Information and stories about environment.

The EcoHealth AllianceToday’s world is burdened by diseases that scientists and medical professionals are actively attempting to cure. Poorer countries are subject to these infections as unsafe living conditions, a lack of strong healthcare systems and shortage of resources are all factors of such environments. However, a new field of study, ecohealth, has allowed new organizations to improve their understanding of diseases. Ecohealth is a study of the ways in which the Earth affects human health in various environments. Organizations such as the EcoHealth Alliance have taken this field further to tackle pandemic issues in our world today.

The EcoHealth Alliance

The EcoHealth Alliance is a global, environmental health nonprofit organization that is dedicated to protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease. The Alliance formed when the Wildlife Trust and the Consortium for Conservation Medicine merged. After its inception in 1971, the Wildlife Trust worked to protect the planet’s wildlife. It later added conservation medicine when the connection to health and the environment became more evident.

The Consortium for Conservation Medicine was established in 1997. It had a similar focus on the healthy relationships between living organisms. Together, the organizations rebranded and created the EcoHealth Alliance. This rebranding allowed the organization to focus on local conservation as well as conservation medicine and the relationship between human health and the environment. EcoHealth Alliance has become a leader in preventative work of pandemics in “hotspot regions” of impoverished countries and in global conservation efforts.

The EcoHealth Alliance’s One Health Approach

The EcoHealth Alliance has a unique “One Health” approach that combats issues through different disciplines of thought. One Health consists of engaging with experts in many different disciplines to use their combined knowledge to solve problems that are larger than any single one of their respective areas of expertise. One example of how the Alliance is using One Health is through its work with the Rift Valley fever.

The Rift Valley fever is placed sixth on the World Health Organization’s list of priority diseases. This disease has a very low profile in comparison to others, such as Ebola, because it has only ever been observed in Africa and the Middle East. However, this disease is just as detrimental to those it infects, and there is a high likelihood of it traveling to the Americas.

The Rift Valley fever is spread through mosquitos. Mosquito bites infect livestock in the area. The infection has been recorded to kill “100 percent of infected young animals and 30 percent of adults.” This disease may also impact humans, whether it has traveled through mosquito bites or ingestion of affected livestock. It can result in mild flu-like symptoms as well as symptoms similar to Ebola.

How does One Health help?

The Rift Valley fever would be impossible to understand without the multidisciplinary approach that One Health entails because of the numerous factors surrounding the disease. Veterinarians understand how livestock is affected while parasitologists study the virus’s qualities and individual components. Economists research the impacts of outbreaks on society. Geologists study the conditions that allow the disease to thrive while anthropologists study the human behaviors surrounding the outbreak.

There is still much unknown about this disease as it disappears altogether between outbreaks. This lack of understanding makes it difficult to figure out the potential ways to protect people and animals. In response, the EcoHealth Alliance has formed a coalition of national and local partners in South Africa to improve prevention, detection and reporting policies surrounding this fever in people, livestock and wildlife.

The EcoHealth Alliance is the leading organization using the One Health approach. Hopefully, many organizations will follow to remain competitive. This organization’s procedures have brought together scientists from different backgrounds. It helps them to collaborate and tackle the importance of pandemic prevention in the interconnected landscape of the world today.

Adya Khosla
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts ABout Sanitation in Bosnia and HerzegovinaPublic health outcomes and economic status both rely greatly on a nation’s sanitation infrastructure. Sanitation encompasses the regular, efficient and safe collection and disposal of waste, whatever its source. Improper procedures and insufficient waste management facilities have led to poor sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but recent efforts show promising improvements. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. The political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina divides waste management responsibilities among different levels of governance. Responsibility for environmental policy, including sanitation policy, lies with both the federal government and the two political entities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republic Srpska, but not with the cantonal and municipal governments. The two entities and their constituent cantons formulate laws and regulations for waste management, while these two levels of government work share the responsibility of designing management strategies with municipal governments.
  2. At the federal level, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations (MoFTER) oversees and manages international initiatives and accords that involve the political entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the enactment of the Law on Ministries and Other Bodies of Administration of BiH in March 2003, MoFTER’s role also includes ensuring that the political entities follow basic environmental standards. As a result, the political entities do not have absolute power when it comes to environmental policy, with MoFTER acting as a harmonizing and coordinating force.
  3. The country’s two political entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, both suffer from a severe lack of operable wastewater treatment plants. Only two of Republika Srpska’s 64 municipalities have treatment facilities. Though the country improved biological treatment processes in 2009, the quality of these methods declined the following year.
  4. In 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina produced approximately 1,243,889 tons of municipal waste. This quantity measures out to an estimated 354 kg per year and 0.97 kg each day. Landfills received 952,975 tons of waste that year, a 1 percent decline from 2015. Public solid waste transportation disposed of approximately 920,748 tons of waste in 2016, a 0.1 percent reduction from 2015. The vast majority of waste in the country came from markets, street cleaning and other public sources. Packaging waste made up only 1.9 percent of waste in 2016, and household waste only constituted another 3.6 percent. Recreational areas, such as gardens and parks, generated only 2.8 percent of waste. Mixed municipal waste made up all of the remaining 91.7 percent, more than 844,000 metric tons.
  5. Registered local landfills serve as the endpoint for the majority of publicly-collected waste, but rural areas with little access to public collection services discard their waste in the far-more-common illegal landfills which do not follow sanitation standards. There are only 43 registered landfills in Republika Srpska and 44 in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but nearly 590 known illegal landfills. In legal and illegal dumping alike, the separation of hazardous and non-hazardous materials rarely occurs, posing a significant problem for public health in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  6. The unsafe conditions in a residential landfill in the city of Mostar, in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, provoked protests in 2019. Although it has existed since the 1960s as a landfill for household waste, recently it has allowed companies to dump dangerous waste products and sewage treatment sludge. Locals deeply concerned by news that the waste might contain hazardous toxins called PCBs prompted Mostar authorities to initiate an investigation.
  7. Despite some legislative efforts to follow the EU’s environmental standards, garbage pollutes Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rivers. The civil war in the 1990s resulted in the neglect of the country’s waste management infrastructure. A scarcity of recycling facilities has led to trash islands that now clog the country’s rivers. Locals report that organizations remove an estimated 800,000 tons of trash from the Drina river alone every year.
  8. In 2018, public waste utility KJKP Rad announced the planned construction of a recycling facility for electronic and electrical waste in Sarajevo, the country’s capital. The facility will also accept the city’s solid waste, construction waste and even soil. A hall containing presses and conveyor belts will process the waste brought by Sarajevo locals. Though electrical and electronic waste collection companies already exist, KJKP Rad’s new facility will be the first in the country to recycle waste deposited on site.
  9. In October 2019, the Sarajevo Canton Assembly discussed the creation of a waste incinerator as a solution to the canton’s waste management issues. Though the facility’s construction cost approximately 122.8 million euros, the incineration of waste would not only improve sanitation but also efficiently generate energy for the city. This prospective facility would greatly relieve the burden on the Smiljevići regional waste management center and would be one more step toward improving Bosnia and Herzegovina’s waste management and sanitation.
  10. International attention is also being directed at sanitation problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An initiative to improve the country’s waste management infrastructure with support from the Swedish development agency SIDA and the World Bank began in 2016 and offers several strategies to improve the system. Proposed policies include the design of a more feasible data-reporting system, expanding the trash collection fleet, designing and implementing better organized and less expensive waste collection systems, ensuring greater stakeholder involvement in waste management initiatives, improved communication with citizens, implementation of environmental taxes and even tariff reform. With additional time and data, authorities hope that these strategies will improve sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since gaining independence in the 1990s, sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina has remained a problem. Public health hazards that also threaten economic stability emerged from the neglect that comes with political upheaval. Nevertheless, efforts made to address current shortcomings, such as the construction of new recycling and incineration facilities, herald a brighter future for sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Maxima AcuñaNews about native peoples fighting for the rights to their land is, sadly, nothing new. For many years, the indigenous populations of many nations around the world have struggled to keep their rights to their land. They are often ignored by their own country’s governments as well as international entities. However, that didn’t stop Maxima Acuña from fighting against the powerful Newmont and Yanacocha Mining Companies in defense of her land.

The Case

Maxima Acuña’s battle started one day when the Peruvian Mining Company Yanacocha, through the Newmont Mining Company, claimed rightful ownership of her property. Acuña’s land, as well as four lagoons near it, were the new grounds for the Conga mining project. While Conga was projected to be one of the most ambitious gold extraction projects, it didn’t sit well with the farmers that live around the land.

For the successful extraction of the materials, four critical lagoons would have to be “sacrificed” as they would be turned into waste pits or be completely dried out. Since 2011, the Newmont Mining company has been trying to claim the rights to her land. Maxima and her family were told to move as they were on official mining grounds. But, there was no way Maxima Acuaña would go out without a fight.

The Brutality of the Authorities

Because of her refusal, Yanacocha and the Newmont committed several acts of brutality and abuse of power against Maxima Acuña and her family. On more the one occasion, armed men destroyed her home and crops. They sent death threats and even “beat her and one of her daughters unconscious.” Despite all of this, Maxima refused to leave her land. The local authorities accused her of invasion of private land and sentenced her to three years in prison with a $2,000 fine. Luckily, through the help of an environmental NGO called GRUFIDES, Maxima Acuña was released from her sentence and granted legitimate property rights.

With the majority of the local population opposing the Yanacocha and the Conga project and the unconditional support of Grufindes, Maxima Acuña had the means to fight the mining companies. GRUFIDES fights for the environmental rights that were ignored by the Conga Project. With their help, Maxima Acuña was able to overturn the court’s decision. This huge win was not only for her but also for the farmers protesting the Conga project and protecting the lakes. Maxima Acuña now had the support of the local and even the international community.

The Lesson of Hope

In 2016, she became the winner of The Goldman Environmental Prize, making her case known in America. In March 2019, Maxima Acuña and her family won a vital appeal against the Newmont Mining Company against the company’s abuse. The motion guaranteed a fair trial for both parties, something big for Peruvian Farmers.

For many years, the abuse against indigenous farmers has been a topic that many choose to ignore. However, Maxima Acuña’s case is not the first and won’t be last. Her case shows that the fight is not over yet. Even with all the stakes against the environment, even the big companies can overthrow a fighting spirit.

Adriana Ruiz
Photo: Flickr

Cool RoofsFirst researched in the 1980s, cool roofs only became a reality around 2001. This cooling technology naturally cools the house, while being cheaper and more energy-efficient than traditional roofs, prompting many parts of the world to consider shifting towards them. The world will benefit financially, environmentally and even comfort-wise from the addition of cool roofs.

The Problem

Over 1 billion people in developing countries face significant risks from extreme heat, with no access to electricity for cooling. Another 2.3 billion can only afford inefficient, unhealthy air conditioning models that use HFC gases that are thousands of times more polluting than carbon dioxide. The energy demand from developing countries is predicted to climb more than 33-fold by 2100. Americans alone consume the same amount of electricity for air conditioning as the total electricity used for all the needs of 1.1 billion people in Africa. The introduction of cool roofs, though a seemingly insignificant change, would not only help people in developing nations but those in developed countries as well.

How it Works

Cool roofs are created by using cool roof coatings, which are thick, white or reflective paint applied to the roof, it covers or shingles to protect the roof from UV light, chemical and water damage, maintaining and restoring the roof itself, making it last longer than traditional roofs. The paint reflects the sunlight, keeping the house cooler than can a traditional roof, which absorbs the sunlight instead. In so doing, cool roofs can reduce indoor temperatures by 3.6-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (2-3 degrees Celsius) and can reduce the internal temperatures of individual rooms by 20 percent. As for urban heat island effects, they can reduce urban temperatures up to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius).

Benefits

In addition to reducing cooling costs and increasing roof life, cool roofs are environmentally friendlier than traditional roofs. They reduce air temperature, retard smog formation and decrease power plant emissions (carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, mercury) and reduce electricity demand in the summer. When the house itself is already cool during the summer, people do not need to use as much air conditioning, thus reducing the usual strain on the electricity grid.

The people who would likely benefit first from the addition of cool roofs are the estimated 630 million people that may already have access to electricity, but have poor quality housing and may not be able to afford a fan or the money to run it. Regions with the highest population of these people are China, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan and Iraq.

Regions That Are Shifting To Cool Roofs

Mexico is participating in the Global Superior Energy Performance Partnership (GSEP) and is working towards installing more cool roofs. Mexican authorities are not yet aware of the advantages of cool roofs, thus the goal is to communicate the impact on energy efficiency, economy, health and comfort that cool roofs will have on the population. This technology saves energy and saves money on air conditioning as well.

South Africa is also part of the GSEP and has begun a Cool Surfaces Project, a collaborative agreement between the American and South African Departments of Energy. People in South Africa need technology that will provide them with the benefits that cool roofs provide (fire retardancy, passive-energy usage, waterproofing, low cost, low maintenance, cooling), making it a perfect fit for them. This project will save them a lot of money and energy, as well as influencing nearby regions to follow suit. Kheis, a rural community of about 15,000 in South Africa, is one of the leaders in developing this cool roof approach to provide a respite from the heat.

Globally, when less money and energy is devoted towards air conditioning either in the first or the third world, more can be done to confront other problems. The installation of cool roofs creates jobs, reduces the strain on electricity grids, naturally cools buildings and even lowers the net temperature of local areas.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Oil and Poverty
Oil has been a massive drive for inequality in the modern world, especially The Organization of the Petroleum Countries (OPEC) member states. Oil and poverty intertwine, especially in OPEC nations. OPEC, at its core, is a union of oil-producing countries that work together to make decisions on how much oil countries extract and export around the world. While OPEC strength has diminished in the world with increased oil supply coming in from Canada and The United States, OPEC nations still have stranglehold grips on their economies and governments. OPEC found its beginning in the 1960s with five countries, including Kuwait, Venezuela, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Reliance on Oil Revenue

One thing that all the founding OPEC nation members have in common is a poor Freedom House Index score. Kuwait currently has the highest score with Freedom House giving it an overall score of partly free while the other four have a score determining them not free. With five distinct countries with different styles of government and cultures with one being across the globe, the one common thread is the large oil reserves that each of these countries relies on. For instance, a report by export.gov finds that “oil comprises nearly half of Kuwait’s GDP, around 95 percent of exports and approximately 90 percent of government revenue.”

The fact that government revenue comes mostly from Kuwait’s nationalized oil industry and the Kuwait Petroleum Company (KPC) shows an alarming trend. With the country relying mainly on oil revenue, the government taxes the population less, meaning that the government can ignore the requests for policy reform for less risk. If everyone in the United States decided to protest government activity, the federal government would have a serious fiscal issue on its hands, but if Kuwait’s population decided to stop paying taxes, the overall fiscal attitude of Kuwait would only change minimally.

Kuwait’s failure to support its people reflects in the numbers. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Factbook, the total unemployment rate in Kuwait is 15.4 percent, with women being 30 percent unemployed and men being 9.4 percent unemployed. The CIA also cites that current health expenditures are only 4 percent of the economy, and there are only two beds per 1,000 people. These three simple metrics show a blatant disregard towards social issues such as women’s rights and political/economic issues such as health care and infrastructure.

Solutions

In some ways, the problem of oil and poverty and OPEC is self-repairing. As large and easy oil reserves start to dry out, the cost of obtaining more oil will increase to the point where it is no longer economically feasible to extract it. There is much debate as to when this will occur, but for many western countries, green energy has already become cheaper than traditional fossil fuels. This trend reflects in its GDP growth rate, which the CIA has concluded to be negative 3.3 percent and has been negative since 2015. With 90 percent of the countries’ GDP tied up in oil and the growth rate being negative, one can infer that as the world’s oil supplies dry up and people’s preferences shift towards green energy, Kuwait will eventually have to find another way to support itself.

Fighting the fight against OPEC and oil and poverty is easier than one might think. Since OPEC operates as a union based on exports, supporting NGOs and governmental policies towards green energy in any capacity either directly on indirectly damages OPEC. A great NGO to support is Green America which has the mission statement, “Our mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.” With Green America’s goals of social equity and sustainability, it is the perfect NGO to counter oppressive regimes that profit from killing the planet.

Spencer Julian
Photo: Wikipedia

 

Air Pollution in Nigeria
Nigeria has the largest number of deaths due to air pollution in Africa, while the country ranks fourth for air pollution across the globe. Statistics indicate that in 2016, 150 fatalities occurred per 100,000 people as a result of this environmental issue. The State of the Global Air Report that the Health Effects Institute (HEI) published determined that Nigeria’s air quality is amidst the most lethal worldwide. Atmospheric threats such as generator fumes, automobile emissions and crop burning cause air pollution.

In 2016, The HEI indicated that industrialized countries like Russia and Germany have reported lower death rates than Nigeria with 62 and 22 per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, developing countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have reported much higher rates with 406, 207 and 195 deaths per 100,000 people.

Causes of Air Pollution in Nigeria

Air pollution emits through generator fumes which produce the deadly gas carbon monoxide. Automobiles with older engines are also likely to emit unhealthy fumes into the atmosphere. In households, kerosene stoves produce flames that contribute to the poor air ventilation. The nation creates over 3 million tons of waste yearly and most Nigerians burn their waste in their neighborhoods rather than discarding it, contributing more pollution to the atmosphere. Another aspect that contributes to the air pollution crisis in Nigeria is the use of firewood and coal to cook.

Additionally, indoor air pollution in Nigeria is also a big issue, as the amount of fine particulate matter levels in many households surpass air quality guidelines by 20 times. In 2012, according to the WHO, Lagos, Nigeria experienced nearly 7 million deaths caused by indoor and outdoor air contamination.

Air contamination across the African continent kills over 700,000 people annually; more people die from air pollution than unsanitary hygiene practices and undernourishment. Casualties as a result of the air pollution crisis in Nigeria has increased by nearly 40 percent in the last 30 years. Nigeria has some of the highest rates of unhealthy air quality across the African continent. Overall, Nigerian cities contain the most unhealthy air quality with 10 urban areas being classified on a list of 30 cities in Africa with the most unhealthy air quality.

The Effects of Air Pollution in Nigeria

While developed countries have effective solutions in place to handle air pollution, underdeveloped countries are struggling to handle this environmental issue. Some countries have begun taking appropriate measures to handle it, though. As a result, the number of people exposed to air pollution has decreased from 3.5 billion in 1990 to 2.4 billion in 2016.

The report also indicated that 95 percent of the globe’s citizens are intaking polluted air. In 2016, extended subjection to air pollution contributed to roughly 6 million deaths, all resulting from diseases such as strokes, lung disease, lung cancer, bronchitis, asthma and heart attacks. Air pollution is one of the top leading causes of fatalities, particularly in underdeveloped countries, even after smoking, increased blood pressure and unhealthy diets. Exposure to air pollution also increases the risk of developing cancer.

Solutions to the Air Pollution Crisis

In order to effectively handle the air pollution crisis in Nigeria, it is important for the country to provide regular inspections of automobiles to ensure that older cars are not releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. It is also integral that Nigeria removes cars from the road that are toxic to the environment.

The implementation of efficient electric energy will help decrease the need for generators, which produces unhealthy air pollution in households and work environments. However, Nigeria does have access to sustainable energy resources that are capable of providing power to its citizens. These methods are safer for the environment and the usage of them decreases the use of gasoline-powered generators, thus decreasing pollution.

Nigerians can reduce air pollution in the household by substituting fuelwood for biogas, which is a form of biofuel that is instinctively manufactured from the decay of natural waste. Biogas will provide sustainable options for preparing food and heating the household while eliminating air pollution both inside the household and the outside environment.

In terms of trash disposal, recycling methods will be helpful to make certain that people are not burning waste. Additionally, daily waste removal from households will also help to properly dispose of trash, which reduces the fragmentation of waste and prevents odors that contribute to air pollution.

Additionally, factories that are within metropolitan areas follow guidelines regarding sustainable practices in order to decrease air pollution in Nigeria. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) monitors operations to ensure that these work environments are abiding by the pollution proclamations.

In conclusion, the execution of environmentally friendly practices in Nigeria will help decrease the air pollution crisis in Nigeria that is present in households, businesses and the outside environment. In order for the elimination of air pollution to be effective, the country must pursue the regulations for all Nigerians.

Additionally, it is necessary to inform communities regarding the sources and consequences of air pollution in order for them to effectively take action in decreasing the issue. Furthermore, those that become more knowledgeable of the issue are then able to educate others and persuade the Nigerian government to continue to enforce legislation against air pollution.

Diana Dopheide
Photo: Wikipedia

Deforestation and Poverty
Deforestation throughout the world has been increasing over the past decades. Forests contribute to 90 percent of the livelihood of those that live in extreme poverty. Once people cut down and remove these resources, it takes years to replace them, which puts people deeper into poverty. Deforestation and poverty connect because of what the forest can provide for people living in poverty.

Reasons for Deforestation

There are several reasons that deforestation is so much a part of developing nations. One of the most prominent reasons is logging or cutting down trees for processing. While logging does provide temporary relief from poverty once loggers cut down the trees, it takes years for them to grow back.

Indonesia has the worst problem with illegal logging with 80 percent of its logging exports being illegal. Agriculture is necessary for a country to become self-sufficient and rely on itself to feed its people. Hence, to clear land for crops, farmers cut down large sections of forests. Indonesia also has the worst problem with clearing forest for agriculture; the country states that it is necessary to make way for the trees for palm oil, one of its major exports, in order to reduce poverty.

In Brazil, clearing forests to make way for grazing livestock is the reason for deforestation. Brazil is a top beef exporter having exported over $5 billion worth of beef in 2018 and beef is a significant contributor to its economy.

The Benefits and Harm of Deforestation

The three countries that have the most deforestation are Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. These countries all have access to the Amazon rainforest and they use its resources to help alleviate the strain of poverty. Deforestation has devastated all three of these countries, as each has cut down millions of acres of rainforest.

Since 1978, Brazilian loggers, cattle rangers and farmers have cut down 289,000 square miles of rainforest. One of Brazil’s top crops is soybeans that farmers use to feed its growing cattle population. Massive sections of forest require cutting to make way for both soybean production and cattle and this impacts the indigenous people of Brazil the most. Their entire livelihood is dependent on the forest and when the trees disappear, they suffer extreme poverty.

Peru has recently increased its efforts to control deforestation due to mining. Gold is a large part of the economy of Peru along with logging. These efforts have worked for the people of Peru who were able to cut their poverty rate from 48.5 percent to 25.8 percent in less than 10 years. However, experts believe that this relief, while significant, could only be temporary because the rate of deforestation will have a profound impact on climate change that will, in turn, harm the forests and economy of the country.

The GDP per capita of Bolivia is currently at $2559.51. This makes it one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. To help the poor people of the country, the government has doubled the amount of deforestation that occurs in the country to make way for cattle, agriculture and infrastructure.

With the increase of deforestation, the benefits can seem like relief for those that are deeply immersed in poverty. While these countries’ removal of whole forests can help those living in poor conditions, the help is only temporary and in the long run can harm their well being as much as help. Deforestation and poverty are linked and to save the forests, it is essential to help those living in and around the forests.

Samuel Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in the Virgin IslandsAcquired in part by Britain in 1672 and the rest by the United States in 1917, the Virgin Islands are a semi-autonomous group of about 90 Caribbean islands of varying size about 50 miles east of Puerto Rico, administered as the territories of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and United States Virgin Islands (USVI). The islands are home to booming year-round tourism industry, attracting visitors every year to its 200 miles of beaches and over 7,000 acres of scenic national parkland. For the islands’ 150,000 residents, though, their expected 79 years of life are more complicated than a brief sojourn in a tropical paradise. Living in the Caribbean presents its own set of unique challenges, but the resilient population continues to prosper in spite of them. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in the Virgin Islands.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in the Virgin Islands

  1. The islands are vulnerable to hurricanes and their remote location makes repair efforts difficult. While recent hurricanes have not been a leading cause of death in the Virgin Islands, their effects have harshly impacted the locals’ quality of life. In June 2018, NPR reported that relief crews were still working in the islands to restore power and water after the devastating back-to-back Category 5 hurricane Irma and Category 4 hurricane Maria that tore through the Caribbean in September 2017.
  2. Residents have some serious concerns about health care: For a 2012 study published in the Journal of the Association of Black Nursing Faculty, nursing and sociology professionals conducted focus groups in the Virgin Islands to “discover how residents of the United States Virgin Islands think about their health, health status, health problems, and the quality of the health care delivery system.” Common concerns shared by the focus groups included limited resources and high costs of insurance, co-pay and services. Because of this, many Virgin Islanders are forced to either go to great lengths to obtain sufficient healthcare, such as traveling to Puerto Rico or the mainland United States, or forgo seeking medical treatment altogether.
  3. Infant mortality rates are higher than in the mainland United States: The CIA World Factbook states that the Virgin Islands experience an average of 7.7 infant mortalities out of 1,000 live births, almost 75 percent more than the United States despite its status as a territory of the latter. Data indicating the exact cause of this statistic is unavailable, though it can likely be attributed to the great difficulty of health care access at one of the only two hospitals servicing the three United States Virgin Islands, in tandem with the territory’s inflated medical prices. Fortunately, this figure still places the Virgin Islands firmly in the bottom 30 percent of countries by highest infant mortality rates.
  4. The leading causes of death are not too different from the United States’: In 2017, the Institution for Health Metrics and Evaluation determined that despite the Virgin Islands’ issues with inclement weather and access to resources, the leading causes of death (heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer) are all similar to those of the US. These issues, with the exception of cancer, can largely be traced to poor local nutritional practices and a lack of proper dietary and physical education on the islands.
  5. The islands are poor:  Ranking 181st in GDP purchasing power parity, the Virgin Islands are almost in the bottom 20 percent of world economies. The internet lacks recent data on poverty in the USVI, the latest available data put over one in five families below the poverty line. With health care so difficult to access and most goods and food imported and sold at a much higher markup price, this forces many families to choose between putting food on the table and seeking medical attention.
  6. Tourism and trade are the Virgin Islands’ primary economic activities, contributing to low wages and a low standard of living: Due to its limitations in climate and space, the agriculture and manufacturing sections of the Virgin Islands are economically marginal. As a result, tourism and trade account for nearly 47 percent of the USVI’s GDP and most Virgin Islanders work low-wage service, hospitality and transportation jobs, making it difficult to afford commodities like medicine and food that must be imported rather than produced domestically. Fortunately, NGOs work to make necessities more affordable for Virgin Islanders. One such NGO, Patient Assist VI, connects struggling patients with affordable prescription drugs and medical care they otherwise would not receive.
  7. Murder rates are high, but they are decreasing: In 2017, a study conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime determined the USVI had the fourth-highest murder rate in the world, citing 52 reported murders per 100,000 inhabitants. The FBI said that in 2016, the USVI had the highest murder rate per capita in the US and its territories. However, according to The St. Thomas Source, a local publication, only half that amount has occurred in 2019 by mid-September. Most of these murders are concentrated in the urbanized islands St. Thomas and St. Croix, where NGOs such as Project Promise work to guide at-risk youth and tackle the underlying causes of crime and violence in the islands, providing local middle and high schoolers with tutors, life coaches and opportunities to get involved in volunteering and extracurricular education. Since 2015, Project Promise has renovated playgrounds, planted gardens and provided children with school supplies and access to health care to give the children of the Virgin Islands a brighter future.
  8. Despite economic challenges, the Virgin Islands have a working infrastructure: Though hurricanes Irma and Maria, shattered the islands’ infrastructure, it has since recovered and provided power and water to most of its residents. All of the islands have access to electricity and access to clean drinking water via local ocean water desalination plants, thanks to federal aid, local reconstruction efforts and the thriving partnership between locals and volunteer organizations such as All Hands and Hearts, which labored for 18 months to restore homes and rebuild a dozen schools in the wake of Irma and Maria.
  9. Life expectancy in the Virgin Islands is higher than in neighboring areas: According to the World Bank, the Virgin Islands have had a higher life expectancy than its neighbors in the Caribbean and Latin America. While the gap has closed significantly over the last 60 years, the Virgin Islands still boasts a life expectancy of 79, four more years than the region’s average of 75.
  10. The Virgin Islands ranks in the top 20 percent on global life expectancy lists: The CIA World Factbook states that the Virgin Islands rank at 49th place for average life expectancy, outranking many of the world’s countries and territories by a significant margin.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in the Virgin Islands demonstrate a pattern of hardship and resilience, while also highlighting the need for more self-sustaining local industry and heavy investment in hurricane preparation to protect its residents and improve their quality of life.

– Calvin Lemieux
Photo: Flickr

 

single-use plastics

In December of 2018, Peru‘s Congress passed a national law to significantly discourage and limit the use of plastics. The law was discussed for nearly a year prior to a unanimous vote in support of it. Over the past several years, plastic accumulating in and contaminating water sources has become a global crisis. With 71 percent of the Earth’s surface quickly becoming polluted, Peru’s efforts to do their part in eliminating single-use plastics is a momentous stepping stone in cleaning up the planet.

Peru’s Response

The issue with single-use plastics is that they are virtually everywhere. Their easy accessibility has created nothing short of a man-made disaster. However, companies around the world are coming up with more sustainable options in hopes of remedying the issue and easing the country’s transition away from plastic.

Peru’s Environment Minister Fabiola Munoz explains that they intend to transition to “reusable, biodegradable plastic or others whose degradation does not generate contamination by microplastics.” Peru’s law regulates the consumption of single-use plastics by drastically reducing the production of disposables. Therefore, inevitably forcing consumers to seek out alternatives to plastic, which has an extremely detrimental effect on the environment.

The Devastating Affect on Wildlife

Fish consume an average of 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year, which can cause intestinal damage and death. This means that larger marine mammals and human seafood eaters who consume the affected fish can become very ill. The South American country is home to 1,500 miles of Pacific coastline is known for its delicacy ceviche. The Environmental Ministry spearheaded the campaign “I don’t want this in my ceviche” in order to get more people on board with reusable bags.

This issue spreads far wider than the ocean; it affects each ecosystem that it comes into contact with. This is not limited to sealife. Birds often ingest or get caught in the plastic. Ingested plastic doesn’t break down in the birds’ stomachs and can lead to death. In addition to ingestion, marine mammals often become entangled large pieces of plastic. In fact, at least 700 species get entangled in plastic waste, some of which are already endangered.

Long-Term Plans

The Environment Ministry estimates that Peru uses 947,000 tons of plastic each year with 75 percent of it being discarded into landfills and only 0.3 percent being recycled properly. With this law, Peru is doing away with common disposable items, such as plastic straws, foam packaging and plastic tableware. It is anticipating getting rid of plastic bags entirely within three years by placing a tax on them. It will also ensure that plastic bottles are at least 15 percent recyclable within the next three years.

Additionally, the country plans to place a limit on the number of plastic products being distributed as well as imported and exported within the country. The Peruvian government also banned tourists from bringing single-use plastics into 76 of the country’s cultural sites, including the historic site and tourist destination, Machu Picchu.

This initiative is just the beginning of a larger movement to undo the damage that humans have done to the plant over generations. Hopefully, other nations across the globe will acknowledge Peru’s efforts and also be inspired to eliminate single-use plastics.

—Joanna Buoniconti
Photo: Pixabay

Eco Cooler is Changing Lives in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is one of the worlds most populated countries and is also a country stricken with poverty. As of 2018, 21.8 percent of all people in Bangladesh were living below the poverty line. Sixty percent of the inhabitants of Bangladesh live in huts made of tin that become extremely hot in the summer months and in rural areas without access to electricity. Inhabitants of these areas often find it challenging to stay cool in the sweltering summer heat. Luckily, Ashis Paul, a Bangladesh native, invented an efficient, cheap way for people to cool down their homes. His invention, the eco cooler, is changing lives in Bangladesh.

The Eco Cooler

The reason that the eco cooler is so cost-efficient is that it comprises of objects that are always around and easy to find. These objects are old soda bottles. People do not regularly practice recycling in Bangladesh so the number of old soda bottles on the street is high. To assemble the eco cooler, Ashis Paul cut the soda bottles in half and placed them on a board with holes in it. After he mounted the cut bottles onto the board, he placed the board over a window with the wide end of the soda bottles facing outside of the house.

The Way the Eco Cooler Works

The science behind the eco cooler is somewhat simple. The idea of creating the eco cooler came to Paul when he overhead his daughter’s physics teacher giving a lesson about how when a gas expands rapidly, it cools. The more scientific term for this phenomenon is the Joule-Thomson effect which has to do with the gas temperature dropping when it expands rapidly. When the air enters the house through the large end and passes through the small end of the soda bottle, the pressure drops and the cooling occurs, making the air on the inside of the house cooler than on the outside.

Paul claims that the eco cooler is changing lives in Bangladesh by reducing temperatures to up to five degrees celsius, but a scientific study that mimicked the design of the eco cooler claims that the device can only cool rooms up to two degrees celsius. Still, two degrees celsius is a noticeable difference.

Partnership with Grey Dhaka

Grey Dhaka is a communication company in Bangladesh that teamed up with Paul to spread the news about eco coolers, helping distribute them to civilians. Grey has also posted videos online detailing how to create these eco coolers. Since the birth of this invention, Grey Dhaka and Paul have installed eco coolers in 25,000 homes in Bangladesh and are helping many people fight the extreme heat of the summer months.

The eco cooler is changing lives in Bangladesh. It is a cheap solution for beating the heat and is accessible to everyone, even those living in poverty. Simply making an eco cooler also benefits the planet by providing an alternative use for plastic bottles that would otherwise be considered waste. The eco cooler is a green, sustainable alternative to regular air conditioning and it also helps fight the energy crisis, which has to do with using limited resources to create energy.

– Joslin Hughson
Photo: Flickr