Air and water pollution are pretty understandable health risks. But light pollution? It sounds a little hokey at first. Tons of streetlights and lit-up office buildings make Earth look freakishly nocturnal from space, sure, but could they actually make us sick?
Rebecca Boyle says yes. Those of us staring at our phones, laptops, and iPads until bedtime aren’t just inducing insomnia -- we could be playing with “the major factor in depression, obesity, and cancer,” she writes in AeonMagazine.
That’s because our bodies need darkness to produce the hormone melatonin, and melatonin protects our DNA, ultimately preventing cancer. If left to nature, our bodies would normally start producing melatonin after sunset. But we can’t all wake with the sunrise like Laura Ingalls Wilder, so we’re surrounded by bluish artificial light. Writes Boyle:
Shift workers, who rise with the night and work awash in blue light, experience not only disrupted circadian rhythms and sleep deprivation, but an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer.
The U.N.’s highest court has finally called bullshit on Japan. For nearly 20 years after a worldwide ban on commercial whaling, Japan has continued its annual whale hunt under the pretense of “scientific research.” But people eating whale meat isn’t exactly research, so on Monday the U.N.’s International Court of Justice told Japan to knock it off for realsies this time.
Australia was the country to narc on Japan, noting that right after the 1986 global whaling ban, Japan began issuing lots of permits for large-scale “scientific whaling.” Straining everyone’s credulity, Japan insists that killing 13,000 whales since the ban was the only way to carry out important research about which whales taste the best other stuff.
In a last-ditch effort to dissuade millions of American children from a diet of Funyuns and unadulterated corn syrup, the U.S. Department of Agriculture appears to have given up on trying to reach them through their parents. (Cut to rush-hour scene of a bus full of adults gnawing on McRib sandwiches, in unison.)
“Grandparents Help Kids Develop Good Eating Habits,” a blog post by USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion nutritionist Trish Britten, dares to make the suggestion that The Greatest Generation take responsibility for introducing children to fresh fruits and vegetables:
Take your grandchildren shopping at a farmer’s market and the grocery store. Talk about the choices you are making -- choosing the juicier oranges or the fresher vegetables. Help them learn cooking skills, which will benefit them throughout their lives.
While recent CDC data showed a marked drop in obesity rates for very young children*, there are still a number of health-related red flags indicating that American kids might be in need of some guidance in the dietary department. Just this weekend, the Texas Children's Pediatrics Associates clinics presented a study at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session that showed more than a third of its subjects between the ages of 9 and 11 have borderline or high cholesterol levels.
Last week, I wrote about the problems the National Park Service is having with hiring people of color. Despite having a major presence in predominantly black and brown cities like Washington, D.C., the Service’s workforce is around 80 percent white across the nation, even in places like New York City. This is obviously not a good look for a taxpayer-funded federal agency that is headed into its 100-year anniversary.
When I spoke with David Vela, the Park Service's associate director for workforce, relevancy, and inclusion, about why that is, he said of the problem, “We know that. We own that and we are developing strategies to deal with it.”
We talked quite a bit about those strategies in our discussion, which ran nearly 60 minutes. I asked about how they addressed legacy racism and current barriers that keep people of color away not only from the parks, but also from park jobs. It was the kind of conversation that helps you understand perfectly well why the Park Service has failed to connect with people who aren’t white.
If you thought ExxonMobil might take climate risks seriously, think again.
Last week I explained why sustainability-focused investor advocacy organizations pressured Exxon to release a report on how government regulation of greenhouse gases would affect its bottom line. The hope was that Exxon would admit that if governments get serious about climate change, the company's vast reserves of oil and gas would become unprofitable to exploit. That, in turn, would make it see the light on renewable energy and shift business strategies.
No such luck. Exxon released a report to shareholders on Monday and -- much to the activists’ dismay -- denied that it has a problem. Rather than discussing what would happen to it if governments force the necessary 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from a 1990 baseline, Exxon argues that it won’t happen. So the company will be just fine, thanks.
“Our analysis and those of independent agencies confirms our long-standing view that all viable energy sources will be essential to meet increasing demand growth that accompanies expanding economies and rising living standards,” said William Colton, ExxonMobil’s vice president of corporate strategic planning, upon releasing the report. “All of ExxonMobil’s current hydrocarbon reserves will be needed, along with substantial future industry investments, to address global energy needs.”
That’s corporate code for: “Governments will allow us to keep extracting and burning fossil fuels because the economy.”
Editor's note: The chat is over, but you can watch a replay below.
Starting at 3 p.m. PT / 6 p.m. ET, watch Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) discuss the push for climate action along the West Coast. This Climate Desk event will also feature Grist's David Roberts (not an April Fool's Day joke, we swear!), Bloomberg correspondent Paul Shukovsky, and University of Washington College of the Environment Dean Lisa Graumlich. Chris Mooney of Climate Desk will moderate.
The LAPD is giving crowdsourcing a try by asking residents to hang out in high-risk areas. Thankfully, it’s a little different than, “Yo! Can you chill in this scary dark alley for a while?”
The cops are using “predictive policing,” in which a computer analyzes neighborhood crime locations and spits out recommendations of certain blocks where a police presence would prevent future infractions. (“The idea is that the more time spent in the box areas, the more crime will be deterred,” writes the police department.)
But since cops can’t be everywhere at once, the LAPD’s Pacific Division recently asked neighbors to chip in. The police department will post an updated map of suggested hangout spots every day using social media, sending cops to those areas when possible, but also relying on residents to jog or walk their dogs there. Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic, for one, is willing:
If Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) were a squirrel, he'd have starved over the winter.
Like a maladapted rodent that's too short-sighted to save any nuts for the lean season ahead, the climate denier is sponsoring legislation that would force NOAA to focus on short-term weather forecasting at the expense of long-term climate modeling. The Hill reports that the bill, which now has 13 Republican and seven Democratic cosponsors, could get its first real hearing this week.
Bridenstine introduced the bill after 48 Oklahomans were killed by a brutal string of tornadoes last spring. "My state has seen all too many times the destructive power of tornadoes and severe weather," Bridenstine said at the time. Then he staged a bizarre tirade on the House floor in which he demanded that President Barack Obama apologize for spending "30 times as much money on global warming research as he does on weather forecasting and warning."
Feeling the wind in your hair is way more fun than popping a pill. And now Boston residents can say, “I HAVE to go for a bike ride. Doctor’s orders!”
Beantown physicians have started offering poor patients $5 memberships to the Hubway bikesharing program, which normally costs $85 a year. It’s called Prescribe-a-Bike, and the goal is to help reduce obesity. Writes Streetsblog:
The program is being administered by Boston Medical Center in partnership with the city of Boston. Qualifying patients will have access to Hubway’s 1,100 bikes at 130 locations. Participants will also receive a free helmet ...
Local officials hope the program will result in about 1,000 additional memberships.
Kate Gordon has been described as Tom Steyer’s "secret weapon," but it turns out that finding her is as simple as making a phone call and then riding up the elevator to her office in San Francisco’s Financial District. Here, Gordon is managing Risky Business, an ambitious project that aims to quantify the financial risks that climate change poses to the American economy.
A former housing activist, Gordon has taken an unconventional path to environmentalism. Before she became the vice president and director of the energy and climate program at Next Generation, Steyer's nonprofit policy think tank, Gordon spent a decade drawing up strategies for boosting green jobs and manufacturing, some of which found their way into state and federal policy -- most notably in President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
I recently met with her in Next Generation's offices to talk about quantifying disaster risk, the fate of the "green jobs" boom, and finding hope in numbers.
Q.The first thing I'm curious about is, what kind of climate change data are out there? What do you have, and what would you like to see more of?
A. The climate risk data just isn’t out there. The reinsurance industry is the big exception. They were doing a lot of work around climate risk because they had to -- they were insuring the insurers.
But most of the reinsurers -- who have been talking about this since the '80s -- are based in Europe. The reason we decided to do this project was to have a very U.S.-focused, business-focused, and investor-focused approach to climate risk, which wasn’t really available outside of some private institutions.
The five sectors we’re looking at are agriculture, public health, energy systems, coastal infrastructure, and then labor productivity -- which isn’t exactly a sector. Of those, the ones that have been most studied from a risk perspective are agriculture and coastal infrastructure, and that’s largely because of private industry.