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5 ways you can personally fight the climate crisis
Step one, start the discussion.
As we watch the youth take to the streets over climate change, and read daily news reports on sea-level rise, glacier melt rates and the alarming amount of carbon in the atmosphere, many are left with a desire to act.
Yet, the gravity of the climate crisis can seem overwhelming – especially for those who do not work in the environmental arena. Without a clear roadmap of simple steps to take, inertia sets in.
After working on climate action projects for nearly two decades with diverse communities around the globe, I've seen this inertia first-hand. The universal question seems to be: "The climate crisis is here, but what can I do?"
There are many ways to take action. Whether you are a CEO, a student or a professional athlete, your voice matters. We all have a unique reach and can create a ripple effect across our spheres of influence. We all have our personal sphere (social and familial relationships), our community sphere (home city and local organizations), our workplace sphere (job environment or campus environment for students), our industry sphere (professional associations) and our global sphere (social media reach and global affiliations).
I've outlined five steps that one can take to activate these networks and play a role in battling the greatest challenge of our time.
1) Start the discussion
Research shows that the average individual makes about 35,000 decisions every day. Imagine if you placed a climate action lens over even a small percentage of these choices? What to eat? Where to shop? What to buy? Where to work? What candidate to vote for? Your choices matter. And the people you interact with on a daily basis (in real life and in your online presence) are watching your actions.
When you consider the climate crisis in your decision-making, others notice. Discussion begins, and the effect of your decision is multiplied. The reason that brands recruit influencers to wear their clothes, drive their cars and visit their hotels is because they know that people are more likely to follow the preferences of those they relate to or aspire to emulate. We all have peer groups – those who travel within the same circles. With each climate-friendly decision you make, you start a discussion among these groups about why you chose to drive an electric vehicle, why you implemented a carbon-neutrality commitment at your company, or why you decided to buy stocks in a clean tech company.
2) Tap into your relationship capital
Is there a climate issue that is particularly significant to you? Someone within your network may have the influence or power to effect change. Just as your network watches your everyday decisions, they listen when you voice a concern – and you may be surprised by what happens next.
We often are not even aware of the value of the web of relationships that we keep. The concept of "six degrees of separation" can also be applied to "six degrees of impact". If you recognize an environmental challenge but are not in a position of power to enact the necessary change, you may be connected to a decision-maker who is. Speak up and inspire action in others – you do not need to be the leader of a nation or a celebrity to influence the masses.
3) Get to know your local, regional, national and global policy landscape
The policy landscape can vary greatly from one region to the next. The more you learn about existing policies (those that help and those that damage the environment), the more you will realize how regulations and legislation can play a critical role in supporting the adoption of clean technology. As more of the global populace moves into cities, the policies that guide the creation of these communities must give back more than is taken in terms of energy, waste, water, soil health and other key impact areas.
4) Amplify the voices of others
With the Paris Agreement, the world witnessed a coming together and a unification of leaders from nations of all sizes. This type of public commitment encouraged non-state actors to step up their ambitions and make similar pledges. For this reason, many would argue that Paris was a tipping point. It signalled that countries were taking responsibility for their emissions, and that others could – and should – do the same.
But, the story did not end in Paris. When Greta Thunberg caught the attention of the cameras at Davos with her cry for adults to "wake up and act like the house is burning", people took to the streets. Greta's movement allowed new voices to come into the picture, and she created agency among those in power positions. It is important to look for the "Gretas" within your community, and to amplify their voices.
Look also, if it applies, to your community's indigenous people – those who have amassed so much knowledge from living closely with the land, and who are now on the frontlines of experiencing its rapid degradation. With an amplified platform, their expertise can create truly transformative solutions.
5) Recognize the journey
Yes, we need to move quickly. But even more important is that we move together … in the same direction. No matter how far along each of us are on our journeys, we must lift one another up as we pursue a unified goal. Some may have been in the environmental movement for decades while others may have been inspired by a film they saw last week. Yet every step counts. We must support the positive efforts of others – whether big or small – as we cannot afford for people to feel hesitant to act because they do not have the same level of knowledge about climate science as others.
So, what are you waiting for? To fight the climate crisis, we need as many people as possible working in unison towards one common goal: a healthy planet.
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Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.
Can computers do calculations in multiple universes? Scientists are working on it. Step into the world of quantum computing.
- While today's computers—referred to as classical computers—continue to become more and more powerful, there is a ceiling to their advancement due to the physical limits of the materials used to make them. Quantum computing allows physicists and researchers to exponentially increase computation power, harnessing potential parallel realities to do so.
- Quantum computer chips are astoundingly small, about the size of a fingernail. Scientists have to not only build the computer itself but also the ultra-protected environment in which they operate. Total isolation is required to eliminate vibrations and other external influences on synchronized atoms; if the atoms become 'decoherent' the quantum computer cannot function.
- "You need to create a very quiet, clean, cold environment for these chips to work in," says quantum computing expert Vern Brownell. The coldest temperature possible in physics is -273.15 degrees C. The rooms required for quantum computing are -273.14 degrees C, which is 150 times colder than outer space. It is complex and mind-boggling work, but the potential for computation that harnesses the power of parallel universes is worth the chase.