🌎 #289: The new arms race (where everybody wins?)

Quinn Emmett
August 26, 2022
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Welcome back, Shit Givers.

Two of my FAVORITE podcasters and scientists are Kickstarting "Jax and Phoebe Make A Planet" and I think you'll love it.

It'll be a limited-run show that explores the major chance events in earth history that needed to take place to get to this moment -- and why it's so important we save this very rare and beautiful thing we've got. Support them here.

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Map of China

What a transition looks like

The news: For weeks, China has been at the mercy of what is probably the most severe heat wave in recorded history, with overnight lows as high as 95° Fahrenheit.

Extreme drought has closed hydro power plants, threatened rice and corn crop yields, and drinking water, while crippling heat has threatened lives, steel factories, and supply chains -- ranging from electric vehicles to solar panels and batteries.

Ironic! Because we need way more of those things to make the heat chill the F out, and until now, China's made most of them.

"“This combines the most extreme intensity with the most extreme length with an incredibly huge area all at the same time,” weather historian Maximiliano Herrera told New Scientist. “There is nothing in world climatic history which is even minimally comparable to what is happening in China.”"

China's in a tough spot on a number of fronts, which isn't really something we could say very often over the past couple decades.

Happening now:

  • Zero-COVID will be studied in public health textbooks for a long time
  • Their population is crashing
  • And the housing market is a complicated shitshow (easy on the literal glass houses there, America)

I've talked quite a bit about 21st century geopolitics being rearranged on the back of clean energy minerals -- the distribution is long-tail, but the bulk of the resources we need (at least that we know about) are in China, as are manufacturing capabilities.

All in all: until two weeks ago, our clean energy future was prettttttty dependent on China.

But then:

  • Nancy popped into Taiwan
  • China got pissed
  • Scrambled some jets
  • And bailed on saving the world together
  • Back home, Ira passed, essentially requiring that the aforementioned better, cleaner future be sourced and built here at home (or with strategic partners)

...entering us into a new clean economy arms race.

And like planting a tree or making lasagna, the best time to start a clean energy arms race was yesterday. The next best time? Today.

Will said arms race get us to zero emissions faster than cooperation would have? Maybe!

I have zero interest in celebrating the suffering of a billion and a half people, but if China saw clean energy, air, and water as the necessary way forward before, you'd better believe they'll double down now -- once they can turn the power back on.

⚡️What We Can Do: Almost anyone can invest in climate tech -- through stocks, as an angel or VC, or even through your company (it's one of the best ways for corporations to drive down emissions, on top of quitting them entirely). Check out CTVC's rundown on Ira's impact on capital costs and find your way in.

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Scientist looking at viruses
Vaccine equity update - 8/26

A new institute for a new way of thinking

The news: Some undefined percentage of tens of millions of COVID cases turn into Long COVID -- whatever that is -- and the point is, we need to know a lot more about it.

Understand it: If you subscribe to the notion that every problem presents an opportunity -- which is kind of the point of my parenting and work here -- here's the deal:

  • A hundred years of evidence proves viral infections can lead to a wide variety of crippling post-viral conditions
  • We got cooked by a novel coronavirus in the year of our lord 2020
  • So we should have anticipated some sort of after effect
  • But we still have the chance to build a "National Institute for Post-viral Conditions"

A center intentionally focused but also encompassing, in a Mayo Clinic or even Bell Labs-like setting, pulling together immunology, neurology, cardio, sociology, etc.

The goal? To address post-viral brain fog and rebounds, maternal health and more -- all proposed so eloquently and forcefully by Zeynep Tufekci in The New York Times this week.

Many, many doctors and researchers have burned out helping current and future patients, but we have to arm them with:

  • Interdisciplinary and complimentary teammates
  • Clearer messaging
  • Better data and data architecture
  • A hell of a lot less bureaucracy
  • A radical new commitment to high-skilled immigration reform
  • And value-based incentives

We're (still) doing this live, but knowing what we know of the past, and that this will absolutely happen again -- we can do so much better, right now.

⚡️What We Can Do: The US-based RECOVER study is continually recruiting new participants, if you or someone you love has literally any version of Long COVID. Sign up here.

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Who we're fighting for

The news: Coal ash is exactly what it sounds like, and with the industry winding down, it's clean up time.

Understand it: Millions of marginalized Black and Brown people have fought for decades to rid their frontline communities of fossil fuel production.

Thanks to their efforts and groups like Beyond Coal, coal's on the way out, but residual waste, and the trucks and trains that carry it, remain a cancerous legacy, poisoning the air and water of generations of locals.

For all the hand-wringing over nuclear waste, fossil fuel related deaths blow anything else out of the water.

So utilities who seek to raise rates to pay for brown water ash pond cleanups in Memphis or West Virginia, or to cap oil wells in Los Angeles after the fact can -- respectfully! -- go to hell.

On the other hand, building new solar farms on top of closed ash landfills is (an oversimplified) great way to replace power and jobs.

The transition will take a hell of a lot of work, and you can bet your ass the petrochemical folks will do everything they can to hold onto what they've got. They're not building a lot of new infrastructure (even with those shitty new leases), but standing up for communities that've done it on their own for so long is how we fight.

⚡️What We Can Do: EarthJustice is suing the EPA over coal ash dumps, and we're big fans. Start a new monthly gift right here.

🗣 Comment here


Mushrooms growing in a forest

Magic mushrooms -- for everyone (who needs them)

The news: Depression is in the news.

A rundown:

  • Depression rates are believed to have tripled since COVID-19 showed up
  • A massive umbrella study showed that depression is probably not caused by serotonin abnormalities
  • A new FDA-approved drug, Auvelity, can improve symptoms of clinical depression after just a week of administration -- but we don't exactly know how it works
  • A simple blood test for "neurofilament" could check for brain disease and measure how well therapeutics are working (or not)
  • Alcohol has long been used in the shadow of depression, BUT
  • A recent NYU study showed that psilocybin (the psychedelic compound in "magic mushrooms") assisted therapy -- barely but finally granted "breakthrough therapy status" by the FDA -- could reduce heavy drinking by 83%

We've got a long way to go but momentum is building, and just in time.

⚡️What We Can Do: There's 24 psilocybin-related studies currently recruiting for everything from depression to meth addiction to bipolar disorder. Find out more or sign up here.

🗣 Comment here


Pregnant Black woman

Pregnant during a pandemic

The news: If climate touches everything, so does COVID, and maternal health hasn't escaped either one.

From STAT News:

"During the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, maternal death during hospitalization for delivery increased from 5.17 to 8.69 deaths for every 100,000 patients."

But why?

Well, we don't know. But we might know more, and soon.

“Our data was limited in the sense that it was hospital-level data,” said Jose Figueroa, a physician and hospitalist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who researches health policy and management. “We didn’t have data in the prenatal period, and we didn’t have data in the postnatal period. We just knew there was a pregnant person admitted.”

Baseline America was already a preventable maternal health tragedy, but this isn't the direction we want to continue going in. 

So this part is key: we have more data than ever before, and it's coming in hot. 

COVID aside, there are long-standing questions we could finally answer: for example, how do we build more clinical trials that are safe for people who are pregnant?

"A single birth encompasses a huge variety of clinical encounters — from family planning and prenatal tests to delivery and a child’s first pediatric visits — which could each come with its own provider, record system, and standards for data collection.

“You can have the best questions in the world, but if you don’t have a good data set to answer those questions, there’s only so much you can do,” said Figueroa. “The trick is, are we able to develop tools and technology to fill in and make the data better?”

Maternal health is yet another area that would benefit from reverse-engineering teams, funding, and processes from a clear, measurable outcome, like "reduce mortality risk from 23.8 for every 100,000 live births to 1, by 2030" (the Netherlands is at 1.2).

⚡️What We Can Do: Listen to my conversation with Representative Lauren Underwood about the very personal reason she's fighting for better maternal health in America and what you can do to support her mission.

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  1. Dark Brandon got CHIPS, Ira, DACA, student debt, burn pits, and now science paywalls -- just this month
  2. Brain zapping boosts older people’s short- and long-term memory (!)
  3. Puerto Rico is becoming a battery
  4. Snap settled their "you stored my face without asking" lawsuit with XX for $35m
  5. Sammy Roth with an incredible start to his "Powering the West" series
  6. What does refrigeration mean for Rwanda?
  7. The new national green bank's got $27 billion to spend
  8. Japan's going nuclear once again
  9. "Pre-bunking" might protect against misinformation
  10. California (and maybe 15 other states, too) will progressively ban gas car sales by 2035

Thanks for reading, and thanks for giving a shit. Have a great weekend.

-- Quinn

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