Welcome back, Shit Givers.
95% of this week's newsletter was written before today's Roe news dropped, so please caveat everything below. States have the power now (over uteruses, at least), so here's some essential autonomy-related Action Steps:
TLDR everything else:
- The SEC's coming for greenwashing in a real way
- BA4: Endgame and BA5: Infinity War are here and immune evasive
- Eat more local veggies
- Bye bye vapes (and nicotine?)
- A digital privacy bill might actually see the light of day
Reminder: You can read this issue on the website, or you can 🎧 listen to it on the podcast (shortly).
🕛 Reading Time: 10 minutes
Book of the Week
My book recommendation this week is The Exponential Age by Azeem Azhar (Bookshop, Libro, Libby).
Azeem is one of the few folks I know thinking clearly about the way technological "progress" has swiftly outpaced our society's ability to deal in really any conceivable way (see privacy bill, below). A must read.
Knock knock, it's Gary Gensler
The news: Transitions are rarely easy. Expectations come crashing down, feelings get hurt, trillions of dollars of poisonous, taboo stranded assets are left out to dry. Sometimes we're transitioning away from fossil fuels, sometimes to prequels from beloved original movies, sometimes it's just puberty. It's easy to want to just stick with the status quo.
But just like you can't put puberty back in the box even if you're only 11 and oh god what is all this hair, we're well past the point of no return with fossil fuels.
Electric vehicles of every size are coming faster than we thought. Wind and solar are holding up the Texas grid. We can't build enough batteries or heat pumps. We know pollution takes two years off your life, so maybe less of that?
But that doesn't mean some folks just can't quit you.
Understand it: As the SEC finishes gathering comments on their proposed climate disclosure rules, some entities are ready to be judged (here's Apple's comment, Microsoft's, and that of 73 pension funds), and others, less so.
Some protests were predictable (B of A, Chamber of Commerce), some more hypocritical (cough, BlackRock).
But have no doubt, even if these rules are watered-down, change is coming. Even before "ESG" investing conned millions of investors out of billions of dollars (more than half of whom claim to prioritize impact over returns), no one -- not you, not me, and certainly not Wall Street and/or international conglomerates like Unilever -- have ever paid full price for the world we've built, and now (waves hands) the receipts are in.
It's time to rewire the world. It's time to call greenwashing what it is, and penalize the shit out of it; it's time to track renewable pledges, in real time. Not only because people are being taken advantage of, but because we have to do this. We've never had more tools, and like Stranger Things, the clock goes tick tock.
We have to go through the darkness to get to the light. And on the other side?
- The first EV charging giant (besides Tesla) may have just formed
- The US Eastern Plains are finally living up to their wind tunnel potential
- India's auctioning off an astounding 12 GW of off-shore wind capacity
- US grid scale energy storage has recently quadrupled, just in time for
- FERC to find new ways to get wind and solar on the grid, faster
- Biden and almost every East Coast governor are doubling down on wind while
- NextEra aims to go actually net-zero by 2045 and
- $20 billion in climate tech VC money remains ready to be deployed, markets be damned
⚡️What You Can Do: Smash your thumb on the screen to donate to the Climate Slate, a collection of downballot races with the greatest climate impact per campaign dollar.
Vaccine equity update: Just 17.8% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose, and 33.6% of people worldwide have received zero doses.
It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead
The news: Those fancy new COVID boosters can't come soon enough.
As infection waves continue to crash over populations across the world -- if thankfully and relatively decoupled from deaths in immunized countries -- a litany of subvariants have increasingly earned their "immune evasive" scout badge.
Understand it: Where once we thought the virus might run out of "fuel" (fresh humans), a new Harvard Medical School study published in The New England Journal of Medicine this week shows that our amateurish global vaccination rates, predicated on OG vaccines, have led to subvariants like BA4 and BA5 that -- while still mostly stymied from sending you to the hospital -- are capable of evading antibodies from prior infections, vaccines, and even boosters to make you sick again and again.
Not dead, but sick. On a sliding scale, sure, but 1) being sick sucks for you and the economy, and 2) with every new infection the odds of some Long COVID symptom catching up with you grows.
On the vaccine side, look, they probably saved 20 million lives so far. That's incredible. But we're playing a serious game of catch up. Only an otherwise-mythical pan-coronavirus vaccine might actually put us ahead of the 8 ball.
In the meantime, we should be upgrading wastewater tracking everywhere, simultaneously opening every window we can find and shoving MERV 13 filters into every HVAC system in America, upgrading our boosters to include at least a smidgen of Omicron, and then convincing way (way) more people to get them.
⚡️What You Can Do: Order more free tests here, get your booster here, track your wastewater here, sign up for the RECOVER Long COVID study here.
FOOD & WATER
Let's import some common sense bananas
The news: Not unlike biannual BREAKING NEWS headlines that one single extra dose of Vitamin E will strike you down with cancer lightning, debates over the emissions footprint of the human food chain (food we eat, not when we eat humans, different newsletter) have swung wildly back and forth for years: local vs not, veggies vs meat (again, not human meat).
While satellites and the like have improved our ability to measure the horrific land-use and emissions around industrialized meat (and the corn that feeds it), seemingly settling the meat vs veggies argument forever, what gets lost (this will surprise you) is nuance.
"The global transportation of food produces up to 7.5 times more greenhouse-gas emissions than previously estimated, according to a peer-reviewed study published Monday in the journal Nature Food. More than one-third of those emissions are generated by the international trade of fruits and vegetables, nearly twice what’s produced by growing them, according to the paper.
[...] While livestock raised for meat is responsible for the bulk of agricultural production emissions, fruits and vegetables are particularly carbon-intensive to ship due to their bulk and the need for refrigeration during transport, according to the researchers."
The nuance is more important than ever as food grows more expensive:
Food miles have exploded over the last couple decades, but more recently, more countries are banning food exports (India, China), as others realize the profound soil, water, deforestation, and health impact of generations of monocrops that mostly get crunched up for cows and gas tanks.
Meanwhile, Putin's war and accompanying sanctions have devastated grain exports (and yet reduced food miles traveled, if temporarily, and with, well, enormous tradeoffs) and climate change threatens not only farmers and yields but entire crops like bananas and coffee.
Have no doubt: the 1% absolutely plays a role here. Food waste is an unacceptable clusterfuck.
Composting, philanthropy, and high-end sustainable markets like Patagonia Provisions can hopefully play a role in changing habits, but we have to legislate, too, creating incentives for more regenerative farming from younger farmers, and farmers of color, for not fishing the entire ocean, for better labels, for crops that can withstand the heat to come, for borders that are welcoming to substance farmers who can't cut it in parched homelands any longer.
Can hybrid grapes salvage hotter-than-hell winery regions? Maybe! Can plant-based layers like Apeel protect fruits and veggies from farm to table (and reduce single-use plastics)? Seems like it! Is World Central Kitchen modeling disaster relief for the 21st century? Probably!
The tools are here. It's time to use them. In the meantime, think like Michael Pollan: Eat plants. Mostly legumes. Buy local.
⚡️What You Can Do: Make sure your seafood is legit with this handy guide from The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program.
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HEALTH & BIO
The Marlboro Man is rolling over in his grave
The news: Vapes are out.
"The FDA announced today that the popular e-cigarette Juul will be banned from the American market.
After a report earlier this week from the Wall Street Journal indicated that the decision was imminent, the Food and Drug Administration has made the ban official."
"The Food and Drug Administration is planning to require tobacco companies to slash the amount of nicotine in traditional cigarettes to make them less addictive and reduce the toll of smoking that claims 480,000 lives each year.
The proposal, which could take years to go into effect, would put the United States at the forefront of global antismoking efforts. Only one other nation, New Zealand, has advanced such a plan."
Understand it: Last year I tried to illustrate an action model using progress against lung cancer as an example.
I said, "The answer lies in a combination of more research, better and different treatments, expanded testing, legal decisions, craving relief products, advertising regulations, indoor smoking regulations, taxes, and public messaging. We have made progress against this particular evil not because we have done one of those things, but because we have done all of these things."
Have no doubt, tobacco companies and red state politicians paid off by Big Tobacco are going to fight these measures -- designed to make smoking drastically less addictive -- tooth and nail. It's just a couple months after they announced a ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes and now, this? On the day of my daughter's wedding?
But in the 3rd quarter of a game against a novel respiratory virus that straight crushed millions of Americans with preventable, tobacco-related medical conditions, fighting for the regulations to go into effect is among the most gangbuster, 80/20 moves we can make to make America healthier, reduce healthcare costs, and prevent another COVID calamity.
COVID, for example, itself might be down to a few hundred deaths a day, but remember when it was 1000+? Yeah, well, "About 1,300 people die prematurely each day of smoking-related causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." Still. We can Do Better Better.
⚡️What You Can Do: Join the fight by volunteering with and/or donating to The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
It's real now
The news: As I've alluded to repeatedly since Alito's draconian mixtape leaked a few weeks ago, and now officially dropped today, digital privacy only becomes massively more important in a post-Roe world.
An update: Congress is working on it, but it's not good enough yet. But what does "not good enough mean"?
Well: Senator/Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell, who's been fighting for a privacy law for a minute now, told The Washington Post this week she won't support the current bipartisan version, because of "major enforcement holes", which, fair, but also because a few states like California have strong privacy laws, and if she's gonna do a federal one, it's gotta top those, not weaken them.
⚡️What You Can Do: Please consider what you purposefully put online, but also what your devices are putting online about you every minute of every day. Here's some tips to start scrubbing your data.
10 THINGS FROM MY NOTEBOOK
- BlocPower’s Civilian Climate Corps is hiring people in underserved NYC areas to make their own neighborhoods more energy-efficient and that's awesome
- Afghanistan is (even further) in tatters after this week's earthquake
- Our monkeypox response is looking very familiar and less than ideal
- This is the FDA's 5-year plan to develop neurodegenerative drugs (think ALS, etc)
- What do induction stoves actually cost?
- Japan will end financing for coal projects, huzzah
- In mid-July, dial 988 for mental health
- China's Clean Air Campaign has reduced global air pollution bigly
- Is this the $100 genome?
- The NIH launched a new $20 million annual program to close the funding gap between Black and white investigators
Thanks for reading, and thanks for giving a shit. Take care of yourselves, and have a safe weekend.