🌎 #291: When climate change happens to you

Quinn Emmett
September 9, 2022
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Welcome back, Shit Givers.

And a hearty welcome to all of our new readers!

Timely update: the world has heated by 1C since the (late) Queen came to power in 1953. Let's get to work.

Your favorite Action Step last week was ordering free COVID tests -- which you can't actually do anymore because Congress cut the funding.

You can read this issue on the website, or you can 🎧 listen to it (SpotifyApple Podcasts). 

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Europe's on fire (not in the NBA Jam way)

The news: Corporate clean energy purchases are down -- but why?

Once the vanguard of the "green vortex", corporations not named Amazon spent 24% less on green power so far this year compared to last year thanks to Putin's war, Chinese lockdowns and drought, and some resulting, serious supply chain bottlenecks.

Let's go deeper as Europe -- at the tail end of its hottest summer ever -- scrambles to transition to an energy system not reliant on Russia as fast as humanly possible:

  • Germany, regretting so many decisions of late, is racing to build an LNG terminal on the North Sea
  • UK solar installs are, well (sigh), through the roof as living and energy costs for people and pubs skyrocket, while the brand-new PM seems hell-bent on restarting fossil fuel production, Uber adds 10,000 new EV's to London's streets, and Octopus Energy models how to be a not-terrible utility in the 21st century
  • The future of the Danube (and other European rivers) may be dry and Switzerland's glaciers are the canary in the (sigh again) coal mine
  • The world's biggest offshore wind farm is fully operational
  • The Dutch -- having spent centuries defending against floods -- are sinking from drought, son of a
  • Wood pellets were promoted as a way to heat more greenly (is that a word?) but they're coming from protected forests instead

Europe's really getting their climate band-aid ripped off here. Yes, the Global South — colonized, stripped of trillions in resources, poorer, and responsible for a relatively infinitesimal share of historical emissions — is suffering more acutely and comprehensively.

But that's just the thing: the Global North, the West, just always assumed climate change was something that happened to someone else. Change was going to take forever. Not anymore.

The transition is here, will be brutal, and at least in part, powered by coal. But this is the end of the beginning.

⚡️What We Can Do: Whether you're a mom or a dad or an uncle or aunt or whatever, you can learn a lot about how to talk to kids about climate change from Science Moms.

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Vaccine Equity Update 9-3-22

Vaccines are dead. Long live vaccines.

The news: As US pandemic policy (if you want to call it that) coalesces around a flu-like annual vaccine strategy, it's time to evaluate where we stand.

And research is well underway for next-gen vaccines:

  • Two inhaled vaccines focused on "mucosal immunity" were approved in India and China -- the goal being to slow transmission and infections, not to just mostly protect against severe disease and death. Do they work? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Stateside, scientists are chasing a universal, future-proof COVID vaccine by way of an elusive nanoparticle, something I definitely understand
  • Meanwhile, Pfizer isn't sharing its vaccines for comparative research purposes, because it's legal, and because they're dicks

A universal vaccine would be prudent, as the CDC reorganizes, warnings of worse pandemics continue to be ignored, and Congressional funding for really any of it remains non-existent.

I want to be clear: I still mask most days in most public places.

I have avoided this thing so far. I don't want it. I also don't want to mask forever, and I certainly don't want the US to look anything remotely like China's on-going lockdowns.

But I plan on protecting those more vulnerable than I am with whatever public health measures I can take, including the power of this newsletter.

And that's because we win by protecting each other from the bottom up. 

America's vaccine uptake and death rates are at least somewhat causal and definitely exceptional, even on top of our every-day, "selectively competent", comprehensive death trap.

We have so much more we can do to guarantee better outcomes -- every day, and when shit hits the fan.

We can choose a measurable outcome -- and design the 21st century against it. We can Do Better Better.

⚡️What We Can Do: Get BioBot. Go here to get your county's wastewater treatment plant and community access to free Covid-19 wastewater and variant testing — so you see what's coming.

🗣 Comment here


I'm excited to invite you to our first monthly #AMA, scheduled for next Friday September 16th at 3 PM EST and exclusive to INI Members.

My goal with the new #AMA series is to provide Members with inside access to incredible folks who can help you think deeply and act decisively about the future.

First up? Brendan Andersen, who wants to help you work on climate.

Brendan Andersen is the Founder and CEO of Climate People, a ClimateTech recruitment agency that places top mission-driven tech talent with leading climate companies.

Brendan's got 20+ years of agency recruiting experience and launched Climate People in 2020. He's got a head-strong vision to mobilize a workforce transition to work on climate by leveraging his recruiting experience, passion for the environment, and desire to make a big impact.

Members can RSVP here. Not a Member yet? We'd love for you to join us.

Brendan Andersen 2



It's beans all the way down

The news: Drought and war seem like a sensible time for Americans to finally adopt those "climate friendly diets" everyone's been talking about.

Speaking of death traps, what we have here is a two-pronged issue:

  1. Food insecurity
  2. Diet-related disease from wildly over-processed foods

A new White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health later this month will build on recent reports to hopefully emphasize:

  • Quality calories over quantity
  • Supporting younger, more diverse food founders and growers (99% of rural land in the US is owned by white people) growing regenerative crops
  • Vastly more affordable healthy foods, for the people who need it the most
  • Vastly more accessible healthy foods, by way of food prescriptions, community health workers, more SNAP digital penetration, and school lunches
  • Heat and pesticide protections for farm workers

When you think about it — this isn't rocket science (sorry, NASA, tough week). But the legacy incentives are immense and complicated.

Longtime readers will recall I am steadfast in my belief that the FDA should be split up, and I'll keep working for it — but in the meantime, reversing these incentives can compound for a better, cleaner, more secure, climate-friendly, healthier and delicious American diet.

⚡️What We Can Do: Share your ideas and stories with the White House before the conference, and then apply here to submit your organization as a stakeholder (Shit Giver) when it's go time.

🗣 Comment here


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How to catch a killer

The news: 409,000 people -- mostly children, 94% of which are in Africa -- die of malaria every year. Could we cut that by 80% next year?

This week, the Jenner Institute at Oxford University published the results of a small trial with their fancy new vaccine and the infectious disease world is shook up.

From the BBC:

"It shows three initial doses (of the vaccine, R21) followed by a booster a year later gives up to 80% protection.

[...] Crucially, say the scientists, their vaccine is cheap and they already have a deal to manufacture more than 100 million doses a year.

The charity Malaria No More said recent progress meant children dying from malaria could end "in our lifetimes"."

Understand it: Mosquitos have killed more humans than anyone or thing in history and malaria's a huge chunk of that rampage.

Not surprisingly then, I have talked to so many wildly intelligent people who are throwing everything from vaccines to (more controversially) billions of CRISPR'd mosquitos at the problem. The sooner we can stop this disease in its tracks, the better.

⚡️What We Can Do: Until R21's ready to go, please buy a few bed nets with a new monthly donation to arguably the most effective NGO on the planet, Against Malaria.

🗣 Comment here


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When your city knows too much

The news: Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week predictably shut down the long-gestating and bipartisan federal privacy bill. Why would she do such a thing?

Well, one, because the flood of tech lobbying is incredible to behold, and two, because this federal plan would supersede any state plans, of which there are a few that vary widely in strength, including California's, strongest of all.

So —  back to the drawing board.

In the meantime:

I think the digital future could be snazzy and great, but every company needs to take a long hard look at the petabytes of data they've got on all of us and decide whether it's really worth the cost of protecting it.

Stewards of real-world assets they just can't divest themselves from are in the much less enviable position. Time for that operation system upgrade!

⚡️What We Can Do: Read and contribute to The Markup, one of the most excellent nonprofit newsrooms investigating Big Tech.

🗣 Comment here

🗣 Got feedback or thoughts on this issue? Members can comment here. Not a Member yet? You're just $5 away from joining up.


  1. Friend of the pod Dr. Leah Stokes breaks down her new paper on how utilities have lied to you about climate change for (checks math) about 62 years
  2. Juul settled for a half billion dollars -- here's how we keep the pressure on
  3. Friends of the pod Food Forward have transformed food waste -- and fed thousands -- in California. Huzzah!
  4. For everybody in the back: virtually all carbon offsets are bullshit
  5. The FDA reversed course an approved an ALS drug that might not work
  6. Apple quietly overhauled their anti-malware software, you're welcome
  7. Flood insurance is a problem everywhere
  8. What can synthetic embryos do?
  9. Mental health is a huge part of maternal health outcomes
  10. Here is a searchable database of all of the world's 58,497 tree species worldwide

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

-- Quinn

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