I write this article, the U.N. is holding a climate summit to discuss the problem and potential solutions, where Thunberg is speaking. And in the United States, democratic presidential candidates are discussing the policies they’d implement to fight climate change, many of which call for unprecedented political change.

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A meta-analysis, which will be published in the April 2020 edition of Current Opinion in Psychology, takes a holistic approach of understanding the health impacts of climate change by reviewing research that has been conducted on the subject over the past several years. This study identifies three different forms of climate-related events and how they relate to mental health. These events are “acute events” such as hurricanes and wildfires; “subacute or long-term changes,” like droughts and heat stress; and “the existential threat of long-lasting changes, including higher temperatures, rising sea levels and a permanently altered and potentially uninhabitable physical environment.” The various ways in which these factors impact mental health is broad, and the authors specifically point to the development of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Children and poor people are particularly vulnerable, as these are populations most directly threatened by the effects of climate change.

For psychologists, eco-anxiety is a natural and reasonable reaction to the science of climate change, and the best response to eco-anxiety is to take action.

The term “eco-anxiety” has been introduced to describe the sense of being overwhelmed by the nature of climate change as an existential threat, and has been identified as an area of concern among psychologists. The phenomenon impacts even people who do not have a history of mental illness, and is characterized by “a chronic fear of environmental doom,” according to a 2017 report produced by the American Psychological Association. Sufferers of eco-anxiety, a condition which is thought to be rapidly growing among the global population, worry about the future of themselves and their children, and experience feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration owing in part to their conceptualization of themselves in relation to the global environment. According to psychologist Molly S. Castello, sufferers of eco-anxiety use denial to distance themselves from their existential concerns, but that denial only serves as a distraction from their anxiety, worsening the condition in the long term.

Several therapies have been proposed to treat eco-anxiety. Both cognitive behavioral therapy and medication have been shown to be useful treatments for the depression and anxiety that can result from environmental concerns, but psychologists who specialize in environmental concern recommend additional steps. These steps involve changing your lifestyle to reassert control over your feelings and instilling yourself with the knowledge that you are not remaining complacent in the fact of climate change. Duncan Greere, who edited a report detailing solutions to the climate crisis, recommends that individuals “make climate change a factor in the decisions you make around what you eat, how you travel, and what you buy,” “talk about climate change with your friends, family and colleagues, and “demand that politicians and companies make it easier and cheaper to do the right thing for the climate.” For psychologists, eco-anxiety is a natural and reasonable reaction to the science of climate change, and the best response to eco-anxiety is to take action.

Climate Change Protest

Young People Around The World Skip School in Climate Change Protests

Usually when we think of students skipping school we imagine they are up to no good, as teenagers are prone to getting themselves into all sorts of trouble. However, a massive global protest today shows that young people are organized, concerned, and focused on perhaps the greatest responsibility of all, which is our species’ obligation to ensure a habitable global environment for generations to come. For these students, many of whom are followers of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, climate change is an issue requiring immediate action, as they recognize their generation is likely to experience the most devastating impacts of the phenomenon of anyone living today.

The protests began early in the morning on Friday, September 20th, when instead of heading to school students in several countries took to the streets, marching and carrying signs. In Australia, 100,000 students protested in Melbourne, in an event which organizers described as the largest climate action in the history of the country and which shut down public transportation organizers. In Sydney, demonstrators gathered in a popular public park called the Domain, and carried signs with phrases like “You shall not pollute the land in which you live,” “You’ll die of old age / I’ll die of climate change,” and “We can’t drink oil / We can’t breathe money.” Australia’s Prime Minister described these protests as just a distraction, adding that he felt students would learn more in school than they would protesting.

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In the Philippines, protesters blocked the entrance to a Shell Oil refinery, and in China, the world’s largest contributor to climate change, no protests occurred as they were not authorized by the government. Demonstrators protested in Kenya, Poland, and Berlin, where one protestor carried a sign reading “Make the World Greta Again,” a clear reference to Donald Trump’s infamous campaign slogan and the aforementioned world-famous climate activist. Several cities in Britain saw protests, with the largest being in London, where students justified their absence from school by arguing that soon there may be no school to go to due to the magnitude of the threat. 

Given the degree of anger and concern surrounding the topic, demonstrators are unlikely to be placated no matter what world leaders say

In New Delhi, a city well-known for having tremendous problems with air pollution, children gathered around a government building and chanted “I want to breathe clean.” And in Mumbai, the rain did not deter child protestors, who wore oversized coats while demonstrating.

Despite lacking the authority held by other generations, children have been proactive in advocating for serious action to be taken on climate change, and are often at the center of debates about how to handle the crisis, whether explicitly or implicitly. Having grown up using the internet as a primary platform of socialization, young people have a unique ability to quickly and effectively organize, with geographical barriers presenting only a minor hurdle in their efforts. And while children’s concerns are often dismissed or imagined as exaggerated or unrealistic, young peoples’ understanding of climate change and its impacts follows from the strong global scientific consensus that climate change is real, caused entirely by human activity, that we are already experiencing the effects of it, and that the impacts of climate change range from devastating to apocalyptic depending on what action we take in response to it.

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The protests are being held two days in advance of a meeting of world leaders at the U.N. called the Climate Action Summit during which world leaders are scheduled to present their plans for reducing carbon emissions and taking other actions on climate change. Given the degree of anger and concern surrounding the topic, demonstrators are unlikely to be placated no matter what these leaders say, though the historic protests being held today are sure to come up in conversation. 

While this is certainly not the first time young people have organized in protest for a political cause, the protests being held today around the world are unique in their scope and ambition. Climate change is a problem that affects all young people, irrespective of their country of origin or economic class, though it affects lower-class people, who did the least to contribute to the problem, more severely than upper-class people. As such, the primacy of climate change as a political concern unites an entire generation of young people, as evidenced by today’s historic number of protestors. Though the effects of today’s protests are as of yet unclear, as Generation Z grows up and climate change continues to destroy communities around the world, the political pressure to take drastic action is sure to ramp up.

Featured image credit: https://www.maxpixel.net/Climate-Strike-Climate-Change-4276007

Climate Change

Greta Thunberg, 16 year old Climate Activist, Testifies Before Congress

After arriving in America from Sweden on a boat instead of a plane in order to reduce carbon emissions, Greta Thunberg, a teenage environmental activist from Sweden, testified before a Senate climate crisis task force on Tuesday, September 17th, to draw attention to the threat posed by climate change and urge lawmakers to act. Thunberg, who is known for her direct and blunt style of speaking, appeared alongside youth climate activists Jamie Margolin, Vic Barrett and Benji Backer this week. Yesterday, after introducing herself to the committee and receiving praise from lawmakers for her strength and determination, Thunberg tried to shift the focus to the science, submitting the 2018 global warming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as her testimony and saying “I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.”

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Thunberg went on to chastise lawmakers, telling them “I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry,” prompting laughter and applause from supporters. Although Congress is sharply divided by partisanship, sympathetic members of Congress such as Representative Ed Markey encouraged Thunberg and her peers, telling her that she represents the future of political leadership and that voices like hers are essential in combating political inaction on climate change. Though she received support from representatives like Markey, who is a sponsor of the Green New Deal which aims to take radical action on climate change, other representatives were less sympathetic. Representative Garret Graves from Lousianna, for instance, argued that the U.S. is not to blame for climate change because America doesn’t produce most of the world’s carbon emissions, prompting a rebuttal from Thunberg in which she stressed the importance of American leadership in this field.

The issue of climate change is of particular importance to young people, who belong to a generation which will experience the majority of its effects

Thunberg’s trip to the Americas coincides with a planned international strike from school in protest of climate change inaction on Friday, which is likely to be among the largest environmental protests in history. The strike comes just a few days before the UN is set to meet for the Climate Action Summit, during which representatives from signatories of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord are expected to articulate new goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. During the strike, Thunberg will lead a demonstration at Foley Square in New York City, after which she will lead a rally and march to Battery Park. The absences of public school students who wish to protest will be excused in New York City, and students from cities around the world are expected to participate in parallel protests, with additional demonstrations, rallies, and marches planned. The issue of climate change is of particular importance to young people, who belong to a generation which will experience the majority of its effects, and who do not remember a world in which climate change was not one of the top political concerns around the globe.

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The nature of Thunberg’s trip to the United States on a speedboat is notable for its uniqueness and for how it demonstrates Thunberg’s personal commitment on climate change. The sailing yacht, called the Malizia II, was equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines in order to allow for a carbon-neutral trip. The journey took 15 days, and the conditions onboard were not particularly luxurious, as the boat lacked a kitchen, toilet, and shower. Nevertheless, Thunberg and her crew enjoyed the experience, and in an interview with Democracy Now! she described seeing dolphins and other wildlife as well as the stars in the night sky free of light pollution. The boat’s sails were decorated with the phrase “Unite behind the science,” and other environmentalist messages and carried the flags of Germany, Monaco, Sweden, and the European Union. Thunberg currently does not know how long she’ll stay in the Americas and doesn’t know what mode of transportation she will use to get back home, but is likely to employ another carbon-neutral or low-carbon mode of transport.