Category Archives: Income Inequality

Rallies Across Africa Demand Global Action, Climate Justice Ahead of UN Summit

“The urgency of the climate crisis cannot be understated, particularly here in Africa, which is the region most vulnerable to climate impacts,” said one campaigner.

By Brett Wilkins  Published 9-23-2022 by Common Dreams

Ugandan climate activists demonstrate in Kampala on September 23, 2022. (Photo: Hilda F. Nakabuye/Twitter)

Thousands of African activists and members of communities on the frontlines of the worsening climate emergency turned out Friday to call on world leaders—who will gather in Egypt in November for the United Nations Climate Summit—to urgently address a crisis that disproportionately impacts their lives.

Demonstrators took to the streets, public spaces, and even waterways in countries across a continent that’s responsible for just 4% of global greenhouse emissions to demand climate justice and an end to fossil fuel exploration and extraction ahead of the U.N.’s COP27 conference, scheduled to start November 6 in Sharm El-Sheikh. Continue reading

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Number of Ultrarich Hits All-Time High as Someone Dies From Hunger Every 4 Seconds

“Those with the power and money to change this must come together to better respond to current crises and prevent and prepare for future ones,” a coalition of charities asserted.

By Brett Wilkins  Published 9-20-2022 by Common Dreams

A Somali woman and her severely malnourished child wait for medical assistance from the African Union Mission in Somalia. Photo: UN

As a new analysis revealed that the global ranks of the superrich soared to a record number, a coalition of charity groups said Tuesday that hundreds of millions of people around the world are hungry—and that someone starves to death every four seconds.

At least 238 international and local charities from 75 countries signed an open letter noting that “a staggering 345 million people are now experiencing acute hunger, a number that has more than doubled since 2019.” Continue reading

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US is becoming a ‘developing country’ on global rankings that measure democracy, inequality

People wait in line for a free morning meal in Los Angeles in April 2020. High and rising inequality is one reason the U.S. ranks badly on some international measures of development.
Frederic J. Brown/ AFP via Getty Images

 

Kathleen Frydl, Johns Hopkins University

The United States may regard itself as a “leader of the free world,” but an index of development released in July 2022 places the country much farther down the list.

In its global rankings, the United Nations Office of Sustainable Development dropped the U.S. to 41st worldwide, down from its previous ranking of 32nd. Under this methodology – an expansive model of 17 categories, or “goals,” many of them focused on the environment and equity – the U.S. ranks between Cuba and Bulgaria. Both are widely regarded as developing countries. Continue reading

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Direct democracy can force governments to better represent the people – but it doesn’t always work out

The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade has led to a push for citizens initiatives to enshrine abortion rights.
Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

 

Susan Stokes, University of Chicago

In August 2022, a statewide referendum in Kansas saw citizens overwhelmingly reject a plan to insert anti-abortion language into the state’s constitution. It comes as a slew of similar votes on abortion rights are planned in the coming months – putting the issue directly to the people after the Supreme Court struck down the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

But are referendums and citizens initiatives good for democracy? It may seem like an odd question to pose on International Day for Democracy, especially at a time when many feel democracy is imperiled both in the U.S. and around the world. Continue reading

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15,000 Minnesota Nurses Launch Historic Strike to Put ‘Patients Before Profits’

“We feel like this is the only thing we can do,” said one nurse. “Hospitals tell us it’s our fault, but we’ve been actively involved and getting nowhere.”

By Jessica Corbett  Published 9-12-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: TakeAction Minnesota/Twitter

About 15,000 nurses in Minnesota walked off the job on Monday for a historic three-day strike after months of failed contract negotiations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) last month voted overwhelmingly in support of what the union says is the “largest private sector nurses strike in U.S. history.”

Nurses with MNA argue that hospital executives who make millions of dollars per year “refuse solutions to short-staffing, retention, and better patient care.” Continue reading

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‘Hidden Killer’: Experts Urge Action After Study Shows How Air Pollution Causes Lung Cancer

“If you want to address human health, you have to address climate health first,” said Charles Swanton, who led the research team.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 9-11-2022 by Common Dreams

Steam rises from the cooling towers of the Jänschwalde lignite-fired power plant—which is to be taken off the grid and shut down by 2028 as Germany phases out coal. Photo: Julia Seeliger/flickr/CC

Experts emphasized the importance of more ambitiously addressing air pollution from fossil fuels after the presentation of a new breakthrough on lung cancer in Paris on Saturday.

Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute and University College London (UCL) shared their findings—part of the TRACERx lung study funded by Cancer Research U.K.—at the annual conference of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).

“Our study has fundamentally changed how we view lung cancer in people who have never smoked,” said Cancer Research U.K. chief clinician Charles Swanton, who led and presented the research.

The way air pollution causes cancer differs from cigarettes and sunlight. Tobacco smoke and ultraviolet light damage the structure of DNA, creating mutations that cause cancer. Air pollution causes inflammation in the lungs, affecting cells that carry mutations.

“Cells with cancer-causing mutations accumulate naturally as we age, but they are normally inactive,” Swanton explained. “We’ve demonstrated that air pollution wakes these cells up in the lungs, encouraging them to grow and potentially form tumors.”

The team analyzed 463,679 individuals from England, South Korea, and Taiwan, and examined lung tissue samples from humans and mice following exposure to particulate matter, or PM2.5—air particles that are no larger than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.

They found higher rates of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutant lung cancer—and other types of cancers—in people who lived in areas with higher levels of PM2.5 pollution. They also found that, at least in mice, blocking a molecule which causes inflammation and is released in response to PM2.5 exposure prevents cancers from forming.

“According to our analysis, increasing air pollution levels increases the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and cancers of the mouth and throat,” noted Emilia Lim, co-first author and postdoctoral researcher at the Francis Crick Institute and UCL. “This finding suggests a broader role for cancers caused by inflammation triggered by a carcinogen like air pollution.”

“Even small changes in air pollution levels can affect human health,” she said, adding that 99% of the global population lives in areas that exceed annual World Health Organization (WHO) limits for PM2.5, “underlining the public health challenges posed by air pollution across the globe.”

The WHO—when updating guidelines on air quality last September for the first time in over 15 years—warned that “the burden of disease attributable to air pollution is now estimated to be on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking, and air pollution is now recognized as the single biggest environmental threat to human health.”

While most of the human population is exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution—which is tied to other health issues including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia, and heart disease—research has repeatedly shown it’s often worse in the poorest communities.

One 2021 study found that air pollution reduces the average global citizen’s life by over two years. Citing an estimate that it is tied to more than eight million deaths worldwide per year, Swanton called air pollution a “hidden killer,” according to Agence France-Presse.

Swanton stressed in a statement that “the same particles in the air that derive from the combustion of fossil fuels, exacerbating climate change, are directly impacting human health via an important and previously overlooked cancer-causing mechanism in lung cells.”

“The risk of lung cancer from air pollution is lower than from smoking, but we have no control over what we all breathe,” the scientist said. “Globally, more people are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution than to toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, and these new data link the importance of addressing climate health to improving human health.”

“It’s a wake-up call on the impact of pollution on human health,” he told The Guardian. “You cannot ignore climate health. If you want to address human health, you have to address climate health first.”

Tony Mok of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who was not involved in the study, similarly said in a statement that “as consumption of fossil fuels goes hand in hand with pollution and carbon emissions, we have a strong mandate for tackling these issues—for both environmental and health reasons.”

Like the scientists who conducted the study, Mok also pointed out how it could help with the prevention of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

“This research is intriguing and exciting as it means that we can ask whether, in the future, it will be possible to use lung scans to look for pre-cancerous lesions in the lungs and try to reverse them with medicines,” Mok said.

“We don’t yet know whether it will be possible to use highly sensitive EGFR profiling on blood or other samples to find nonsmokers who are predisposed to lung cancer and may benefit from lung scanning,” he added, “so discussions are still very speculative.”

Suzette Delaloge, head of the cancer prevention program at France’s Gustave Roussy institute, was also not involved in the research but discussed it with AFP in Paris this weekend.

“The study is quite an important step for science—and for society too, I hope,” she said, noting that it was “quite revolutionary, because we had practically no prior demonstration of this alternative way of cancer forming.”

“This opens a huge door, both for knowledge but also for new ways to prevent” cancer, added Delaloge. “This level of demonstration must force authorities to act on an international scale.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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Intense heat and flooding are wreaking havoc on power and water systems as climate change batters America’s aging infrastructure

Volunteers distributed bottled water after Jackson, Mississippi’s water treatment plant failed during flooding in August 2022.
Brad Vest/Getty Images

 

Paul Chinowsky, University of Colorado Boulder

The 1960s and 1970s were a golden age of infrastructure development in the U.S., with the expansion of the interstate system and widespread construction of new water treatment, wastewater and flood control systems reflecting national priorities in public health and national defense. But infrastructure requires maintenance, and, eventually, it has to be replaced.

That hasn’t been happening in many parts of the country. Increasingly, extreme heat and storms are putting roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure under stress. Continue reading

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Locals Celebrate ‘Tremendous Victory’ Against South Louisiana Methanol Petrochemical Complex

The company “finally threw in the towel having learned that our community will not back down in the fight to protect our health and well-being from more industrial pollution,” said Sharon Lavigne of RISE St. James.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 9-9-2022 by Common Dreams

Sharon Lavigne, founder of community group RISE St. James in Louisiana, was the 2021 Goldman Environmental Prize winner for North America. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

Community organizers and their supporters are celebrating that after years of local resistance, South Louisiana Methanol won’t complete a stalled $2.2 billion petrochemical complex in a region known as “Cancer Alley.”

In a statement Friday, the environmental law organization Earthjustice and groups it has represented in challenges to the project—RISE St. James, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Healthy Gulf, and Sierra Club—highlighted a letter to the company from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ). Continue reading

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Scientists Develop Malaria Vaccine With ‘World-Changing’ Potential

“We really could be looking at a very substantial reduction in that horrendous burden of malaria,” said one of the researchers involved.

By Kenny Stancil  Published 9-8-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: GHTC/Wikimedia Commons/CC

Scientists from the University of Oxford have developed a malaria vaccine with “world-changing” potential, BBC News reported Wednesday, though getting shots into arms will require a renewed commitment to global health funding that advocates warn is in danger of being slashed.

Adrian Hill, director of the university’s Jenner Institute and co-inventor of the R21 jab, described it as “the best vaccine yet” against malaria. Continue reading

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America is in the middle of a labor mobilization moment – with self-organizers at Starbucks, Amazon, Trader Joe’s and Chipotle behind the union drive

A revised movement on the backs of young workers?
Calla Kessler for The Washington Post via Getty Images

 

John Logan, San Francisco State University

Labor Day 2022 comes smack bang in the middle of what is increasingly looking like a pivotal year in the history of American unions.

The summer has seen a steady stream of workforce mobilizations. Employees at Trader Joe’s locations in Massachusetts and Minneapolis both voted to unionize. Meanwhile, restaurant chain Chipotle saw the first of its stores unionize, following a vote by workers at an outlet in Lansing, Michigan. Continue reading

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