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A Plea To Act Quickly

Young People Have Every Right To Be Angry

Last month Denver was graced with the arrival of 16-year-old phenom and climate activist Greta Thunberg.

She was greeted by thousands in Denver’s Civic Center Park by young activists who skipped school for the day, as well as adults who came to hear the young Swede who has garnered worldwide attention fighting for her generation’s future.

During her Denver stop, Thunberg proclaimed what has become a familiar part-question/part statement: How dare they? In September, three similar words silenced world leaders during the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City.

During the summit, Thunberg delivered a powerful, impassioned speech that continues to resonate: “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?”

This generation of young activists has every right to be angry. They are inheriting a planet that will look nothing like the one I grew up in just a few decades ago if there is not a severe and swift course correction.

The generation now coming up will be faced with water and food shortages, intense heat, decreased biodiversity, and personal health issues. In June 2017, The Lancet Planetary Health published an article, entitled “The impact of climate change on youth depression and mental health.” Young people, the article noted, are not depressed merely due to teenage angst, they are depressed because their future is on shaky ground. There is “significant and nuanced impact of climate on youth mental health across the world.”

For many years, scientists have been warning of not only food shortages but of a decline in nutritional value in our food. Our soil needs to be healthy, water needs to be available, and weather conditions need to be ideal for crops to grow with the right amount of nutrients. Studies have shown that when wheat grows with higher CO2 levels there is a decrease in protein, zinc and iron.

Children who lack proper nutrition suffer from weakened immune systems, as well as stunted mental and physical growth. In Denver, Thunberg reminded us that children in poorer countries are the most vulnerable to health risks due to climate change.

In February of 2018, The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report on climate and health. The report noted that climate affects the social and environmental determinants of health, which include clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. As documented in the report, the direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), is estimated to be between $2 billion to $4 billion every year by 2030.

In addition, WHO estimates that there will be approximately 250,000 additional deaths between 2030 and 2050 due to heat exposure in elderly people, 48,000 due to diarrhea, 60,000 due to malaria, and 95,000 due to childhood under-nutrition. Vector-borne diseases, such as zika, present a new risk to those of us living in the United States.

A hotter, drier planet will impact the fresh water supply. Without climate change, 700 million people already suffer from access to safe drinking water. Researchers at Tufts University have projected an increase in algal blooms in large freshwater reservoirs and lakes. Algal blooms create dead zones in water, produce dangerous toxins that can sicken or kill people and animals, and raise costs for drinking water.

In addition, as the planet heats up so do heat-related deaths. As noted in past columns, Denver, along with Albuquerque and Las Vegas, has topped the list for the heat island effect in recent years. Higher temperatures correlate with higher ozone pollution. The EPA notes that long-term exposure to ozone results in accelerated aging of the lungs with diminished lung capacity and function, aggravated asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

The news is grim, indeed. We have a moral and ethical obligation to fix climate crisis for the next generation. We must act quickly. Their lives depend on it.

On Nov. 14, Greater Park Hill Community, Inc., along with our counterparts in Congress Park and the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, is sponsoring a panel discussion and educational program titled “Health Threats of Climate Change along Denver’s Front Range.”

The event will include experts from the University of Colorado and Citizens Climate Lobby. It is free but requires registration. Please register at climateforumdenver.eventbrite.com.

Tracey MacDermott is chair of the board of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. She was trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2017, and is currently the Statewide Co-Chair of the Climate Reality Project for the 100% Committed Campaign.

Those Old Batteries

Where To Recycle Them. Also, Consider Rechargeables

By Mark Kuhl

For the GPHN

With the electronics recycling tips published couple months ago I mentioned only one outlet for single-use household alkaline battery recycling (AA, AAA, 9-volt, etc.): the annual Hazardous Waste collection that’s done through Denvergov.org. 

Park Hill neighbor Benjamin Purner has since informed me that Battery Giant, located at 251 East 6th Ave., will take them for 65 cents a pound. (Thanks for the tip, Benjamin!) 

This prompted a bit more digging to reveal several Denver area recyclers who will also accept single-use batteries – but at a much higher cost of $3 to $ 5 per pound. Battery Giant sends them to Battery Solutions in Arizona, where they’re ground up and separated into three end products; steel, zinc and manganese concentrate, as well as paper and plastic, which are used in other applications.

A great alternative to single-use batteries is rechargeable batteries. They are available at local hardware stores or online, and they work much better than in the past. They save you a lot of money too as they can be recharged many times and when they finally die, electronics recyclers will take them for free.

Rechargeables are definitely worth thinking about, with the upcoming holidays and all those battery-loving new toys and gadgets that are heading down a chimney near you.

Check out handy tips for recycling household items every month in these pages. Mark Kuhl is an environmental advocate who lives in Park Hill with his wife Nina and their two teenage daughters.


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