Does climate change have anything to do with current events in Paris? You bet.
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Natural Resources Defense Council

You already know about the brutal attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015.

That senseless tragedy was orchestrated by a terrorist group called Daesh — although they'd prefer it if you called them ISIS, to reinforce their claim to be an independent nation-state made up of parts of Syria and Iraq. (Let's not give them that satisfaction.)

Daesh might be more interested in stoking anti-Muslim hatred for their own insidious ends than they are our warming planet, but the two are definitely connected.


The chaos in Syria helped lead to the rise of Daesh. And climate change played a big role in creating that chaos.

Image by Stolbovsky/Wikimedia Commons.

You read that right: Our increasing global climate has contributed to the spread of terrorism's climate of fear.

Between 2006 and 2009, a massive drought in the Syrian heartland caused an agricultural collapse. Food prices soared, along with nutrition-related diseases. Before long, 1.5 million Syrians abandoned their farms and headed into the city's urban centers, which were already overcrowded with refugees from Iraq.

That drought, of course, was the direct result of global warming. Our rapidly changing climate is creating unprecedented swings in weather that are getting harder and harder to predict or prepare for.

Photo by CIAT/Flickr.

So what happens when you have tons of hungry, desperate folks all crammed together in close quarters and fending off the freaky weather? Chaos.

And what do power-hungry megalomaniacs love more than exploiting civil unrest to further their goals? (That last part was rhetorical.)



This isn't just some crazy far-fetched fringe belief either.

Bernie Sanders knows it. Martin O'Malley knows it. President Obama knows it. Even Prince Charles knows it. (Also the National Academy of Sciences, but for some reason people aren't always that into listening to scientists when it comes to climate talk.)

Climate change and terrorism are arguably the two largest problems that affect the entire world.

In fact, climate change is a major factor in more than 400,000 deaths per year, compared to an average of 18,000 from terrorism across the globe.

But there's a silver lining in the city of love.

Just two weeks after the terrorist attacks that claimed 130 lives, hundreds of world leaders converged upon Paris for the 21st annual Conference of the Parties (COP21), an international climate convention organized by the United Nations.

The timing is pure coincidence, of course. But people also tend to come together in the wake of tragedies.

This sets up COP21 to be as much about solidarity as it is about renewable energy — which makes a whole lot of sense, given the connection between terrorism and climate change.

The City of Lights is a beacon of hope. Photo by Javier Vieras/Flickr.

Dr. Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Research Institute, released a statement, saying:

"Our team of experts will push forward in support of a climate agreement in Paris not only because of the urgency of the issue, but to show our deep solidarity with the people of France. Our hope is that this summit will demonstrate unequivocally that the global community can come together around common solutions. We will pursue a climate agreement that enhances safety for vulnerable communities, increases global prosperity, and protects people and the planet for future generations."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry echoed this, saying, "There is a clear strategy in place, and step by step, I am confident the momentum will pick up. [...] I think that will be an important statement by the world that no one will interrupt the business of the global community — certainly not despicable, cowardly acts of terror."

It's not just political figures behind this sentiment, either. In a recent interview on Boston Public Radio about the attacks, Charlie Sennot of the Ground Truth Project said:

"You have to almost think of this as two narratives: the narrative of ISIS which is about destruction, and violence, and dividing us. And then there's this other narrative about coming together as a world and really trying to focus on this enormous threat to our planet, climate change. I think that latter narrative is much stronger, and has much more ability to pull people together. [...] Climate change is a much larger threat to our planet than terrorism. And climate change, like the war on ISIS, is going to require a global response."

Photo by Le Centre d'Information sur l'Eau/Flickr.

We can't keep looking at these problems in isolation when the world is so interconnected.

Climate change, like terrorism, is a threat to all of us. And it's not something that can be solved on just a local level.

If we're all going to continue living on the same planet, we're going to need to find ways to work together.

The ultimate goal of COP21 is to emerge on Dec. 11 with a legally binding universal agreement to address the climate crisis. So let's unite and demand that our world leaders take action.

Now is the time for solidarity.

Courtesy of Capital One
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We and other personal finance experts have long talked about the financial challenges of the LGBTQ+ community. That includes access to equal housing, services protections and wage inequality because of one's sexual orientation or gender identity.

While those protections would be included in the Equality Act, legislation remains pending in Congress.

To be fair, the LGBTQ+ community has made significant progress over the last several years. The two most notable being the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling to ensure marriage equality and 2020 decision to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That progress has continued with the current administration, as President Joe Biden recently signed executive orders protecting LGBTQ people from housing and services discrimination.

The LGBTQ+ community faces a unique set of financial challenges that are preventing equal opportunity for all.

Let's break down some of the obstacles confronting members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Queer people are often expected to pay more

One LGBTQ+ financial challenge is the expectations — and misconception — that LGBTQ people can or should pay more because we don't have kids. While 15% of LGBTQ people have kids — compared to 38% of opposite-sex couples — it's not a cause for LGBTQ people having more money.

In fact, because of wage inequality for people in the LGBTQ community, having fewer opportunities for career advancement and in many cases needing the physical and emotional safety that comes with living in an LGBTQ-friendly city (many of which often have high costs of living), it's likely that your LGBTQ+ sibling or friend doesn't have as much financial security as their straight counterparts.

This is why we didn't travel for the holidays for three years while paying off credit card debt. Adding $800 to $1,000 in plane tickets to the credit cards we were working hard to pay off didn't make sense. Yet, our families never offered to come to where we lived for a holiday and foot the travel expenses.

A similar situation arises when caring for aging parents. LGBTQ folks are more likely to be asked to care for aging parents, which is backed by a 2010 MetLife study. This increases the financial burdens and restricts the savings opportunities for LGBTQ folks.

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Photo by Külli Kittus on Unsplash

Millions of individuals are affected by suicide, i.e. suicide claims more than 47,000 lives each year. It is the tenth leading cause of death. On average, 130 people die by suicide each day, and many more attempt it. It is estimated 1.3 million survive each year — including people like me. I am one in a million. I have survived suicide. Twice. And while I am #blessed with an amazing network of friends, family members, and peers, even I have received some cringeworthy advice. I've heard things which would make you recoil in shock and cause your head to spin. Why? Because suicide is complicated matter and it's hard to know what to say. Finding the right words can be tough.

Of course, when someone you care about is hurting, it's natural to want to help. Offering wisdom and advice is usually done empathetically, and with good intentions in mind. However, some words aren't the best — especially if you don't understand suicidal ideations and thoughts.


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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."