Google “Contested Mountains” You’ll See

I am 10 google searches deep into trying to find an article about a contested mountain range. I started off with a pretty simple search “Contested Mountains”. Google gave me a book, that surprisingly cost 57$ on Amazon.

Then I reevaluated my approach and tried “indigenous people vs science”. When that didn’t work I tried “vs astronomy”, then add the word “mountains”. By the end, I had nearly an entire sentence typed in the google bar… “examples of contested mountains indigenous people vs western science”


So I gave up and type “territorial disputes”. Google gave me everything; Sudan vs South Sudan Civil War, Iraq vs the UAE (about 7 times), it even threw me back to Guantanamo Bay (US vs Cuba).

And then it hit me… Indigenous people don’t have the same publicity team any country in the world has, or the same respect. Their media coverage is slim to none by major US news outlets. Their voices are not heard by the public, which is why I couldn’t find them.

That right there is more of an issue than any mountain. Because, honestly, it is not disputed if the other side is not heard. It is lost.

When this is such a critical conversation my google results should look like this…

The number of results is disappointing.


COVID19 and Climate Change Connected

A new study published in the LA Times proves a link between the health damage caused by the novel coronavirus and long term exposure to air pollution.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health took data from more than 3000 US counties on the long term exposure to fine particles in the air and the death rates associated with COVID19. They came to the conclusion that city pollution is leading to the higher death rates in those areas.

For the greater population, this means that you are more likely to die from corona if your city is polluted.

This information, however disappointing, is not very surprising.

Researchers for a long time have linked long term polluted air exposure to many respiratory issues, ranging in anything from mild asthma to life-taking cancer. Studies from 2003 found that people were 84% more likely to die of SARS if they lived in a polluted area. Others found that breathing in polluted air your whole life is equivalent to smoking an extra pack of cigarettes a day.

However, very little has changed. Study after study gets published and we continue to not care. In fact, environmental restrictions on air pollution are getting pushed back as you read this.

But, Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at Harvard and coauthor of the study, is hoping for this information to be different. She believes these numbers are too significant to be avoided.

This study found that an increase of only one microgram per cubic meter of PM2.5 (the measure for air pollution) was associated with a 15% rise in the coronavirus death rate. This puts residents from cities like the ones in California and New York at a much higher risk than original anticipated.

People are dying from air pollution in the form of coronavirus. We need to care. We need more environmental regulation, not less, to save lives.

What it Means to be Essential?

According to the state of CT, I am an essential employee.

No, I am not an 18 year old doctor… or a nurse, for that matter. I didn’t miraculously begin serving on the police force or for the fire department. And, no, I am not an active member of the US military.

I work at Target, in the style department. This means about 4 times a week I leave my house, risking my life, my family’s safety, and everyone I come in contact’s health, to stock the shelves with shoes. However, if I don’t do it, someone has to, since it is considered “essential” during this time.

Ned Lemont, Connecticut’s governor, released a list nearly a mile long of things deemed essential enough to have in person operations after March 23. If you are curious, give it a read. If not, give your keyboard a good scroll.

I’ll summarize this in 5 words… IT IS TOO MANY PEOPLE. How is landscaping essential? How come a financial advisor can’t work from home? Why did we decide that package stores could stay open? And what in the world are golf courses doing on that list?

I get it. I shouldn’t complain. CT is one of the lucky states. Trust me, the stay at home order could be worse. I could live in Florida where Gov DeSantis waited until Wednesday of last week to issue an order, that happens to consider WWE live shows as essential. Or better yet I could live in one of the 7 states that doesn’t even have an order, as of today. This is because their Republican leaders have decided that “a lockdown is not the answer”.

Whatever state you look at, the policy is not matching the science. In order to flatten the curve we need as many people staying home as possible. Isolation is the only way to stop the spread of this virus right now. It is the only way to make sure our hospitals don’t get over crowded and as many citizens as possible stay alive. 

If staying home is the answer why is the essential employees list so long? And why do some states not even have one? Maybe it’s time the federal government steps in or at least the states need to start reevaluating what it means to be essential? They can get back to me on whether the shoe department at Target is worth someone’s life.

The Biased Mindset of Many

Less than a month ago we had our president tweeting that “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.” while comparing the novel coronavirus to nothing more than the common cold and then it hit the United States. Less than a few weeks ago we had 70 students of the University of Texas board plane to Mexico because they decided they were too young or too healthy to get sick and then 44 of them tested positive. Only a few days ago I saw a local girl on my social media throwing a quarantine party because, and I quote, “this area is not affected”.

How? What? Why?

We all have read the same articles about the death tolls and watched the same CDC broadcasts begging us to take this seriously and stay home. Yet we have people acting like this.

How does this happen? What is their thought process? Why is it so common?

In the field of psychology there is something called cognitive bias.

“Cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment.”

Simply put, it is our own perception of reality. It is why there are two sides to every story but in this case it is bigger than two kids on a playground.

Cognitive bias presents itself in many different ways but the one we need to concern ourselves with is confirmation bias. This is the idea that we search for facts to reinforce our point rather than challenge our beliefs. It explains the “if I don’t see it, it must not be true”mentality.

That is how this happens. That is their thought process and it is so common because it is hard to believe in something you can’t see. It takes faith and trust. Many people don’t have that in others and, especially, the media. So you have people like the ones I mentioned above not taking this seriously until it is knocking at their front door.

That is too late.

Coronavirus is just not something we can afford to “wait and see”. We need to change the way we think. We need to put an end to confirmation bias because the need for visual confirmation that this is as serious as those articles and broadcasts say is resulting in physical illness and multiple deaths.

-Natalie Dionne