Climate Change Making Allergies Worse

People with allergies know that daily weather determines symptoms and that symptoms vary by season. Dr. Katherine Gundling, an allergy and immunology specialist at UCSF, looks at how the warming of our planet might affect allergic respiratory disease. What is emerging from data collected at pollen counting stations around the world is that the length of pollen season is increasing, starting earlier and ending later, especially in higher latitude and higher elevations. As temperatures increase pollen concentrations rise. And increasing temperature may also cause pollen to be more potent.

There are similar indicators that climate change is increasing mold growth. Of particular concern are indoor molds that propagate in wet environments. As sea levels rise and flooding and humidity increase, so too does mold exposure which can cause severe asthma reactions, especially in children who are more vulnerable.

The good news is that we know what to do. Climate change solutions are also solutions to improving health disparities and allergic respiratory disease.

Watch Impacts of Our Changing Climate on Allergic Respiratory Disease.

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Surveying the Body Politic: The 2020 Election

Newly-eligible young voters are in the news and on the minds of politicos this year. States of Change, a nonpartisan project studying shifts in the electorate, estimates that Millennials presently constitute 34.2 percent of eligible voters while Post-Millennials make up another 3.4 percent. These two groups combined will virtually equal the share of eligible voters composed of Baby Boomers and the Silent and Greatest Generations; by dint of sheer numbers they could easily determine the election’s outcome – should they register and vote, which is not a given based on historical data. Eligibility and participation are very different questions.

UC San Diego Alumni brings together two commentators to provide context and insight into what is shaping up to be one of the most contentious elections in American history. Moderator Jerri Malana ’86 welcomes political expert and author Thad Kousser, Chair of the Department of Political Science at UC San Diego. They are joined by José Luz González ’20, a Chancellor’s Associates Scholar and UC-DC alumnus who graduated with a degree in Public Health. In a lively conversation the two men offer varied but complementary perspectives on the upcoming election.

Kousser, a seasoned political researcher and pundit, outlines the demographic, economic, and ideological shifts that have occurred since Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and discusses how politicians and various components of the electorate have responded to those changes. González offers observations about one increasingly important component in particular, the under-25 voter. He notes that young people coming of voting age this year have recently exhibited a greater interest in politics than the previous generation or two, but stresses that it’s impossible to predict by fata alone whether that interest will translate into an increased presence at the polls in November.

Both Kousser and González also stress the outsized influence of social media on the body politic, and the difficulty in identifying reliable news sources. Other topics discussed include the influence of numerous special interest groups and the voting process itself, including the Electoral College’s role. Throw in such wild cards as deliberate misinformation, extreme partisanship, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and possible foreign meddling, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when contemplating the 2020 Presidential Election. Fortunately, experts like Kousser and González help to guide us through the thicket.

Watch Tritons Tackling the 2020 Presidential Election.

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A Fascination with Trees

When Terry Allen left Lubbock, Texas to pursue his youthful ambitions it’s doubtful he could have foreseen his status nearly six decades later as a legendary painter, conceptual artist, composer, and musician. Terry’s work is unusually diverse but certain themes are common: the mysteries of love, surviving loss, and the consequences of violence are just a few, often expressed with sardonic humor and a heightened sense of irony.

Terry is particularly celebrated as a chronicler of the off-beat, the surreal, and the just plain weird in American life. In his interview with the Stuart Collection’s Mary Beebe and Mathieu Gregoire, Terry notes that his appreciation for the off-kilter arose in part from his childhood in Lubbock, a highly conservative place with its share of colorful and disreputable characters. A burgeoning iconoclast, he fled Lubbock for Los Angeles in the mid-1960s seeking to establish himself as an artist. It was only after disavowing Lubbock and West Texas for many years that Terry came to appreciate the influence of his upbringing on his worldview and his art. This understanding was beautifully expressed in his groundbreaking 1979 release “Lubbock (On Everything)” which contains two of Your Humble Correspondent’s favorites, “Truckload of Art” and “The Collector (and the Art Mob).” “Lubbock…” along with his earlier conceptual album “Juarez” cemented Terry Allen’s reputation as an “outlaw country” artist, a designation he’s not comfortable with as he finds it limiting, if not meaningless.

Terry also discusses his fascination with trees, understandable in someone growing up in a place “so flat that if you stare at the horizon hard enough you can see the back of your head.” This attraction inspired his creation of a commission for Stuart Collection entitled “Trees,” a collection of three metal-clad trees: a singing tree that plays an eclectic mixture of music; a talking (or poetry) tree that plays various spoken word pieces; and a silent tree placed in front of UC San Diego’s Geisel Library. The singing and talking trees are blended into a eucalyptus grove, lending an air of both mystery and discovery to the passersby. As with many of the Stuart Collection pieces, the objective is to “bring the inexplicable” to campus, and Terry Allen is well-versed in the enigmatic.

Watch Terry Allen: Trees – A Conversation with Stuart Collection.

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Threats of Climate Change

We are all exposed to the consequences of climate change but some populations are more vulnerable than others. In these presentations three UCSF doctors explore the impact on maternal and child health, and the health of older people.

Dr. Tracey Woodruff explores climate, pollution, and prenatal and child health. Climate change worsens air pollution and extreme weather which can have severe impacts on health during and after pregnancy. Prenatal exposure to air pollutants can increase the risk of preterm birth, low birthweight and stillbirth. Air pollution is also associated with heart birth defects, autism, and neurodevelopmental delays along with pre-eclampsia and hypertension during pregnancy, a leading cause of maternal death. She argues that public policy is necessary to create lasting and fair solutions for all.

Dr. Pooja Singal focuses on children’s unique vulnerability to climate change. She notes that worldwide 1 in 5 deaths each year occurs in a child under 5. Children have greater exposure – they breathe more air, drink more water and eat more food per unit of body weight compared to adults. They also spend more time outside, contact the ground frequently and put their hands in their mouths more. Because childhood is a unique window of development, effects of malnutrition, toxins and pollutants are heightened. Children are also less able to understand what to do and are reliant on caregivers and the context in which they live.

Dr. Anna Chodors looks at the special risks to older adults. From wildfires to extreme heat and flooding, the elderly are disproportionally affected. In part this is due to physiological changes associated with aging and the associated biological vulnerabilities. Social vulnerabilities such as poverty, isolation and the digital divide contribute to their exposure.

Dr. Chodros encourages you to be aware of local weather conditions, understand that medications and health conditions can increase vulnerability, and make a plan to handle emergency situations.

Dr. Dan Lowenstein then encourages us to take climate change seriously because it is the existential crisis of our time.

Watch Climate Change: The Special Risks to Children, Pregnant Women and Older Adults .

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Rebels with a Cause

As Dr. Henry Powell notes in “Irish Women of Resilience,” until the late 20th century the history of Ireland is a sad one. The Emerald Isle had the great misfortune of proximity to an aggressively expansionist, colonialist power that went on to dominate ad exploit the Irish people for nearly 700 years. That period was further scarred by famine, failed rebellions, civil war, and religious repression.

In response to the Irish people’s yearning for solace and preservation of cultural identity, the aisling (ASH-ling) was developed in the late 17th and 18th centuries as a uniquely Irish poetic genre. Aisling means “dream” or “vision,” and in the verses Ireland appears to the poet as a woman, frequently young and beautiful but occasionally old and haggard, who laments the current state of affairs in Éireann and predicts a revival, a resurgence of the Gaelic nation. Often this revival is linked to the return of the House of Stuart to the British and Irish thrones. Powell explains that women have long held a special place in Gaelic culture and literature, especially poetry, and the aisling is emblematic of that revered status.

“She is a girl and would not be afraid to walk the whole world with herself.”
– Lady August Gregory, poet

After establishing the importance of women in the collective Irish consciousness Powell turns his attention to women who have had a profound impact on Irish society in more recent times, including Hazel Martin (Lady Lavery) , an early Irish nationalist; the renowned ”Rebel Countess” Constance Markievicz, who advised women preparing for insurrection to “Dress suitably in short skirts and sitting boots, leave your jewels and gold wands in the bank, and buy a revolver;” popular novelist Elizabeth Bowen, who cast a sharp eye on social mores; Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone, artists and lifelong companions who rocked the art establishment by introducing cubism to Ireland; the first female President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and her immediate successor Mary MacAleese; crusading journalist Nell McCafferty, who pursued the most powerful judicial figures in the country; and Mary Raftery, who exposed and documented decades of systemic abuse of children in State-funded, Church-run institutions.

This list is, of course, only a sampling of women who have influenced Irish society in virtually all respects. Powell notes that while each of these women has a unique story, their commonality is a fierce devotion to justice and a disdain for societal conventions meant to control, hinder, and demean women. Ireland is ending its first century of independence with increased prosperity and a forward-thinking, modern outlook, and that is due in no small part to resilient – some might say stubborn, but admiringly – Irish women.

Watch Irish Women of Resilience with Henry Powell – Osher Online Lecture Series.

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