Monday, November 30, 2020

Lessons for the U. S. From Another Nation, One Within our Borders.

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Society, Culture

Ed Hessler

Tribal areas in the United States and Alaskan Native populations have been given a pounding by the SARS-CoV-2 virus with one exception--the Cherokee Nation, a nation within the U.S., that is doing much, much better than the United States. This CDC report provides some details of the effects

An article in STAT by Usha Lee McFarling is a fascinating and illuminating story about how the Cherokee nation responded. I highlight only a few of the details she covers. There has been "a mask mandate in place since spring, free drive-through testing, the hospitals are well-stocked with PPE, and a small army of public health officers supported by their chief (Chuck Hoskin, Jr.), the Cherokee Nation has been able to curtail its Covid-19 case and death rates even as those number surge in surrounding Oklahoma which the White House coronavirus task force has described its spread as unyielding.

Hoskin enforced the mask mandate when Attorney General Barr visited recently to discuss a recent Supreme Court decision. This was four days after Attorney General Barr attended a White House Rose Garden ceremony--unmasked, of course.  Hoskin, is described as someone who is assiduous about listening to the science. I am reminded of Greta Thunberg who has long told policy makers and others to listen to not follow the science and to make decisions based on the information.

Hoskin, "says he is sure masks have saved lives and misery, implemented a mandate requiring Cherokee citizens to wear masks indoors and outdoors when around others, at the behest of his public health experts; the state of Oklahoma has yet to enact one. Firthermore he says, 'I admire Dr. Fauci. I feel I have several Dr. Faucis,' Hoskin told STAT, referring to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 'We acknowledged early on we should defer to the expertise of our public health staff to let them do what they do best.'” (emphasis added)

The Cherokee Nation, with about 140,000 citizens on its reservation in northeastern Oklahoma, has reported just over 4,000 cases and 33 deaths. There have been no cases of workplace transmission, Sequoyah High School has reopened, and elective medical and dental procedures have seen nearly full restoration.

There is a first-person account by Caddo Nation member Dion Francis on his bout with COVID-19 and the treatment he received at the Cherokee Nation hospital. Bill John Baker, a former Cherokee Nation principal chief has been given credit for transforming the Cherokee Nation health care system and the steps he took are described.

Lisa Pivec, senior director of public health for Cherokee Nation Health Services said "'I hope our response as a nation demonstrates what being in a tribe means. It's collectively caring for one another.'" Masking, distancing, avoiding crowds, washing/sanitizing hands are simple and very effective ways of slowing the spread of Covid-19.

Read the full article and re-learn lessons we entered the pandemic knowing and should have put into practice. We did have a plan, a plan that was highly regarded both here and abroad with the exception of an administration who wished it would go away. 

Plans are necessary and must be followed for in way too many instances personal selfishness is no match for personal responsibility. There are two Rs here: rights and responsibilities.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Masks: Source Control and Personal Protection of SARS-CoV-2

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

The wearing of masks to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 does two things, both good, no very good.

In a just released CDC Scientific Brief, "Community Use of Cloth Masks to Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2" is reported the following news.

Masks are primarily intended to reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets (“source control”) and also help reduce inhalation of these droplets by the wearer (“filtration for personal protection”). The community benefit of masking for SARS-CoV-2 control is due to the combination of these effects; individual prevention benefit increases with increasing numbers of people using masks consistently and correctly.

And what about those mask materials? The brief comments on a few of the materials.." Studies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration, including filtration of fine droplets and particles.... The relative filtration effectiveness of various masks has varied widely across studies, in large part due to variation in experimental design and particle sizes analyzed. Multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have demonstrated superior performance compared to single layers of cloth with lower thread counts, in some cases filtering nearly 50% of fine particles less than 1 micron . Some materials (e.g., polypropylene) may enhance filtering effectiveness by generating...a form of static electricity) that enhances capture of charged particles1 while others (e.g., silk) may help repel moist droplets3 and reduce fabric wetting and thus maintain breathability and comfort. (Bold added)

The brief concludes, "The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and personal protection for the mask wearer. The relationship between source control and personal protection is likely complementary ... so that individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use. ...  Adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation."

This endorsement by the CDC for wearing masks is the strongest yet.  In addition "An economic analysis using U.S. data found that, given these effects, increasing universal masking by 15% could prevent the need for lockdowns and reduce associated losses of up to $1 trillion or about 5% of gross domestic product."

We all win: you, me, everyone. 

Here is the website for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).


Friday, November 27, 2020

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

Good morning from St. Paul, MN, November 27, 2020 on the 332nd day of the year. More than 90% of the year has passed, not by much--90.71%. 

In weeks  and days this adds up to 47 weeks and 3 days.   

Sunrise is at 7:26 am and sunset is at 4:34 pm.

Winter is on our doorstep. In five days, December 1, it will be meteorological winter and in 25 days, December 21, it will be the winter solstice, an astronomical season. Here is information about the difference between the two.

Today's quote. On December 15, 1907, a letter by Helen Smith of Wimbledon, ND appeared in The Dakota Farmer, an entry in a contest on how women managed farm homes without hired help. Ms. Smith lived on a 500-acre farm with 1-5 hired men, and six children under age 10. She won, This is from that letter. "[L]et me say right here that my little girl of 10 can bake cake, set table, wash dishes, and sweep with any housekeeper in the country, and when mama is working with her, and making a companion of her, she thinks 'tis  all pay,; and she is laying by  store of knowledge and ideas of management, that will be of use, too, some time in future years."--Barbara Witteman, Prairie in Here Heart: Pioneer Women of North Dakota. The letter is reproduced in full.

There are two poems for today. The first is by Bruce Guernsey.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, a time when we once gathered with family and friends. This year was different. Asked to stay put many of us did just that. This next poem is a Thanksgiving favorite and I have sent it to others many times.  Thanksgiving will go on and we will sit at a table again with family and friends to share a meal and to be thankful. We can still be thankful. However, there so many "Ifs." between now and this "then."

The poem is by Joy Harjo, the first American Indian ever appointed Poet Laureate of the United States.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

The Man Who Feeds Parakeets Daily (100s of them, 3 Times/Day)

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Biodiversity, Wildlife, Society

Ed Hessler

"Lakshmi Narayan Reddy's home in the southern Indian city of Visakhapatnam has become a popular spot for the city's ring-necked parakeets (aka rose-ringed parakeet).

"Hundreds of the birds – which are a species of parrot – flock to his terrace three time a day, where he sprinkles grains of rice for them to peck.

"It's now become a daily routine and one that he has perfected over the last 14 years - much to the delight of his neighbours who often peek out of their windows and watch as the parrots gather on his terrace every day."

These birds demand a lot of attention to remain somewhat tame (see the Wiki entry above). They are very handsome.

Ah the green world, this time a gift from birds. (BBC video 1m 47s)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Cosmic Graveyard

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astronomy, Cosmology, Earth & Space Science

Ed Hessler 

I don't think I'd ever thought of space, the cosmos, possessing a graveyard. 

It does, of course, as Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), shows in a graphic of cosmic collisions detected in 2019. The measurements are in solar masses and you will note that there are some big things out there. LIGO and VIRGO refer to the detectors which allowed scientists to observe these very large events. Those collisons result in gravitational waves.

The cosmic grave yard is widely dispersed!

APOD's illustration is fully explained and linked.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Whitewater Watershed Lego Model

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Watersheds, Water

Ed Hessler

This is a lovely and important contribution to our sense of what a watershed is.

The Whitewater Watershed Lego Model is the result of a partnership between Whitewater State Park and Winona State University.  Constructed entirely out of LEGO bricks (more than 26,000 of them) this is a built to-scale topographic model of the Whitewater Watershed. Many friends of the park were involved in its construction.

The permanent home of the model is the Visitor Center at Whitewater State Park but the model will travel around the community to libraries, farmers markets, and fairs to engage folks in water conversations.

Here is the link which includes a video showing its construction in quick-time. There is also a description of the project as well as information about a watershed education program at the Visitor Center.


Monday, November 23, 2020

COVID-19 Deaths: 250,000 Visualized

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

The Washington Post has a few graphics which may help you visualize this country's Covid-19 deaths, surpassing more than 250,000 victims.

The Post noted that the outbreak has killed:

  • Four times as many Americans as have died in the decade-long Vietnam War.
  • Twice as many Americans as were killed over two years in World War I.
  • Nearly two thirds as many Americans as have died during four years of fighting in World War II.
  • More than one-third of an estimated 675,000 Americans who died in the 1918-19 flu pandemic, which was the worst in modern history.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Interview with Elizabeth Mrema, XS Convention on Biological Diversity.

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

"Earlier (this late summer) Elizabeth Mrema was appointed executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), making her the first woman from Africa to lead the intergovernmental body.
"The CBD was created by a UN treaty, signed into force by nations in 1992, and helps to set global targets to conserve biodiversity.
"Mrema, a lawyer from Tanzania, now based in Montreal, Canada, takes on her new role after more than a decade in leadership positions at the United Nations Environment Programme — and at a crucial time. She will oversee the creation of a new global biodiversity agreement for the next decade, which is currently being drafted. The accord was expected to be signed at a meeting in Kunming, China, in October, but this has been postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic."
The scientific journal Nature published this interview with her. Reading it will give you an idea of the nature--complexity--of this multifaceted issue, one that has multiple answers. Will speaking in the name of nature bring people together? She is hoping that it will. This is not a problem one nation or even region can solve. International cooperation is required.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Malaysian Giant Leaf Insect

Environmental & Science Education
Biological Evolution
Edward Hessler

This video from KQED (4m 21s) is about the Malaysian giant leaf insect that, while large, can be very difficult to see when it is in its leafy habitat--guava or mango trees..

This insect makes use of cryptic mimicry and protective resemblance to hide itself. In the accompanying essay Jenny Oh writes "'Cryptic mimicry' might sound like a magic trick. But it’s the ability of animals to conceal themselves. Also known as camouflage, the feature allows the leaf insects to use two different techniques: crypsis and protective resemblance.

"Crypsis refers to an insect’s color and how much it looks like its habitat, while protective resemblance describes insects that resemble a natural object such as a stick, stone or, in this case, a large leaf."

These insects are part of an interactive exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences. Oh's essay describes their maintenance and some of their biology.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Art and Environment, Poetry, Chilren, Early Childhood

Ed Hessler

From St. Paul, Good Morning on this 325th day of the year. Of course, the obvious thing to do is say it plain and simple: 10 months and 20 days have passed (88.80%).

Today there will be 9h 20m 57s of daylight with sunrise at 7:17 am and sunset at 4:38 pm. Darkness is beginning to pinch us. Two days ago, the sun set for the last time this year in Utqiagvik, Alaska(formerly Barrow) and will not rise above the horizon until January 23, 2021. It is located 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

This date is officially celebrated by the United Nations as World Children's Day.

Today's quote: We speak of owning land, but I believe that the land owns us. We claim it for a few short years, then relinquish it, but the land endures--and so do our memories.--Helen Baker Kjonas (Prairie in Her Heart: Pioneer Women of North Dakota, Barbara Witteman, 2001.

Today's poem is from Ted Kooser's weekly American Life in Poetry, #817. It is by James Crews.