"Our World" theme
week on "Our World" ... Controlling the spread of disease in war-torn
Afghanistan ... A Website of the Week U.S. election pick ... and some expert
projections for the world's future ...
TUCKER: "You hear now about peak oil. Peak water
in the 21st century is obviously of far greater concern. And so this is one of
those forecasts that we hope people will act now to avert."
stories, training farm-animal veterinarians, and more. I'm Art Chimes. Welcome
to VOA's science and technology magazine, "Our World."
Human activity implicated in Antarctic climate change
scientists say they have demonstrated that human activity is responsible for
global warming, not only around the North Pole, but around the South Pole as well.
They created a computer model of climate that includes data from Antarctica,
where it's hard to collect such information.
VOA's Jessica Berman reports.
BERMAN: While studies are reasonably clear on the
role of carbon emissions by humans in causing global warming in the Arctic,
less is known about the causes of warming in the Antarctic because of its
experts believe it is due to greenhouse gases while others believe changes in
the Antarctic landscape are due to natural fluctuations in climate.
study in Nature Geoscience, an international team of scientists reports
on the results of a new model they say proves the human footprint in global
warming in the Antarctic.
temperatures in the Antarctic were gathered along the coastal areas, according
to scientists, because it is too difficult to get to the continent's
the temperature data from both continents were plugged into the model,
scientists say it clearly showed the human effects of global warming in the
MONAGHAN: "That's why this study is so important
because it formally demonstrates the human contribution to [global warming] for
the first time."
Monaghan is with the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder,
Colorado. He wrote the "News and Views" article in Nature
teleconference with reporters, Monaghan said substantial warming has been
detected along up to half of Antarctica's frozen coastlines that will lead to
an even greater rise in sea levels.
MONAGHAN: "While nothing catastrophic is
envisioned in the next century, there could be a substantial acceleration in
the [ice] melt."
expects the effects of global warming at the polls will continue even after
humans stop putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Jessica Berman, VOA
Malaria control faces many obstacles, say experts
American Association for the Advancement of Science, the AAAS, has been
holding a series of forums on what they call "global challenges."
Sustainable energy for developing countries. Containing the spread of weapons
of mass destruction. That sort of thing.
week, the challenge was "solving the malaria epidemic."
journalist Joe Palca, who moderated the event, noted that 15 years ago, malaria
got little attention in the American press. By contrast, a database search of
just three major U.S. papers in the past three months turned up 120 mentions of
PALCA: "Now, that's not to say that each one
of those was a major take-out kind of story, but I think that, at least to me,
represents the difference between now and 15 years ago (or at least in a crude
way I think it does), and maybe that will help explain why people are actually
talking about eradicating malaria now."
eradicating malaria — like smallpox was eradicated in the 1970s — is
theoretically possible, but for several reasons it's a much more challenging
one, says Ripley Ballou of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, there is not
just one malaria parasite.
BALLOU: "There are two predominant species that
cause the vast majority of infections that afflict humans — Plasmodium
falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, and they are very different parasites. And a tool, a vaccine for one will not work
for the other."
the life cycle of malaria is complex. That's good, because the chain can be
broken anywhere as the parasite moves from mosquito to human. You can kill
mosquitoes with insecticide or stop them from biting, for example with bed
nets. But as Ballou points out, efforts at eradication have ultimately failed
because it's hard to get it right.
BALLOU: "And during this process, the mosquito
became resistant to the insecticides, the parasite became resistant to the
drugs, and the resources that were brought to bear in the eradication program
were not sustainable. And I think the combination of those three things led to
the failure [of the eradication effort] and then the sense that it was
bring into the conversation Steven Phillips, medical director for oil company
ExxonMobil. Exxon Mobil? What's malaria got to do with an oil company? Phillips
explained that Africa is a major oil-producing region, and the company has some
4,000 employees there.
PHILLIPS: "And a quick-and-dirty risk assessment
showed, surprisingly, that malaria was the number one risk faced by our
Phillips says that in Africa., an estimated 60-80 percent of all malaria cases
are not treated by a doctor or other health professional. But malaria is hard
to diagnose, and he says it's counterproductive to use malaria drugs except to
PHILLIPS: "Otherwise you're going to wind up
treating people that don't have malaria with drugs that are going to not only
breed resistance, but you're not going to treat the real problem. And so one of
the reasons that one out of five children in Africa do not reach the age of
five is because, when they have a fever, they either go undiagnosed or
presumptively treated for something that they actually don't have."
strategy that has proved to be effective is insecticide-treated bednets. The
ExxonMobil medical director said his company got directly involved in a novel
program to distribute the bednets in four countries where they operate a total
of 2,000 service stations.
PHILLIPS: "A pregnant mother would go to an
antenatal clinic. She'd be given a voucher that would give about two-thirds off
of a long-lasting bednet. She would then present that voucher to a local
service station, and she would have a reliable supply — along with health
education materials — from an Exxon service station."
battle against malaria is important because the stakes are so high, as Ripley
Ballou of the Gates Foundation points out.
BALLOU: "Five hundred million people around the
world are infected with malaria every year, and somewhere between one and three
million deaths [occur], most of these in children under the age of five. There
are places where it has been eliminated, but not very many of them, so we
really are talking about a global disease."
you want to learn more about malaria, we'll have some authoritative links on
our website, voanews.com/ourworld.
Facing disease challenges in war-torn Afghanistan
with disease is especially difficult in war zones and other areas in
conflict. As we hear from health
reporter Rose Hoban, a prime example is Afghanistan — a country at war for the
past seven years, and experiencing frequent conflict over the past few decades.
HOBAN: Fred Hartman has been working with a
non-governmental organization to curb the spread of infectious disease within
Afghanistan and across its borders into Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan. Hartman
says his group, Management Sciences for Health, has focused on controlling six
diseases — HIV, tuberculosis, cholera, malaria, polio, and avian influenza.
HARTMAN: "Avian influenza hit Afghanistan very
hard in 2006. We know that came in from the northwest areas of Pakistan. In
2007 Pakistan reported human deaths, with human-to-human transmission, which
heightened the concern in Afghanistan."
HOBAN: Hartman worked with the Ministry of Health
in Kabul to convene a regional conference to draft basic principles to curb the
spread of disease. That included agreeing on border controls, and in the wake
of flu outbreaks, Kabul and Islamabad implemented new procedures.
HARTMAN: "For example in 2006 when avian
influenza broke out in Pakistan, the poultry farmers would quickly ship all of
their chickens to Afghanistan, and of course it was bred in Afghanistan. Both
governments have worked together to seal the borders, knowing it's not in
anybody's best interests to start shipping sick chickens around the
HOBAN: Hartman says this kind of cooperation has
led to fewer cases of avian influenza moving between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It also had the effect of reducing the number of people with malaria on the
says, though, that there is still much work to be done, especially when it
comes to controlling the spread of polio. Despite a worldwide effort by UNICEF,
the disease is still appearing in remote places.
HARTMAN: "We have to conclude that despite
serious cross-border efforts of notification of any cases of acute polio,
immunization at the border for all children under five who are passing back and
forth, that we have been unable to control transmission of the disease in that
HOBAN: Hartman notes the continuing violence in
Afghanistan hampers efforts at controlling disease.
Hartman says there's also reason for hope. He reports that local authorities —
even those in Taliban-controlled areas — recognize the need to control the
spread of infectious disease.
presented a paper on his experiences and his findings this week at the annual
meeting of the American Public Health Association in San Diego.
Candidate information on our Website of the Week
again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative
is Election Day here in the United States. In addition to choosing our next
president, we'll be casting ballots for members of Congress, plus thousands of
state and local offices. To help make their selection, many American voters
will turn to the non-partisan candidate information on this week's Website of
the Week, votesmart.org.
ELM: "Project Vote Smart's website is really
the only place that a person can come and get just the facts. No hype, no spin,
no hidden agenda."
Elm is a board member of Project Vote Smart. Since 1995 their website has
provided a vast library of unbiased information about candidates for thousands
of elective offices throughout the United States.
ELM: "We cover about 40,000 candidates and
incumbents around the country. We collect their voting records, their campaign
contributions, their public statements and speeches, their backgrounds [and]
previous experience, and their ratings by competing special interest
says running for office is like applying for a job. If you're hiring someone,
you want to know as much as you can about the applicants. Same way with
candidates for office, and she says the vast amount of negative advertising
doesn't really serve voters well.
ELM: "Most candidates spend much of their
campaign time telling us how bad the other applicant for the job is going to
be. So Project Vote Smart is fighting that tendency of the major parties and
the campaigns and the candidates to twist and manipulate the facts and really
get at the information that the people need to know."
site is updated daily with candidates speeches and statements, and it's all
fully searchable, whether you're looking for information about presidential
candidates John McCain or Barack Obama, or candidates for Congress or state
office. You'll find Project Vote Smart at votesmart.org, or get the link to
this and more than 200 other Websites of the Week including several other
recent political selections, from our site, voanews.com/ourworld.
MUSIC: "This Land is Your Land" — Woody
Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger
VOA's non-partisan science and technology magazine, Our World. I'm Art Chimes
Futurists project changes in the years ahead
World Future Society, based just outside Washington, is looking over the
horizon to get us ready with forecasts, trends and ideas about the future. In
the current edition of their magazine, The Futurist, they've collected
some of the most intriguing forecasts for 2009 and beyond. I checked in with
senior editor Patrick Tucker for some of the highlights, starting with a
projection that by 2020, China will be the world's most popular tourist
destination ... and also the greatest source of tourists.
TUCKER: Well, the future for China is very bright.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has said that China's economy is
going to surpass that of the United States by the year 2035. And I absolutely
think that the future of tourism can be very bright. Ideally, when you have a
working economy, you have more people with leisure time, and it may not seem
like this is something that's likely at the moment, but, you know, ironically,
despite perceived loss of time over the past 10 years, the amount of leisure
time people have has stayed roughly the same; we have about 40 hours of leisure
time per week. And that's one of the reasons why travel may be a real bright
economic spot in the future.
Q: One of the global trends is urbanization,
and one of the forecasts is that urbanization will hit 60 percent by 2030. What
are the implications in that?
TUCKER: Urbanization, we think of it as people
moving to cities. But in a broader, economic sense, what that really refers to
is people moving from an agricultural economy to a more modern, industrial
economy. Without question, our global economy is going to shift more and more
away from an agricultural economy toward an urban economy. And that's how you
get that 'urbanization will hit 60 percent by 2030' number.
Q: Here's a projection that you came up with,
that serious gaming will help train tomorrow's health workers. I can't imagine
two things that seem, on the surface, to be more unassociated with each others.
TUCKER: What the video game interface does is, it
allows people to train virtually in techniques, medical techniques that
formerly you would have to go to a classroom to prepare for. When you go to a
heart surgeon, you don't want the heart surgeon to have read how to do it. You
want someone to have had the experience of putting their hand in a chest
what we today call games, and in many ways they will be enjoyable like games,
but it's really a video game interface — what that does is it allows people to
gain sort of immediate visceral experience in medical procedures that formerly
you would have to go to a big medical campus to gain access to.
Q: Let's move on to another topic. Climate
change figures in a couple of these forecasts. Climate change reducing the
supply of fresh water; and the other half of that is desalination moving in to
make up the gap. Can you talk about that a minute?
You hear now about peak oil. Peak water in the 21st century is obviously of far
greater concern. And so this is one of those forecasts that we hope people will
act now to avert.
going to be hearing a lot more about desalination as a means to fight against
these water shortages, and nanotechnology is actually a factor in that.
Nanotechnology, which is the science of extremely small materials, is going to
play a big role in developing desalination technologies that are a lot more
Q: Finally, I can't not ask you about this
one: it says, people will have more sex. Why?
Yes, people will have more sex. There's a lot of reasons for this:
women's growing economic power around the world. Women are feeling freer to
express their sexuality. More women who are educated means a much smaller need
for women to get married purely for the sake of marriage, and that means that
more women will be choosy about their mate, and part of that
information-gathering process is, to a certain extent, sex or conversations
People are going to live longer. The longer you
live, it's not exactly rocket science: the more time you have for sex. As we
look toward a lifespan of possibly 130 years, which may be a reasonable
lifespan for someone born 30 years from now, you can imagine 120 years of
unrestrained, hopefully safe sexually activity.
Tucker, senior editor of The Futurist magazine. We reached him at his
office in Bethesda, Maryland.
Addressing the shortage of farm-animal veterinarians
many other countries, the United States is a lot more urban than it was even a
generation ago. But we still have plenty of farms and ranches to feed America's
appetite for meat and dairy products.
animals need medical care, and this country has too few veterinarians to meet
Cornell University, about 400 kilometers north of Washington, professors in the
veterinary college are helping to address the shortage, training a new
generation of livestock vets and, in the process, providing animal health
services to farmers in New York State. Véronique LaCapra reports.
LaCAPRA: There are nearly 88,000 veterinarians in the
United States, but the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that
only about one in nine works with farm animals — poultry, cattle, and other
Rodrigo Bicalho, an assistant professor at Cornell's College of Veterinary
Medicine, says a changing social demographic is behind that shortage.
BICALHO: "The impression that I have is that in
the past most people that went to veterinary medicine were from rural areas of
the country, and they wanted to go to vet school to learn about large animals,
and then to come back to their local regions and work as veterinarians."
LaCAPRA: Today, only a small fraction of Americans
work or live on farms, and most U.S. vet students come from urban areas. As a
result, says Bicalho, they want to work with familiar pets like dogs and cats —
not farm animals. And for vet students from the city, choosing a future on the
farm may seem pretty daunting.
BICALHO: "The farmers usually start working very
early in the day, and finish late, so we work hard hours, and we have emergency
calls through the night.…"
help relieve the shortage of farm animal vets, Cornell veterinary professors
provide medical services to area farms. In central New York State — the region
around the Cornell campus — that means treating dairy cattle.
BICALHO: "The routine visits are scheduled usually
on a weekly basis or on a bi-weekly basis, and they involve a lot of pregnancy
diagnosis. So the farmers are trying to breed the cows constantly, because
producing milk is a mother's job, so the cow has to get pregnant and then have
calves in order to continue to have milk. The large dairy farms that we go to —
usually go on a weekly basis — and we will perform [from] 50 to 300 pregnancy
diagnoses in a day."
that's Neil Rejman and his wife, that's the two owners."
LaCAPRA: At the Sunnyside dairy in Genoa, New York,
about twenty-eight hundred cows depend on Bicalho and his colleagues for
BICALHO: "Usually cows have their calves on
their own, they actually don't need much help. But as it happens to any species
of mammals, including humans, sometimes they have complications during birth,
and we try to correct those complications and still have a normal birth through
the birth canal, but sometimes that's not possible."
LaCAPRA: When a cow isn't able to have a normal
birth, Bicalho will perform a Caesarian section, right there on the farm.
BICALHO: "We do the anesthesia, tranquilization,
and we actually remove the calf through the left or the right flank, depending
on the position of the calf inside the cow."
LaCAPRA: Cornell students in their last year of vet
school may accompany their professors on these calls. Bicalho says this is one
of the ways that the university encourages students who are interested in farm
BICALHO: "Each clinician will have one or two
students in the truck all the time, so we'll teach them on a one by one basis,
and when we're performing procedures, they're actually doing a lot of it, under
our supervision, so that they have hands-on experience of everything that we
LaCAPRA: Veterinarian Rodrigo Bicalho stresses the
importance of his role as a teacher:
BICALHO: "The whole purpose of this entire
clinic is to teach. We're inside a major college, and we're teaching veterinary
students what we do, so that's the purpose of having the clients, is to pass
the knowledge to them."
LaCAPRA: Cornell's responsibility in training new
farm animal veterinarians could become even more critical over the next decade.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary
Medical Association, the supply of food animal vets will fall short of
demand by as much as five percent each year, while the need for their services
will continue to rise. I'm Véronique
"Our World" theme
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this is Art Chimes, inviting you to join us online at voanews.com/ourworld or
on your radio next Saturday and Sunday as we check out the latest in science
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