Natural disasters, pregnancy and baby health are linked. Should Canadians be worried?


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This week:

  • Natural disasters, pregnancy and baby health are linked. Should Canadians be nervous?
  • Behold the ‘OPEC of rainforests’
  • How India’s electrical rickshaw revolution is forging a low-carbon future

Natural disasters, pregnancy and baby health are linked. Should Canadians be nervous?

(Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/The Associated Press)

Wading by floodwaters to security. Being evacuated due to wildfires. Living with out energy for weeks.

Experiencing a pure catastrophe is a traumatic occasion, on condition that it might result in property destruction and displacement, to not point out worry, nervousness and even PTSD.

It’s disturbing for anybody, however some researchers have been paying specific consideration to how individuals who are pregnant — and in the end, their infants — are affected. As new U.S. analysis but once more reveals a hyperlink between pregnancy throughout pure disasters and the eventual health of these kids, consultants say Canadians ought to take observe.

While the Global South is extra susceptible to pure disasters and sometimes experiences larger-scale devastation, Canada is hardly immune. A 2021 information launch from Environment and Climate Change Canada notes that Canadians skilled “unprecedented” excessive climate final yr alone.

“With higher local weather change, we’re having extra frequent, extra extreme climate occasions,” stated Suzanne King, a researcher on the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and professor of psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal.

“These research are fashions for what can occur in any of our lives,” stated King.

“Canadians and folks all over the place ought to be involved,” stated Dr. David Olson, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and physiology on the University of Alberta.

In the brand new research, revealed in September within the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers seemed on the kids of people that have been pregnant throughout Superstorm Sandy. The 2012 hurricane despatched floodwaters surging throughout components of New York and New Jersey, killing 181 folks and leaving a whole bunch of hundreds of New Yorkers with out energy for days. 

Researchers analyzed knowledge from 163 preschool-aged kids, 40.5 per cent of whom have been in utero through the hurricane. Those kids had “considerably elevated” dangers for melancholy, nervousness and consideration deficit/disruptive behaviour issues in comparison with the opposite kids within the research who have been born earlier than the hurricane or conceived simply after it, based on the paper.

“We’ve identified for a while that maternal stress throughout pregnancy performs a key function within the psychological health growth of the kid,” stated lead researcher Yoko Nomura, a psychology professor on the CUNY Graduate Center and Queens College, in a information launch.

“Understanding these connections and distinctions grows extra mandatory daily with the elevated frequency of pure disasters pushed by local weather change.” 

King has been finding out these connections for many years, over 5 completely different pure disasters: the 1998 ice storm that pelted japanese Ontario and southern Quebec; the 2008 Iowa floods; the 2011 floods in Queensland, Australia; the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires; and 2017’s Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

In common, she stated, there’s a statistically important connection between both the hardship of the catastrophe itself or the pregnant particular person’s misery throughout it and the result of the kid. These can be each bodily and psychological outcomes, starting from the kid’s IQ, autism-related traits, language growth, nervousness and melancholy and performing out to steadiness, bilateral co-ordination, body-mass index and mind construction.

“The extra the hardship within the pregnancy, the more severe the result,” King stated. But she cautioned that the trauma of a catastrophe in utero is not the one think about a toddler’s well-being. There’s much more at play in a toddler’s growth, together with genetics. 

In the aftermath of the Fort McMurray wildfires, Olson and his group on the University of Alberta studied a specimen of people that have been pregnant through the evacuations or shortly after, taking a look at whether or not there was a connection between the catastrophe and preterm births. 

There wasn’t one, however in an e-mail interview, Olson famous the youngsters of pregnancies through the catastrophe stay in danger for “longer-term antagonistic outcomes.”

“Pregnancy is of course a time of vulnerability, and girls who expertise pure disasters throughout pregnancy are particularly weak,” Olson stated.

King stated analysis has proven that social help — notably from the pregnant particular person’s associate — performs a key function in mitigating the damaging results of a pure catastrophe. So does guaranteeing high quality prenatal care and continuity of care. A constructive outlook also can make an enormous distinction, King stated, pointing to analysis on individuals who have been pregnant throughout COVID-19 lockdowns. 

To put together for pure disasters throughout pregnancy, the Canadian Red Cross recommends speaking to your health-care supplier about an evacuation plan, together with prenatal nutritional vitamins; maintaining consolation gadgets and hospital bag gadgets in your emergency equipment; and devising an inventory of medical amenities in surrounding areas in case of evacuation.

Natalie Stechyson

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The Big Picture: The ‘OPEC of rainforests’

As we mentioned final week, Brazil’s presidential election in October had broad implications. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who beat incumbent Jair Bolsonaro by a a lot smaller margin than anticipated, had campaigned on a program of higher safety of the Amazon rainforest, which is essential in regulating the worldwide local weather and has been aggressively developed on Bolsonaro’s watch. As such, Lula’s victory was touted as a significant win for Planet Earth. 

Less than per week after his win, Lula is reportedly already forging alliances with nations equally endowed with tree cowl – the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia — to type what’s being referred to as an “OPEC of rainforests.” These three nations possess 52 per cent of the world’s remaining major tropical forests — however the Amazon, Congo basin and Borneo and Sumatra forests have been compromised by logging, mining and unlawful exploitation. 

Given the carbon-storing energy contained in these three nations alone, they may co-ordinate the best way OPEC does on oil manufacturing, besides on bushes, with a give attention to conservation and carbon markets, the place offsets are purchased and offered to scale back total emissions.

(Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

Hot and bothered: Provocative concepts from across the internet

How India’s electrical rickshaw revolution is forging a low-carbon future

Electric rickshaws are well-liked with passengers as a result of journeys price only some cents and you may pack extra folks within the again than conventional rickshaws that run on pure gasoline or diesel. (Salimah Shivji/CBC)

A rickshaw weaves in and out of visitors in New Delhi’s Jahangirpuri neighbourhood on a latest morning, searching for passengers earlier than sputtering right into a slender area in a row of brightly colored three-wheelers to cost its dying battery. 

Behind the wheel is Suman, a 36-year-old mom of 4 who, like many Indians, goes by just one title. She fought in opposition to the desires of her husband and prolonged household to drive an electrical rickshaw to supply for her kids, who vary from 4 to 18 years previous. 

“I informed them that I do not care what anybody says — I must drive to offer my daughters a greater life,” stated Suman.

She is one in every of many drivers in India’s capital area who see the e-rickshaw as a chance to earn more cash and be their very own boss. Meanwhile, environmental teams and the Indian authorities view the steep rise in low-cost electrical automobiles as a key device within the nation’s battle to scale back carbon emissions.

This is India’s EV revolution, a messy and at instances chaotic push that has grown organically during the last decade within the Delhi space and a number of northern Indian states, which has seen the fast proliferation of largely unregulated e-rickshaws, a few of which may be purchased for lower than $1,500 Cdn. 

It’s a people-driven model for a inexperienced mobility shift, and many consultants say it may function a template for different growing nations making an attempt to battle local weather change and air air pollution. 

“If you are trying to embark on a mobility transition, it is in all probability higher and wiser to have a look at what is the path of least resistance,” stated Gagan Sidhu, director of the Centre for Energy Finance, housed inside the Council of Energy, Environment and Water, a New Delhi-based think-tank. “Don’t essentially begin at four-wheelers — begin on the cheaper finish of the spectrum.” 

There are roughly 1.75 million electrical three-wheelers in India, based on business knowledge, though the precise determine is probably going increased, since many are not registered or tracked.

In the fiscal yr ending in March 2022, some 430,000 electrical automobiles have been offered in India, greater than 3 times as many because the earlier yr. The overwhelming majority, 95 per cent, have been two- and three-wheelers, based on knowledge compiled by the nation’s Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations.

Electric automobiles are nonetheless a tiny proportion of whole car gross sales, however that proportion is rising shortly, with EVs capturing greater than 5 per cent of the market in August of this yr, up from two per cent in 2021.

At a big exposition staged on the outskirts of Delhi in September, sales space after sales space showcased the most recent fashions from producers of electrical automobiles, charging docks and batteries.

“The adoption price is so excessive that the way forward for electrical in India is absolutely good,” stated Abhimanyu Singh, accountable for northern India company gross sales for Mahindra, which makes rickshaws and different sorts of electrical automobiles. “The working price of the car may be very low and additionally, it’s emission-free. So all of these items mixed, it means an excellent worth case.” 

India’s authorities sees the worth in low-cost electrical automobiles, embracing them as a part of its wider technique to scale back carbon emissions. It has prioritized incentives for these shopping for inexperienced, together with a tax lower and subsidies for sure EV fashions. 

The bold purpose is to have electrical vehicles make up 30 per cent of all car gross sales by 2030, despite the fact that present gross sales of dearer four-wheel EVs are dismally low. 

Sidhu stated that solely two four-wheeler fashions qualify for a subsidy “and the charging infrastructure throughout India is sorely missing.”

The authorities is trying to repair that situation, providing enterprise subsidies to extend the variety of public charging stations, presently sitting at 934. That pales compared to China’s greater than two million charging locales.

The authorities is dedicated to selling the electrical transition, even when transportation solely accounts for about 10 per cent of India’s whole emissions, a much smaller proportion than nations like Canada, the place it is 24 per cent. 

It’s a job with international implications, since India is now the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, lagging behind solely China and the United States, despite the fact that its per capita emissions are far decrease. 

Nearly three-quarters of the nation’s energy is generated by coal, leaving the tip sum of all of the e-rickshaws and different battery-powered automobiles on the roads decidedly much less inexperienced. Still, rickshaw fashions powered with vitality from coal manufacturing launch fewer greenhouse gasoline emissions than three-wheelers working on gasoline. 

Despite the reliance on coal, consultants level to India’s electrical two- and three-wheeler growth as a robust native resolution, a path that grew spontaneously from the bottom up, with little preliminary help from the federal government. 

Suman stated it is the financial benefits that entice the entire drivers she is aware of to EVs, however there are unintended penalties of the fast progress in e-rickshaws in Delhi: extra competitors. 

“It used to be higher,” she stated. “We may make more cash.”

Salimah Shivji

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