Broke

October 12, 2021

I took the opportunity last weekend to go to Kansas to see my sister who has been helping mom downsize as mom prepares for a move.  I was just about to leave my house when I received a call from asking me to bring water.  It seems a water main broke in Wichita and they were under a boil order as a precaution against contamination.  As with most “crises”, it also meant the quick had immediately gone to the local markets and cleared the shelves of any bottled water that was in stock.  I had to buy water in Arkansas and transport it the 325 miles to Wichita to make sure my family had water.  While I did buy water, I also have a 5-gallon jug that I used when I went dry camping (no potable water on site) in the deserts of Utah.  I filled the water jug and brought it along as well.

One of the stops I intended to make along the trip home was to revisit the Sequoia National Wildlife Refuge outside of Vian, Oklahoma.  Melissa and I had marveled at the thousands of birds we had seen there this spring.  As I pulled in, I noticed how dry the area was.  The drying fields that had supplied grain in the spring were now just shells.  As I drove through the refuge the marsh areas that had been a boon to the waterfowl were dry.  The hundreds of small birds which had darted from tree to tree were either hiding or absent.  I drove the four miles back to Sally Jones Lake without seeing a single bird.  At the lake I did find four pelicans.  As I watched I also saw a bald eagle soar into view.  I had seen aeries on the previous visit, but no birds.  It was nice to see an adult and juvenile hunting the skies together.  The water main at the refuge was not broke, but neither had any rain fallen.  Water makes a difference.

When I pulled into Wichita, I figured I could eat at one of my favorite local restaurants.  Since the main broke, they were all closed.  There were several fast-food spots that were open (they do not use water?).  When I arrived at the house, I found my sister had been boiling water for the last several days to have ice and incidentals.  My family was happy to see the water that I had brought from Arkansas.  Marcia had placed the boiled water in every container she could find.  One of them was a gallon jar, but it had a rusty lid.  She had placed a plastic hairnet over the jar to keep the impurities out.  While I know they require workers to wear hairnets in restaurants, this is the first time I had ever seen one on a jar.

Thoughts:  Several years ago, my work received a water bill of almost $900.  When we questioned the bill, we were told the water had passed through our meter, so we were liable.  We were assured the pipe was not broke.  We disputed the bill for several months before having to pay to keep our water on.  The following year city crews came and dug up the street beside the business.  There had been a leak which had undermined the street and it had to be replaced.  Somehow, the city could not understand the broke pipe that released the water was associated with our bill.  When the pipe broke in Wichita it sent the entire city on shutdown. UNICEF and the World Health Organization report billions of people in the world suffer from poor access to water, sanitation, and hygiene.  Some 2.2 billion people do not have safely managed drinking water, 4.2 billion do not have safely managed sanitation services, and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities.  They were not helped when Wichita fixed the broke water main.  We have the capability to provide safe drinking water for the world.  Safe water should be a right, not a privilege.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Cover

October 11, 2021

Last week Melissa and I decided it was time to install a pool cover to the pond/pool on our back patio.  This is generally part of the usual wintering process for an inground pool, but since our pool has not been operational, we have neglected installing the cover.  While the cover will keep out the leaves and debris that can be blown into the pool, it also serves as a caution for people walking on the patio.  I do not think either the frogs who take up residence in the spring nor the green heron that has come to feast on them the last two years will appreciate our gesture.  The appraiser does and as always, nature loses out to bureaucracy.

When we learned we needed to purchase a pool cover I immediately went online to see what was available and how much it cost.  As usual, there were a variety of styles and types that could be customized to fit any size pool.  I worked through the process to determine what size cover I would need and the number of water bags that would be used to hold it in place.  The obstacle came when I went to add my purchase to the cart.  The cover I had selected was “not currently available”.  I found another that was available and found the 2-3 day shipping I was guaranteed would arrive in 3-4 weeks.  No problem.  I would bite the bullet and spend more money to buy the cover locally.  That is when I found that while all the chain stores carried what I needed, none of them had it in stock.  I finally found a company who did have the cover in stock, but they were a wholesale distributor, and I was not authorized to buy from them.  I had to go through a third-party vendor.

I called a retail pool cover vendor and told them I had located the cover and just needed them to order it for me.  They took my information over the phone and processed my order.  While they would not guarantee it would be available (they were third-party all!), they assured me I could pick it up the following Tuesday.  When I never heard back from the vendor, I called on Tuesday and found the store was closed for the next 10 days.  I called several times to see if they would allow me to pick the cover up at the distributer, but never received a response.  Now I was in the timeframe where I could have had the cover shipped online.  That is, if the online order would have ever been processed.

Thoughts:  The cover arrived a week later than promised.  When I examined it, I found the mesh cover used to protect the pool has a 5-foot overlap with loops every four feet to secure the 8-foot water bags.  I took the time to read the box before I opened it and found I had been given the wrong size.  When I counted the water bags, I found they were one short.  My vendor assured me they would get the right cover and an additional bag.  I drove back into town and retrieved the items.  When I tried to fill up the water bags, the first one was split at the seam, and I had to drive back and get another.  The response I received for each of these failures was “covid has disrupted the supply chain.”  Later that night I saw a segment on the news saying the disruption will still be true when ordering toys at Christmas.  Melissa went ahead and ordered the grandkids presents to make sure they were here.  It is almost Halloween you know.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Dome

October 09, 2021

You can imagine my surprise when I turned on the Monday Night Football game just as it went into a weather delay.  Apparently, I was not the only one, as the camera panned to Jon Gruden, coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, as the referee informed him of the delay.  He looked up, pointed toward the air, and you could see him mouth the words, “We are in a dome.”  While the new SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles has a dome roof, the panels on the side of the dome were open on the sides beneath the dome.  That was combined with several lightening strikes in the area to delay the game for 40 minutes.  The dome is sponsored by Social Finance, Inc. (SoFi), an American online personal finance company based in San Francisco, One purpose of the dome was to block problems from weather.  For that, it did not work.

When I checked online, I found that SoFi Stadium was built to be “an unprecedented and unparalleled sports and entertainment destination” built in Inglewood, CA, by the Los Angeles Rams.  The dome is the first indoor-outdoor stadium to be constructed and is slated to be the home of the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers.  The state-of-the-art stadium re-imagines the fan experience and will host a variety of events year-round, including Super Bowl LVI in 2022, the College Football Championship Game in 2023, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in 2028.  The dome is located on the site of the former Hollywood Park racetrack and serves as the centerpiece of a 298-acre mixed-use development featuring retail, commercial office space, a hotel, residential units, and outdoor parking spaces.  The $5 Billion SoFi facility is only the latest mega dome being built for NFL teams. 

The stadium is built with an arching steel truss compression ring supporting a double grid cable net roof covered with translucent Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), an extremely durable, totally transparent, fully color printable, film that is considerably lighter in weight than glass.   The ETFE is then surrounded with perforated aluminum panels. The roof is the largest of its kind ever built, and is comprised of 302 ETFE panels, including 46 mechanized vents that allow the heat generated by more than 70,000 spectators to dissipate.  The massive roof consists of more than 1400-tons of double orthogonal grid steel, and approximately 67,000 tons of ETFE membrane, secondary steel, gutters, cross clamps, cable struts, and retractable vents.  The 20,000-ton steel truss compression ring reaches the ground at three points and has additional support from thirty-seven earthquake-resistant columns as high as 100-feet from grade.  The 13-acre stadium roof is open on three sides and is a separate structure seismically, isolated from the stadium bowl.  That means one could fall without the other.

Thoughts:  When I worked in Utah my office signed off on another innovative design (at the time) to protect against earthquakes, base isolators.  Salt Lake City is a highly active seismic zone, and the historic city/county courthouse was being protected.  The entire four-story limestone structure was jacked off its foundation and had a series of base isolators which serve as the new foundation points for the structure.  A base isolator provides a way to prevent a structure from having to move and follow the ground as it shakes during an earthquake.  Like the SoFi dome, this was a first of a kind.  Another unique feature of the dome stadium is that it is situated in the flight path of nearby Los Angeles International Airport.  Installation of 28,000 V-Pix LED lights on the roof created a 13-acre high-resolution video display that can be viewed from above.  I can hardly wait to get the latest advertisements as I fly into LAX.  Follow the science.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Sunshower

October 06, 2021

Even though it had been overcast all last week there was no forecast for rain.  Areas to the west and north of us did receive rain, but not us.  That finally ended Friday night as the moisture that had been eluding us finally resulted in a good rain shower.  Saturday began with a mist shower (very light but lasting) and then cleared off.  During the afternoon we had bright skies and a prediction of 50% chance of rain.  I figured the mist was going to count as our quota.  When Melissa looked out the window she noticed that despite the bright clear sunshine, we were getting a heavy rain.  We were having an interesting phenomenon called a sunshower.

When I looked online, I found a sunshower (sun shower) is a meteorological phenomenon in which rain falls while the sun is shining.  A sunshower is usually the result of accompanying winds associated with a rainstorm that can sometimes be miles away.  The airborne raindrops are then blown into an area where there are no clouds, causing a sunshower.  This can also occur when a single rain cloud passes overhead, and the sun’s angle keeps the sunlight from being obstructed by the overhead cloud.  The conditions that cause a sunshower often lead to the appearance of a rainbow if the sun is at a sufficiently low angle.  Although this designation is used in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK, the term “sunshower” is rarely found in dictionaries.  When I checked the skies during the sunshower, I noticed we had dark clouds all around, but nothing overhead.  In addition, the sun was below the high clouds on the horizon and the sun was brightly shinning.  Perfect conditions.

The sunshower phenomenon has a wide range of remarkably similar folkloric names and themes in cultures around the world.  A common theme is of clever animals or tricksters getting married or they are related to the devil, but many variations of this theme exist.  It is possible that the term is originally French.  The first known example, dated 1703, is quoted ‘as the French say’ and runs on, “to go and thrash him round the churchyard, as the devil does his wife in rainy weather when the sun shines”.  In 1738, writer Jonathan Swift expanded the saying in a reference to mixed sun and rain as, “The devil was beating his wife behind the door with a shoulder of mutton.”   Neither makes sense to me.

Thoughts:  The only sense I can make out of either of these sayings is the contradiction between the sunshine and the sunshower.  One would assume there was no way for the sun to shine during a rain shower, so somehow the supernatural must be involved.  I was amused when I trained as an archaeologist that whenever an artifact was found by a researcher who did not know what it was used for, the assumption was that it was “religious.”  The book Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay spoofs this idea, as an amateur archeologist in the year 4022 uncovers the remains of a motel caught in a catastrophe from the year 1985.  A picture of the archaeologist kneeling before the ceremonial altar wearing the accompanying sacred ring (toilet/seat) thought to be worn by the priest says it all.  Humans do not like to “not know,” and when we are unsure, we tend to make up an explanation.  I do not know is an acceptable answer, but we also need to try and find the answer.  It is not acceptable when we just call it a hoax.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Drilling

October 07, 2021

I woke Monday morning to the news that a major pipeline spill had occurred off the coast of southern California.  The pipeline failure occurred three miles (4.5 kilometers) off the coast of Orange County and involved a failure in a 17.5-mile (26.25 kilometer) pipeline connected to an offshore drilling facility called Elly that is operated by Beta Offshore.  It was not immediately clear what caused at least 126,000 gallons of oil to spill into the Pacific Ocean, creating a 13-square-mile (19.5 square kilometer) oil slick.  Dead fish and birds washed ashore as cleanup crews raced to try to contain the spill.  I am not sure why I was just hearing about the spill two days after it happened.  Perhaps like many others, football had taken precedence over environmental disasters on Sunday.

When I looked online, I found that offshore drilling is a process where a wellbore is drilled to extract petroleum which lies in rock formations beneath the seabed.  There are five main types of offshore drilling facilities.  A rig is an immovable structure of concrete and steel resting on the seabed.  Spars are drilling platforms affixed to giant hollow hulls that can descend over 812 feet (250 meters) and are secured by cables.  Jack ups are mobile platforms raised above the sea on extendable steel legs designed for depths of 1600 feet (500 meters) or less.  Semi-submersibles are usually built on floating pontoons with columns sunk into the water and anchored to the seabed and effectively support drill depths up to 5850 feet (1,800 meters).  A drill ship is a fully mobile drilling vessel for deep-water drilling that use sophisticated sensors, electronic components, and satellite tracking to keep them floating safely while lined up with the well.  Environmentalists claim all five types are accidents waiting to happen.

Offshore drilling presents environmental challenges (offshore and onshore) from the produced hydrocarbons and the materials used during the drilling operation.  This does not include the possibility of spills from the facility or an associated pipeline.  The US Coast Guard said that crews had “recovered” about 3,150 gallons of oil.  Fourteen boats were involved in the cleanup effort on Sunday, and crews had deployed 5,360 feet (1,787 meters) of boom (floating barrier) to contain the oil.  The spill prompted closure of the beaches in Huntington Beach, and cancelation of the third day of the annual Pacific Airshow where an estimated 1.5 million people had gathered on the oceanfront to watch the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds.  Huntington Beach mayor Kim Carr said on Sunday the spill was “one of the most devastating situations our community has dealt with in decades.”  The beaches in Huntington Beach are closed until further notice.

Thoughts:  Rather than a single borehole, the Elly site is a drilling complex with two producing platforms and a processing platform supporting about 70 wells.  All the platforms have now been shut down.  The oil slick appeared to infiltrate the Talbert Marsh, a 25-acre ecological reserve that is home to dozens of species of birds.  An Orange County supervisor said, “The impact to the environment is irreversible.”  When the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf on April 20, 2010, it killed 11 people and injured 17 others.  By the time it was capped three months later it had caused the death of 105,400 sea birds, 7,600 adult and 160,000 juvenile sea turtles, and up to a 51% decrease in dolphins in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay.  We need to rethink the cost (and who profits) of ocean drilling.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Patience

October 06, 2021

I admit, I do not have much patience with my computer or devices when they are slow.  When I was preparing to post my blog on Monday, I found that I was unable to access my Facebook page.  Like most platforms there have been problems in the past.  I also know there have been times when something has changed on my devices that affect availability.  No problem.  I switched to another browser and got the same response.  This was an unhappy face and, “This site can’t be reached.”  I then ran diagnostics and it told me, “Your DSN Server might be unavailable.”  Ya think?  When I pointed this out to Melissa, she checked her Facebook account, and it was working (we later found out she was already logged on and this was only showing content already downloaded).  I went online and queried “Facebook problems” and found there was a global problem with the site.  That did not improve my patience.

While I was online, I did further research on the problem and found that Facebook Inc. services experienced widespread outages for six hours Monday morning, adding to the social network’s miserable day.  Facebook FB shares dropped as much as 6% to an intraday low of $323, which was their worst single day decline since a 6.3% fall logged on Oct. 30, 2020.  The decline followed a national broadcast of a whistleblower’s allegations that the social media network placed profits before safety.  Late Sunday, ViacomCBS Inc.’s news program “60 Minutes” interviewed former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen, who alleges that the social-media giant has been deceiving investors about how it has been dealing with hate speech and misinformation on its platform.  Haugen had continued to work with the media giant’s assurance the issues would be resolved.  She finally lost patience and lodged the complaint.  Added to that was the widespread outage of Facebook services, including Instagram and WhatsApp.  A very bad day.

Considering the problems, and the national attention received by Sunday’s 60 Minutes focus, I jokingly wondered whether Facebook had decided to force the world to see what it was like to not be able to use these three platforms.  While I quickly dismissed this as conspiracy theory, apparently, I was not the only one who wondered.  When I checked for the reason for the outage, I found Facebook was having global problems, to which one responder wrote, “Maybe its cuz of that Facebook whistle-blower on 60 min last night…”  Another commented, “60 Minutes might just might have brought FB to it’s knees.”  Realizing I had no more patience, I was forced to find other ways to pass the afternoon (read a book?).

Thoughts:  Late Monday Facebook said the cause of the failure was changes to its underlying internet infrastructure that coordinates the traffic between its data centers.  Facebook eventually restored service after a team got access to its server computers at a data center in Santa Clara, California and were able to reset them.  The company apologized for the outage on Twitter (a non-Facebook platform).  While checking a status dashboard Facebook uses to communicate its availability to developers, I found this statement.  “We’ll be back soon!  Sorry for the inconvenience but we’re performing some maintenance at the moment.  We’ll be back online shortly!”.  It was signed, “The ‘Is The Service Down’ Team”.  I found creating an “Is the Service Down” team telling and ironic.  Apparently, there are others who suffer from my same lack of patience.  Perhaps the machine apocalypse is closer than I thought.  Follow the science.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Rodents

October 05, 2021

I had mentioned last year about the rodents I battled when I lived at a camp in Kansas.  As winter approached a rat took refuge in my truck and chewed through the distributer wiring.  The next year another (same?) rat again took up refuge and chewed through most of the trucks wiring harness.  I mention this because I came across the story of a man in North Dakota who has similar problems with rodents.  Rather than a rat chewing wires he has a squirrel storing nuts.  Bill Fisher has found gallons of walnuts under the hood of his truck after a red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) turned it into its hidden winter nut cache.  Every two years since 2013, Fisher has found the shelled Black Walnuts stuffed in the engine compartment.  This year he found 42 gallons of shelled (gnawed?) walnuts crammed into every corner of his truck.  Fisher was forced to dismantle parts of the truck to remove the walnuts.  It left me asking where the squirrel stores the nuts in the off years.

When I looked online, I found that Rodents (from Latin rodere, ‘to gnaw’) are mammals of the order Rodentia, which are characterized by a single pair of continuously growing incisors in both the upper and lower jaws.  Rodents comprise about 40% of all mammal species and are native to all major land masses except for New Zealand, Antarctica, and several oceanic islands.  They often travel with humans and have now been introduced to most of these land masses as well.  Rodents are extremely diverse and can be found in almost every terrestrial habitat, including human-made environments.  Species can be arboreal (climbing), fossorial (burrowing), saltatorial/richochetal (leaping on their hind legs), or semiaquatic (water).  Rodents include mice, rats, squirrels, prairie dogs, porcupines, beavers, guinea pigs, and hamsters.  Rabbits, hares, and pikas also have incisors that grow continually and were once included as rodents, but are now considered a separate order, the Lagomorpha.  Still, Rodentia and Lagomorpha share a single common ancestor.  They all like to gnaw on almost anything.

Most rodents are small animals, and use their sharp incisors to gnaw food, excavate burrows, and defend themselves.  Most eat seeds or other plant material, but some have varied diets.  They tend to be social animals and many species live in societies with complex ways of communicating with each other.  Mating among rodents can vary from monogamy, to polygyny, to promiscuity.  Many have litters of underdeveloped, altricial young, while others are precocial (well developed) at birth.  The rodent fossil record dates to the Paleocene and greatly diversified in the Eocene, spread across continents, and even crossing oceans.  Rodents reached both South America and Madagascar from Africa and, until the arrival of Homo sapiens, were the only terrestrial placental mammals to reach and colonize Australia.  This is one group that seems to spread even without the aid of human carelessness.

Thoughts:  Rodents have been used as food, for clothing, as pets, and as laboratory research animals. Species like the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), the black rat (Rattus norvegicus), and the house mouse (Mus musculus), are serious pests, eating and spoiling stored food and spreading diseases.  The Black Death (Bubonic Plague) is thought to have spread to Europe from Crimea by fleas living on black rats that traveled on Genoese slave ships.  There is evidence that once it came ashore, the Black Death was largely spread via aerosols which a pneumonic plague enables.  While this plague transmitted a bacterium (Yersinia pestis), the covid virus uses a similar aerosol spread to move from host to host.  Distancing and masks would have been just as effective in the Middle Ages as it could be today.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Ageism

October 04, 2021

When conditions changed at my job several years ago, I decided it was a good time to move back to the state of my birth.  I had lived out of state for the previous 30 years and knew my parents were growing older and wanted to rebuild a connection with them.  Another motivating factor was that I had just turned 50.  While I did not consider this to be OLD, I realized many employers in my field did.  Most seemed to be looking to hire the perfect person, or a young person who had years of experience and a proven track record for growth.  While the perfect balance between age and experience rarely exists, I believed if I did not move soon, my likelihood of finding a good job in a new area of the country was slipping away.  This was an example of the ageism I knew existed in my industry.

I came across a report from LinkedIn that reported the US Census projects adults over age 65 will outnumber people under 18 by 2034.  Despite this population shift, ageism and age bias continue to confront Americans at both work and play.  While the employment rate of workers 55-plus took a hit during the pandemic, it is recovering slowly.   Regardless of the earning and spending power of the 50-plus, media and marketers are focused almost exclusively on Millennials and Generation Z consumers and continuing to ignore those over age 65.  Workers 50-plus make up over a third of the workforce in key sectors like technology, health, and education.  When the 50-plus are looking for work however, they find ageism hurts their chances for finding a job.  LinkedIn’s research showed that 78% of older workers reported seeing or dealing with ageism at work last year, up from 61% in 2018.

The covid-19 pandemic has especially had widespread impact on midcareer and older women workers.  About 40% have experienced at least one job interruption.  Of those still unemployed, 70% were out of work for six months or more.  Even if employed, these workers were concerned about the possibility of future unemployment.  Many are concerned about future job interruptions and one-quarter have seen their financial situation worsen over the course of the pandemic.  While younger women seem to bear the brunt of childcare and remote schooling, older women struggle with ageism.  This is particularly true when trying to find employment.  The Urban Institute reports that once displaced, older workers take about double the time to find a new job as younger workers.  

Thoughts:  The problem with ageism is that sooner or later, we all (hopefully) reach “that certain age.”  When I turned 35, I realized I would never be known as one of the Young Lions of my industry.  When I turned 50, I realized it would be harder to be hired by those who did not already know my reputation.  I skirted the loss of opportunity at 65 by retiring early, even though I now find myself in the workforce.  One reason touted for not hiring 50-plus workers is they require higher salaries.  They also bring the experience that makes them worthwhile.  Research has shown that innovative young workers become innovative older workers.  Ageism is not a reason to be reluctant to hire, it is an excuse.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Extinct

October 02, 2021

I received a notice to my email this week saying last Wednesday the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declared 23 species extinct, including one of the world’s largest woodpeckers, dubbed the “Lord God Bird”.  The announcement came via a proposal to remove the birds, mussels, fish, as well as a plant and fruit bat, from Endangered Species Act protections because government scientists have given up on ever finding them again.  “With climate change and natural area loss pushing more and more species to the brink, now is the time to lift up proactive, collaborative, and innovative efforts to save America’s wildlife,” said interior secretary Deb Haaland.  The most iconic species was the Ivory-billed woodpecker, with the last indisputable evidence of existence coming in the 1940’s.  This woodpecker has been the Holy Grail for birders in recent decades, with numerous unconfirmed sightings over the years in the southeastern US.  Sadly, I was not one of them.

When I checked online, I found the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 is the primary law in the US for protecting imperiled species.  The Act was designed to protect critically imperiled species from becoming extinct as a “consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation.”  The ESA was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973.  The US Supreme Court called it “the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species enacted by any nation”.  Since the ESA was enacted, it has prevented the extinction of 99% of plants and animals under its care.  This includes the whooping crane, which numbered as few as 16 birds in the 1940’s but have since recovered to 500 to 600.  Today’s endangered species must also contend with the pressures of climate change, as rising seas and higher temperatures change and destroy habits.

John Fitzpatrick, director emeritus of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology said, “The fundamental thing that drove the woodpecker down to near extinction was the loss of the southeastern first growth forests, which really started taking place after the Civil War.”  Fitzpatrick was part of efforts to search for the bird in Arkansas and other regions in the mid-2000’s.  He still believes there is hope for the Ivory-billed woodpecker.  The species was revered not just by Alexander Wilson and John James Audubon, called the founding fathers of ornithology, but by collectors who hunted them.  Fitzpatrick said the nickname, “Lord God Bird,” was said to be derived from the expression “Lord God, what a bird.”  Now it is extinct.

Thoughts:  Tiera Curry, a senior scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity, praised the current administration for requesting a US$60 million increase in endangered species protections, but criticized the fact a new FWS director had yet to be appointed.  “Extinction is not inevitable.  It is a political choice.  Saving species isn’t rocket science.  As a country we need to stand up and say we aren’t going to lose any more species to extinction.”  Sadly, unless we make immediate changes, critical endangered species will continue to become extinct.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Immunization

October 01, 2021

My feed from the NY Times this week led with the story of how the US owes its existence as a nation partly to an immunization mandate.  In 1777, smallpox was a big enough problem for the bedraggled American army that George Washington thought it could jeopardize the Revolution.  An outbreak had already led to one American defeat, at the Battle of Quebec. To prevent more, Washington ordered immunizations for all troops who had not yet had the virus.  This was done quietly so the British would not hear how many Americans were sick.  The number of smallpox cases plummeted, and Washington’s army survived a war of attrition against the world’s most powerful country.  Ron Chernow wrote in his 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Washington that the immunization mandate, “was as important as any military measure Washington adopted during the war.”  Mandatory immunizations are still part of the military.

While mandatory immunization for many diseases are common and largely accepted, that was not always the case.  In 1901 a deadly smallpox epidemic tore through the Northeast, prompting the Boston and Cambridge boards of health to order the vaccination of all residents.  Some refused to get the shot, claiming the vaccine order violated their personal liberties under the Constitution.  A Swedish-born pastor named Henning Jacobson took his anti-vaccine crusade all the way to the US Supreme Court.  The justices issued a landmark 1905 ruling that legitimized the government’s authority to “reasonably” infringe upon personal freedoms during a public health crisis by issuing a fine to those who refused vaccination.  While immunization treatments became safer (the Revolutionary War method killed 2 to 3 percent of recipients), and mandates became more common, they also tend to generate hostility from a small minority of Americans.

Federal and local covid-19 vaccine mandates requiring immunization seem to be working.  Tyson Foods now has a 91% vaccination rate among its employees.  New York City school teachers and staff are required to show proof that they have received at least one covid-19 vaccine shot.  A California judge ordered vaccine mandates for prison guards and staff, and Gov. Gavin Newsom says a school vaccine mandate is on the table.  There is also opposition to mandatory immunization.  A New York state mandate that all health care workers be required to be vaccinated has sparked multiple legal challenges and fear of staffing shortages.  Since the current administration announced new federal vaccine mandates affecting roughly two-thirds of the US workforce (100 million people) it has received backlash from congressional Republicans, as well as state and local officials.  Many seem to believe saving people’s lives is an “unreasonable” infringement.

Thoughts:  One of the reasons for the immunization mandates for covid-19 comes from the increased risk with the Delta variant.  Roughly 1 in 500 people in the US have died from covid-19, and vaccination rates have slowed despite the uptick in delta variant cases.  Meanwhile, more than 98% of people hospitalized with a covid-19 diagnosis between June and August 2021 were unvaccinated.  The longer the virus goes unchecked the greater likelihood it will mutate into a variant not controlled by the current vaccines.  Our Republican Lieutenant Governor even says, if you do not like wearing a mask and are sick of going to funerals, get the shot.  Immunization is a faster and safer way to reach herd immunity than spreading the virus.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.