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A NASA scientist shares his greatest hope for the future of earth.

"It's indisputable. It's very solid physics"

A NASA scientist shares his greatest hope for the future of earth.
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Unilever and the United Nations

Eric Rignot, a NASA scientist, has a very important job — one most of us would struggle to fully understand.

According to his NASA profile, his work focuses on the "geoscience applications of radar interferometry and polarimetry." (See what I mean?) Basically, what all that means is he studies what's happening to the earth's surfaces...


GIF via Giphy.

...surfaces such as ice sheets, which are dissolving at an accelerated rate due to climate warming from our use of fossil fuels.

Antarctica's Larsen B ice shelf has existed for 10,000 years. In 2002, two-thirds of the shelf collapsed into the ocean over the span of six weeks. Researchers estimate the remaining portion will only hold for a few more years. GIF via NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

As complex as Rignot's work may be, he wants us to know why it's relevant to all our lives.

In a two-minute elevator speech with Greenman Studio, Rignot explains that rising temperatures are making the weather crazier and sea levels higher, which affects everything from where people can live to our food production, and even the number of species left on earth.

But we shouldn't be surprised. Rignot says science has warned about this for a long time:

"The first thing about climate warming is that the physical basis, we've known it for centuries. This is nothing new in the science of climate change today. You bring more CO2, more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it warms it up. It's indisputable. It's very solid physics."
— Dr. Eric Rignot

At 1:08 in the video, Rignot says something that took a few minutes to hit me:

"We didn't leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stone."

It's true. The Stone Age gave way to the adoption of a new technology: metals. (Now hold that thought.)

GIF via Greenman Studio.

Climate catastrophe is starting to seem inevitable, but Rignot has one last hope: young people.

"To change everything, it takes everyone." Image via South Bend Voice/Flickr.

"I think they are more sensitive to this. They don't want this kind of world down the line. And they probably are the first generation who can actually change it. They have the power to change it, and I hope they take it. I hope they take it."
— Dr. Eric Rignot

If running out of stone isn't why we left the Stone Age, what's keeping us from leaving the Oil Age?

Watch the full interview with Dr. Eric Rignot:

The difference between a politician and a public servant may be a matter of semantics, but when it comes to getting legislation passed that actually helps people, the contrast is stark.

Texas Representative James Talarico is on a mission to get his constituents the life-saving medicine they need. The 31-year-old lawmaker has just introduced legislation that would cap the price of insulin—a medicine people with type 1 diabetes need to live, which has become unaffordable for many—at $50 a month.

The mission is personal for Talarico, as he nearly died three years ago when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

He shared his story on Twitter:

"In May 2018, I was a healthy 28-year-old running for the Texas House. I decided to walk the entire length of my district and hold town halls along the way. I hike Big Bend every year, so I wasn't concerned about a 25 mile walk...

But halfway through the walk, I began feeling nauseous and fatigued. Before the town hall in Hutto, I vomited in the bathroom."

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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