The world is experiencing a climate catastrophe, and humanity is at risk of bursting under all the pressure. What was already known about our planetary crisis is becoming more significant, and what was once overlooked is now at the fore. From using more oil per year than the amount of oil discovered per year since the 1980s, to rapid food and water shortages, excessive energy consumption, overpopulation, pollution, and the pervasive conundrum of climate change, the route to collapse appears to be a one-way trip. Industrialization and environmental consequences have rocketed in tandem, and the future of our species—and our home—is at stake.
Yet, in the wake of countless warnings about the inevitable demise of our planet, environmental concerns and actions have been of increasing salience. Concern for the planet has seemingly risen from its grave and found a new home on the political agenda. Leaders from around the world have taken steps to tackling the issues that threaten Earth’s habitability. Take our very own Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for instance, who recently vowed to “put a price on pollution” and ban single-use plastics as early as 2021 (Coletta, 2019), or the European Union climate action plan which oaths that 20% of total energy consumption will come from renewable energy sources (“EU Climate Action,” 2019). Better yet, the ubiquitous Paris Agreement—which pledges to “bring all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt its effects” (“The Paris Agreement,” 2018).
It is certainly comforting to read about the global steps being taken to combat these complex issues. But the question lies therein: What happens when power and money get into bed with environmentalism?
An impressive example of political perplexity showcased itself when the Trudeau Cabinet approved the expansion of TransCanada Pipeline less than a week after declaring a climate state of emergency (“Trudeau and Pipeline,” 2019). The proposed pipeline is designed to transport millions of barrels of oil from Alberta oil patch to the British Columbia coastline every day and “while the pipeline has the potential to damage the environment and marine life, it’s in the national interest and could contribute tens of billions of dollars to government coffers and create and sustain thousands of jobs” (“Trudeau and Pipeline,” 2019). Or you get the Trump Administration, which swore to withdraw from the Paris Agreement altogether (should Trump be elected because of the belief that it offered no real benefit to the nation (Wallach, 2019)) after predecessor Barack Obama drove it into compromise in the first place.
At what point do we prioritize the economy over the planet? What good is the economy if there is no planet? Let us discuss a similar Catch-22 in all its glory: If we keep using oil, the planet will collapse; but, if we stop using oil, the economy (and thus the planet) will still collapse. Powerful corporate lobbying always seems to find politicians’ ears. In any case, the argument that money is not what makes the world go around would be a fantastically difficult one to defend. The question of how we negotiate politics and environmentalism is essential because clearly, they are not mutually exclusive. Widespread international cooperation is crucial, but when will the public outcry drown out the economic issues? We cannot keep teeter-tottering between saving our money and saving ourselves.
EU: Anonymous. (2017, February 16). EU climate action. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/clima/citizens/eu_en
The Paris Agreement. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement
Trudeau and pipeline: Trudeau cabinet approves Trans Mountain expansion project | CBC News. (2019, June 19). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/tasker-trans-mountain-trudeau-cabinet-decision-1.5180269
Trudeau: Coletta, A. (2019, June 10). Trudeau announces Canadian ban on 'harmful' single-use plastics. Retrieved from https://beta.washingtonpost.com/world/trudeau-announces-canadian-ban-on-harmful-single-use-plastics/2019/06/10/54000420-8bb6-11e9-adf3-f70f78c156e8_story.html
Wallach, P. A. (2019, March 29). Where does US climate policy stand in 2019? Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/2019/03/22/where-does-u-s-climate-policy-stand-in-2019/
During exam season, whether you’re looking for a seat at the library or local coffee shop, most students have one thing in common; they have their headphones on. It may seem like people have their go to playlist they use when they’re on the study grind. However, is it actually beneficial to listen to music while you study? And more importantly, is it right for you?
The Mozart Myth
Before diving into the science behind music and studying, it's important to dispel a famous misconception; The Mozart Effect. First investigated by Dr. Frances Rauscher, The Mozart effect documented an enhancement of spatial-temporal abilities in college students after listening to ‘Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major’ by Mozart. It as well claimed to have raised the student’s IQ as much as 9 points with repeated exposure. This discovery took the world by storm, causing the public to generalize the statement to simply ‘listening to classical music makes you smarter’. However, a meta-analysis conducted in 2012 dispelled the findings of this study, as the experiment was a product of confounding publication bias. This led to the conclusion that there is in fact little to no correlation between intelligence and listening to classical music.
If Not Classical Music, Then What?
Currently there are many different hypotheses to whether music enhances cognitive abilities. These include the Arousal, Mood, Preference hypothesis and Rhythm theory to name a few. Although each theory attempts to give an overall conclusion, none are conclusive enough to find a definitive answer. Therefore, in order to answer the question, we need an individualized approach. The leading explanations summate the effect of music into three categories; the subject’s personality type, the type of work and the type of music.
Whether you’re a self-proclaimed introvert, extrovert or somewhere in the middle, it might explain your preference and reaction to studying with music. According to Eysenck’s Theory of Cortical Arousal States, a classic introvert is an individual who is overstimulated and avoids further arousal. Whereas an extrovert is under stimulated and desires more stimulation. This theory supports a recent study by Dobbs et al. which compared the effect of music on cognitive performance between these personality types. It concluded that music had a detrimental effect on the performance of introverts, as it overstimulated the participants. It was as well discovered that music had a neutral or positive effect on ‘extroverted’ participants.
Type of Work
When it comes to reading comprehension, it has been almost unanimously concluded through various studies that listening to music decreases student performances. With one study suggesting that up to 75% of the sample which listened to music performed worse than the sample that studied in silence. On the contrary, arithmetic testing leads to mixed conclusions, with some studies suggesting there is no negative effect, a decline or increase, depending on the sample groups.
Type of Music
Although not one specific genre can be concluded to noticeably help your studying, it is widely supported that instrumental music is less distracting than lyrical. By processing the lyrics in songs, your brain needs to multitask, leading to mental fatigue and distraction from your desired task. It may also be beneficial to find a specific study song that works for you and play it on repeat. As according to the Changing State Hypothesis, rapidly changing music can distract yourself from learning and possibly decrease your performance.
The Verdict: it’s Complicated
Although many experiments have sought to tackle this question, the fact is not all individuals are created equal. The best suggestion to improve your studying is to find what works for you. Music won’t make you magically perform better or learn faster, but by finding the right balance of music and silence, you can find the right motivation and focus conducive to your study style.
Ok but hear me out… Water
So, I hear we only have ten years left to reverse the effects of climate change?? I mean, I read that on Twitter (I swear the sources in this article are much more reliable than social media), but I think it’s time we took this climate change thing seriously. I know you’re probably drowning in assignments right now, and think you don’t have time to implement new habits into your life. But you know what else is drowning? The Maldives. On the topic of water, one of the many ways you can contribute to reducing the effects of climate change is water conservation. When asking a few friends for suggestions on how to conserve water, here are some answers I got:
· Take shorter showers
· If you can’t sacrifice a long shower, shower with friends!
· If it’s yellow, let it mellow… if it’s brown, flush it down
· Drink toilet water (but obviously Brita filter it first)
· Rewear your clothes inside out before doing your laundry (shirts, pants, underwear, socks, etc.) …and front and back if you’re up to the challenge
But what if I told you you could still reduce your water usage and save yourself the embarrassment of someone seeing you naked in the shower by simply opting out of a single meal?
When aiming to minimize our water footprints, our direct water usage is the subject of most of our attention. This includes adopting habits like turning off the tap while brushing your teeth and taking shorter showers. However, our indirect water usage, also known as our ‘invisible’ water usage, is often overlooked (Pettit, 2018). This includes the water required to produce everything we use: from the clothes we wear to the food we eat.
Your diet is one of the largest factors that contributes to your individual water footprint due to the fact that about 86% of all water used in the world is used to grow food (Ercin, Aldaya, and Hoekstra, 2012). Specifically, animal agriculture is incredibly resource-intensive, particularly when it comes to the production of beef. According to the Water Footprint Network, the approximate global average water footprint to produce one pound of beef amounts to approximately 6992 litres of water (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2010). Comparing this to other common proteins, the production of pork requires approximately 2180 litres of water/pound, chicken requires approximately 1962 litres of water/pound (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2010) and soy meat requires approximately 474 litres/pound (Ercin et al., 2012)
Now, hear me out. If a typical burger patty requires one-quarter of a pound of beef, the production of one burger patty would require approximately 1748 litres of water. Furthermore, according to Harvard University Sustainability, an average eight-minute shower uses approximately 76 litres of water (2014). This means that the quarter-pounder you drunkenly UberEats to your dorm at 3am after a night at Ale required the same amount of water to produce as about 23 showers. And that’s just the patty!
Choosing less resource-intensive proteins, such as beans, lentils, and even chicken can reduce your water footprint significantly. Reducing your water footprint has many benefits including: decreasing the amount of energy used to process water; minimizing water pollution; and preserving the global freshwater supply, with only 0.007% of the planet’s water accounting for accessible freshwater required to fuel the human population (National Geographic, 2019). So maybe opt for a McChicken next time, or give that Beyond Meat a try, so you can be guilt-free while taking those long, hot showers (but not too long).
Competing for Clean Water Has Led to a Crisis. (2019). National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/freshwater-crisis/#close.
Ercin, A. E., Aldaya, M. M., & Hoekstra, A. Y. (2012). The water footprint of soy milk and soy burger and equivalent animal products. Ecological Indicators, 18, 392–402. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2011.12.009
5 Ways to Measure a 5 Minute Shower. (2014). Harvard University Sustainability. https://green.harvard.edu/tools-resources/green-tip/5-ways-measure-5-minute-shower.
Hoekstra, A. (2003). What is a water footprint? Water Footprint Network. https://waterfootprint.org/en/water-footprint/what-is-water-footprint/.
Mekonnen, M. M., & Hoekstra, A. Y. (2012). A Global Assessment of the Water Footprint of Farm Animal Products. Ecosystems, 15(3), 401–415. doi: 10.1007/s10021-011-9517-8
Pettit, M. (2018). Save Water: Reduce Your Water Footprint. Reset. https://en.reset.org/act/save-water-reduce-your-water-footprint.
Have you ever wondered why you look the way you do? This is because your genes are encoded with specific traits and functions! The human genome is the complete set of DNA sequences found in the 23 pairs of chromosomes, which are located in the nucleus of cells and act as the genetic code of an organism. The human nuclear genome is composed of three billion nucleotide base pairs that make up both the non-coding and protein-coding DNA regions, encoding 20 000 to 25 000 genes (Gonzaga-Jauregui et al., 2012). The Human Genome Project (HGP), which commenced in 1990, had three primary purposes: to produce a reference sequence of the entire human genome, map the location of all human genes, and make the data accessible. Prior to the HGP, there was little research completed on the structure of the human genome in its entirety and the genetic variations responsible for human disease (Hood & Rowen, 2013).
The HGP was successful in sequencing 95% of the gene-coding region with 99% accuracy (Little et al., 2003). This accomplishment enables future genetic research to be completed more precisely and quickly due to the freely accessible data. The human genome sequences do not represent any single individual’s genome, but rather act as a basis for comparison as all humans share the same set of genes that regulate their biological functions and developmental process. The sequencing of DNA helps with understanding biochemical defects/disease through applications such as the identification of mutations associated with various types of cancer and the construction of medication targeted to the genetic variations observed (Little et al., 2003).
A genetic disorder refers to a disorder caused by a deviance in the DNA sequence. This can involve a change in one or more genes, damage to the chromosomes themselves, or a mixture of non-genetic (i.e., lifestyle) and genetic factors (Sivam, 2012). Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is characterized by the production of thick, sticky mucus, digestive fluids, and sweat that clog passageways. This condition causes lung infections and pancreatic blockages that hinder the digestion process (Tolstoi & Smith, 1999). Improvements in the treatment of this condition can be attributed to advancements in the HGP.
CF is caused by mutations in the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Regulator (CFTR) gene, which is the first gene to be studied using the HGP. Initially identified in 1989, the HGP led to the discovery of over 900 mutations in this gene (Tolstoi & Smith, 1999). The most common mutation of the CF gene is the deletion of 3 base-pairs, resulting in the loss of a phenylalanine amino acid. Normally, the CFTR protein functions as an ion channel that is responsible for the release of chloride ions, maintaining salt balance. With CF, chloride ions cannot be pumped out of the cell, causing extremely viscous mucus (Tolstoi & Smith, 1999). Through the HGP, researchers aim to cure CF through correcting the defective gene or resulting protein. Researchers are working towards using the HGP to understand all of the human genome data that has been collected to study how genes contribute to healthy physiology by comparing this data with genetic variations to understand disease biology (Gonzaga-Jauregui et al., 2012). New methods are projected to diagnose and treat diseases through biotechnological applications, such as gene-editing (Little et al., 2003).
Gonzaga-Jauregui, C., Lupski, J. R., & Gibbs, R. A. (2012). Human Genome Sequencing in Health and Disease. Annual Review of Medicine, 63(1), 35–61. doi: 10.1146/annurev-med-051010-162644
Hood, L., & Rowen, L. (2013). The human genome project: big science transforms biology and medicine. Genome Medicine, 5(9), 79. doi: 10.1186/gm483
Little, J., Khoury, M., Bradley, L., Clyne, M., Gwinn, M., Lin, B., & Lindegrin, M. (2003). The Human Genome Project Is Complete. American Journal of Epidemiology, 157(8), 667–673. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwg048
Sivam, V. (2012). Has the Human Genome Project Delivered for Healthcare? Annals of Medicine and Surgery, 1, 19–20. doi: 10.1016/s2049-0801(12)70006-7
Tolstoi, L. G., & Smith, C. L. (1999). Human Genome Project and Cystic Fibrosis—a Symbiotic Relationship. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 99(11), 1421–1427. doi: 10.1016/s0002-8223(99)00343-0
In the past 100 years, the human race has suffered through many different ailments and diseases ranging from smallpox to measles. We have overcome many of these outbreaks with various antibiotics and vaccines in the past, but various infectious diseases have made a large comeback in the past few years, such as including measles, mumps, and cholera. Although the number of cases of measles has been on the decline, this year’s peak amount of cases reached a high of 342. It seems as though the pains of the past are coming back to strike humankind. You may be wondering, ‘If we have defeated these illnesses in the past, why are outbreaks happening now?’ The causes of these epidemics, although unique and complex, can be attributed to a few major concepts.
Drawing attention to ongoing protests regularly broadcasted in the news outbreaks this past year can be attributed to vaccine refusals. Although many people continue to receive vaccines, there is a significant group of individuals that choose to delay or abstain from being vaccinated. This in part explains the development of outbreaks of measles, due to the fact that it is usually one of the first illnesses to affect unvaccinated individuals. Abstaining from vaccination is a factor as to why some of these ailments are on the rise, but it doesn’t account for all of the resurgences. Mumps and pertussis have had increases in cases world-wide, even with many of the victims being at minimum partially vaccinated. This is due to vaccines having declining immunity over their diseases. The antibodies that were created to protect us from these immunities after given vaccines have ‘forgotten’ how to defend the body from that antigen. A prominent example of recent failing immunity was with a rise in vaccine-preventable mumps outbreak in Scotland in 2015. 67% of those who contracted mumps were completely vaccinated and most of these cases occurred in older adolescents and young adults rather than young children, an odd occurrence. Outbreaks like this have led to the rise of booster vaccines, which promote the continuation of the body’s production of antigens for these traditionally easily vaccinated viruses.
Another global phenomenon that has been an active part of 2019 news has been controversies surrounding climate change. The acts to fight against climate change may not just be important for saving the planet, but also for protecting the human race as well. Since the planet is undergoing extreme temperature changes, there is a variety of adverse outcomes including extreme weather conditions and shifts in global interactions. An example of this is through high rain falls. With a large amount of rain, sewer systems can become overworked, causing water contamination and leading to outbreaks of various diseases such as cholera. Increased warmer temperature can also be prime conditions for mosquito populations to grow both in size and creeping up closer to the earth’s poles. This causes diseases such as malaria to spread across populations as they transport through vectors like mosquitoes.
These aspects outline just a few of the factors that have recently contributed to the rise in outbreaks worldwide but there are various other reasons that exist. Science and medicine are continually working to adapt to these changes in our environment. Even though many of these outbreaks and diseases continue to reappear, our success in conquering other diseases is an incredible feat that would be a shame to overlook.