How long to self isolate during the Corona virus? – new science from John Hopkins. For this crisis, Alex calls tear out your lawn and grow food. You may need it. Interview with Professor Jos Lelieveld of Max Planck Institute on the other pandemic every year: air pollution kills millions. Could the big shutdown bring more heat this spring? Special guest Eliza Gilkyson on her new album “2020” – music for this time! There is a way out, but it is not the way we came.
We start the show with a clip from Texas song-writer Eliza Gilkyson. The song is “In the Name of the Lord”. I speak with Eliza later this hour, and end with another song from this inspiring artist. We talk about getting though the hardest of times.
Last week, the Prime Minister of Italy declared that country had reached its darkest hour. Tragedy unfolded in one of the best medical hospital systems in the world, with more beds and doctors per capita than in the United States, Canada or Britain. The Italian health care system cracked under the load of severe cases of the virus called Corona, or COVID-19. This week, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo told New Yorkers they are the next Italy. In dangerous times, real leaders tell their people the hard truth. At the start of the Second World War, Churchill promised Britons years of blood and loss. The truth is that all of Europe and North America have been blown up.
The bomb is not just this novel Corona virus. That just the lit fuse. The bomb is the over-blown consumer economy which believed money was endless and stocks could only go up. We cannot continue with the fossil powered economy anyway, because our pollution is spinning the climate out of control, and our greed for resources is snuffing out species in great numbers. The whole show cannot continue. If we try to go back to that normal, there will never be a good and stable future for any foreseeable generation. This is our final warning, and our chance literally to reform – to re-form into a fair and sustainable society.
There is a way out, but it is not the way we came.
A month ago, in the middle of February, I warned Radio Ecoshock listeners to prepare for long-term isolation at home while the Corona virus rages through Europe and North America. A few people wrote back suggesting that was overblown, just alarmism. Now we see.
Our family laid aside enough food to hold out for three months, at least until the spring growing season, when the garden could start to help feed us. Why so long ?- several reasons. First, there is an unknown time when this insidious disease is multiplying inside your community, but people have not yet developed symptoms. That period along could be up to 2 weeks, experts say. It is a real challenge for each of us to judge when is the time to pull the plug and self-isolate – especially when mass testing is not being done and the authorities are also waiting for symptoms to show. Even then we often don’t get good information, and sometime get very ad information from the government.
In testimony to Congress, one representative from the Trump administration said there was no need for Americans to stockpile food. Just a week and a half later, we hear Dr. Marty Makary of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health speaking on CNBC March 12:
“I think every household, regardless of what politicians and government leaders says, every household should declare a state of emergency. Get three months of food and necessary medications – whatever essential meds somebody might be on and get ready to hunker down.
Look we’re going to probably see over 1,000 deaths per day during the peak of this thing. That’s not something we are prepared for. .. We need contingency plans. We need restaurants to get into the food deliver service so they can focus on staying alive and supporting people. We need to take care of our own.”
If your community or region reaches the point of obvious contagion, you should have been home and out of personal contact for two weeks already. Then begins a rolling clock which is reset with each new set of infections, as the disease rolls toward it’s peak. When it recedes below community contagion is unknown. Maybe spring weather will dampen down the spread. Maybe the disease will continue until about 80% of all people have been infected, as several US Government experts have suggested. Remember, most of those people will not get severely ill, and a large number will not have symptoms.
It seems likely to me there will be a pause in the number sick and dying. People will feel emboldened to come out, or sorely need to get back to work, to get some income. Corporate owners will want to start up the system again. After the government has sounded some sort of back-to-work signal., there could be reinfection and further spread. We may find that out when China or South Korea try to restart their economies.
It also seem likely to me this pestilence, the same virus or a mutated version could return next fall when weather conditions return to cool but not super-cold conditions it appears to favor. We could have a second or third wave of infection, as happened during the Spanish flu of 2018 and 2019. We may have to live with endemic COVID-19 until a vaccine is delivered to the majority of the public.
Also, in this devastating new study from 30 scientists, coming from Imperial College London, that when we “flatten the curve” by mandated isolation, to prevent a crash of the delivery system, then a second wave is indeed likely this Fall (in the Northern Hemisphere). The second wave, they say, is even more likely when we close schools to limit infection now. While we save lives in total, because more Intensive Care Beds are available, not enough general immunity would be build up this Spring to avoid reinfection next Fall. Nobody knows for sure.
We may have to live with this for a while. With all the uncertainty, my best guess and guide for our household is to isolate for at least one month, possibly three, and then get out and grow as much food as we can, while keeping social contacts to a minimum. You will probably try to assess who is safe, and who has traveled in from another area, or broken their isolation.
In the Spring of the Northern Hemisphere, we will cover our property with vegetables, including containers on the driveway. If we have enough seed, and we did put lots of seed away, we may also make arrangements to grow food on nearby properties, sharing the harvest with those owners. Tear up the lawn and plant potatoes, or whatever produce will give the most food value and can be stored for the winter.
The first aim is to provide fresh greens in the early spring, to supplement the stored foods we have been eating for a couple of months. Even lettuce or sprouts grown in a window in your home can do that. You can also sprout seeds in jars to get healthy greens. If you have not purchased or ordered seeds yet, I recommend you do that now. If you can afford it, get enough for yourself and your neighbors. Buy seeds now!
The second aim is to be able to store a lot of food for next winter. We do not know how well agriculture and the international shipping regime will recover from this blow from Corona virus and the collapse of the economy. Ports in North America are almost shutting down now because container ships have not arrived from China, and because Port staff do not want to risk infection to take home to their families. Will California and Florida be able to find the seasonal workers to harvest food? Will some farmers go bankrupt? Will we also suffer more drought and extreme heat events this summer? There are various signals weather extremes could happen, adding to the misery and food challenges of 2020. I touch on one reason in our upcoming interview with Professor Jos Lelieveld, and it is connected with the virus and the shutdown.
If you can, and as much as you can, you may want to add food insurance for the rest of this year, and early 2021. Convert everything you an to growing food. Let’s call it a survival garden instead of a Victory Garden. This should be supplemented by storing other fruits and vegetables as they come in. If possible, spend some of your quarantine time on YouTube learning how to grow and put away food. Learn canning, how to pickle food, how to salt or smoke meat, if you eat meat. Check out my back catalog of free Radio Ecoshock shows on canning, gardening, and survival food. You need to maintain a good diet to keep your immune system high, or to recover from this illness if you get it. The government may or may not drop off packs of commercial food, low in vitamins. Only you can provide what you really need.
We need to go further than individual survival though. I was stunned to learn that New York City hesitated to close their school system because 114,000 homeless children get two meals a day at school. It may be their only food that day. One hundred and fourteen thousand kids without homes in one American city, such a rich city, how did that happen? What will those numbers be when the economy takes a big hit?
Then we have all the seniors who played their role to make this world, and may be helpless now. There are the disabled who will not be able to garden or even go out to get food. When it comes to a pandemic, with a new disease never seen before, the health of our weakest people will determine when it is really safe for you to go out and enjoy life with all your friends and loved ones. I hope to grow more than the food we need. I hope to be able to get free food out to people around us who need it. The coming summer of 2020 is a time for millions of gardeners. It is time to feed ourselves again.
IS A 14 DAY QUARANTINE ENOUGH?
Before we get to our first guest, let’s look at just one important new study on this deadly virus. We ask: is a 14 day quarantine enough? How long should a person in contact with carriers of Corona virus stay in quarantine? New research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on March 10th sheds some light. First of all, the study led by Stephen Lauer and Kyra Grantz of John Hopkins estimates the incubation. That is key, because this is also how long the virus could be circulating completely unseen in your community. Here is what they found:
“The median incubation period was estimated to be 5.1 days, and 97.5% of those who develop symptoms will do so within 11.5 days.” But a few cases could take up to 15 days to show symptoms. So is 14 days enough? They say “yes“ but with an important qualification. They say:
“These estimates imply that, under conservative assumptions, 101 out of every 10 000 cases will develop symptoms after 14 days of active monitoring or quarantine.”
So the 14 days is not air-tight. If 100,000 people are in quarantine, and it could millions, but with 100,000 isolated and then released, over 1,000 of those people could still be infective, still carrying the disease. Maybe that is not important from the need to get citizens back into circulation, to keep the economy going, but 1,000 more spreaders sound like a problem to me. To really be sure, it sounds like quarantine should be more like 21 days. If a million people are in quarantine for 14 days, which is certainly possible if a city is locked down, then 10,000 people may still be infectious when they come out of that quarantine. Isolation should really be 21 days.
THE OTHER DEADLY PANDEMIC: AIR POLLUTION with DR. JOS LELIEVELD
As the burst of Corona Virus stops production and travel., the world already suffered another deadly pandemic, It kills more people than smoking, disease or violence. Most of us breathe it in every day. It is air pollution, and it may shorten your life by several years. Because of it, every year millions of people pass away too soon.
At the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz Germany, Professors Jos Lelieveld and Thomas Münzel just published the startling results. Let’s look at this other “pandemic” we live with. Could cleaner skies during the great quarantine improve our health? Will it cause more warming? Will it inspire us to finally clean the air?
Professor Jos Lelieveld, Max Planck Institute
WILL CLEANER AIR DUE TO WORLD SHUT-DOWN BRING HEAT THIS SPRING?
Look at satellite maps comparing general air pollution over China, compared to the month of February 2020, when much of the country’s travel and industry was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Did you ever expect to see such a sudden clearing of the skies over east Asia? We know global dimming has helped offset the heat we should expect from our emissions. Take that pollution away, and we would be hotter. Could a prolonged slow-down and reduction of fossil fuel use produce more warming or weather disturbances, in the short-term or the long-term?
Dr. Lelieveld says less polluted air over China would probably not directly bring more heat to North America and Europe. That is because most of China’s air pollution drops out over the Pacific Ocean, reaching only the West Coast a bit. The change from dimming to cleaner air can happen quickly, in less than a week. But I presume that when air travel over North America (the busiest skies), and car traffic comes almost to a standstill in big American cities like New York and Los Angeles, we will see more blue skies over the United States and Canada. This could bring a hotter spring. That changes the pattern of snow melt, which may lead to strange spring floods, followed by reduced river flow and drought later in the summer. Maybe. The same could happen in Europe.
There are no studies on this – it has never happened before. We did have the clearer skies over the United States when all air traffic was halted for three days after the terrorist attack of 9/11. But transport traffic, cruise ships and industry kept polluting. But it was not a global shut-down of the industrialized North. My guess is we see some warmer than normal spells during this spring, and possibly extreme heat events this summer – but no heat change big enough to end civilization. I may have more on this in next week’s show. Stay tuned.
AIR POLLUTION KILLS MILLIONS EVERY YEAR – BUT WE DON’T TALK ABOUT THAT
Jos Lelieveld is the lead author in the paper published in the journal Cardiovascular Research on March 2nd. The title is: “Loss of life expectancy from air pollution compared to other risk factors: a worldwide perspective.” His team calls air pollution a “pandemic” which brings premature death to about 3 million people every year. Air pollution kills far more than violence, tobacco, or alcoholism. Yet we hardly talk about it.
I have often wondered: will we purposely clean up the air, before damage brought by atmospheric pollution forces a solution upon us, like an economic crash? If the current economic crisis reduces economic activity, will fewer people die of air pollution? That takes us into the long-standing debate: if we can shut-down industry, cruise ships and most car travel for the Corona pandemic, why can’t we do that to avoid extreme heating of the world climate?
According to the authors of this new study, “Model projections based on a business-as-usual emission scenario indicate that the contribution of outdoor air pollution to premature mortality could double by 2050.” That could mean over 6 million deaths EVERY YEAR if our economies kept expanding, using fossil fuels. Public health scientists complain many deaths triggered by air pollution are not recognized. What goes on the death certificate may be “heart attack” or “stroke”, even though more people die during or directly after a period of smog.
But burning fossil fuels is not the only source of deadly air pollution. Watch out for the farms!
The Abstract for this paper says:
“Whereas in much of the USA and in a few other countries emissions from traffic and power generation are important, in eastern USA, Europe, Russia and East Asia agricultural emissions make the largest relative contribution to PM2.5, with the estimate of overall health impact depending on assumptions regarding particle toxicity.”
So agricultural emissions are also deadly. To understand why, we need the help of Dr. Lelieveld to know how the worst particles of air pollution form. In the interview he tells us that many dangerous toxic particles are not directly emitted. In fact, the worst particles are formed by chemical reactions in the atmosphere by gases. So instead of particles floating out of smokestack, gases interact in the air to form new particles. That happens also when farm chemicals, particularly ammonia from animal waste, get into the air. One of the larger sources of deadly air pollution in Europe comes from agriculture. So the answer, the way to clean up the air, is not just electrifying cars and switching to clean energy. We would also have to change agricultural practices. That is a new perspective.
It is also surprising to learn that environmentally-conscious Europe has much lower standards for air pollution than the United States or Australia. The World Health Organization says 10 parts per million (PPM) of particles below 2.5 microns in size is the upper limit for human health safety. Actually, there is no safe amount of air pollution, just as there is no safe level of radiation. But while North America is close to that 10 PPM level (in Legislation requirements at least) – Europe allows 25 PPM, more than twice the safe line drawn by the WHO.
As we know from the pioneering work of V Ramanathan, a huge and deadly air pollution in India came not from heavy industry but from micro sources – over a billion people cooking at home using smoky stoves burning wood or dung. That forms a brown cloud over Northern India that can be seen from space. Switching to gas or electric stoves would reduce that smog, but increase fossil fuel burning. Remember, a severe Depression, which is more possible these days, might not clean up the air in some places, where the sources are domestic heating and cooking, or agriculture. It isn’t a solution everywhere.
Dr. Lelieveld has been working on air pollution, health, and atmospheric chemistry since the 1980’s. His paper “The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale.”, published in 2015, is highly cited on this subject. In a way, the new paper is an update based on even more information.
To find out more, check out this good article in Science Daily.
SPECIAL GUEST SONG-WRITER/PERFORMER ELIZA GILKYSON
When there is too much news to be told, music can still break through. I first found song-writer and performer Eliza Gilkyson during the 2008 financial crash. Her song “Runaway Train” captured our time perfectly, and still does. Coming out of Texas, Eliza finds the artful way to capture the enormity of what is happening. It is fit that we reach out to her again, as things are collapsing, and as she releases her really inspiring new album “2020”.
From Austin Texas, Eliza Gilkyson, welcome to Radio Ecoshock.
Lost in the whirlwind of a pandemic and stock market crash, was another whirlwind that struck and killed so many in the heart of country music. I’m talking about the extra-strength tornado that ripped through Tennessee on March 3rd, leaving 24 dead. Any other time this would have been a national time of mourning. Eliza, gives us some new out of Nashville.
My listeners know that kind of extreme weather is made worse by climate change. But staying with Nashville, like every other city in America, there are a lot of homeless people there. The Trump Administration is talking about cuts in payroll taxes, or government bailouts for the airline and hotel industries. There is nothing to get homeless people tested and treated, but if we don’t do that, this pandemic will roll on. It’s a lot to ask, but Eliza, I’m hoping you can roll out some music for all the millions of Americans left out. Maybe we will get even more new music as Eliza goes through her “Stay-cation” at home during the pandemic. Watch her web site or YouTube.
The music industry is also taking a hit. Major concerts have been canceled. New York City announced Broadway theaters will be closed. I guess Eliza will not be able to tour with her new album this spring. So you need to find it online, at her web site!
Listening to her music, I’ve found two major styles, so to speak. Some of Eliza’s songs rock it out with some anger and love mixed in. But her other songs are the saddest, with a real sense of longing and loss. Do you go through those kinds of moods, as you look around? This will be a time of loss for sure. Some companies will close, some institutions will fail. But it could be a turning point, where we get together as a society, to know everyone counts, and make things work better. Are you still hopeful for a new dawn after the dark times?
In this show I play clips from Eliza’s songs “Man of God” (album Secularia 2018) and end the show with the full song “Runaway Train” (album “Beautiful World” 2008). But there is some great music coming out just now on her latest album “2020” – like this one: “Sooner or Later”….she sings “We’ve been under their thumb for a long long time. They give us just enough water, just enough wine…”
Here are the lyrics to Runway Train (which is not officially on any album, but one on one extended version. Doesn’t this capture totally our blindness to the mass extinction, climate and social damage we have been creating with this fossil-powered monster we call “civilization”?
“Everyone knew she was gonna be fast
everyone said they could build her to last
10,000 tons of hurtling steel
screaming round the curves nobody at the wheel
everyone said don’t pay it any mind
there’s a pot of gold waiting at the end of the line
just move with the eye of the hurricane
you’ll never get off this runaway train
Nobody cared when they piled on board
and the doors snapped shut and the engines roared
they pushed to the front
some fell to the back
buying and selling every inch of the track
deep in the engines fire in the hole
dark skinned workers shoveling coal
all singing their sad refrain
we’ll never get off this runaway train
Up in the diner everybody decked out in their finery
can’t see the wreck coming up ahead
with their bellies full of wine
it’s the last thing going through their minds
so proud of the engine proud of the speed
call for the porter give them everything they need
stare through the glass feel no pain
don’t even know they’re on a runaway train
Long after midnight a pitiful few sound the alarm
don’t know what else to do
banging on the doors of the cabin and crew
hey we gotta slow down or we won’t make it through
sleepy riders don’t want to wake
or suffer the shock when they put on the brake
don’t want to question , don’t want to complain
rather keep riding on this runaway train”
– Eliza Gilkyson
Listen to it here on YouTube.