Thursday, February 28, 2019

Does a "green" environment prevent mental illness?

Articles claiming all sorts of health benefits from living in a leafy environment pop up from time to time. The latest one is below. And I don't doubt that a green environment can have a quite strong soothing effect on some people -- perhaps to the point of alleviating neurotic symptoms. But what is the general effect and how strong is it?

For a start, the effects in the study below were very weak, with odds ratios all just above 1.00.  Ratios that low are conventionally held to be incapable of supporting causative inferences.  Such ratios in the epidemiological literature are often greeted with war whoops and general jubilation but the fact of the matter is that they are verging on non-existence and are unlikely to replicate. Non-replication is in fact the bane of medical research so the chance of a marginal effect replicating is vanishingly small. So I could terminate my critique right there and  say that there was nothing of interest going on in the study concerned.

But what are we to make of claims such as the risk of illness being "55% higher" for people with little greenery around them.  It sounds impressive, does it not?  An obviously strong effect?  However you just have to ask "higher than what?" to see that we are being hornswoggled. If the effect is super weak to start with, a 55% advance on it is not much is it?  55% more than tiny is still tiny. Those percentage claims are the strongest and most impressive claims in the article but are totally deceptive.  We are being scammed.  It would not be too  strong to call the claims "slimy".

I don't know if I should go on but there are other lessons in the article about what not to do.  And another fault in the research is something very commmon among epidemiologists:  A total lack of curiosity.  They take a bit of data and use it without asking how that bit of data arose.  In this case they look at the amount of green space kids had around them without asking WHY some kids had more or less green space than others.  And that can lead to a total misunderstanding of what was going on in the data.

So why would some kids be growing up in leafier areas?  The obvious explanation is $$$$ -- money.  Leafier areas tend to be more prestious and hence more expensive to live in.  Poorer people live beside the tracks.  And we know that richer people are healthier.  They tend to live years longer than poor people, for instance.  The authors below did control for socio-economic status but income is not normally included in status indices and the two are not substitutable for one-another.  See Table 4  here

But income is only one explanation.  A factor with strong health correlates that is almost never examined is IQ. Smarter people might be better at or more interested in moving to a leafier area.  So it is the better health of high IQ people that was being observed in the study.  The effects in the study were so weak that we could have been observing nothing but the better health of high IQ people.

So good try but no cigar

Residential green space in childhood is associated with lower risk of psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood

Kristine Engemann et al.


Urban residence is associated with a higher risk of some psychiatric disorders, but the underlying drivers remain unknown. There is increasing evidence that the level of exposure to natural environments impacts mental health, but few large-scale epidemiological studies have assessed the general existence and importance of such associations. Here, we investigate the prospective association between green space and mental health in the Danish population. Green space presence was assessed at the individual level using high-resolution satellite data to calculate the normalized difference vegetation index within a 210 x 210 m square around each person's place of residence (?1 million people) from birth to the age of 10. We show that high levels of green space presence during childhood are associated with lower risk of a wide spectrum of psychiatric disorders later in life. Risk for subsequent mental illness for those who lived with the lowest level of green space during childhood was up to 55% higher across various disorders compared with those who lived with the highest level of green space. The association remained even after adjusting for urbanization, socioeconomic factors, parental history of mental illness, and parental age. Stronger association of cumulative green space presence during childhood compared with single-year green space presence suggests that presence throughout childhood is important. Our results show that green space during childhood is associated with better mental health, supporting efforts to better integrate natural environments into urban planning and childhood life.


Evidence of humans causing global warming hits 'gold standard'

The coal standard more like it.  It does not even pass the basic test of falsifiability.  Even the most negative finding is never allowed to count against it and no warmist has ever said what would

Evidence that humans cause global warming has hit the "gold standard" level of confidence, a U.S.-led team of scientists reportedly wrote in a journal article published Monday.

"Humanity cannot afford to ignore such clear signals," the scientists wrote in Nature Climate Change, according to Reuters, citing satellite measurements and rising temperatures over the past 40 years.

The scientists said that confidence in their prediction that humanity is raising the temperature on earth has reached "five-sigma" level, meaning there is only a one-in-a-million chance that similar data would appear if there was no warming, the news service added.

This "gold standard" has previously been applied for major scientific discoveries, like that of the Higgs boson subatomic particle in 2012, Reuters noted.

Benjamin Santer, lead author of the study at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, told the news service he hoped the findings would convince the last remaining skeptics.

"The narrative out there that scientists don't know the cause of climate change is wrong," he said. "We do."

There is a vast scientific consensus that humans have causes global warming.

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put the probability of humans being the main cause of warming since the 1950s at 95 percent


Trump should use trade deal with China to take Green New Deal off the table

As President Donald Trump looks to finalize a trade agreement with China - he tweeted on Feb. 25 that a deal was in its "advanced stages" - one thing he should be sure to gain concessions on is the cost advantage Beijing possesses because of the excessive regulatory environment in Washington, D.C.

U.S. standards for power generation, manufacturing, fuel economy and emissions are above and beyond anything China puts upon itself.

For example, in the Paris climate accords, one of the reasons the U.S. withdrew was because it required next to nothing out of China, which emits 9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide every year and growing, compared with 5 billion by the U.S. And China has only promised to reach peak emissions by 2030, and in the meantime the U.S. was supposed to keep its new and existing power plan regulations in place, increasing the cost of doing business here and hampering growth.

The difference in regulatory structures is already a tremendous reason for the outsourcing of manufacturing to China, as the 2018 trade in goods deficit is set to reach its highest level on record.

And the Green New Deal now under consideration - with its impossible goal of zero net carbon emissions by the U.S. by 2030 - would almost certainly exacerbate that reality, sending more production to China.

One source of pollution by China comes from its shipping, which utilizes heavy bunker oil to send goods to the U.S. While International Maritime Organization regulations currently under consideration would address sulfur content in that fuel, the fact remains that if the U.S. continues to push for manufacturing to China to export its emissions via the Green New Deal, it will become more reliant on shipping from overseas, not less.

That is why President Trump should use the imminent trade deal with China to, as much as possible, take the Green New Deal off the table by pushing Beijing to meet up with U.S. environmental regulations, eliminating China's regulatory cost advantage and defining it as a non-tariff barrier to trade under the new agreement.

This, taken in conjunction with other measures, would set in motion a process of insourcing, to bring more manufacturing back to the U.S., which would mean more jobs here.

It's better than the alternative, which is to make production practically impossible here in the U.S. via the Green New Deal, incentivizing factories and growth elsewhere including China and making Americans even more dependent on imports.

President Trump is doing what was once thought impossible by closing in on a deal with China on trade and for now, he has postponed increasing tariffs while the final terms of the agreement are hammered out. To be successful, however, the agreement must address all of China's cost advantages, including currency, labor costs, China's import controls, intellectual property theft and yes, regulations.


Fighting for energy and human rights equality in Africa

The Congress of Racial Equality Uganda has lost another leader, but the fight continues

Paul Driessen

"She has gone to the Lord," her sister Diana told me a few days ago. And with Fiona Kobusingye's passing, after a courageous battle with cancer, the Congress of Racial Equality Uganda lost another leader.

However, their legacy remains, the battles they began rage on - and Uganda and Africa are clearly and consistently demonstrating their determination to achieve energy, health, human rights and living standards equality with Europe, America and other industrialized economies. They are determined do so using the same fossil fuel and other technologies that those already wealthy nations used in their ascent out of the nasty, brutish, short lives that were all of humanity's lot just a few short centuries ago.

I met Fiona 15 years ago at a Congress of Racial Equality Martin Luther King dinner organized by her late husband and my close friend, CORE international affairs director Cyril Boynes, Jr. They got married, Cyril moved to Uganda, and together they launched the human rights and economic development group CORE Uganda. She served as co-chair and with Cyril mentored young people, co-hosted conferences, and fought tirelessly for disease control, energy development, modern agriculture and clean water.

Like Cyril, she was passionate about these issues, including using DDT and other insecticides - what she called "the African equivalent of chemotherapy drugs" - to prevent malaria and other devastating insect-borne diseases. She wrote in a 2006 Washington Times article:

"I have had malaria more than a dozen times. I lost my son, two sisters and three nephews to it. My nephew Noel got malaria at age two and is still four years behind high school boys his age in reading and writing skills, because it affected his mental powers so horribly. My brother Joseph used to help in an office and with complex farming tasks, but his mind no longer works well because of cerebral malaria.

"We need to calculate the value of those lives affected by being sick with malaria for weeks every year . of mental capacity lost due to malaria . of 1.5 million African lives lost every year. Even at $1,000 to $10,000 per life, the impact of malaria - and the value of DDT - is monumental.

"This month, another malaria outbreak hit the Kabale district in southern Uganda. More than 6,000 people were admitted to clinics in just one week. A spraying program with Icon (a pyrethroid also used in agriculture, and which thus can quickly breed mosquito resistance) resulted in the deaths of two students. That is terrible, but last year 70,000 Ugandans died from malaria. In 65 years, DDT never killed anyone.

"Should we stop spraying, to prevent more deaths from Icon or possible learning delays from using DDT - and sacrifice another 70,000 Ugandans again this year?

"Yes, there are risks in using DDT - or other anti-malaria weapons. But the risk of not using them is infinitely greater. One-sided studies and news stories frighten people into not using the most effective weapons in our arsenal - and millions pay the ultimate price. That is unconscionable."

After Cyril died in 2015, Fiona moved to New York City to help care for Diana's autistic son and earn money to provide for her adopted children in Uganda. Even after being diagnosed with incurable cancer, Fiona retained her humor, indomitable spirit and deep belief in God throughout her difficult illness and treatment, right up until she passed away.

She is survived by a daughter, five sisters, eleven brothers, two grandchildren, five adopted children, and many nieces, nephews and other relatives. She remains beloved by all who knew her. Readers wishing to honor her legacy, bury her in Uganda and help support her family can go to her GoFundMe page.

Fiona got emotional when she wrote about environmentalist groups and US, EU, World Bank, WHO and other rich country bureaucrats who she believed were using Africans as test subjects in "energy, malaria and agricultural experiments that perpetuate poverty, disease, malnutrition and death in the name of protecting the environment."

"China and India put up with this immoral eco-colonialism for decades," she wrote. "Finally, they had enough. They refused to be the environmentalists' experimental pawns any longer. They took charge of their own destinies, charted their own future, financed their own projects, and refused to be stopped again by anti-development green policies, politicians and pressure groups.

"Uganda, the Great Lakes Region [around Lake Victoria] and all of Africa need to do the same thing. We have the land and natural resources, the bright and hard-working people.

"Let us be brave and bold!" Fiona exhorted. "Let us become prosperous and healthy together."

Her beloved Cyril shared and stoked her passions. He too wrote articles and spoke to Ugandan officials, journalists and students on these topics. A biotechnology conference he organized at the United Nations featured experts like Norman Borlaug, father of the first Green Revolution. The audience included scores of high school students, many UN staffers and people from all over New York City.

Cyril also served as executive producer for a documentary film about the ways modern genetically modified crops dramatically reduce the need for poor African farmers to hand-spray crops with pesticides, while preventing pest damage, increasing crop yields many times over, and bringing hope and much improved living standards to African farm families.

He too dreamed of a prosperous modern Africa and described how he, a devout Christian, was deeply inspired by a Jew (business professor, economist and author Julian Simon) and a Muslim (banker-economist Muhammad Yunus). He pilloried the Rainforest Action Network for its incessant human rights violations: its campaigns to prevent Africa from using DDT or other insecticides, fossil fuels or even expanded hydroelectric power.

Cyril brought me to Uganda, to see firsthand what they were accomplishing. The three of us spent tow frenzied weeks speaking to government, radio, television, high school and university audiences on these subjects. Thanks to George Mason University, we were able to give soccer balls, shoes, shin guards and uniforms to grade school boys who previously had to play barefoot with rags rolled and tied into a ball.

Fiona and Cyril aided her extended family and mentored scores of promising young people. One of them, Steven Lyazi, steadily improved his writing skills and published many articles online, before he was tragically killed in a horrific bus accident in 2017.

"Calls for us to live `sustainably,' use wind and solar and biofuel power, and never use fossil fuels, are a demand that we accept prolonged starvation and death in our poor countries," Steven wrote in one article. "They mean desperate people will do horrible things to survive, even just another day."

In another column, he pointed out that wind and solar power are far better than wood and animal dung fires. But in reality they are nothing more than "short-term solutions to serious, immediate problems. They do not equal real economic development or really improved living standards. Our cities need abundant, reliable electricity, and for faraway villages wind and solar must be only temporary, to meet basic needs until they can be connected to transmission lines and a grid."

When will the day come, Steven wondered - echoing what Fiona and Cyril had been saying for over a decade - when politicians and activists, who say their care about the world's poor, "stop worrying about global warming, pesticides and GMO crops - and start helping us get the energy, food, medical facilities, technologies, jobs and economic growth we need to improve our lives?"

Fiona, Cyril and Steven live on in their eloquent, passionate articles. Their long battle for equality and human rights, through access to modern technologies, will continue - bringing their dream of a free, prosperous, healthy, vibrant Uganda and Africa ever closer to reality.

Via email

Australia: How a Channel Seven weather presenter is subtly pushing a climate change message - and you didn't even notice

It's not so much what she says that is the problem -- so much as what she leaves out -- like the really extreme weather events of the 1930's -- dustbowls etc

A Channel Seven weather presenter is subtly pushing a climate change message in her nightly bulletins. Melbourne meteorologist Jane Bunn has managed to sell the idea to her viewers without explicitly referring to the concept.

Instead, the weather woman has been pointing out significant changes in weathers trends and highlighting the increase of warmer temperatures to her viewers, The Age reported. 

In a May weather report, which saw temperatures reach just over 14C, Bunn called attention to how the overall trend that month 'since the late 70s is warmer than the long-term average.' 'Overall, our temperatures are moving upwards,' she said.

She described a July day as 'cold, wet and windy' despite the fact that the month's rainfall was less than half the July average. 

She then reported there was a 'trend toward less July days with significant rain' over the past 75 years.

But the meteorologist, who was has been working with Climate Communicators in a program run by Monash University's Climate Change Communication Research Hub, has insisted that she is just telling viewers 'exactly what is happening.'

'Personally, I don't like to yell at people,' she told the outlet. 'Anything that is forcefully put across, I don't like to put any political spin on anything either. I just want the facts, quietly put through in a straightforward way that people can understand.'

The research hub supplies the presenters with graphics on the trends, which she says viewers have always been fascinated with.

The program, which is the counterpart of an American movement, has signed up more than 500 weather presenters across the US.

Stephanie Hall, the research hub's communication manager told The Age that weather presenters 'trusted',  'apolitical' and skilled communicators. She said the idea of climate change has become 'hyper-political.'

Bunn says there has been no backlash to her subtle advocacy for climate change. 'It's a couple of graphs which go up on the screen which are telling what is happening. And there shouldn't be any backlash about that, if you think about it. We're just telling exactly what is happening.'

Bunn's reporting appears to have been well-received, according to social media users.  'This is excellent!! Jane Bunn is planting the seeds of change in viewers' minds. We all feel it and noticie it, on some level, but she's tying the past to present in an easy to follow fashion. Nice work!! Thank you,' one Twitter user said.

'Jane Bunn isn't just a weather girl. She's a meteorologist and she's not "subtly selling" anything - she is simply stating facts,' another said.

A Channel Seven spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia that Bunn is a meteorologist, not a political campaigner, and that there is no climate change spin to her reports. 

The network said Bunn's reporting is based on her expertise and the best available weather data, reflecting exactly what happened over a period of time - regardless of whether it was hot, cold or wet.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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