Pandemic Indifference

Blink:

I have been reading a plethora of op-eds and friends’ emails all expressing concern how the pandemic should have bought people together, but instead it has driven them further apart. Renown NYT columnists, Thomas Friedman and Frank Bruni labeled it “Societal Immunity” and “Tribalism” respectively. Why all the Pandemic Indifference?

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To get an interesting perspective regarding the Pandemic, I continually engage with my favorite historian, my centenarian mother who has experienced the Great Depression, WWII, the bomb, FDR to Trump and everything in-between. I posted two interviews we conducted on LinkedIn.

In the first interview, when I asked how the COVID-19 pandemic compared to all of the history she witnessed/experienced she responded: “Awful! The worst!” Back in September 2020 she made the observation, people were not pulling together. Verbatim (edited): “The pandemic has changed how mankind reacts to a major crisis. Instead of pulling together, I feel the fear in the air and it is every man for himself. During the Great Depression we had nothing, but I remember people knocking on our backdoor begging for food. My Mother would give them whatever bread or soup leftovers we had. Rationing of gas and food during WWII was a hardship, but we all supported the plan. In addition, patriotic young people went off to war to preserve democracy. During the pandemic, people to me, appear to only care about their own turf. You witnessed it here in Europe. Instead of the EU pulling together during the pandemic, each country did its own thing. Back in the States, there wasn’t a national unifying plan.

In our most recent interview she advocated fragmentation in society is rampant as the pandemic sticks around. Specifically, she alluded to the inequalities in global vaccination distribution since there isn’t a unifying plan, as well as a deeper fragmentation festering with the anti-vaxxers. People are not pulling together. Fragmentation is contributing to the Ultimate Divide.                                                  

Not long ago we read the Bruni op-ed. I asked her why are we witnessing so much societal indifference during the pandemic. She agreed with Bruni, but thought tribalism goes beyond America and is global. “The pandemic revealed mankind’s tribal behavior.” She added there are no strong world leaders to pull all the tribes together. Then she coined an expression I now frequently use: We live in a Toxic Turvy world.

Opinions welcomed!

Toxic Turvy

Blink:

Recently I forwarded an article to a friend about the risk of imposing sanctions on Russia if they invade Ukraine. Specifically, I asked him whatever happened to Hillary Clinton’s concept we live in a global village working in harmony.

Read on for my friend’s response.

Read On:

“What about all the disharmony here in the US as another example. NOT A F*#$%*G THING is getting done in Congress and thousands of Republicans dying needlessly because they won’t get a vax or boost.”            

Good point, but candidly now that I live in Cannes, I feel so disconnected to what is happening in the States. I am more in tune with what is happening in my own backyard here in the E.U. Back to Russia invading Ukraine to accomplish Putin’s policy to further weaken Western democracy and NATO. Potential outcomes:                                                          

  • Disruptions to the global financial systems.
  • An increase in food prices given both nations account for 29% of wheat exports.
  • An energy crisis in Europe given Russia will be in the driver’s seat to manipulate their supply of natural gas given they are currently Europe’s reliable major supplier.  
  • Strange bed fellows – China and Russia.

Back in early October I posted A Village No Longer? detailing geopolitical turbulence as of 10/7/21 and examining Hillary Clinton’s 2016 children’s book It Takes a Village. Her hypothesis being diverse communities globally coming together to make a difference. People working, living together in harmony to make a better village. Many villages coming together can make a better world and build a better life for one another. Really! Here we are four months later, we are still in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, trying to combat climate change thus ward off a total environmental collapse and now Vladmir Putin is stretching Russia’s global power. Show me the harmony!  My perspective: Unfortunately, further validation we live in a toxic turvy world.             

Opinions welcomed!

Innovative Planetary Technology

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Sometimes I experience bouts of tech skepticism. We are constantly reminded technological innovation improves our lives. I am concerned about the dark side of technology (social bubbles, social media toxicity) we need to regulate. Today I am pragmatic; technology is being utilized to solve our planet’s health and environmental issues.

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The World Economic Forum’s report Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for the Earth released in 2018, proclaimed AI (Artificial Intelligence) was poised to resolve some of the planet’s major issues in real time – energy efficiency, ecological conservation and climate change. Thanks to the pandemic surging on, add humankind’s health to the list of major issues AI will advance to make every day living on the planet better. Today I would like to address two areas which pique my interest:

  • Crisis Management Monitoring Systems – As the coronavirus continues to surge globally, health officials are utilizing digital mapping tools known as geographic information systems (GIS). When correlated with demographic factors, the geospatial data produced assist health officials with their Covid-19 vaccination delivery campaigns by identifying vaccination deserts. GIS has proven to be very beneficial in low- and middle-income countries.  
  • Precision Agriculture – AI driven data help farmers grow more crops with fewer resources to maximize yields and minimize spending. Some specific applications: A.) labor automation (e.g., AI robots), B.) soil management systems (sensors) for irrigation, fertilization; and C.) drones for collecting and analyzing data in real time for crop protection and harvesting.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Planetary technology, specifically AI (Artificial Intelligence) is still in its relative infancy and gearing up to revolutionize the management and operations of our planet’s major issues in real time. However, we must be patient as we adapt to our new Covid world and recognize we will experience the growing pains associated with a lengthy technology learning curve.

Innovative Planetary Technology – Tomorrow is Now!

Ocean Renewal

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Back in December I posted concerning how our planet is choking on plastic. I gave kudos to the CEO of The Ocean CLEANUP Boyan Slat. Today I would like to post about other ocean renewal projects which long-term will be beneficial to Planet Earth’s health.

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  • Reef Restoration – According to UNEP (UN Environmental Programme) coral reefs support approximately 25 percent of marine species as well a fortify coastal protection. Consequently, reefs directly impact the food and economic security of hundreds of millions of people around the world. UNEP estimates 14 percent of the world’s coral has been lost since 2009. Fortunately, marine biologists around the world are developing innovative solutions to restore reefs. To highlight a few:
  1. Collecting coral eggs and sperm to cultivate larvae in nurseries before being transplanted to damaged reefs.
  2. Applying probiotic bacteria to helps reefs withstand increases in water temperature so the algae they feed on are not expelled by a rise in temperature.
  3. Special drones which collate data to help assess reef help health, plus deploy new coral to damaged reefs in response to changes in a location’s water temperature and its pH levels (chemical conditions).                                                                                                                  
  4. Game of TrawlsBy the numbers, globally approximately a quarter of the fish caught (20 million tons) are discarded at sea or the dock primarily as a result of bottom-fishing nets collecting everything including the wrong species which becomes waste. France’s National Institute for Ocean Science has partnered with several fish companies to develop a smart net with a network of sensors and cameras monitoring the size and species caught in real time. The fish are sorted in the water. Unwanted fish are then released through a specially designed trap door before they are dragged on board and wasted. The device is called Game of Trawls, (an acronym for Giving Artificial, Monitoring Intelligence to Fishing Trawls). Smart fishing!
  • Eco- Museums – Last year the first underwater eco-museum in France and the Mediterranean opened here in Cannes. It made me aware of the world-renowned British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. The artist’s submerged statues made from ecological friendly materials provide reefs which encourage underwater flora and fauna to flourish. His underwater art and ecological museums raise awareness to preserve marine biodiversity. His museum in Grenada has been designated by National Geographic magazine as one of the 25 wonders of the world. Jason deCaires Taylor’s informative Ted Talk.

Marine biodiversity is essential to Planet Earth’s health and occupants. It is encouraging to learn about the different innovative solutions in motion helping our damaged oceans heal.

Ocean Renewal – Tomorrow is now!

Sugar Water

Blink:

A friend suggested engaging with other writers to expand my broadband. He forwarded an excellent article from the Atlantic. I signed up for the author’s free newsletter. The Atlantic immediately pinged me I would receive eight comparable newsletters with a subscription. Reminded me of my elementary school science fair project.

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When you were in elementary school, in science class did you spoon sugar (a solute) into a glass of water (a solvent) to learn about solubility? Specifically, the point of saturation, the point at which the sugar you add sinks to the bottom of the glass in solid form. Chemical explanation: The molecular interaction between the sugar and water reaches a maximum concentration, if you add more sugar, it will not dissolve anymore. My apologies: A very esoteric analogy for the point of saturation I reach every time I am online conducting a digital review – aggregating information and engaging. Better known as TMI.

Have you been subjected to any sugar water lately?

Opinions welcomed!

2022

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I do not make New Year’s resolutions. Candidly I never know where to start. According to research, New Year’s resolutions remain popular, with three quarters of people globally planning to set a goal for 2022. 77% of people think 2022 will be better than 2021 (source: World Economic Forum).

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Ipsos, a leading global market research company, surveyed over 22,000 adults in 33 countries to give their personal predictions for 2022. A majority were optimistic and indicated 2022 would be a better year than 2021. Reasons for their optimistic outlook:

  • Progress in the fight against Covid-19, specifically improved vaccination rates.
  • In regards to the environment, 60% of the respondents believe there will be more extreme weather events in 2022 caused by global warming, but expressed more optimism about the readiness of people to take action to halt it.
  • Approximately one-third of the people believe their immediate society will become more tolerant driven by city centers once again becoming vibrant hubs.
  • Interesting economic dichotomy – people are optimistic the economy is rebounding. They believe the stock market will stabilize, yet three quarters of people expect prices in their countries to rise faster than incomes.
  • The survey also drilled down on what people were most concerned about in the year ahead – a natural disaster affecting a city in their country (39%), hackers from a foreign power bringing down their IT systems (38%), nuclear weapons being used (34%). Note: Interesting, outside of optimism related to the progress in Covid-19 vaccination rates 2022, the survey did not provide any insight about what percentage of people were worried/anxious about the pandemic. Was the question even asked?

My thoughts regarding 2022? I am neither optimistic or pessimistic. I am pragmatic. We all live in a topsy turvy Covid disrupted world, as evident by the Omicron variant racing through here in the European region at a record-breaking pace. Consequently, as a result of writing this post, I gave thought about setting 2022 goals. Again, like the start of every other year, I did not know where to begin. I concluded during these turbulent times the best I can do is to stay focused andnot squander, as in waste, any time as I further adapt to my new home. “Je suis content!”

Bonne Année!

A Dark Social Bubble

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Two weeks ago, I posted Mental Health? The day after I posted I read an unsettling article about suicide. Specifically, a dark social bubble I became aware of and decided to address.

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According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. suicide rate has risen progressively over the past 20 years – 10.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2000 to 14 deaths per 100,000 in 2019. Significantly about 45,000 people now take their own lives per year, more than the number of people who die from traffic accidents. The greatest increase (45% higher than 2009) was among younger people15-24 years old.

There are numerous resources offering confidential support for people in distress. The leading online service is the National Prevention Lifeline in the United States. What I find alarming is investigative reporters for New York Times uncovered a website where members from around the world share their plans via public forums, live chats and member messaging about their suicide plans and methodology (poisoning hanging, etc.). The site gets on average 6 million views a month which according to a leading analytic company, is quadruple the National Prevention Lifeline. What I find even more disconcerting is the site is not on the Deep Web where resources on the Internet are not indexed by standard search engines (not found in normal web queries) or the Dark Webwhere resources on the Internet are intentionally hidden which is common for the eCrime and criminal marketplaces, (e.g., botnets, child porn and illicit drug use).

How has this site founded in 2018 not been taken down? Several reasons:

  • To date the world’s most powerful search engine has sidetracked any responsibility as it relates to steering visitors to the suicide site.
  • The two macabre founders, experts in dark content, live in different countries. They have successfully frustrated those who have attempted to take the site down by moving their servers and server backups around from country to country, plus utilize multiple aliases and domains to wash their real identity from the web.
  • Laws against assisted suicide are inconsistent and vary in the U.S. state by state; globally, country by country. More importantly, laws regarding the legal liability for content posted on the Internet are ambiguous.
  • Law enforcement has been laxed in their investigations since suicide is not considered a crime and is viewed as an unfortunate decision of an individual. In addition, many are hesitant online activity falls outside their jurisdiction.  

Members of the site contacted by the NY Times indicated it was a safe community to join so they could share their deep feelings, plus keep their suicidal intentions hidden from relatives and mental health professionals. A dark social bubble! Makes me wonder how many other dark social bubbles are out there on the web. More importantly, how many will sprout up in the future if the web morphs into a decentralized web (a.k.a. Web3), currently defined as a system of interconnected, independent, privately owned computers free of corporate or government controllers coded to work together to provide private, secure, censorship-resistant access to information and services.

Opinions welcomed!

Faster Than Global Supply Chain

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Question: What is faster than a speeding bullet? Answer: Superman!

Question: What is faster than the current global supply chain? Answer: Coronavirus!

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The variants Delta and Omicron, despite people being vaccinated, continue to surge globally. The European region which includes Russia, other former Soviet republics and Turkey has been hit hard. Omicron has been detected in at least 38 of the 53 countries. WHO data shows the region has in recent weeks reported the highest number of Covid-19 cases compared to population size anywhere in the world. Here, closer to home France projects a fifth wave during the holidays which could reach 100,000 new Covid cases a day, up from around 70,000 as the country continues to battle the epidemic.

Consequently, officials are tightening booster requirements and curtailing holiday events to avoid another lockdown.

I have read numerous articles about the global supply chain being broken. McKinsey’s October’s Global Survey monitoring executive’s sentiment regarding the major issues impacting their company’s growth, a majority cited mounting fallout on the supply chain ahead of inflation and the pandemic. Thanks to gifting one family here locally via e-Commerce for the holidays, I have finally witnessed first-hand, concerning the current global supply chain. The trail of three tee-shirts I ordered 12/16 for 12/23 arrival:

  • 12/18 ordered process (three tee-shirts in two different sizes).
  • 12/19 arrived at sort facility Jinjiang China
  • 12/19 departed sort facility Jinjiang China
  • 12/20 departed facility Shenzhen China
  • 12/21 departed facility in processing center Shenzhen China
  • 12/21 arrived at sort facility Shenzhen China
  • 12/21 arrived at international airport abroad China
  • 12/23 Expected shipment date Wednesday 12/22 – Still waiting for the shipment, no status updates since the tee-shirts arrived at China’s international airport 12/21.
  • Christmas Eve still waiting

Based on the current reported 7- day average in France, there were an estimated 364,000 new cases of coronavirus since my order was first processed. It definitely appears the Omicron variant is moving faster than my gift of three tee-shirts or any of the tee-shirts processed at a sort facility in Jinjiang China 12/19.

Joyeux Noël

Mental Health?

Blink:

I am amazed how many people talk about returning to normalcy as the pandemic persists with new variants materializing. Normalcy? I am confident globally businesses will rebound, travel will make a comeback as borders open when vaccination rates strengthen, but I am concerned about the future mental health of humanity.

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Disclaimer: I am not a mental health expert, but as a food marketer I do study human behavior beyond consumerism thanks to my business’s trend spotting services. I believe the stress/anxiety connected to the pandemic – death, illness, isolation, economic/vocational hardship, educational transformation will adversely impact mental health. Consequently, I decided to conduct some research to validate my hypothesis to write a blog post. I learned the National Center for Health Statistics aligned with the Census Bureau to collect relevant information about the impact of the pandemic in the U.S. – the Household Pulse Survey is tracking data on the frequency of anxiety and depression symptoms. Key findings:

  • The survey first reported in July of 2020 approximately half (53%) of the respondents revealed the pandemic negatively impacted their mental health. In the survey’s last update conducted early in 2021, negative mental health related to stress or worry of the pandemic leveled off to 47%. Note: A recent independent poll conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found 50 percent of households reported someone experiencing serious problems with depression, anxiety, stress or sleep disorder.
  • More than half of women (55%) reported a negative impact, 69% of women ages 18 to 29
  • 38% of the male participants in the survey reported mental health difficulty.
  • Overall, 24% of U.S. adults reported having a family member or close friend who died of COVID-19 related complications of which three out of ten of these people indicated their mental health was seriously impaired; 53% of this subset said their mental health was impacted in a minor way. Six in ten people indicated they did not have a personal connection. However, 44% revealed their mental health was impacted in a minor way.  

Help! The survey also queried whether people sought mental health care. Most responded access to providers and affordability were their biggest barriers. One out of four adults who did not get mental health care indicated they could not find a provider (24%) or could not afford (23%) the cost (note: 10% claimed inadequate insurance coverage). A significant number of the survey respondents (18%) said they were too busy or get time off from work; 5% were afraid or embarrassed to seek treatment.

Candidly I find these survey statistics alarming. What will mental health for these people be like in a few years if they are not treated? One more major caveat. The survey was conducted among adults 18 years and older. What about the mental health of little people, especially those connected to someone who died of COVID-19 related complications?

Back in June I addressed the topic of mental health and questioned if there will be enough affordable mental health professionals, therapists and psychiatrists in the future to help us cope with a COVID world. One of my loyal followers wrote: “the answer is No! …. There aren’t nearly enough now.” Will technology be a potential solution for mental health care if we do not have enough affordable mental health professionals to help people with pandemic related mental health issues? Specifically, Emotional Artificial Intelligence (EAI)– “cognitive computing” designed to collect, analyze and respond to human emotions and simulate human thoughts. The EAI data and situations will be utilized to simulate human thought. Automated therapy is still evolving. Will mental health care professional be able to develop the scheme of algorithms for a COVID World, a topic I plan to explore in a future post.

Choking on Plastic – Forever Relevant

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As the coronavirus pandemic persists globally impacting the health of the human race, we need to also be concerned about the impact it is having on the health of Planet Earth. Specifically, single-use plastic waste consisting of PPE masks and gloves and medical hospital waste. One study estimates 25,000 tons.

Planet Earth is choking on plastic, a topic I addressed a year ago – forever relevant. Posted 12/21/20: Earlier in the year, I challenged it was time to question the true relevancy of content published on line. A member of my readership added: A.) “Frame of reference” key when assessing information; and B.) Fact check! Today’s query: Environmentalist claiming we are choking on plastic. What is the relevancy!

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Back in my January 23rd Relevance post, I shared a story how the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) analyzed the nutritional value of movie popcorn. They learned that the typical medium size bag contained 37 grams of saturated fat. Was 37 grams good or bad? To communicate their findings and make them relevant to the public, the CSPI created a visual: they laid out on a table demonstrating how one bag of popcorn was equivalent to the saturated fat from a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, a steak dinner with all the trimmings — combined! Relevance!

In 2019, a study by WWF International concluded we ingest approximately the equivalent of 5 grams of microplastic per week which is the equivalent weight of one plastic credit card. Recently, Reuters photojournalist Kim Kyung-Hoon published a series of photographs of meals made of plastic to further sensationalize the study’s findings.

  • A plastic credit card placed between two burger buns to imitate the 7 grams of plastic someone could eat in 10 days.
  • Lego brick pieces on top of sushi rolls weighing 22 grams, representative of the plastic one could eat in a month.
  • A safety helmet weighing 248 grams equivalent to ingesting plastic for one year.

Shocking, but relevant images. For me, an opportunity to applaud one of the true unsung, focused heroes on our planet during these difficult times, CEO of The OCEAN CLEANUP, Boyan Slat. Very positive! I highly recommend you carve out some time to watch the clip.