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Student_BlogScientific endeavors can be described as nothing short of the proverbial term-‘Playing with fire’. Like fire, it is great potential and hazard rolled into one. But the one strong resemblance that leads me to this comparison is how we learn from it. A child would know not to get too close to his birthday candle once he burns himself. True, we get numerous warnings from our ever-watchful parents but nothing teaches us what the flame does like our first burn. It is true that experiences in the lab help us to learn from our mistakes but how do we avoid such ‘mistakes’? Most of the scientific guidelines we have today are a result of experiences (unfortunately most of them unpleasant ones) from the past. As we work presently under what we may think are ethical practices, we may be unbeknownst to us, writing a chapter about what not to do for the future generations to read and learn from. Simply put, we do not notice our pitfalls till the damage is done. So in science where the stakes are high and there is so much to lose, it does not make sense to sit and wait for the next mistake to happen or for someone to give us a slap on the wrist to learn our lessons. I am not implying that we should develop a God like ability to predict everything that can go wrong overnight. But in the grand scheme of things where we work with methods passed down to us from generations of study and practice, it is very easy to lose one’s voice and sense of right and wrong with the only explanation being ‘um, that’s how its always done and it works so…’.

When we thumb through cases of scientific exploitations or disasters, we often come across people who initially recognized ethical misgivings but failed to bring about changes till it was too late. So what is it that drives the ability to detect AND correct potential ethical issues? I can almost hear everyone that works in a lab go “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” collectively after having read this (At least that’s what I said to myself). Coming back to my question, what is it that is stopping us from going that extra mile to make sure what we are doing is ethically sound and safe? The answer according to me is-Apathy.
Apathy not only distances us away from the cause we are trying to contribute to but also from the ethical foundation from which we started building our study. When names become numbers and subjects become nothing but data points on a graph, ethical issues fade into a dusty old manual nobody looks at anymore. Because numbers are incapable of feelings, right? For example, we are aware of many heart-wrenching problems that we read about in the news, where ‘n’ number of people were left homeless, we sympathize with them and continue on with our morning coffee. But if something similar happens to just one person we personally interact with say a roommate or sibling, we act on the sympathy we feel. A man who has known hunger will be more willing to share his meal. It is an undeniable fact that we act more readily towards causes that are closer to home. Most of us, especially people who work in life sciences are trained to be desensitized to emotional aspects of our study, say pain or distress of our subjects in order to properly carry out our study. It may range from obtaining samples, performing surgery, subjecting them to stress etc. In fact this kind of distancing one’s self from such emotional properties makes sense because I wouldn’t want to get operated on by a sobbing and shaking surgeon.
So where do we stop? Where do we draw the line? What should we question and what should we simply accept? The line between being strong and being completely apathetic is very thin and is a tightrope that scientists constantly attempt to walk on. It is important to keep in mind that being immune to emotional triggers does not necessarily mean being blind to them. We have to be able to relate and feel every emotion that our research may involve. Yes, feel the pain that the mouse or rat or cat or monkey or human in your study is feeling. But do not let that pain make you weak and balk from scientific endeavors. In turn, let that pain make you strong enough to make sure that participation in science is not in vain. Let the pain drive you to do everything that you can to contribute to the cause you work on. Let that pain leave no room for careless mistakes. Let the pain give you courage to stand up and take the lead if you so much as even feel that some may be unethical. Let the pain be the catalyst that takes you from thought to action.

Easy to write about but very hard to practice right? It is the idea that one person cannot bring about change or solve ‘big problems’ that often discourages us from even attempting to even think about bringing about a change in an established system. But like all things that matter, action starts at home. The only way to at least make a dent in solving these monster problems is to start with, what may seem to you, a small effort. “We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something” said Mother Teresa. If we believe that apathy causes lack of action then can we not believe that our action can maybe stir empathy in someone else? All great reforms were a chain reaction that at some point of time were just one voice saying ‘this is not right’. So always remember that no action of ours ever goes unanswered (good or bad). Once we lose sight of why we do what we do, it doesn’t matter how good we are or what we do anymore. Keeping this in mind, we learn, we listen, we write, we skip lunches, we speculate, we imagine, we overdose on caffeine, we treat failure as the wisest friend, we feast on every significant p value, we burn the midnight oil and wake up again the next day and gladly do it all over again because we love what we do! Not only shall we try to walk that tightrope but we shall waltz across it my friend!


Student_BlogMariam-Webster dictionary defines ‘cognition’ as ‘conscious mental activities: the activities of thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering’. So, we can say that it is related to memory and attention. Most of us take tea, coffee to keep ourselves active and working. Coffee is regarded as one of the most consumed drinks all over the world and the most popular reason is that it keeps you alert as it contains caffeine which is a stimulant. What if there was something which was better in keeping you alert and increasing your cognition? To what extent would you compromise to get it? Do you think that you should be allowed to enhance your cognition by taking that “something”? Should everybody else be allowed? These are not simple questions to answer.

Few months back I came to know about these ‘cognition enhancing drugs’ through an article. I quickly read about them and came to know that nowadays there are several drug companies that manufacture these drugs and many people take these drugs in a regular basis as a part of supplements in their diet. I read all the reviews people had written about these drugs and was quiet curious to feel the effects on myself, so I could not resist from ordering the free trial from one of the companies. I started using the pills last week and now I’ve started to feel the change as well. Did I do a right thing by using those ‘cognition enhancing drugs’?

People having attention problems like attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), memory problems like Alzheimer’s and others having similar problems are the original targets for these drugs but because of unclear and lenient law for drugs like these normal people also take these drugs to enhance their cognitive ability. These drugs act on the nerves and the neuro-transmitters. Based on the type of drug, can increase memory, increase attention or keep alert. Some of the commonly used pharmacological cognitive enhancers are: Donepegil, Provigil (modafinil), Ritalin (methylphenidate) etc.

There are studies (Teter CJ et al, McCabSE et al) which show that more than 8.5% of all the US population has at least tried these drugs once in their lifetime and among the students the figure rises to more than 25%. Not only students, studies have shown that large number people from other areas also take these drugs to keep themselves going. The number of people taking these drugs is only going to increase in the days to come when competition will be tougher than what it is now. Some people support the availability of these drugs to the normal people and some oppose. Both of these kinds of people have their own arguments. The people who oppose the use of these drugs believe that it is against the law of the nature. They consider this as a cheating and argue that one should always respect other’s talent and ability and try not to level off everyone’s cognition which they describe as devaluation of knowledge. But, the people who

support the use of these drugs have different opinions. They argue that discovering new things and implementing them for our own benefit can’t be against nature. Moving forward, making discoveries and using them for some more discoveries to make lives easier are in fact nature’s law. They believe that professionals like doctors, engineers and militants would work more efficiently and effectively and would we not want that? The opposing group mentions that treatment is different than enhancement and we should only limit the usage of these drugs to treatment and not as enhancers. But, the supporters of these drugs have a different opinion; they compare these drugs with the vaccines which are also not used as a part of treatment but are a type of enhancer.

Having said that, what we should know is that these enhancers are drugs and like all the other drugs they also have side-effects. These drugs also require favorable conditions to work. We should think about the dose, age of the person using the drug and long term consequences as well. These drugs have different pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics than caffeine, so we cannot directly compare these with coffee sipping. Well, this is my thought. You may have a different opinion.

No doubt, there are benefits of using these drugs but there are still no any proofs that these drugs are very safe and can be made available to all the people. Jonsen et al have formed a model to analyze the factors that a physician must consider while prescribing these drugs to the normal. The model is known as the “four box model” and the four factors considered are: medical indications, quality of life / beneficence, patient preferences, and contextual factors. The balanced view according to most of the intellectuals is that these drugs should be made available to people with some restrictions for now. There are studies (Sahakian & Morein-Zamir, 2010) that have shown that the cognition can even worsen because of these drugs, so until and unless these drugs are declared safe they should only be made available for the needy and not for all the general public. There should be a separate regulating body to overview the issues related to these drugs, be it FDA or some other organizations. Later on, when we know enough about the effects, side-effects, long term effects and everything else about these drugs then I think we should leave the decision to individuals whether to take the drugs or not.

 

References:

Substance abuse and mental health services administration (SAMHSA), Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings (HHS Publication No. SMA 09-4434), 2009.

Teter CJ, McCabe SE, LaGrange K, et al. (2006) Illicit use of specific prescription stimulants among college students: prevalence, motives, and routes of administration. Pharmacotherapy 26: 1501-1510.

Rose, S.P.R. (2002). “Smart Drugs”: do they work? Are they ethical? Will they be legal? Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 3, 975-979.

Hall, S. S. (2003). The quest for a smart pill. Scientific American, 289(3), 54-65.

Greely H, Sahakian B, Harris J, et al. (2008) Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy. Nature 456: 702-705.

DeSantis AD, Webb EM, Noar SM (2008) Illicit use of prescription ADHD medications on a college campus: a multimethodological approach. J Am Coll Health 57: 315-24.

Jonsen A, Siegler M, Winslade W (2010) Clinical Ethics: a practical approach to ethical decisions in clinical medicine, 7th eds. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Wilens TE, Adler LA, Adams J, et al. (2008) Misuse and Diversion of Stimulants Prescribed for ADHD : A Systematic Review of the Literature. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 47: 21-31.

Thomas LM, Mccabe SE, Cranford JA, et al. (2011) Misuse of Prescribed Stimulant Medication for ADHD and Associated Patterns of Substance Use : Preliminary Analysis Among College Students. J Pharm Pract 24: 551-560.


It is not uncommon if we ask any grown up in this part of the world “why is fluoride important” and get the answer that it is essential for tooth health, more stress being laid upon the prevention of dental caries with its use. So again it is not surprising to see people apt for fluoridated toothpaste when it comes to a routine procedure of brushing the teeth. It is not even surprising to see dentists advocate different toothpastes hailing the amount of fluoride they contain or how fluoridated toothpaste helps prevent tooth decay. However, what is surprising is the fact that most of the drinking water supplied by the government to the common households in the form of tap water is fluoridated. Are we able to choose whether to use fluoridated toothpaste or not? We sure are. But are we free enough to opt for non-fluoridated water in the taps in our households? Hardly is the case so. Why would we even want to opt for non-fluoridated water when the water supply is trying to make sure we consume this metal in one way or the other? What is the truth? Is fluoride necessary? Or on the other side, is it dangerous? My aim is not to raise a controversy but to bring forth little insight that I have gained through some of the recent studies done in this area. While the proponents of fluoridation claim that water fluoridation in recommended dose aids in reduction of dental caries, opponents argue that not only is water fluoridation a violation of individual freedom, but is totally unnecessary, risky and accompanied by several health hazards backed up by numerous epidemiological and lab studies.

Firstly let’s address the cause of the issue. According to the handbook ‘Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products’, fluoride is more poisonous than lead and just slightly less poisonous than arsenic. Fluoride is a toxic drug, the dangers of which far outweigh any benefit it might have to one’s teeth. In fact, any anti-cavity benefit one may reap from fluoride comes from topical application. The labeling in the toothpaste says “dangerous if swallowed” because of the toxic effects of fluoride. The practice of fluoridation of drinking water began in 1950 when the U.S. Public Health Service first endorsed fluoridation to reduce the occurrence of dental caries in the communities. It is one of the longest running debates in the history of public health. But is fluoride really dangerous?

The study by Bassin E.B. found association between fluoride exposure in drinking water during childhood and the incidence of osteosarcoma among males.[1] A number of other cancer studies have found link between exposure to fluoride through drinking water and incidence of cancers like osteosarcoma and carcinogen induced cell transformation.[2],[3],[4],[5] Several other studies linked increased

incidence of hip fractures to fluoridation of water.[6],[7] Yet other studies have pointed out the deficiency of iodine resulting in hypothyroidism and/or hyperthyroidism in consumers of fluoridated water/environment. In experimental rats, fluoride exposure via drinking water was found to cause neurotoxicity and intelligence impairment.[8],[9] They found adverse effect of high fluoride exposure on children’s neurodevelopment as well as sex- and dose-specific behavioral deficits with a common pattern in rats. Advocates of fluoridation counter that these animal studies are invalid because high doses of fluoride were used. However, it takes 5-20 times more fluoride to reach the same plasma levels in rats as in humans (Sawan 2010). After reviewing 27 different human IQ studies, a team of Harvard scientists concluded that fluoride’s effect on the young brain should now be a ‘high research priority’ (Choi, et al, 2012). While the American Dental Association claims the overall reduction in the incidence of dental caries in the last few decades due to water fluoridation, similar reduction in dental caries have been observed in countries and areas where there is no water fluoridation.[10],[11],[12] The dramatic decline in dental caries witnessed in different parts of the world has occurred without the dental profession being fully able to explain the relative role of fluoride in this process and it is not surprising taking into account the fact that dental caries is not the result of fluoride deficiency.[13] Thus, in addition to the well documented toxic effects of fluoride to the human body, very small concentration (1 ppm), usually found in artificially fluoridated water, can inhibit enzyme systems, damage the immune system, contribute to calcification of soft tissues, worsen arthritis and also cause dental fluorosis in children. The evidence is there to support the claim that fluoridation of water has no role in preventing dental caries.

I was reminded of the case of lead presented in the ethics class. Voices are being raised against water fluoridation as well incorporation of fluoride in other products but the industry is very powerful. What makes the case of water fluoridation so distinguished and different from lead or any other toxic chemical introduced to the human community is that there is not even consent in part of the consumer. It looks like it is being force fed through our very basic need and right of clean drinking water. Although there are a number of different sources through which fluoride gets into our body (smoking, fluoridated toothpaste, shower with fluoridated water especially warm shower, canned foods, mechanically deboned meat), fluoridated (both tap and mineral) drinking water remains the major source. We as consumer have right to proper and unbiased information in any product that we consume. Whatever be the controversy and whatever level it be at, we need to feel safe in our own day to day environment. If there is even as little as a speck of truth in the findings of all those studies, consumers need the right to fluoride free life.

 

 

 

1 Age-specific fluoride exposure in drinking water and osteosarcoma (United States);Cancer Causes Control 2006 May;17(4):421-8.

2 Carcinogenesis, Vol. 9, pp. 2279-2284 (1988)

3 Fluoride Vol. 26, pp. 83-96 (1992) Fluoride is an equivocal carcinogen

4 A Brief Report on the Association of Drinking Water Fluoridation and the Incidence of Osteosarcoma among Young Males, New Jersey Department of Health, November 1992

5 Blakey K, Feltbower RG, Parslow RC, et al. Is fluoride a risk factor for bone cancer? Small area analysis of osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma diagnosed among 0-49-year-olds in Great Britain, 1980-2005. Int J Epidemiol. 2014;43:224–234.

6 Danielson C, Lyon IL, Egger M, and Goodenough GK. Hip fractures and fluoridation in Utah’s elderly population. JAMA Vol. 268, pp. 746-748 (1992)

7 Fluoride in drinking water and risk of hip fracture in the UK: a case-control study. Lancet 2000 Jan 22;355(9200):265-9.

8 Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

9 Neurotoxicity of sodium fluoride in rats;Neurotoxicology and Teratology Volume 17, Issue 2, March–April 1995, Pages 169–177

10 Cheng KK et al. (2007) Adding fluoride to water supplies. British Medical Journal 335 (7622): 6999-702

11 Pizzo G, et al. (2007). Community water fluoridation and caries prevention: a critical review. Clinical Oral Investigations 11(3): 189-93 12 Neurath C. (2005). Tooth decay trends for

12 year olds in nonfluoridated and fluoridated countries. Fluoride 38: 324-325

13 Aoba T, Fejerskov O. (2002). Dental Fluorosis: chemistry and biology. Critical Review of Oral Biology and Medicine 13: 155-70


Student_BlogNumbers of electronic devices has increased more than 5 times around the world since industrial revolution. We all need energy to operate it. Our modern life is built on energy. Does anyone know where in the world this energy coming from, this is coming from burning fuels, coals etc. Fifty percent of US energy comes from the Coal and 80 % of Chinas energy comes from Coal. Remember burning anything releases carbon, burning coal and oil which are dense in carbon release carbon a lot. That carbon mixed in atmosphere and degrade the ozone layer, and when carbon mix with the oxygen in atmosphere act like a blanket and reserve heat in our surrounding thus temperature rises.

Climate change is a very real, dangerous, and rapidly worsening problem with deep moral and ethical implications. The International Energy Agency says CO2 emissions is the highest in history. We produce 9 billion tons of carbon a year. Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have now risen to levels that are precariously close to pushing global temperatures beyond 2º C (3.6 º F). Bold and decisive action is needed to prevent temperatures from rising to this tragic and potentially irreversible level. Climate change affect everyone.

Basically this rise in temperature, melts snow from snowcapped mountains which can cause massive flood, avalanche and other natural disasters, rise on temperature also causes endanger of species in acratic hemisphere e.g. polar bears and whales are placed on endangered species list. Small alpine glaciers will very likely disappear completely and large glaciers will shrink by 30 to 70 percent. Not only that we have started seeing drought in many places and less rain fall than usual. Time and again we heard about the visibility issues in highly industrialized cities like Hong Kong, Beijing etc. where government declare holidays for school because of rise in air pollution in the cities. This is the story of almost every nation. But the bitter truth is why no one in taking responsibility for this.

The most basic ethical principal is do not harm others but is violated. I think it’s not only about the carbon, It’s about ego as well. Developed countries feel like they are the super power and to be the number one they need more energy and cheapest way to get energy is from gasoline and coals. But a small country in Africa like Malawi which hardly contribute to the adversities in environment have to suffer consequences, two years ago Malawi receives massive flood across the nation which is not usual for this landlocked country. What we have seen in the recent 2015 Climate Change submit in Paris, developed nation who are producing more than 70% of total carbon emission are not able to agree on the reduction of carbon emission in near future, due to conflict between nations.

Countries are negotiating on what responsibilities and duties different countries have on climate change. Industrialized countries must drastically reduce their emissions and provide finance and technology to assist reduction of emissions in developing countries. Developing countries insist that a solution to climate change cannot come at the expense of their development. But the key thing is development is closely linked with the energy, consequently, a seemingly inevitable increase in fossil fuel use and thus carbon emissions. Having said that we should have moral ground for carbon emission.

A question which I asked every day is why the kids in Africa have to suffer; why fish, birds, forest have to suffer; Is it due to the ego in energy production in Developed world? Why can’t we stand with nature than always standing against nature? Reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions causes the atmospheric concentrations stabilized at an agreed safe level and distributes the permissible emissions under the contraction on an equal per capita basis globally for all countries.

The Greenhouse Development Rights is “ability to pay.” This principal combines the costs of emissions mitigation and development funding and calculates for each nation a “measurement of responsibility and capacity” based on the percentage of its population above a “development threshold,” or minimum per capita income, and excludes emissions that correspond to consumption from those below the threshold.

The U.S. and many developed national has forgot their social responsibility and failed to take aggressive action on climate change in large part because the issue has been framed around economic self-interest: its costs to jobs and the economy are too high. No matter what the cost is for economy but we should not mess with nature. We will also not survive if we cannot protect our environment.

We can make a difference form our level, Greenpeace movement has stir the issue again. Tomorrow Dec 05 2015 Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is setting for its log waited meeting to discuss about how much they can cut in production of crude and burnt oil in future without destabilizing the economy. This seems like a small step towards reduction in carbon for better environment of future. But I believe if we can help each other to reduce carbon emission by using natural and clean energy sources instead. This world again will be a better place to live.

Reference:

United Nation conference in climate change: http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en/

Contraction & Convergence: http://www.gci.org.uk/

Greenhouse Development Rights: http://gdrights.org/

OPEC: http://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/


Student_BlogIn a recent study by H Damon Matthews et al. of Concordia University, it was found that the United States was the global leader in green house gas emissions. These gases have been proven to build up in the earth’s atmosphere and trap heat over time. Their accumulation has led to changes in the global climate and the United States’ government must not only take responsibility, but also make significant strides into lowering these harmful emissions.

The energy sector is responsible for approximately a third of the United States green house gas emissions. While there are several different energy sources for the production of electricity in the U.S., the reliance over others is unequal. In 2013, the U.S. depended on fossil fuels for 67% of electricity, nuclear power accounted for 19%, and renewables sources made up for 14%. A solution to be considered to reduce the amount of green house gases is to balance the United State’s energy profile by making the three sources responsible for a third of all energy production each.

The U.S. relies too much on fossil fuels for not only its energy needs, but also for in the transportation and industry sectors. Divided amongst coal, natural gas, petroleum, and other gases, fossil fuels produce the most green house gasses than all other forms of energy production. Efforts have been made to put scrubbers on emission towers to trap targeted gasses and to use clean coal, but the data still shows this is not enough.

Renewable energy sources like solar and wind only contribute to about 4.4%, while hydropower is responsible for 7% of all electricity production. Technology for solar and wind energy are still in the infancy state, and both have very strict limitations to how energy is acquired. There are also some drawbacks to these forms of energy Very toxic chemicals are produced with the production of solar cells and wind turbines have been responsible for numerous deaths of birds that fly into the blades. Hydropower sees very little promise in being expanded, as most locations in the U.S. that could be dammed have already been so.

Nuclear energy is a very controversial energy option for American citizens. It is one of the cleaner alternative energy sources, but there are serious drawbacks as well. No green house gases are emitted from nuclear plants when electricity is generated; however, the energy source does produce radioactive waste that would take tens of thousands of years to decay into a harmless product. Currently the US has 100 operational nuclear reactors of 62 plants. Many of these would need to be updated in terms of infrastructure and technology that could be very costly.

There is no easy fix for the energy solution in the United States, as time, money, and patience will be tested. However, there are great benefits if we balance the dependency of all energy sources. If the technology for wind, solar, and nuclear power makes significant advancements, not only will green house gasses be decreased for the energy sector, but other sectors might see a decrease as well. The U.S. must begin making bigger strides in the energy sector for not only the sake of the current generation, but for future generations as well.

References

Matthes, Damon H., et al. National Contributions to Observed Global Warmings.               IOP Science. 15 Jan. 2014. Web. 7. December 2014.

National Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Environmental Protection Agency. 11 Sept. 2014.    Web. 4 Dec. 2014.

Overview of Greehouse Gasses. Environmental Protection Agency. 2 July. 2014.               Web. 4 Dec. 2014.

 What is U S. Electricity Generation by Each Source? U.S. Energy Information       Administration.  13 June 2014. Web. 3 Dec. 2014.


Student_BlogThere are famous architects whose names probably well‐known even to people who are far from architectural profession: Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, Renzo Piano, Jean Nouvel and quite few others. They have received Pritzker prizes and their creations are distributed around the world on postcards and tourists brochures. After all, buildings that we construct now and that will stand for years to come will represent our times to future generations, right? Maybe it is true and nothing else matters except a masterpiece that left for centuries to admire, argue about, or even hate but never remain neutral about it.

That is right that it is much easier to criticize one’s work than to create your own. It is also true that great minds usually face negativism and jealousy so we should be grateful for those who in spite of criticism and misunderstanding create if not beautiful but definitely unusual architecture that we call now – signature architecture.

I do not want to discuss either uniqueness or ugliness or beauty of starchitects’ creations but rather to look at what is behind it and how design affects lives before during and after it becomes a structure. Several publications in the Architectural Record caught my attention recently. There is a certain trend between architects that can be summarized in one phrase: ‘I gave you a beautiful design of a structure or building – deal with it. It is not my responsibility how you build, maintain and use it’. I ask myself: Should an architect think or at least take into considerations complexity of the building process and what costs – both financial and human – it will request? Should he or she care how it was erected and what the process required?

“It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it,” Zaha Hadid told The Guardian in February of 2014. (http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2014/08/zaha‐hadid‐worker‐conditions‐lawsuit). She said it after was asked about her opinion on the fact that more than 500 Indian and 382 Nepalese workers had died in the preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar during last two years. Zaha Hadid designed a stadium for the event where some of those people might work but according to her, she has “… nothing to do with the workers”. Is that right? It is true that the client chooses a construction company who is responsible to hire workers and takes care of the whole construction process but an architect’s responsibility is not over after a building is designed. Architects have to maintain proper site and construction work observation and schedule to insure that the work is done properly and to approve necessary adjustments. Especially in cases when a project is done by a famous architect who has enormous weight in decision making process. A client, who paid a very high fee to a starchitect still wants to save money and have work done within a timeframe and budget, which leads to hiring workers from poor and low social classes and very often immigrants from neighboring less developed countries. Construction companies prefer to hire larger amount of workers, which is cheaper than improving construction technological processes. An architect is involved in the construction company selection process and can make a difference if he or she wants it, which means an architect “has something to do with the workers”. And especially prominent and accomplished architects. As a co‐founder of Who Builds Your Architecture? Group, Mabel O. Wilson, says: “Zaha does have some leverage, precisely because she is a highly visible person.” (http://archrecord.construction.com/features/2014/1406‐architecture‐and‐labor.asp)

Another characteristic of a “signature architecture” is a level of complexity of the building structure, schedule requirements, and challenging materials. Difficult and very demanding assembly of complex structures poses high risks of mistakes during construction of such structures and needs very professional and trained personnel not only at managerial level but all levels of workforce involved in the process. Labor conditions and housing of construction workers are directly connected to workers health conditions and should be in accordance with complexity of work they have to accomplish within a tight timeframe.

There are promising efforts in architectural community to raise awareness and ethical concerns in the profession. One example of that is a group in New York called Who Builds Your Architecture? Another one is a situation in Qatar being now monitored by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Frank Gehry’s efforts in Abu Dhabi on the construction site of his extension of the Guggenheim museum is yet another great example how changes are possible when there is willingness to make them. Gehry’s firm is working together with local officials to improve the situation there. (http://archrecord.construction.com/news/2014/09/140922‐Frank‐Gehry‐Works‐to‐Improve‐Worker‐Conditions‐on‐Abu‐Dhabi‐Site.asp) Those actions demonstrate that voices can be heard and can make a difference not only in construction industry but in society by creating a ripple effect of enabling social and cultural sustainability through personal responsible behavior.


Student_BlogWhen we see a stray can in our private gardens we do not hesitate to pick it up.  It is considered common sense to prevent our children from playing in a lawn drenched in pesticides. Yet, because Earth is so unfathomably large, most of us quickly treat pollution and environmental degradation as if they are someone else’s problems rather than our own.  But the Earth is ours.  It is our only home and the provider of everything we need to survive.  It is therefore essential that we translate the compassion we feel towards our private homes into a sense of concern on the grander scale.  The quality of every individual’s life is inextricably linked to the health of planet earth, and currently, we are locking ourselves and our children in a garage with a running car.

Today, most people have come to accept that climate change is real.  The problem is that the majority still believes it is not human-caused.  They cannot seem to accept that the human race is capable of influencing something as seemingly all-powerful and uncontrollable as the climate.  Aside from scientific data, this assumption of human insignificance is immediately debunked by simple reflection on the power of the atomic bomb, or the fact that 20% of the Amazon Rain Forest has been cleared in just forty years of deforestation for the purposes of farming and urbanization (Wallace).  This demonstrated power is then validated by 97% of scientists who believe global warming exists and is human caused (Vaidyanathan, 2014).

As a passionate biochemistry student who is pursuing a carrier in research for environmental biology and bioremediation, it pains me to see that a public controversy still exists over an issue that enjoys so much scientific consensus.  The perpetuation of this unnecessary doubt is bolstered by corporate lobbyist groups in the oil industry, and it is frightening to see how effective their propaganda is.  There is a disproportionate disconnect between the 97% consensus of scientists and the public perception of scientific consensus: one third of people still believe there is “a lot of disagreement between scientists on the fundamental causes and existence of global warming” (Marion, 2013).  This perceived disagreement then results in the staggering 59% of Americans who still either do not believe global warming is human-caused or “do not know” (Marion, 2013).  This is detrimental to environmental reform because the public comprises the electorate that determines our democratic representatives in government.  If the public questions the existence of a problem, then officials elected to office will similarly lack the drive to take action through regulatory programs, research funding, and proliferation of accurate information.  Essentially, a misinformed populous results in a misguided government.

The corporate strategy of marketing scientific confusion to consumers is not new. The tobacco industry denied links between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer until the early 1960’s despite mounting evidence from research teams such as Wynder & Graham and Hill & Doll that began to reveal the negative health effects of smoking in the 1930’s (Brandt).  Similarly, scientific data trends have suggested that global climate change is human-caused since the 1930’s.  As research continuously revealed the detrimental effects of various industrial pollutants, a general scientific consensus on global warming was reached by the late 1970’s (Weart, 2014).  It is now 2014 and 59% of American’s still do not believe in human-caused global warming.

Striking similarities exist between the tactics used by oil companies today and the tobacco industry of the 20th century to maintain this public confusion.  The misinformation campaign begins with a marketing strategy.  When health science became the tobacco industry’s primary rival, they cleverly claimed the arena by putting science on their side. The Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC) was created and used as a propaganda machine to produce and publicize invalidated “scientific data” that countered the anti-tobacco movement.  The oil industry has learned well from their predecessor.  In 2013, over 140 million dollars was spent by lobbyist groups in the oil and gas industry (Annual, 2014).  The oil and gas misinformation campaign is also strongly supported by multiple other groups such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Institute for Energy Research who all spread the seeds of unmerited doubt about global warming.  All of these organizations are financially linked to the oil industry (Global).  To gain credibility, the tobacco industry then funded vocal critics of the anti-tobacco movement, such as the renowned researcher, C.C Little (Brandt).  Along the same vine, the oil industry is infamous for funding public representatives and corporate scientists to vocalize misinformation or false-conflict about global warming.  For example, in 2007, “scientists and economists have been offered $10000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world’s largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report [published by the UN’s IPCC]” (Sample, 2007).  The power of the tobacco and oil industries stems also from their inherently close ties to our government.  Tobacco had been a key part of the American economy since the 1700’s when colonists used it for trade (Brandt).  It then grew to be a fundamental tax base which caused our government to rely on the industry for revenue.  This reliance was exasperated by the apparent emotional benefits cigarettes gave war veterans from WWII, leading President F.D. Roosevelt to claim tobacco was necessary for our victory (Brandt).  A similar power is held by the oil industry, which has been established as one of the central ingredients to America’s prolific industrial economy as well as a necessary agent for our national security.  With such a powerful historical reputation, funding is disproportionately distributed to oil and gas as opposed to green energy.  “In cumulative dollar amounts, over the lifetimes of their respective subsidies, the oil, coal, gas and nuclear industries have received approximately $630 billion in U.S. government subsidies, while wind, solar, biofuels and other renewable sectors have received a total of roughly $50 billion in government investments” (Even, 2014).  Just as Americans had become physically addicted to nicotine, we now have become economically addicted to oil.

The tactics used repeatedly by industrial corporations to smother disagreeable scientific data is disturbingly shortsighted, a blatant devaluation of public health, and an illegitimate damper on scientific progress.

Just as the tobacco industry advertised to America’s youth with no regard to increasing our future generations’ susceptibility to lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, the oil industry continues to push for dirty energy with no regard to the public health risks caused by natural disasters, extreme heat, poor air quality, increased diseases rates, and the turmoil from flooding and other invasive land changes caused by global warming (Union; 2011).  Future generations are sacrificed for fast money.

Just as the tobacco industry manipulated cigarette design to fool regulatory safety tests rather than removing carcinogens, oil companies ferociously fight regulations on carbon filtration systems and find loopholes to avoid lawsuits, such as the fracking industry’s exemption from “key federal environmental regulations” that protect our drinking water (Fracking; 2014).  Public health is sacrificed for money.

Just as the tobacco industry spent immense resources to stop scientists from effectively warning the public of the dangers of smoking, the oil industry is preventing the public from effectively creating a cleaner, healthier, and more efficient society.  Scientific progress is sacrificed for money.

The list of corporate injustices committed by the oil and gas industry is virtually endless and it is sickening how dramatically greed can warp humans’ capacity for compassion.

Evidence of melting ice caps, increased ocean acidity, endangering species, excessive droughts, and unprecedented extreme weather shows that global warming is already causing harmful environmental changes.  We are experiencing global warming as we speak, but the doubt spread by the oil and gas industry dissipates our motivation to take action.   The oil and gas industry has learned to protect its wealth using the strategies of ingenious predecessors.  We, the people, must now learn from former scientific and humanitarian activists how to prevent the successful application of manipulative misinformation, because the Earth is our home, and it needs a major renovation.

 

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