Bits ‘n’ Pieces

From east, west and beyond

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

People in Ethiopia planted 350 million tree seedlings in 12 hours, a world record. A hundred years ago, 35% of the country was forested but that dwindled to 4% early this century. The tree-planting, promoted by Ethiopia’s prime minister, will fight drought-related desertification and store carbon.

Close to 20% of all contract killings are triggered by a romance gone sour. Another 16% are financially motivated, The Atlantic reports. Those hired to kill appear to have moderate to severe psychopathology that provides both the aggression and the emotional detachment required to fulfill their mission. Similarly, those doing the hiring are also engaged in “psychological distancing.”

Since the 9-11 terrorist attacks, 32,000 first responders have had respiratory and digestive tract illnesses diagnosed, all linked to toxic dust. The Senate has voted 97-2 to approve funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. More than 1,000 responders have died from illnesses linked to their 9-11 work, The Week reports, while 9,000 now have cancer.

While 40% of the U.S. coal fleet has shut down, Earthjustice says coal consumption elsewhere is growing. That may reverse. In South Africa, solar and wind power is now 40% cheaper than coal.

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice plan to walk off work Sept. 20 as part of the global climate strike. In an open letter, they stated they want Amazon to stop donations to climate-denying lobbyists and politicians, and they want Amazon emissions-free in 2030. At this time about 1000 employees plan to be part of the strike.

The Economic Policy Institute says CEO pay has grown 940% since 1978; during the same time pay for the typical worker has grown 12%.

A peer-reviewed study in the journal Environmental Health says the U.S. allows the use of 85 pesticides that were phased out in China, Brazil and the European Union because they were “too risky.”

Is scrapping Dodd-Frank banking restrictions worthwhile? If banks were suffering, it would deserve consideration, reports But in 2016, banks had $170 billion in profits, with just 3% reporting a loss in the last quarter. Use of Dodd-Frank has caused less of what Slate calls “reckless lending” that caused the Great Recession. 

University of Texas research suggests the decline in nutrient content in today’s foods may not be due to declines in soil nutrients. Rather, the study, printed in the Journal of HortScience, says nutrient loss may be due to breeding higher-yield crops with naturally higher carbohydrate content. Since 1950, broccoli, for example, is down 37.4% for riboflavin, down 26.7% for iron and down 14.3% in vitamin C.

The Great Green Hope for reversing climate change can be found in measures to increase the rate of photosynthesis occurring on the planet, which can undo dramatic photosynthesis decreases that began early in the Industrial Age. Photosynthesis occurs when plants, aided by sunlight, remove CO2 from the air, converting it into plant sugars for energy for the plant. Unused CO2 is stored in the soil, where it improves soil fertility and texture, and enhances water retention. As reported in the book The Soil Will Save Us, soil scientists calculate that, with new agricultural practices, at least 3 billion tons annually of CO2 can be sequestered, bringing carbon concentrations down.

Why dogs eat grass: It may be to relieve digestive discomfort, to provide more nutrients or to address internal parasites. Online veterinary columnist Dr. Karen S. Becker says if a dog routinely eats lots of grass, make a vet appointment and also consider upgrading the dog’s diet.

Some are labeling it “climate apartheid.” A U.N. report says that by 2030 climate change will push 120 million people around the world into poverty.

Blast from the past: Recessions every 10 years, more or less, are not inevitable, if Australia’s three decades of economic stability is an indicator. The Atlantic reports that Australia has taken three steps to  dodge chronic recessions. First, when a recession threatens, the government quickly implements fiscal stimulus — especially to lower-income families, and invests heavily in infrastructure. This is more effective since policies have not encouraged households to overextend their spending, and the financial sector has not been allowed to play with risky ventures. Second, immigrants have been welcomed and now represent 1/4 of the population. They are consumers and help boost the economy. Third, Australia maintains openness to trade and investment, rather than lapsing into isolationism when economic indicators turn sour.

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