Showing all posts tagged: health

Better building design will make air conditioning more environmentally friendly

5 September 2023

Ways are being sought to reduce the harmful environmental impact of air conditioning (AC) systems, which remain essential for health and well-being, starting with how buildings are designed and constructed in the first place:

“We need to design our buildings in a way that consumes less energy. We need to insulate them better. We need to ventilate them better,” explained Ankit Kalanki, a manager at Third Derivative, a climate tech accelerator co-founded by the sustainability research organization RMI. “These strategies are very important. We can reduce the air conditioning demand in the first place, but we cannot eliminate that.”


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Pulling Weeds, Folding Laundry, a book by Leslie K. Lau

22 August 2023

Sydney based Australian writer and artist Leslie K. Lau recently self-published a book, Pulling Weeds, Folding Laundry. These are tasks many people probably don’t care to think much about, let alone carry out, but Lau saw them in a new light — as moments between moments — while undergoing treatment for cancer:

Ultimately, it is a story of how a cancer diagnosis revealed the reality of life, how volatility and uncertainty was in fact the norm and not the exception.

It is the retelling of a journey of finding peace, contentment, and joy in the moments between moments.

It is a tale of navigating hard times, perceived or otherwise, and coming out the other end.

What a wonderful way to say slow down and appreciate those seemingly insignificant moments in life, since they are still very much a part of it.

Via Justin Fox.



The variola virus AKA smallpox, more enlightened darkness from Kurzgesagt

9 August 2023

What’s with the doom and gloom emanating from Kurzgesagt recently? In the last few months their videos have covered a range of grim topics including biological weapons of mass destruction, the difficulty in beating cancer, black holes that destroy galaxies, and tales of woe about marauding extra-terrestrials who have Earth in their sights.

Anyone hoping for a reprieve this month will be disappointed though: their latest video explains exactly how nasty the variola virus, better known as smallpox, was, and the suffering and death it unleashed. While smallpox has officially been eradicated, the story of the virus is a potent reminder of how deadly some diseases can be. Let’s be thankful a vaccine was developed.


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Kurzgesagt: the next pandemic could be made at home, scary hey?

4 July 2023

Advances in biotechnology are being made in leaps and bounds. On one hand what is being learnt is making the world safer, but on the other, there is a downside. While cures for deadly diseases are being developed, even nastier pathogens are being created at the same time. Or could be, as Kurzgesagt explains:

We are adding knowledge at unprecedented rates, while things get ever faster and cheaper to do. This speed means we can expect even more wonderful things for humanity. Lifesaving treatments, miracle crops and solutions to problems we can’t even imagine right now. But unfortunately progress cuts both ways. What can be used for good, can also be used for bad, by accident or on purpose. For all the good biotech will do for us, in the near future it also could easily kill many millions of people, in the worst case hundreds of millions. Worse than any nuclear bomb.


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Why is cancer so hard to beat? Kurzgesagt tells us why

21 June 2023

Kurzgesagt take on the difficult questions, and come back with easy to follow, and entertaining, answers. Some forms of cancer have proved seemingly impossible to treat, but the German animation studio feels confident that will change in the not too distant future. Let’s hope so.

An undead city under siege, soldiers and police ruthlessly shooting down waves of zombies that flood from infected streets, trying to escape and infect more cities. This is what happens when your body fights cancer, more exciting than any movie. How does this battle for survival unfold?


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Personal responsibility the only foil to Covid and long Covid

14 November 2022

Medical professionals are calling for more work from home mandates to combat the present surge in Covid infections in Australia. But the strain a new load of cases would impose on the health system is only one of their concerns. There is also the worry of an increase in instances of long Covid, something that becomes more likely, the more often someone is infected by Covid, says Dr Michael Bonning, NSW president of the Australian Medical Association.

“The risk of long COVID for everyone is really there and the more often you get infected, the higher your chances,” Bonning said. “[It doesn’t matter if] you’ve had it once and it was fairly mild.”

But Australian governments are reluctant to re-impose Covid mandates, saying Australians must take “personal responsibility” and “learn to live with Covid”. While this is true, I’m not sure Covid, as opposed to possibly the flu or common cold, is something we can really afford to live with, particularly if it leads to long Covid.

Long Covid, which can last for two months, some times longer, sees sufferers experience symptoms including extreme fatigue, cough, breathlessness, joint or muscle pain, chest pain, memory and concentration problems, and reduced appetite and weight loss, among other things. That’s not something to look forward to.

But then again, neither are lockdowns, or other restrictions. While they saw short term success, infection rates generally saw a decline, Covid returned once restrictions were removed. Covid has us in a bind. To live as normally as possible, free of Covid and long Covid, and restrictions, personal responsibility is one of the few options we have. But for “personal responsibility” to be effective, everyone has to do the right thing.

At its most basic, this means mask wearing where crowds are present, keeping up to date with Covid vaccinations, and isolating if infected. Covid is a slippery beast, and has had us marching to its beat for three years. The only real hope is an effective treatment is forthcoming, that will eventually eliminate the disease all together.



Casual and on-demand workers feel forced to work if unwell

6 November 2022

Covid has not gone away. In fact there are concerns a new wave of infections may be building. And while those who have the means — including people who can work from home — may be able to stay out of Covid’s way, not all workers are so fortunate. Especially vulnerable are casual and gig-economy workers. If they don’t show for work, they don’t get paid. There is a fear some of these people will nonetheless choose to work, even if they have Covid, simply because they have no choice.

A recent survey conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, found almost forty-percent of casual workers go to work if they are injured or unwell:

It found 37 per cent of workers in insecure jobs — including contractors, casuals, part-time and gig-economy workers — say they’ve worked while injured. Labor market economist Leonora Risse agrees it’s a big problem — and it extends to workers who turn up at work when sick. “We’ve always had some degree of insecure work in the workforce, but this is shining a light on the need to address it,” she says. Dr Risse says that employers may need their workers, but they also need them to be healthy.

I’m not sure what plans Australian governments have if there were to be another major surge in Covid cases, but it seems like lockdowns, and emergency payments for workers stricken with Covid, are off the table. But people feeling compelled to go work, so as to keep a roof over their head? This cannot end well.

Update: Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’s chief medical officer, confirmed in a television interview this morning that Covid infections have increased in the past week.



Climate change aggravates the spread of infectious diseases

15 August 2022

In the same week a reminder that climate change exasperates the emergence and spread of infectious diseases is issued, news that polio has been detected in New York sewage, and an instance of a virus, Langya henipavirus, spreading from animals to humans in China, are reported. This on top, of course, of COVID, and the more recent Monkeypox outbreak.

The continual release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is escalating several climatic risks, which, in turn, worsen human pathogenic illnesses. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, which amply demonstrated the social upheaval driven by infectious diseases, offers alarming hints to the possible outcomes of impending health crises caused by climate change.


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Rabies, a deadly virus from which few people recover

28 July 2022

According to Wikipedia, fifty-nine thousand people die from rabies annually. Once infected — commonly by way of a dog or bat bite — the prognosis is grim: death is a virtual certainty. There is some good news however, if you suspect you may have been infected somehow, you can still get the rabies vaccination which should halt the disease. But you need to act quickly.

Rabies, a word deriving from Latin word, means madness, and is the subject of this month’s Kurzgesagt video, which they describe as the deadliest virus on Earth. If you’re not a Kurzgesagt subscriber, I highly recommended following them. They have a knack for explaining complicated concepts in simple terms, while being engaging at the same time.


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Mall Walking, a popular though unofficial sport

18 July 2022

Shopping centre, photo by Steve Buissinne

Image courtesy of Steve Buissinne.

Say what you will about large shopping centres, those monuments to consumer greed with maze-like floorplans (quite deliberate by the way), but they have their adherents. And not just those hoping to be spotted in the queue as they await admittance to one of the centre’s luxury retailers either.

For a time in the 1980’s and 90’s large shopping centres were hugely popular among people looking for safe, sheltered, places to exercise, relax, and socialise, says Alexandra Lange, writing for Bloomberg.

It’s not hard to see why either, especially for avid walkers. The size of larger centres — where walkable floor space, split across multiple levels, can potentially amount to several kilometres — make for ideal all-weather exercise circuits, for those calling themselves mall walkers. Back in the 80’s and 90’s when the popularity of mall walking was at its peak, organised groups of walkers would descend on the malls daily, usually soon after opening time.

The mall, in its quiet early hours, provides affordances most cities and suburbs cannot: even, open walkways, consistent weather, bathrooms and benches. The mall is also “safe,” as Genevieve Bogdan told The New York Times in 1985; the Connecticut school nurse was “apprehensive about walking alone outdoors early in the morning before work.”

This is something I partake of during lunchbreaks, when I’m in Sydney, and working from the food court of a shopping mall in the city’s east. It takes about twenty-five minutes to complete a circuit, and on a quiet day I might go around twice. By my estimations, I might cover close to five kilometres.

While I’m not there so much post pandemic, I used to notice others clearly doing the same thing. I’d regularly see the same people, pacing the walkways, during what I supposed was their lunchbreak. I’ve also seen one or two people posting on Twitter, saying something to the effect of “I’m doing a lap or two of the centre.” I’m not sure if organised walking groups are present though, as I’m usually there later in the day, and it sounds like they’re active earlier on.

But the future doesn’t look hopeful for latter-day mall walkers, at least in the United States. In 2020, CNBC reported up to twenty-five percent of malls in America face closure over the next few years. I’m not sure what the outlook is for shopping centres in Australia. I would say we’ll see some closures, as American trends tend to copy over here, even if there’s a lag of several years.