Africa Free of Wild Polio

We can deal with diseases, viruses, and other health ills through collective efforts. This week it’s been announced that the entire continent of Africa is free of polio spreading in the wild. After decades of working to eradicate it, people can now rest easy. There was no single solution that worked, instead it was a series of measures that culminated in such success!

Polio is a virus which spreads from person to person, usually through contaminated water. It can lead to paralysis by attacking the nervous system.

Two out of three strains of wild polio virus have been eradicated worldwide. On Tuesday, Africa has been declared free of the last remaining strain of wild poliovirus.

More than 95% of Africa’s population has now been immunised. This was one of the conditions that the Africa Regional Certification Commission set before declaring the continent free from wild polio.

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A Torrent of Good News About Our Understanding of COVID-19

Dr. John Campbell has been the most levelheaded individual providing regular updates on the state of COVID-19 that I’ve been able to find (other than government and academic reports). Since February he’s been tracking the development of COVID-19 and our response to it. Along the way he’s been doing an excellent job of educating viewers on all he’s learned. A really great thing about Dr. Campbell is that he readily admits what he doesn’t know and if he’s wrong about something he provides an update, thankfully he rarely speculates (unlike other YouTubers who benefit from fear mongering).

Here’s his latest video and it’s all about how we’re getting better at fighting COVID-19 and understanding how our bodies respond to the virus.

Cleaning Our Air Can Save Millions of Lives, Trillions of Dollars

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Thanks to the pandemic we’ve all gotten a taste of cleaner air, and we all want that to continue. Clean air isn’t just good for better views of the horizon and a more pleasant place it to live, it’s also good for global health and for government coffers. Yes, governments can save money if we pollute less (despite Chevron’s best efforts).

Importantly, many of the benefits can be accessed in the near term. Right now, air pollution leads to almost 250,000 premature deaths a year in the US. Within a decade, aggressive decarbonization could reduce that toll by 40 percent; over 20 years, it could save around 1.4 million American lives that would otherwise be lost to air quality.

Of the potential yearly deaths prevented, Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois remarked at the hearing, “That’s a huge number. That’s nearly three times the number of lives we lose in car accidents every year. It’s twice the number of deaths caused by opioids in the past few years. And it’s even more than the number of Americans we lose to diabetes each year.”

If the numbers are shocking, it’s because the science has been developing rapidly. First, says Shindell, “there’s been a huge upsurge in work in developing countries, in particular China,” which has produced larger data sets and a wider, fuller picture of the real-world effects of exposure.

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Learning About Moral Philosophy Reduces Meat Consumption

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A taste of a postsecondary level moral philosophy class can turn you off of tasting meat. It’s been debated for thousands of years if learning moral philosophy actually changes how people live. Does knowing about the complexities of ethics actually make you more ethical? Short answer: yes. In a recent study a team of researchers and philosophers tested out if moral education about meat consumption would change their diet.

And it worked! Not only were students in the meat ethics sections likelier to say they thought eating factory-farmed meat is unethical, analysis of their dining cards — basically debit cards issued as part of UC Riverside’s meal plan that students can use to buy meals on campus — suggested that they bought less meat too. Fifty-two percent of dining card purchases for both the control and treatment groups were of meat products before the class. After the class, the treatment group’s percentage fell to 45 percent.

This effect wasn’t driven by a few students becoming vegetarians, but by all students buying slightly less meat. It’s possible this effect was temporary; the authors only had a few weeks of data. But it at least lasted for several weeks.

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Working Less is What We can do to Repair the Economy

Collision 2019 - Day One

Before the pandemic too many people spent too much of the time working instead of living. Now, the opposite is true with employers in North America firing people left and right because companies didn’t save a rainy day fund. Indeed, some companies aren’t paying rent and getting away with it (unlike individuals). Maybe there’s a way to save jobs and our mental health. If we went down to a four day workweek we could see an increase in productivity in some jobs, while in other jobs it could open the door for more employment.

“The pandemic has created a moment for businesses to take stock and consider more radical reconstructions of the workplace. It is a time for experimentation and a reevaluation of what it means to be productive,” said Andrew Barnes, author of “The 4 Day Week” and co-founder of the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global. Barnes has emerged as a global ambassador of sorts for a four-day workweek, since switching his own New Zealand-based firm onto that schedule back in 2018 and finding it improved productivity and morale.

“By focusing on productivity and output rather than time spent in a workplace, the four-day week allows for better work-life balance, improved employee satisfaction, retention and mental health,” he said.

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