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Category Archives: Resource Based Economy
The COVID-19 crisis: How do U.S. employment and health outcomes compare to other OECD countries? – Brookings Institution
Posted: June 3, 2020 at 7:46 am
In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the US chose to lock down its economy around mid-March, quite a bit later than many other countries; and then Congress passed (and President Trump signed) the CARES Act and other relief bills in late March and after, with a variety of measures (like payments to individuals, loans to affected businesses, and an expanded safety net) in some ways similar to and in other ways different from other countries.
Given these decisions, how well has the US performed, in both employment and health outcomes, relative to other countries during the crisis? By comparing both employment and health data for the US with those of other OECD countries in the first five months of 2020, we can ascertain the extent to which our federal policy response has either mitigated or exacerbated damage on both dimensions.
In Table 1 below, I present employment data and virus case outcomes for the richest 25 OECD nations (in terms of per-capita income), among those with populations of over 4 million people (and excluding Saudi Arabia, for whom no economic data in 2020 were available). I have drawn the data from two highly credible websites: 1) Trading Economics for the economic data; and 2) the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center for data on virus cases and mortality. The economic data appear in part A of the table, and the virus case data in part B.
Table 1: U.S. v. other OECD countries (Population > 4M): Employment and virus outcomes in 2020
Part A. Unemployment rates in 2020 (%)
Part B. Virus cases in U.S. v. other OECD countries
Note: Unemployment rates are obtained from Trading Economics (www.tradingeconomics.com) on May 28, while COVID Cases were obtained from Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center (www.coronavirus.jhu.edu). The sample of countries includes the 25 richest OECD countries (in per capita terms) with at least 4 million people, excluding only Saudi Arabia (for whom no economic data are available in 2020). An * indicates unemployment rates that are measured for the entire first quarter of 2020, rather than March. Of the countries showing quarterly rates, only Spains rate has risen substantially from the fourth quarter of 2019 (when it was 13.8 percent). The cases and deaths of each country are defined as of May 28.
The three columns of part A present unemployment rates in January, March and April 2020 respectively. While most OECD countries already report data for the first three months of the year, only about half have already done so for the month of April (as of May 28, 2020). Furthermore, four of the countries report only quarterly rather than monthly rates, and these only for the first quarter of 2020. (These can be compared to increases during the last quarter of 2019, though with the understanding that changes over a 3-month period might dampen effects in those cases that occur primarily at the end of the quarter.)
The columns in part B of the table present four kinds of data on the virus caseloads in the relevant countries: total cases and deaths documented (as of May 28, 2020) per thousand residents, and net new cases and deaths, defined as the changes in numbers on that date relative to the previous one, per thousand or million residents. While the total cases and deaths can be found for almost every country in the sample, we have the new ones only for 10 industrialized countries: the USA and nine countries in the EU.1
What do the data on employment outcomes in Table 1A indicate? The unemployment rates reported for January, March and April 2020 (or for the first quarter of that year) indicate the following:
The data in Table 1B, for total cases and deaths as well as new cases and deaths per capita, indicate the following:
What do these numbers imply about the US experience, and the administrations role, in handling of the crisis to date?3 Because it waited a very long time to begin shutting down the economy and imposing emergency measures, US workers ultimately lost very large numbers of jobs by April (plus more in May that will be measured in the next Bureau of Labor Statistics report). These delays no doubt aggravated the ultimate severity of the crisis, in both economic and health terms. And, by failing to develop a federal strategy for test and trace and for careful data-based reopening, the US has experienced nearly the least progress of any industrial nation in combating the spread of the virus.
A number of caveats are in order at this point. First, differences in measured unemployment rates reflect differing measurement rules and timing, as well as some real policy differences. For instance, at least 15 countries on this list including the US have relied on subsidizing firms to keep workers on payroll, thus limiting their unemployment increases.4
Most of these countries have relied much more heavily on these subsidies than the US, with 40-50 percent of workers covered in France, New Zealand and Switzerland, and approximately 20 percent in several other countries. And, for quirky measurement reasons, at least 3 countries Canada, Israel and Ireland report larger increases in Unemployment Insurance receipt but much smaller increases in unemployment than the US (Rothwell, op. cit.).
At the same time, some of the differences in measured unemployment increases are no doubt real. Reliance on payroll subsidies to keep workers on payrolls likely leaves these workers less uncertain about their future employment prospects, and reduces the share of workers who will experience permanent and very costly job loss over time.5
Indeed, our official unemployment rates understate job and earnings losses in the US by a large amount, even as of April; and such numbers in May (and for real GDP in the second quarter) will no doubt be much larger.67 We do not know whether these downward biases in officially reported rates are smaller or larger in other OECD countries, in April and beyond.
And there seems less doubt that the differences in reported virus cases and deaths are real. Had the Trump administration acknowledged the crisis earlier, and implemented the shutdown plus economic relief earlier as well, how much difference might it have made? A report from Columbia University last month estimates that, had the administration implemented emergency measures just one week earlier, the numbers of people infected and their mortality rates might have been dramatically lowered. While we have no comparable study on economic impacts, one way to roughly estimate the impacts of an alternative policy scenario is simply to average the employment and health outcomes of the other OECD countries and compare them to the US:
Table 2: Changes in employment and virus outcomes: U.S. v. other OECD countries (Population > 4 million)
I report all of these numbers in Table 2, and some in Figures 1 and 2. They indicate the following:
To get a sense of how large these differences are between the experiences of the US and other OECD countries, we can apply them to the overall levels of each measure in the US. Taking the gaps in measured unemployment rates in April at face value and remembering that they are driven partly by substantive differences across countries in reliance on payroll subsidy the higher unemployment rate in the US translates into approximately 15 million more jobs that Americans would still have had our unemployment rate remained at the level of the other OECD countries.
And, had our virus caseloads and deaths been similar to the OECD average, the US would have had nearly 700,000 fewer cases of the virus, and a death toll of over 30,000 less.
Furthermore, as the new cases portend a much larger second wave of viruses in the second half of 2020 in the US than elsewhere, these numbers will threaten to substantially worsen our unemployment (and real GDP) numbers later in 2020, relative to other OECD countries. By opening the economy in many states very early, and before their new case curves have substantially flattened, these states risk large new waves that will either generate tragically large numbers of fatalities, a second wave of economic shutdown, or possibly both.
Again, some caution n is in order as we review these results. Differences in unemployment rates reflect measurement as well as policy differences, including various downward biases in such measures that I note above. Whether the measured gaps in jobs across countries would be smaller or larger if job losses not currently counted were included in unemployment rates here and elsewhere, and when rates for May are announced, remains unclear. And differences in unemployment as well as virus caseloads and deaths likely reflect a wide range of differences in policy but also country demographics, health outcomes and other factors for which I cannot control.
Still, the differences across countries in outcomes strongly suggest that certain features of the policy response to the virus in the US such as its delayed implementation and the lack of a clear national strategy on testing and tracing, as well as some features of the relief program (like its lack of emphasis on payroll protection) have generated much higher job losses than were necessary, as well as tens or hundreds of thousands of more lives lost. And much larger losses of output, income, jobs and lives are still to come in May and beyond.
A previous version of this publication had in error in the GDP figures, which have been removed.
Pei, Sen et al. 2020. Differential Effects of Intervention Timing on COVID-19 Spread in the United States. Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.
Rothwell, Jonathan. 2020. The Effects of COVID-19 on International Labor Markets: An Update. Brief, Economic Studies, Brookings Institution.
Build Back Better by investing in Coastal First Nations Great Bear Forest Carbon Project – Corporate Knights Magazine
Posted: at 7:46 am
As Canada ties economic stimulus strategies for corporations to its 2050 climate goals, both government and business have an opportunity to invest in a First Nations forest carbon financing model and make a meaningful commitment to address their climate impact.
In early May, the Prime Minister unveiled a new bridge loan program to support large businesses recovering from a pandemic economy. Among the conditions, companies must demonstrate how they will contribute to federal climate targets for decarbonization. By encouraging carbon offsetting in the plan, Canada has an opportunity to further reconciliation with Coastal First Nations and ensure our economies are not left behind in the recovery plan.
The Great Bear Forest Carbon Project led by nine coastal First Nations is the worlds largest forest carbon initiative. Vast amounts of carbon are stored by old growth trees in the Great Bear Rainforest on the North and Central Pacific Coast and Haida Gwaii. The forests here represent one quarter of the worlds remaining coastal temperate rainforests. As coastal people, who have lived here for 14,000 years, we know that keeping ocean and forest ecosystems healthy is the key to preserving our way of life.
To create a sustainable economy, coastal First Nations looked beyond the destructive resource extraction model common to our coast 20 years ago. In 2000, the Coastal First Nations began working with BC on land use planning. Alandmark 2006 agreement lead totheprotection of the Great Bear Rainforest, making 85% of the rainforest off-limits to industrial logging. Then in 2009, when the two Parties signed theReconciliation Protocol,it allowed for the validation and sales of carbon credits.
Corporations looking to take steps to meet their emission reduction targets can invest in protecting that rainforest with Great Bear Carbon Credits. All revenue from offset sales goes directly back into First Nations stewardship of our lands and waters, and supports projects to ensure traditional governance and community well-being.
Building off land use agreements, this carbon sequestration funding model also contributes to the adjacent coastal and marine areas. The carbon offsets support the innovative funding model of the Marine Planning Partnership for the North Pacific Coast (MaPP), globally recognized as the gold-standard for collaborative marine use planning. MaPP undertakes marine ecosystem-based management with 17 First Nations and British Columbia.
Carbon offset sales support Coastal Guardian Watchmen who are highly-trained and experienced guardians of land, water, wildlife and cultural sites. In Kitasoo/Xaisxais territory on the Central Coast, Guardian Watchmen have led monitoring of world-renowned grizzly bear habitat and eradicated illegal hunting.
With dwindling government resources for science research, the carbon finance model has helped First Nations stewardship offices undertake some of the most advanced and in some places, the only species monitoring and wildlife data collection on the BC coast. As well, climate change research and planning by communities is taking place. This is science that benefits all Canadians. In Heiltsuk territory, offset funds provide core funding for advanced scientific research on crab, rock cod and invasive species to inform a sustainable approach to Indigenous fisheries management. Offset revenue also finances stewardship activities to monitor at-risk whales and Pacific salmon species in Haida Gwaii.
Carbon financing also offers a source of long-term funding for communities to explore meaningful opportunities for renewable energy projects on a diesel-dependent coast, sustainable shellfish aquaculture, ecotourism and non-timber forest product ventures.
The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements have put in place a world-leading model of ecosystem-based forestry management: 85% of our coastal temperate rainforest is set aside for protection and is now permanently off-limits to industrial logging.
Towering old growth trees that reach up to 1,000 years in age can still be found in our territories. Our streams and rivers sustain 20% of the worlds wild salmon. Rainforest, ocean estuaries, fjords and islands support remarkable biological diversity including iconic species such as grizzlies, Spirit bears and black bears, coastal Pacific wolves, humpback and killer whales and six million migratory birds.
The Great Bear Forest Carbon Project offers Canadian businesses and governments the chance to build back better in the wake of COVID-19 by working with Coastal First Nations to protect the worlds largest intact temperate rainforest right here on our Pacific Coast. In the effort to regain lost economic momentum during the pandemic, buying Great Bear credits is an opportunity to invest in a conservation economy that balances ecological integrity with human well-being.
As the country works to revitalize the national economy and meet its 2050 climate goals, Canada must ensure First Nations economies are not left behind and build the new normal together. The federal government has the opportunity to support investment in sustainable jobs in our communities and protect climate resiliency by conserving one of the worlds largest carbon storage rainforests for future generations.
Chief Marilyn Slett is president of the Coastal First Nations.
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Contradictory Responses by Privacy Regulators Post-COVID-19: Balancing the Economy With Cybersecurity in a Changed World (Privacy) – JD Supra
Posted: at 7:46 am
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disparate effect on privacy regulators, with varying levels of enforcement advocated by different government entities; the California Attorney General, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), European data protection authorities, and other regulators have taken different, often contradictory, approaches to dealing with the competing interests of a struggling economy and the threat of increased privacy and cybersecurity violations. These contradictions are likely to persist, as competing privacy legislation was recently introduced in Congress to regulate the collection and use of personal information during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the one hand, businesses struggling with the viruss economic impact are striving to allocate resources for maximum financial benefit, while on the other hand, risks to personal information and privacy rights have increased in a remote global workforce where phishing, malware, and other cyberattacks proliferate and the political pressure to collect and track medical information regarding COVID-19 infections mounts. With the seemingly competing interests of protecting the bottom line and a heightened threat to privacy, some privacy regulators are responding to these new realities by relaxing enforcement efforts, while others decline to do so in recognition of the heightened threats to privacy and information security.
Below is an update on how different regulators have responded regarding enforcement since the COVID-19 national emergency was declared.
The California Attorney General Remains Steadfast on the California Consumer Privacy Act
The California Attorney General has declared that despite the pandemic on top of already intense business pressure, it will not delay enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which is set to begin on July 1st.
In late March, as the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic was becoming clear, a joint industry letter by advertising and adtech trade associations asked the Attorney Generals office to delay enforcement of CCPA until 2021. The letter highlighted that [t]he public health crisis brought on by COVID-19 juxtaposed with the quickly approaching enforcement date for the CCPA places business leaders in a difficult position. They are forced to consider trade-offs between decisions that are best for their employees and the world at-large and decisions that may help the organizations they lead avoid costly and resource intensive enforcement actions.
In an email to Forbes magazine, an advisor to the Attorney General responded, Right now, were committed to enforcing the law upon finalizing the rules or July 1, whichever comes first Were all mindful of the new reality created by COVID-19 and the heightened value of protecting consumers privacy online that comes with it. We encourage businesses to be particularly mindful of data security in this time of emergency.
Meanwhile, as of the date of this client alert, the Attorney Generals proposed regulations have yet to be finalized, having completed a third round of revisions and public commentary on March 27, 2020.
With only 30 days until the enforcement date, businesses subject to the CCPA should ensure that their CCPA compliance efforts remain on track.As a further incentive to ensure your compliance framework is in place, the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), commonly referred to as CCPA 2.0, has garnered enough signatures to appear on the November 2020 ballot. Among other measures, the CPRA would create a new enforcement agency, the California Privacy Protection Agency, expand data breach liability, and impose additional obligations on service providers, third parties, and contractors. In a nod to the business community, the CPRA would extent the current moratoriums on certain employee and business-to-business data from 2021 to 2023.
European Regulators Signal Flexibility
The European Data Protection Board (EDPB), an agency created under the General Data Protection Regulation, issued a statement on the processing of personal data in the context of COVID-19. The EDPB stated that even during this pandemic, data controllers and processors must ensure the lawful processing of personal data, but it also noted that an emergency might legitimize the restriction of freedoms provided these restrictions are proportionate and limited to the emergency period.
The EDPB provided clarification on how public health authorities and employers can process personal data in the context of a pandemic, pointing to legal bases such as processing pursuant to a legal mandate of a public authority and compliance with health and safety obligations that are in the public interest.
The EDPB also issued two new guidelines: (1) Guidelines 03/2020 on the processing of data concerning health for the purpose of scientific research in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak and (2) Guidelines 04/2020 on the use of location data and contact tracing tools in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak. Guidelines 03/2020 allow health data to be processed for the purpose of scientific research with the consent of the data subject, as long as there is not a significant power imbalance, or without consent for the purpose of complying with national legislation. Guidelines 04/2020 discuss the use and collection of location data to map the spread of the virus and contact tracing for notification purposes. The guidelines provide that contact tracing applications should be voluntary, rely on proximity information regarding users rather than tracing individual movements, and grant preference to processing anonymized data where possible. The EDPB emphasized in its guidance that response to the crisis and protection of the right to privacy are not mutually exclusive.
Data protection authorities in nearly all EU member states and the United Kingdom have issued similar guidance on the processing and sharing of personal data related to COVID-19. Organizations should continue to monitor guidance issued by the EDPB, the United Kingdom, and national data protection authorities in the countries in which organizations have a presence.
Department of Health & Human Services Relaxes Enforcement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
Perhaps the most critical response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been from the Office of Civil Rights in HHS, which is charged with the enforcement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Compounding the conflict between the conservation of resources to protect the bottom line and heightened privacy concerns in the crisis is a third element in play under HIPAA: the critical role of protecting the privacy and security of personal medical and health information as the crisis escalated.
While covered health care entities must continue to comply with the privacy and security rules under HIPAA, HHS has issued guidance and relied on its discretion to relax enforcement and waive penalties for community-based testing sites, public health and health oversight activities conducted by business associates, disclosures made to law enforcement and first responders, and telehealth service providers. With the proliferation of telehealth services during the pandemic, it remains to be seen whether HHS will extend its policy of relaxed enforcement after the emergency has subsided.
Federal Trade Commission Warns of Increasing Threat
On May 19, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a public warning regarding scammers posing as contact tracers hired by state governments to obtain personal information such as Social Security numbers from unsuspecting individuals. A few days later, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission, the FTC instructed service providers that enable robocalling to terminate services to any customers exploiting the pandemic to obtain sensitive information from individuals, threatening such providers with serious consequences for failure to comply. These recent statements by the FTC follow months of warnings of surging complaints since the beginning of the year (upward of 18,000 as of mid-April) related to the coronavirus and signals of increased enforcement activity by the agency.
Congress Proposes Competing COVID-19 Privacy Legislation
Reflecting the larger clash of interests, conflicting privacy legislation is currently pending in both houses of Congress. The COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act, introduced by Republican senators in May, seeks to regulate the collection and processing of personal health information, geolocation data, identifiers, and other data during the health emergency. Shortly thereafter, Democratic members of the House proposed the Public Health Emergency Privacy Act, which would broadly regulate data linked or reasonably linkable to an individual or device, including data inferred or derived about an individual or device. Most notably, the House bill includes a private right of action (a right not included in the Senate bill). Despite their differences, the speed at which these bills were introduced underscores the urgent need to build public trust in contact tracing technologies while holding government and businesses accountable for how collected personal information is used. Congress has not yet succeeded in passing national privacy legislation. Nonetheless, given the current exigent circumstances, if either of these bills is passed, it could form the basis for a future, more expansive general privacy legislation at the federal level.
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Posted: at 7:46 am
By Oil City Staff on June 2, 2020
CASPER, Wyo Carbon technology firm Ramaco Carbon, based in Sheridan, Wy, today announced it has entered into a partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the nations largest U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) science and energy laboratory, to explore innovations for the conversion of coal to high-value advanced carbon products and materials.
The new projects aim to use coal as a manufacturing feedstock for carbon fibers, building products and composites, as well as electrodes for energy storage devices and new materials for additive manufacturing, including large-scale 3D printing, according to the release.
Ramaco Carbon and ORNL and to work together under a five-year umbrella cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA). The research will be funded by DOEs Office of Fossil Energy and Ramaco Carbon, the release said.
Article continues below...
From the release:
The agreement brings together ORNLs chemical and materials science and engineering, computational science and advanced manufacturing expertise with Ramaco Carbons coalbased research, manufacturing and 3D printing facilities being developed near Sheridan, Wyoming.
We are deeply honored to be partnered with the DOEs leading innovator in advanced carbon materials and additive manufacturing, said Ramaco Carbon Chairman and CEO Randall Atkins. We look forward to working alongside them to develop cutting-edge research into how we can utilize our nations most abundant resource coal to manufacture and commercialize high value advanced products and new carbon materials.
We hope that by working with ORNL and the other national labs, we can create novel ways to use coal to both stimulate the economy and help ensure our national security, Atkins said.
Related Stories from Oil City News:
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Progress as of June 2 in Meeting the Criteria to Move to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan – Evanston RoundTable
Posted: at 7:46 am
The Restore Illinois plan contains three criteria relating to hospitalizations, the surge capacity of hospitals, and testing that must be met for a region of the State to move from Phase 3 to Phase 4. The plan also has an internal goal relating to contact tracing. An article explaining the criteria is available here.
This article provides data as of June 2 showing how the Northeast Region is doing in terms of meeting the mandatory criteria, and it also provides data showing the number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths.
New COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Surge Capacity
While the Restore Illinois criteria focus on the number of hospitalizations, rather than new COVID-19 cases, the number of new cases is still important, because about 30% of the people who test positive for COVID-19 are hospitalized, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of Illinois Department of Public Health. In addition, people may be infectious even if they are not hospitalized.*
The data below show new COVID-19 cases in Evanston, Cook County, and Illinois, and the decline in hospitalizations in the Northeast Region.
New COVID-19 Cases
New cases and deaths of Evanstonians: There were no new cases of COVID-19 reported for Evanston residents today, so the total of confirmed cases remained at 728, according to information provided by the City of Evanston. The trend is shown in the above chart.
Six Evanston residents lost their lives to the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 47. This is the highest number of deaths reported for a 24-hour period.
Cases and deaths in Cook County and Illinois: There were 1,178 new cases of COVID-19 in Cook County in the last 24 hours, and 1,614 in the State.
Between May 29 and June 2, the average number of new COVID-19 cases in Cook County was 873, and in the State, it was 1,403. The trend is shown in the smaller chart above.
The number of deaths in Illinois due to COVID-19 increased by 136 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Illinois to 5,525.
Hospital Admissions and Surge Capacity in the Northeast Region
Two metrics being used to determine if a region may move to Phase 4 are that there be no overall increase in hospital admissions for 28 days and that hospitals in the region have an unused bed capacity of at least 14%.
IDPH reports that in the last 28 days hospitalizations in the Northeast Region declined by 64%.
The Northeast Region has available 29% of its medical/surgical beds, 34% of its ICU beds, and 69% of its ventilators. This easily meets the minimum capacity of 14%.
Adequacy of Testing
Widespread testing is essential to controlling the spread of the COVID-9 virus and to open an economy safely.
One measure used by researchers to assess whether the amount of testing is adequate is to look at the percent of people who test positive on COVID-19 tests. The World Health Organization said on May 15 that the test-positive rate should be below 5% before opening an economy. A higher test-positive rate reflects that there is an inadequate amount of testing. **
In the Restore Illinois plan, one criterion to move from Phase 3 to Phase 4 is that a region have a test-positive rate below 20%. In determining whether this criterion is met, IDPH says it will use a seven-day rolling average.
IDPH reported today that the test-positive rate for the Northeast Region was 12%, down 4 percentage points in the last 14 days.
While the Northeast Region meets the criterion of the Restore Illinois Plan, it is almost three times the rate recommended by WHO.
The Number of Tests in Illinois
In a May 7 study, the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) estimated that Illinois needed to be administering 64,167 tests a day in order to safely open the economy. On the same day, Gov. Pritzker said, I think were going to need many more tests than that.***
While the State has almost quadrupled the number of tests it has been administering in the last seven weeks, the average number of tests per day between May 29 and June 2 is 20,948, still far short of the target of 64,167 set by HGHI.
Widespread contact tracing is also essential to controlling the spread of the COVID-9 virus and to open an economy safely.
In its criteria to move from Phase 3 to Phase 4, the Restore Illinois plan provides with respect to this criterion: Begin contact tracing and monitoring within 24 hours of diagnosis for more than 90% of cases in region.
While both Gov. Pritzker and Dr. Ezike say that contact tracing is essential to open an economy safely, it appears that the regions will not be required to meet this criterion to move from Phase 3 to Phase 4. Dr. Ezike said it is an internal goal.
IDPH is not monitoring this criterion for any region..
On a Statewide basis, Gov. Pritzker said on May 29 that contact tracing is only being done on about 30% of the known cases, far short of the 90% goal.
* IDPH reports only the number of COVID-19 cases which have been confirmed through a test. The number does not include people who are infected, but who have not been tested, which may include people who are asymptomatic or who have minor symptoms.
On May 21, the Imperial College, London, published Report 23: State-level tracking of COVID-19 in the United States on May 21, 2020. One part of the study estimates the number of infectious individuals in every state in the U.S., including Illinois, as of May 17, which includes people who have not been tested for COVID-19 and who may be asymptomatic. As of May 17, the report estimates that there were 176,000 infectious individuals in Illinois, with a potential range of a low of 54,000 to a high of 395,000.
The report says, Despite new infections being in a steep decline in the United States, the number of people still infectious, and therefore able to sustain onward transmission, can still be large. This discrepancy underscores the importance of testing and case based isolation as a means to control transmission.
** On May 26, Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center said on its website that the World Health Organization (WHO) advised governments [on May 15] that before reopening,rates of positivity in testing (i.e., out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive for COVID-19) should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days.
Johns Hopkins explains, The rate of positivity is an important indicator, because it can provide insights into whether a community is conducting enough testing to find cases. If a communitys positivity is high, it suggests that that community may largely be testing the sickest patients and possibly missing milder or asymptomatic cases. A lower positivity may indicate that a community is including in its testing patients with milder or no symptoms. Link: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/testing/testing-positivity
***Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, the Faculty Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), and two colleagues conclude in a May 7 report, HGHI and NPR publish new state testing targets that, on a nationwide basis, 900,000 tests for COVID-19 are needed each day to open the economy. They also provide estimates of the tests each state should be ready to provide by May 15. For Illinois, they say that 64,167 tests a day are needed. Link to HGHIs report: https://globalepidemics.org/2020/05/07/hghi-projected-tests-needed-may15/
And link to accompanying article: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/05/07/851610771/u-s-coronavirus-testing-still-falls-short-hows-your-state-doing
A report, Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience, published by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, concludes that on a nationwide basis the nation needs to be doing 5 million tests per day by early June to deliver a safe social reopening. Link: https://ethics.harvard.edu/files/center-for-ethics/files/roadmaptopandemicresilience_updated_4.20.20_0.pdf
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Posted: at 7:46 am
The COVID-19 pandemic has slammed the brakes on the global economy, putting a number of industries including higher education in peril. Some colleges and universities fear for their very existence, but even those on more solid footing face tough financial choices. The Gazette spoke withThomas J. Hollister, Harvards vice president for finance and chief financial officer, to learn more about the latest developments in how the coronavirus has affected the Universitys finances, altered budgets in its Schools and Units, and left leadership with difficult decisions about the best way to protect the health of the community while preserving Harvards enduring mission.
GAZETTE: As Executive Vice President Katie Lapp wrote in a message to the community several weeks back, Harvard is facing significant financial challenges. The Universitys revenue for this fiscal year is estimated to be $415 million less due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and next year, Harvard is projecting a $750 million revenue shortfall. Can you provide some more context for these figures?
HOLLISTER: The COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding economic downturn have disrupted every aspect of the Universitys operations, and in turn reduced all sources of revenue. Its important to underline that the $750 million projection for the coming fiscal year is an estimate. There are many unanswered questions that we, and our peers in higher education, just dont know the answers to, such as how many students will enroll this coming year, when will they be back on campus, how much increased financial aid will they need, when will research resume, how will donations be affected, among many others that will affect the operating environment and University revenues. So, the $750 million estimate could end up being less than that, or unfortunately, it could be much more.
GAZETTE: The state of the endowment, of course, has a lot to do with the Universitys budgetary health. And as youve said before in this space, every penny of the annual distribution from the endowment is subscribed and utilized in support of Harvards mission. Can you give us a sense as to how this works?
HOLLISTER:The endowment has been adversely affected by the economic downturn and the recent declines in the capital markets. As you mentioned, and contrary to the oft-voiced public opinion that the endowment is hidden away and unused, earnings from the endowment are distributed annually without fail and represent Harvards largest source of revenue for teaching, learning, and research.
Moreover, a singular Harvard endowment does not exist; there are 13,000 individual endowments across the University, and earnings from these 13,000 endowed funds cannot be spent freely. Harvard has to honor each donors wishes through legally binding gift agreements that specify two inescapable fiduciary obligations: First, 70 percent of Harvards endowed funds must be spent on specific, donor-chosen restricted purposes, and second, 100 percent of Harvards endowed funds must distribute earnings annually and in perpetuity. This means that endowed funds are not savings accounts that can be all saved up for a rainy day, used for whatever is judged the most important purpose at the moment, or liquidated by choice. Think of the endowment as a collection of annuities, mostly restricted in purpose, whose annual distributions are affected by the capital markets and inexorably tied to the market value of the endowment. We cannot escape the fact that a lower market value for the endowment means less revenue for Harvard.
Also, contrary to popular perception, Harvard does not have unlimited wealth. Harvards resources, whether measured in annual revenues or the endowments capacity to make distributions, are subject to the economy, capital markets, and the generosity of donors. As a reminder, during the 20082009 recession, the endowment lost approximately 25 percent of its value, and distributions had to be cut approximately 20 percent.
GAZETTE: What does this mean for the coming years endowment distribution and operating budgets for the Schools and Units?
HOLLISTER: Harvard does not intend to be miserly on planned endowment distributions for the coming year, intending to distribute as much as it responsibly can. The total dollar amount will be 2 percent less than the current year, but depending upon how the stock market behaves, it is likely to be the largest in many years as a percentage of the market value of the endowment.
GAZETTE:Can you talk a little about the special assessment that will come into play in the coming fiscal year?
HOLLISTER: Yes. Members of the Corporation recently voted a special assessment, which is a one-time assessment on the coming years distribution, with the proceeds to be used at the discretion of the deans of Harvards Schools to cover the unexpected and immediate costs of the pandemic, including room and board rebates and students moving costs, as well as expenses in the coming year to enhance the excellence of remote learning, provide increased financial aid, reopen and reconfigure labs, as well as many other steps across campus to create a protective public health environment for the community.
So, although the endowment distribution across Harvard for FY21 will be 2 percent less than in FY20, the net effect is effectively 6 percent less to underlying fund beneficiaries, as the special assessment is about a 4 percent charge to begin to cover the pandemic-related costs.
GAZETTE: Harvard has invested significantly in protections for its workforce in the short term, guaranteeing pay to workers who may no longer have work to do based on the move to virtual learning through June 28. But the revenue declines are massive. The University will undoubtedly need to make tough decisions as the pandemics economic impact grows. Already, Harvard has instituted a hiring and salary freeze, while limiting discretionary spending and freezing many of its capital projects. Lapps recent letter said that furloughs and layoffs may have to be considered. Can you provide some further context for how this, or other difficult decisions related to the Universitys finances, might play out?
HOLLISTER: An immutable and inescapable financial reality for any organization is that the outflows of money must match the inflows. Harvards inflows in the form of revenues have been sharply curtailed during the current pandemic, and so our outflows on spending must soon be similarly curtailed. A second financial reality is that resources are never limitless, and contrary to what some imagine, Harvard is no exception. Unfortunately, these two realities mean that we cannot do what everyone wants; choices are necessary; and more difficult decisions will need to be made.
Already, weve seen peer institutions forced to suspend retirement contributions for their employees, as well as the announcement of furloughs and layoffs. The very existence of some colleges and universities is seriously threatened. Harvards Schools and Units have already instituted a host of cost-saving measures to help manage against the revenue losses we are projecting. Youve mentioned many of those, all of which weve undertaken prior to considering any workforce actions, but furloughs and/or layoffs may be necessary. As Executive Vice President Lapp wrote in her letter, Harvard is committed to limiting the extent of any workforce actions.
GAZETTE: Throughout all of this, University leadership has continued to reference Harvards core mission to teaching and scholarship. How can we continue to invest in this mission during such challenging times?
HOLLISTER: Ive previously mentioned that we extensively interviewed community members who were involved across Harvard in the 0809 recession and learned that when tough decisions had to be made, the community took solace and pride when teaching and research were placed at the top of the priority list. These core activities are at the top of the priority list now.
One advantage that Harvard has, beginning with the School deans, is an extraordinary group of talented leaders across its Schools who are accustomed to making local resource decisions in the best interests of their respective missions. In this respect, Harvards decentralization is a real plus, as it allows for decision-making based in the specific needs of its individual Schools.
On the other hand, the University is committed to One Harvard, and its critical in difficult times such as these to have principled leaders who share clear priorities. Weve seen this in the University-wide leadership, from President [Larry] Bacow, Provost [Alan] Garber, and from EVP Lapp, that first and foremost, Harvard is devoted to ensuring the health and safety of its community members, and secondly, to preserving the integrity of its mission to teaching and learning. The road ahead will be difficult, but I am hopeful that Harvard will find the best path forward thanks to the leadership of our deans, and the countless contributions of faculty and staff to carry on and sustain our teaching, learning, and research activities with a continuing eye on excellence, despite the unexpected adversity.
Interview was edited for clarity and condensed for space.
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Posted: at 7:46 am
How are you bastards doing this evening? the young boy holding the mike shouted out to the vast audience in front of him.
It was a cold January evening in the sleepy town of Lekhapani, Upper Assam. The occasion was one of the early editions of the Dehing Patkai Festival initiated by the Assam government in order to bring the tourist potentialities of the catchment areas of the river Dehing and the Patkai foothills into the limelight.
That evening, the pandal was jam packed, the chairs mostly taken by families with small babies and elderly women. The organisers welcomed on stage an important patron of culture (a successful contractor of coal or oil, perhaps a former militant a powerful local figure), the patron in a heavily slurred tongue introduces his young son: a rising star, based in Delhi, winning many awards in Western music.
As the rising star delivers one heavy metal rock number after another, laced with abuses and expletives, I look around the crowd. The aunties and grandmothers look numb, thankfully oblivious to the alien abuses and cuss words. The young crowd, standing at the back, seeming relatively responsive but not really enthralled either. The prevailing mood was one of tolerance not of anger and irritation, as one would usually expect.
The seemingly mundane episode gave me glimpse into the ways everyday life unfolds in the resource frontiers of Northeast India. It was an insight into the heartland of a militarised carbon landscape, into lives built around tea, oil, coal and coated with vernacular ideas of power, status, obligation.
In recent times, news about a few government decisions to expand resource extraction in parts of Northeast India has led to significant opposition across a wide spectrum, alleging potential irreparable ecological damage to sensitive biodiversity zones. These include the reported clearance given for open-cast coal mining by the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) inside the Saleki Proposed Reserve Forest (part of Dehing Patkai elephant reserve), the Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) giving clearance for the extension of drilling and testing of hydrocarbons at seven locations by OIL under the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park area (that includes the Maguri-Motapong wetland area considered crucial for migratory birds) and the go-ahead given (and subsequently put on hold) for the Etalin mega hydroelectric project at Dibang valley, Arunachal Pradesh.
Also read: We Must Remember this Earth and All That it Gives Us
While the reactions and the oppositional machinations triggered by these series of announcements have received significant attention, it is also a good time to understand the complex equation between nature, nation state and the nationalities that makes up these spaces. An equation that is at the heart of unlocking the perpetual environmental crisis that the region seems to be going through.
For this, one needs to engage with the ways the region has been historically conceptualised and continues to be reproduced as a resource frontier, as empty or under-populated wilderness, which hold the promise for high rates of return on investment. An inevitable product of capitalist globalisation, when capital actively seeks out and establishes new resource peripheries, thereby reproducing uneven development and marginalisation. For this we need to understand the (yet unfolding) history of these frontier spaces invested in resource appropriation.
A region on the cusp of empires
Take these to your queen and tell her these are the weapons we fight with. You cannot enter Thibet, it is against the order of the Chinese Government. Go back, or we will kill you, a Mishimi chief told Thomas Thornvill Cooper after presenting him a Dao (native sword) and spear.
Cooper was the first Englishman to extensively tour the Mishmi Hills and who was exploring a trade route from India to China via the Mishimi region (present Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh). Although the tragic rebellion didnt hold in the long run, this episode, in essence, reflects a lot on the dynamics that were to unfold in the region in the years to come.
The 19th-century discovery of oil, tea and coal in the eastern Himalayan foothills had a profound impact on the life in the region that endures the passages of time. With these discoveries, the region turned into one of the most important eastern frontier outposts of the British India empire.
Due to its locational importance and resource capacity, the region also became a critical zone in the events of the Second World War. One needs to remember that the oil discovered in Digboi, leading to pioneering ventures in commercial oil in the subcontinent, was marketed under the brand Burmah Oil Company (BOC). The technical geological category Assam Arakan basin still persists in the dictions of oil exploration in the region.
Also read: The Govt is Trying to Make it Easier for Industries to Avoid Environmental Accountability
Thus, in the imagination of the empires (past and present), the cartographical region transforms into an extended resource frontier. In this way, the region one calls as Northeast India today is not unfamiliar to global trade, historically speaking.
Interestingly (but not surprisingly), the coal town of Ledo, at the heart of the recent protests, is also the starting point of the historic Stilwell road (locally known as Ledo road) from the Indian side, a road that connects Assam of India with Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province of China, passing through Northern Myanmar. While the Second World War heritage of the road is well known, what is not equally known is that the route has also been a major preferred route of migratory waves from across the Southeast Asian continent. The road and the surrounding borderland areas remains a major artery of nostalgia, historical bonds and goodwill for people living across both sides of the borders.
However, in the present circumstances, one is not sure whether the Act East Policy echoes similar sentiments of connectivity. Several measures have been undertaken under the aegis of the Act East policy to connect Northeast India with Southeast Asia. The era of the New Great Game played out between China and India has been a key influence on most of the geopolitical development in South and Southeast Asia, and this dynamic seems to be having potential environmental impacts for the northeastern region, with competing endeavours between India and China to strengthen respective user rights of the shared rivers by making dams, etc.
As recent examples from Southeast Asia (forest zones of Indonesia, Laos) show, frontier spaces can be actively peripheralised even while being integrated into a globalised economy. Thus, the important question to ask is what role does the coal from the rainforests, electricity from the mountain rivers, and oil from the forest wells, play in these grand schematics of the nations? After all, the state of nature reveals a lot on the nature of the state.
Politics as inevitably ecological, ecology as inherently political
The protest around the proposed measures have gained momentum mostly through social media and other internet-based forums, thus marking a coming of age of digital protest in the frontiers. The young people of the region are once again the prominent faces of the protest.
Students from different universities and colleges of the region (and also students from the region based in various institutions outside their home states) have taken the initiative to raise awareness and create wider public opinion against the proposed government decisions. The proactive role played by the students and young people of the region takes one back to a terrain of continuous struggles, that needs to be understood and made sense of. After all, slogans like We will give our blood, but not our oil have been a hallmark of tumultuous social movements in the region for the past many decades.
Fast forwarding to few decades in 2003, one comes across another case when the Netherlands-based Premier Oil Company enters an agreement with Hindustan Oil Exploration Company (HOEC) to explore for oil around Joypur Dehing Patkai forest ranges and withdraws later from the venture after intense local protests. The recent episodes also must be read in the context of the various social movements going on in these regions for the past many decades for land rights, against big dams, many localised resistance against mining of coal, oil, natural gas.
As positions taken by student-youth organisations like the All Assam Students Union, Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad as well as by proscribed militant organisations like ULFA (Independent) show, natural resources and, as an extension, ecological identities are considered by them as an appendage to the ethno-nationalist aspirations, they belong to a people. What is natural is taken to be an extension of the national at different levels.
Also read: Govts and People Must Come Together to Preserve the Environmental Gains of the Lockdown
However, despite the decades of protest and activism, HOEC remains active in the area and besides it, Assam Petrochemicals Limited as well as North Eastern Coalfields (NEC) have sought permission in recent times to either expand their operations or initiate new operations around these ecologically sensitive zones. The stories about long lines of coal-laden trucks without number plate moving out every night from the coal towns, the parade of trucks mysteriously not stopped at any check posts, local scribes reporting on them disappearing, syndicates based on donations thriving, stories such as these coming out incessantly over the years from these places remind one of Gabriel Garcia Marquezs fictional town of Macondo, a space existing in the perilous ruins of capitalism. It must compel one to take a closer look on how a complex web of resource extraction, militarisation, aspirations and class formation makes up spaces like these.
Amidst this seemingly confusing scenario, what has become increasingly evident is that nature is no more a passive backdrop to political events. Furthermore, there need to be efforts to relate environmental change to aspects of political economy, cultural politics and social transformation. This also needs to be extended to understand the continuous (at times contradictory) engagement of conservationist NGOs in this region with various official schemes and policies on the environmental questions, to see how the resource frontier is also a salvage frontier.
The Amazon forests are a prime example of this, where plans were set in motion to save the environment in the process of destroying it. Where making, saving, and destroying resources are utterly mixed up, where zones of conservation, production, and resource sacrifice overlap almost fully, and canonical time frames of natures study, use, and preservation are reversed, conflated, and confused.
In their haplessness the two Amazons meet, the Amazon of the East with the South American Amazons! The recent episodes in Upper Assam and Arunachal Pradesh calls for a need to engage with ecological politics, an attempt to unravel the political forces at work in environmental access, management, and transformation, going beyond calls of environment conservation.
The rivers of imagination, forests of hope
The rainforests of Dehing Patkai, aquatic biosphere of Dibru Saikhowa and the mountain scapes of Dibang Valley are a prime example as to how the borderlands in Asia tend to be peripheral to the centres of state power, while they are at the same time a prime locus for the enactment and realisation of state authority (Asian Borderlands Research Network, 2016). In cases like India resources in these frontiers spaces are regulated both in the name of national interest as well as national security, often collapsed into one.
I want to end with a traditional Mishing folksong (Oi: Nitom) which depicts a vision of a life lived well:
O dear, lets build a houseEven if big or smallNear the bank of Bornoi (Brahmaputra)By our paddy fieldsThat will protect usfrom the rayof the Sun and the Moon.
Such assuring and heartwarming imaginations will move closer to realisation only when one begins to understand the ways questions of environment are inseparable from peoples everyday lived realities and their attachments with the land, and how these are placed in the schemas of the geo-political state.
Kaustubh Deka is assistant professor of political science at Dibrugarh University, Assam.
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Volvic Announces Global Carbon Neutrality and B Corp Certification, Also Pledging to Continue Protecting 2 Billion Square Meters of Natural Ecosystems…
Posted: at 7:46 am
LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Volvic has always valued the strength we receive from nature. Thats why ahead of World Environment Day, and as part of their ongoing sustainability efforts***, Volvic is sharing their newly awarded B Corp certification for the global brand and global carbon neutrality milestone. As part of their carbon neutral certification, in partnership with the climate solutions company South Pole, Volvic is supporting projects that protect two billion square meters of natural ecosystems in volcanic countries such as Peru, Congo and Uganda****.
At Volvic, we have long understood the value of natures strength and are encouraging all to return the favor, give back to nature and keep it strong, states Rita Pestana, Global VP of Volvic. We have been committed to continuously evolving, making nature and people stronger by ensuring that our source remains protected. We are on a journey to continue to use this business as a force for good and support our communities and the health of people and planet.
Hugh Jones, Managing Director Business Services, the Carbon Trust, adds: We are proud to have certified the Volvic brand as carbon neutral a significant achievement that represents a real commitment to decarbonisation, Nathan Gilbert, Executive Director, B Lab Europe comments: B Lab Europe is proud to welcome Volvic to the community of B Corporations. This achievement is part of an ongoing journey to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. We look forward to working together with Volvic and the community of B Corps to inspire other businesses to join the movement. Now more than ever, it is necessary for all companies and individuals to take action and use business as a force for good.
NOTE TO EDITORS
ABOUT VOLVIC (WWW.VOLVIC.CO.UK)
Volvic is a unique natural mineral water born in a volcanic natural ecosystem in the Auvergne region of France. 13,500 years ago, a volcanic eruption created an immense natural filter where water flows through six layers of volcanic rock; this creates a one of a kind filtration system that only nature can provide and that is how Volvic comes to life. The water brand has been fighting to preserve these ecosystems for years in an effort to restore balance to allow nature to continue to give us its strength and guarantee the purity of the water. As a part of Danone, Volvic has committed to inspire more sustainable eating and drinking practices and is doing so through several environmentally focused efforts. To learn more about Volvic, please visit their website.
Volvic carbon neutrality certification
Volvic has been certified carbon neutral to the internationally-recognised standard PAS 2060 by the Carbon Trust, a global climate change and sustainability consultancy with almost two decades of experience in the sustainability sector. Achievement of this standard reflects the commitment and measures taken by Volvic to reduce direct carbon emissions arising from its own operations (Scope 1 and 2), indirect emissions from the value chain, and where residual emissions exist Volvic has compensated for these through good quality offsets achieved through its partnership with climate solutions company South Pole.
From now on, Volvic must be recertified every year to maintain its carbon neutral status. This requires the development and implementation of a yearly carbon reduction and management plan. Each year the certification process becomes more challenging as Volvic must begin to rely less on the compensation (the investment in funds which generate carbon credits) and more on a low carbon business model. The carbon emission reduction figures are based on the global life cycle assessment of the product.
*Excluding cap and label
**B Corp Certification:
Volvic is the biggest natural mineral water brand (revenue based) to receive this distinction.
B Lab is a nonprofit that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good. B Labs initiatives include B Corp Certification, administration of the B Impact Management programs and software, and advocacy for governance structures like the benefit corporation.
Certified B Corporationsare new kinds of businesses that balance purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
Certified B Corporations achieve a minimum verified score on the B Impact Assessmenta rigorous assessment of a companys impact on its workers, customers, community, and environmentand make their B Impact Report transparent on bcorporation.net. Certified B Corporations also amend their legal governing documents to require their board of directors to balance profit and purpose. Companies must recertify every three years.
In 2020 Volvic achieved the certification with a score of 81.1., being part of the less than 4% of companies that have engaged with B Impact Assessment online and achieve the score required. The B Corp assessment certifies 5 pillars: Governance, Workers, Community Environment and Customers. B Lab has highlighted the companys leadership in 3 mains areas:
While Volvic scored highest in governance practices and legal mission including societal and environmental impact on stakeholders in the decision making; employee benefits such as pension and healthcare plans; and the environmental policy and management, including rigorous monitoring and target, also identify the following areas of improvement: regular performance reviews for all employees and further engage with our suppliers on social and environmental aspects.
About South Pole
South Pole is a leading project developer and provider of global climate action solutions, with over 300 experts in 18 global offices. South Pole helps companies, capital markets, and the public sector reduce their impact on the climate while mitigating risk and creating value. South Pole is a science-based company and its expertise covers project finance, data collection, and climate risk analysis, as well as the development of environmental commodities, such as carbon and renewable energy credits. South Pole has mobilised climate finance to over 700 projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable land use. For more information, visit http://www.southpole.com or follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
***CEPIV: protecting the natural environment and biodiversity since 2006
Socit des Eaux de Volvic is strongly committed to preserving the natural heritage, including the 38-km2 area where Volvic natural mineral water originates.
The Volvic impluvium is located in the unique geographical site of Chane des Puys / Limagne fault, inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2018.
Protecting and preserving the natural mineral water resource is at the heart of Volvics DNA. Co-created by Socit des Eaux de Volvic in 2006, the Environmental Committee for the Protection of the Volvic Impluvium (CEPIV) is a public-private partnership with the 4 local communities of the catchment area. Its mission is to implement actions with all territory stakeholders that reconcile local development and the protection of the catchment area and its biodiversity.
The mission of CEPIV focuses on three areas:
*****2 billion square meters equaling to 53 times the Volvic impluvium size which itself is 38km2
***** Calculation based on ADEME and actual Danone routes.
Volvic is part of the #WeActForWater movement.
Through #WeActForWater Danone Waters brands are:
WeActForWater falls within Danones recently announced 2 billion investment acceleration plan, investing between 2020-2022 to further transform their agriculture, energy and operations, packaging and digital capabilities.
Posted: at 7:46 am
While some places are tiptoeing around opening businesses by extending lockdown periods take Los Angeles county for example who extended stay-at-home orders through July other states are taking small steps towards reopening their economies.
This new trial opening is generally referred to as safer-at-home, which means curbside services are available, face masks are optional in outdoor recreational areas such as parks, and some non-essential businesses such as retail can open with limited numbers of workers. On top of that, some states are allowing social gatherings of 10 people and under. With that said, safer-at-home orders also mean people still need to follow the 6-foot social distancing rules, as well as wearing masks in indoor public spaces.
Even though this doesnt mean the pandemic is over or that were safe from contracting or transmitting the virus, itdoesmean that some of us may be able to enjoy one or two things from our old lifestyles.
Sounds great right? Maybe for some.
But its also possible that many of us are also feeling something unexpected anxiety.
As weve all been hunkered down, isolated, and dealing with the trauma of drastic, forced change for two or more months, reentering the world even with these small steps poses a whole new slew of psychological pitfalls.
And its okay to feel hesitant, anxious, stressed, or even scarred about returning to even a smidgen of normal life!
Lets take a closer look at what the heck is going on in our heads and how to handle this new transition!
Maybe youve been waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine, but many people have simply been waiting for the reopening of the economy.
Yet, now that its partially here, many people are reporting an increase in their anxiety, stress, and fear.
This reopening anxiety probably stems from the list of uncertainties that face us as we return to society. From going back to your work cubicle to using public transportation to dropping your kids off at daycare and even visiting retailers and restaurants, there are a host of new invisible factors, as well as rules and regulations, that we all have to consider and follow.
First and foremost, humans are creatures of habit.
Over the last few months, many of us have taken very legitimate steps to create a shelter-at-home environment that was also a mentally healthy experience. From building an at-home-office to using exercise apps and online fitness classes to redesigning a new daily routine, many people have made shelter-at-home their new norm.
After months, were now used to shelter-at-home. Youve got virtual socializing on a timed schedule. Maybe youve started to enjoythe flexibility of working from home or the privacy of yoga in your living room. And now that youre used to this new way of life some of us even enjoying certain aspects of it were faced with yet another upheaval as businesses reopen and employers ask their workers to return.
Its frustrating, to say the least, and anxiety-provoking for sure!
Just because states have decided to edge towards reopening economies doesnt mean that COVID-19 has been extinguished. In fact, some populations are experiencing resurgences of COVID-19 cases in areas that have relaxed shelter-in-place rules.
Even though this was expected to happen, it doesnt help ease our anxieties about returning to the social stream.
On top of COVID-19 fears, theres also the anxiety of counting on those around us to keep us safe. In order to feel and be protected, coworkers, friends, family, neighbors, and all those strangers must follow proper hygiene with hand washing and sanitizing, wear masks, and practice social distancing of 6-feet or more. On top of that, we also have to trust that restaurants and retailers are properly training their staff and following strict COVID-19 guidelines behind the scenes when handling our food, beverages, and goods.
With that said, many people experience a break of this trust on a regular basis, therefore, how can you instill it in an entire society?
Its not just about returning to socializing. For many, theres the dilemma of work.
While some people may have the luxury of working from home, there are thousands of jobs that require workers to be on-site and hands-on.
These workers have to make money somehow and with economies reopening many of them face an ugly situation of returning to work to get paid or getting laid off. Yet returning to an enclosed work environment with other people increases your exposure. On top of that, if you have to send your children to daycare, thats yet another layer of exposure for your children and the rest of your family.
While the financial burden of shelter-in-place may be eased, the increased worry of contracting the virus increases.
Understanding why you might be anxious about economies reopening and returning to a bit of normal life is only part of the puzzle. Its also important to understand how your psyche may have changed during the shelter-at-home phase of this pandemic. From post-traumatic stress to depression to burnout, most of us have been put through the wringer and its time to acknowledge, accept, and respect the journey weve been on!
While there is a diverse variety of mental health fall-out from shelter-in-place, these are the most commonly seen ramifications.
When it comes to PTSD caused by this pandemic, theres no simple cut-and-dry way of defining it. This is partly due to the fact that PTSD can crop up directly after the trauma or it could hide away within us and surface months or years later. On top of that, the pandemic could be stirring up PTSD from adifferentincident.
With that said, there are a few ways typically four in which PTSD may manifest:re-experiencing trauma, nightmares or flashbacks avoidance of certain situations, those that remind the person of that experience negative changes in emotions and beliefs, this could be how you think about yourself or those around you or hyperarousal, generally involves difficulty sleeping and concentrating or becoming easily startled.
While some people may experience PTSD from the trauma of being hospitalized with COVID-19, others may experience trauma from the environment that the COVID-19 pandemic has created including being blocked from loved ones, being isolated, and experiencing disruption to daily lives and routines.
Youve most likely already heard this term being used during regular life, yet in the pandemic, theres a whole new set of stressors that are linked to increased complaints of utter and total burnout.
Working from home can be a huge stress reducer in the right circumstances.These are not those circumstances.
Many people dont have a separate home office, therefore they are forced to share a non-ergonomic space with family, roommates, or partners. This includes children that require attention and supervision or other adults that are seeking space to do their work as well. Not only does this put additional stressors on our brains, but our bodies are also suffering from backaches, neck tension, increased risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, and increased eye strain.While organization, creating rotating schedules, and instituting strict routines are all great ways to work around shared home office space and keeping kids busy, its still incredibly difficult.
Add on to that the fact that people are burning out from total isolation or the opposite, zero alone time, and its a perpetual loop without an end!
This particular breed of burnout may also lead to more severe psychological issues such as disruption to our sense of self or even a traumatic loss of our own identity.
For those unable to work from home and furloughed from their jobs, theres the issue of financial security.
Yet, it goes deeper than that.
The states and most of the world is entering a recession due to the effects of an almost worldwide lockdown. This means that even those that are working are feeling the financial strains of the pandemic.
Financial stress cant be dealt with like normal stress. If you don have the money to pay your bills then you simply dont have the money. Mindfulness, meditation, and self-care wont cure this.With that said, these calming techniques mayoffer you the headspace and mind clarity necessary to start problem-solving.
Rework your budget. For those that have never budgeted, nows the time to get one started! Cut out the unnecessary spending basically anything that doesnt involve food to eat or the roof over your head. This means nix online retail shopping, think about halting streaming services, and try not to order food out. Look for government opportunities such as unemployment or other aid programs to get you through for the next couple of months. Take a day and look for online work opportunities such as customer service gigs.
Luckily, you can prepare yourself for reopening!
The situation around the pandemic may be out of your control, but you have the ability to harness your own mental health and prepare your body and mind. Lets take a look at some best-practices for handling reopening anxieties:
Oftentimes, anxiety is linked to loss of control. While its important to accept the fact that we cant control the pandemic, its also helpful to realize youdo have controlover many other aspects of the situation.
For instance, we have complete control over our own habits such as COVID-19 hygiene guidelines, washing our hands, sanitizing, and wearing a mask social distancing ourselves from others, and choosing how to interact with those around you in a respectful and safe manner.
Youre already burned out from shelter-in-place whether its overworking due to lack of boundaries or juggling family responsibilities and work responsibilities and now youre being asked to add another layer of stress to this pandemic pie by returning into society.
Address your burnout and carve some decompression time at home.This can be as simple as taking a walk at the end of the day, journaling before bed, or taking a bath.
Its important to turn your home back into a place of reprieve, relaxation, and safety.
Part of your anxiety around reopening has a lot to do with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Maybe this is a bit far-flung for you to believe.
Have you been experiencing disturbances in your sleep patterns? Are you regularly mentally distracted? What about physical oddness such as dizziness, moments where you cant breathe, or severe lethargy?
These can all be signs of PTSD.
One of the least invasive and most influential ways to deal with PTSD at home on your own is through mindfulness practices. Being mindful can be completely tailored to you as a person. If youre a news junky, become more mindful about how and when you consume news stories. Be mindful about the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, which can worsen your mental health and physical well-being in the long term.
Its also important to be mindful about implementing a healthy routine and habits.
Mindfulness extends to your physical body such as being mindful about the food you eat and staying physically active. This includes self-care! Respect downtime, indulge in your favorite television shows and enjoy the foods you love. But make sure you do all these things mindfullyand not in excess, as these habits can quickly become unhealthy.
Youve probably seen this advice strewn throughout shelter-in-place articles.
Thats because meditation works!
While it may not be for everyone, if youre struggling with anxiety around the reopening of the economies, its definitely worth it to try. Meditation works for anxiety because it involves the habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts, which is exactly what needs to happen with an anxious mind. Being able to both confront and redirect anxious thoughts towards something positive is an incredibly adept way to deal with anxiety.
Along with managing reopening anxiety, you may also find that meditation is able to reduce stress, enhance self-awareness, lengthens your attention span, helps with memory loss, and improves your sleep.
Definitely worth a try!
If you can tackle anxiety through healthier personal habits, then thats definitely the way to go! Adopting healthy habits such as physical activity, self-care, meditation, and mindfulness provide you with real-time relief tools that you can use for the rest of your life. Plus, these techniques have also been shown to boost overall mental health, provide calm and clarity, and can even have positive physical effects.
With that said, in times such as these, we may need a bit more of a helping hand!
This is where natural supplements come into play and can be extremely useful. Some of the best anxiety-reducing natural supplements include omega-3 fatty acids, ashwagandha, green tea, valerian root, kava kava, and even dark chocolate!
Here are a few plant-based, trusted supplement brands to give a try: NaturaLife Labs Organic Ashwagandha, NOW Supplements Valerian Root, Zenwise Health Store Vegan Omega 3 Supplement, or these Vegan Organic 70% Cacao Hu Chocolate Bars.
Remember, youre not in this alone!
Even though were sheltering at home, it doesnt mean there arent resources available for those in need. If you feel that your anxiety is simply too much to conquer on. your own, try a few of these resources to get the telehealth help you need right away!
First off, there is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association, which offers aton of online resources, as well as their help hotline at1-800-662-4357.You can also access theNational Network of Depression Centers, offering a listing of resources based upon your specific need:
Looking for a bit of education? Try visiting the Everyday Health Depression Resource Center, theAnxiety and Depression Association of America, orMental Health America Depression Support and Advocacy.
Lavender Coconut Ice Cream/One Green Planet
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help withchronic inflammation,heart health,mental wellbeing,fitness goals,nutritional needs,allergies,gut healthandmore!Dairy consumption also has been linked many health problems, includingacne,hormonal imbalance,cancer,prostate cancerand has manyside effects.
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Here are some great resources to get you started:
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Posted: June 1, 2020 at 3:02 am
Indeed, the state violence faced by the Persian center during the suppression of sporadic uprisings is an everyday reality for ethnic and religious minorities throughout Iran. As Iranian lawyer Gissou Nia has pointed out, many commentators based in the West, especially diaspora Persians, tend to severely misjudge anti-government protests in Iran because they fail to amplify or even listen to the voices of minorities that make up the backbone of current revolutionary movements. The projection of the urbanized Persian center as being representative of Iran is only solidified by media outlets who assume interviewing Persian-Americans alone is enough of a perspective on envisioning Iran and how to engage with the Iranian state. After all, when was the last time an Iranian Lur or Ahwazi was given a global platform to voice their opinion on Irans regime or western foreign policy towards Iran? How can non-recognized religious minorities such as Bahais or Sikhs speak globally from within a state that affords them no protections?
There is a unique set of consequences for minorities who speak out their grievances with the state, for anything said can be treated with the gravity of a national security threat. As the Iranian economy fails to provide for the non-elite and non-central populations, more revolutionary movements are sparked and quashed through targeted efforts to disenfranchise minorities. Any form of supposed connection to a militant group in Iran becomes grounds for execution. According to reports gathered by Iran Human Rights (IHR) between 2010 and 2018, among the 118 people who have been executed for affiliation with banned political and militant groups, there were 65 Kurds (55%), 29 Baluchis (25%) and 15 Arabs (13%), most of whom were Sunni Muslims in addition to being ethnic minorities.
The torture of imprisoned minorities in Iran is especially gruesome and sobering. Labor activist Sepideh Gholian, arrested for a notable strike in the southern province of Khuzestan, spoke out upon her temporary release on the torture of hundreds of Ahwazi women forced to confess that their husbands were members of Daesh (ISIS). The escalation of violence against Ahwazis in Khuzestan has gone hand in hand with increased interest in development projects in the resource-rich province, often displacing Ahwazis for projects that divert natural resources back to Tehran and other urban areas of the Persian-speaking center. In Irans November uprisings, at least 100 Ahwazi demonstrators were killed and 2,500 imprisoned. Ahwazis are regularly imprisoned under fabricated ties to international terror, often without any public acknowledgement. Baluchis also face torture and forced confession of association with militant groups such as Jundallah. This April, Baluchi prisoner Abdulvaset Dahani was executed in Zahedans Central Prison after writing to the world on experiences of torture and forced confession:
They tied my hands and suspended me from the ceiling. They subjected me to grilled chicken torture. They hit on the soles of my feet with a cable burned it with atomic lighters.
In March of 2020, when the Iranian government responded to hunger strikes and prison rebellions by selectively releasing prisoners during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, prisoners in Tehran were prioritized, and therefore ethnic minorities were far less likely to see freedom. No prisoner with national security threat listed on their charge sheet was eligible for release, a restriction which severely narrows the number of prisoners in Iran from lenient treatment and effectively bars ethnic minorities from release. While international praise for this selective release of prisoners ran high, the state nonetheless executed prisoners at an even higher rate than usual. Within ten days of April, 25 executions were recorded.
Religious minorities are likewise at risk of being accused of having dual loyalties. Jewish and Bahai Iranians are denigrated by propaganda that associates them with Zionism and the State of Israel. This accusation naturally leads to an atmosphere of fear, as Iranian Jews have family ties in Israel and the headquarters of the Bahai faith are in Haifa. Likewise, only a subset of the small Sikh minority in Iran have been able to receive Iranian passports despite living in the country for generations. Cremation is illegal in Iran, and the Sikh minority faces dangerous backlash for their practice. For years, the only place Sikhs have been able to legally engage in their funeral rites is at a cremation site hidden within the Indian embassy grounds in Tehran, a 24 hour train ride from the historic Sikh population center of Zahedan. Armenians also struggle with the image of being perpetual foreigners despite being present in the region for over a thousand years. Churches are monitored by the police, as any utterance or distribution of materials on Christianity in the Persian language is grounds for arrest.
Tests of ideology hinder opportunities for religious minorities beyond the realm of their religious practice. Exams legally implemented by the Islamic Republic to prove ones loyalty to the state religion prevent people from exercising complete citizenship rights. One cannot work in the public sector in Iran, for example, without passing examinations that prove loyalty to the state-sanctioned, Khomeinist version of Shia Islam. Theoretically recognized religious minorities (Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians) may work in lower-rank positions should they pass an examination, but the segregation of the education system bars candidates from having the requisite familiarity with Islam to realistically pass. Furthermore, there has been a massive push by the regime to allocate and prioritize more positions for members of the Basij, Irans voluntary paramilitary organization, which staunchly adheres to Khomeinism.
In the realm of higher education, recognized religious minorities are consistently at odds with the efforts to Islamize any aspect of the university. Moreover, non-recognized religious minorities such as Bahais are officially forbidden from higher education. The underground universities run by the Bahai community face the constant threat of raids, arrests, and even execution for their work. Perhaps the most telling example of Irans stance towards the human value of non-recognized religious minorities can be seen through the qisas system or retaliation in kind. Retaliation of violence is allowed by a victims family, unless the victims family forgives the perpetrator or accepts a deal through blood money. However, if a Muslim kills a member of an non-recognized religious minority, there is no qisas requirement. In fact, no punishment is specified, giving judges the right to pursue no consequences for the murder of a non-recognized religious minority, even if the perpetrator is found guilty of a willful crime. The murder of Bahais is effectively permissible in Iran.
Afghan refugees are another vulnerable group that can legally be treated as subhuman. Irans population is estimated to be 82 million and there are up to 4 million Afghan refugees living in the country, yet 27 out of 31 provinces have partial or complete bans on the residence of Afghans. This cruel legislation is ironically most enforced in border regions across the country. Some provinces such as Sistan-Baluchistan which sits at the tri-border between Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, allow Afghans to reside in urban areas, such as the capital of Zahedan, but not in the rest of the province. This prevents Afghans from moving freely and seeking opportunities for livelihoods. Each year the Iranian government chips away at opportunities to seek asylum or refugee status, and provides no legal recourse to those sentenced to deportation. Afghan children are often channeled into modern-day slavery and families are forced to pay exorbitant sums to be transported between locations or to live in unsanitary camps. Human Rights Watch has released several reports on Afghan child soldiers being sent to Syria by Irans Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (the IRGC) as well.
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