Tag Archives: environment

Global Change, Global Health Research Symposium

Friday May 8, 2009

University of California Berkeley  – Alumni Center

[notes taken during panelist discussions]


Panelists :: Tomas Aragon, SPH Eva Harris, SPH Art Rheingold, SPH Lee Riley, SPH

Q: Was the H1N1 response an overreaction?

In front of the World Health Organization, Geneva
Image by eszter via Flickr

A: lots of uncertainty on the outset, but CDC let the schools go back after we found the symptoms were not so severe. Public health paradox! If public health works, then people will blame us for overreacting.

Suggestion: gap between perception and health professional reality

Q: How are we linked to the global community, via infectious diseases? And how can this stimulate other areas of global health and the environment?

A: Evidence-based links between Dengue and mosquito control in Nicaragua. This empowered people to do other things. The sum of those things improved health outcomes. Ex: microcredit linked to health, inverse linkage when health emergencies occurred but should be otherwise during non-emergencies. Need data for this for policy movement

Statement: Issue seems to be access to healthcare when the flu or other pandemics hit.


Panelist :: Jason Corburn, City Planning – Place Vulnerability

Jane Jacobs' Block
Image by sfcityscape via Flickr

Interactions between Built and Social environments. We need to look at the role of public institutions and public decision making. We do interventions for populations and not for places. Bring community members into research design is also important.

Q: what is the health impact of non-health interventions?

A: move from problem analysis to solution analysis. Track progress as we intervene. Look for WHO’s Health Impact Assessment. Move away from tracking symptoms towards interventions.

Panelist :: Malcolm Potts, UCB

In 2050 more people in slums in Africa than people in the US Family planning choices = listen to what women want Incentivise providers to do good/useful things Implications on rapid population growth lecture for classes Use of 3B cell phones to counter misinformation Young ideas and cross-discipline sharing… get out of your silos

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Slate: The ‘war on science’ is over. Now what?

scientist_in_lab118Slate has an interesting article on science in the Obama era.

here are a few passages that grabed my attention:

“We’re at the close of the Bush administration’s years of attacks on the integrity of scientific information—its biased editing of technical documents, muzzling of government researchers, and shameless dispersal of faulty ideas about issues like global warming.”

“It would be the gravest of errors for researchers to simply return victorious to their labs and fall back on a time-honored stance of political detachment. If the war on science is over, we’re now entering the postwar phase of reconstruction—the scientific equivalent of nation-building.”

“To succeed in the postwar landscape, science communicators must find better ways of talking to people on their own terms and making research meaningful in their lives.”

“Science is more important than ever—something our new president fully recognizes. Yet for most Americans, science is probably becoming more distant, not less; it’s harder to locate and identify, and it’s often more aggressive toward their core beliefs. In this context, scientists certainly shouldn’t retreat to their labs. Rather, they should reach out to the public like never before.”

image citation: http://www.cottonaustralia.com.au/media/scientist_in_lab.118.JPG

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Towards a stable economy

After hearing an NPR interview with one of the founders of Ecological Economics, Herman Daly, I started reading more into the subject.Hump the rainbow album cover

I like the idea of the economy being within an environmental system. Businesses can easily run up big ecological (and social) debt by misusing resources and not accounting for externalities that damage or remove environmental services. Furthermore, an economic model of constant growth doesn’t make sense from an evolutionary standpoint, because it doesn’t seem tp follow the idea of a dynamic balance. Efficiency instead of growth should be our new economic mantra, and “the scarce use of resources” should replace “the use of scarce resources.”

Arne Naess, the philosophy credited with founding Deep Ecology says that ecosophy is “an evolving but consistent philosophy of being, thinking and acting in the world, that embodies ecological wisdom and harmony.” Daly furthers Naess’s ideas and says “Current economic growth has uncoupled itself from the world and has become irrelevant. Worse, it has become a blind guide.”

image from New Scientist: How Our Economy is Killing the Earth

Unfortunately, changing course could be difficult. Gus Speth, an attorney and co-founder of NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) says in an interview in the New Scientist, “…we’re trying to do environmental policy and activism within a system that is simply too powerful. It’s today’s capitalism, with its overwhelming commitment to growth at all costs, its devolution of tremendous power into the corporate sector, and its blind faith in a market riddled with externalities. And it is also our own pathetic capitulation to consumerism.”

Now that scores of investment bankers and other practitioners are out of work, they should put down their crossword puzzles and crapachinos and start taking a fresh look at the way they expect to do business in the future– in light of the intrinsic link between their business world and die grosse Welt.

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Livin’ large with a small footprint

[image from NYT article]

I recently learned about a group in Oakland that embraces our water scarcity more than any other I have seen. They are the Greywater Guerrillas. Beside from being a brilliant name they do some amazing DIY projects. Ever wonder how you could collect and treat your own greywater, or even have a composting toilet in an urban setting. They can teach you in one of their many events.

Read an article about them in the NYT. Here is an excerpt:

Not even the Greywater Guerrillas would now condone the first system they built, in 1999. Back then, they were living with six housemates in a rented house in a rundown part of Oakland. After receiving a water bill showing that the house was using 241 gallons a day despite their conservation efforts (the figure was actually less than half the national average of 70 gallons per person per day), the two headed to the basement with little more than a hacksaw and righteous enthusiasm.


[image from Dwell]

Another small footprint concept is from an award winning architect, Casey Brown‘s self-styled shackitecture.   It is a 3×3 meter prefab.  Check it out via Dwell.

One way to compare Brown to the Greywater Guerrillas is where they choose to site their projects.  For Brown siting his building in nature is a statement that his uber-sustainable building is doing the least harm that a structure can do.  This appears to be the challenge at least.  In Oakland, most areas are already built out and so the Guerrillas have to work with what is available– and by mitigating their water and waste the Guerillas try to improve upon their environment.  There is a place for both types of projects, but honestly I’ve seen a lot of SIB (small is beautiful) houses and would like to see more people embrace a “reuse is more” rather than a “less is more” mentality.