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Environment

4 Ways to Talk With Vaccine Skeptics

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by Julie Leask and Maryke Steffens

(The Conversation) — Your neighbor is telling you about his new baby. He feels nervous about vaccinating, and says he’s considering delaying Lucy’s vaccines.

Your mother’s group is chatting about vaccines. One mother tells the group Jimmy isn’t vaccinated, and she’s using the Immune-Strengthening Diet instead.

In a Facebook parenting group, someone comments we shouldn’t trust pharmaceutical companies because they’re covering up studies showing vaccines cause autism.

These and similar scenarios may sound familiar. So what do you do when you’re faced with someone who questions vaccination? Do you try to convince them to vaccinate? Do you ignore them? Or might something else work?

Talking about vaccination can be really difficult. Vaccination touches on strong values, like protection of children, social responsibility, and respect for science.

So, if you’re a vaccination supporter, you may feel perplexed, even angry, when people don’t vaccinate their children. If you’re a parent who has overcome minor worries and vaccinated your child, it can be galling when another parent dismisses vaccination, putting others at risk.

But talking about vaccination can also present pitfalls. Attempting to convince someone with strong views they’re wrong can strengthen their commitment to their position.

Our work, with a team of researchers, clinicians and the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, shows the best way to respond depends on the situation. Your approach will be very different with a person who has fixed negative views on vaccination, compared with someone who is cautious. How you respond also depends on what is most important in your relationship.

Here are some options.

1. Don’t go there

This approach is handy if you encounter a person with fixed beliefs. They may say, “I’ve done my research.”

Your automatic response may be to counter their claims, saying “The science is clear. Vaccinate your kids.”

But if the relationship with this person isn’t important to you, or their emphatic pronouncements are unlikely to do harm, then little is gained by engaging. People with fixed beliefs don’t budge much.

You may encounter active opposition to vaccination on social media. A small number of anti-vaccination activists colonize online forums.

So avoid protracted conversations. Facebook’s algorithm privileges posts with high engagement, so your interactions may bring them even more attention. Energised by the response, anti-vaccination activists may coordinate and bombard you or your organisation.

This is what happened to US clinic Kids Plus Pediatrics in Pittsburgh. The clinic eventually produced a guidebook on how to handle anti-vaccination attacks.

Increasing the visibility of anti-vaccination posts can have other drawbacks. Onlookers may come to see vaccination as riskier, and vaccine refusal as more popular than it really is (in reality, only about 2% of Australian parents decide not to give their children some or all vaccines).

But countering anti-vaccine views can also bring benefits: it can diminish these negative effects, and affirm vaccination for hesitant onlookers or “fence-sitters”.

So which option is best? If this person’s posts are getting exposure anyway or they are influential, then you may decide that responding is worth the risk. Just keep any interactions brief, factual and polite. Otherwise, don’t go there.

2. Agree to disagree

Agreeing to disagree may be an option when you are with friends and family who hold firm views and whose relationship is important to you.

There could be a family get-together with your cousin who steadfastly rejects vaccination and the topic comes up in conversation. Family members start debating it. With strong views on either side, this could be explosive. Here you could say, “This is a topic we all have strong views about. We could just argue, but I propose that we leave this one alone.”

Discussing vaccination would not change your cousin’s mind. Her views are deeply held. Don’t let arguments get in the way of these relationships.

3. Affirm vaccination and move on

This option can be useful when you want to avoid conflict, but also advocate for vaccination.

Parent group situations might warrant this approach. For example, a couple at your antenatal class declare their plan to delay vaccination. While you might feel annoyed, try to focus on a strategic goal: showing other parents it’s not a group norm to delay vaccination.

You could say, “We are planning to vaccinate our baby. We think it’s really important.” While this probably won’t persuade the couple, it may reduce their influence on others.

4. Listen, affirm and recommend

This approach may be suitable when you are with family and friends who are hesitant about vaccinating. For example, your daughter and son-in-law are hesitant about vaccinating their child — your grandchild.

These relationships may be important to you, and you probably want to encourage them to vaccinate.

We and others recommend several steps:

Understand people’s concerns and motivations

Listen to what people say and ask clarifying questions. This helps you better understand their reasons. Avoid the temptation to jump in, and keep a check on your emotions.

Affirm them as parents

This means acknowledging their concerns, as well as their care as parents. A person who feels respected is more likely to listen to your viewpoint. It’s how we all like to be treated. You could say, “I can see you are trying to do your best.”

Offer to share information

Sharing information means giving factual information relevant to that person, explaining your view, and why you believe it. Use quality information, such as via the World Health Organization’s Vaccine Safety Net portal. Personalise it: “I believe vaccination is important because …”

Close with a plan

This creates opportunities for future conversations. Some parents review their decisions, such as during a localised outbreak or when the child is older. It’s also good to have an exit strategy because vaccination discussions can go on and on. You might ask, “Can we talk about this again some time?”

Decide how you want to spend your energy

Responding to people who question vaccination can be hard. So be judicious about where you spend your energy.

If you truly want to make a difference, avoid the temptation to reflexively correct what you believe is wrong and getting embroiled in lengthy vaccination debates or games of scientific ping pong.

Jump in without thinking, and you risk wasting your time, affecting relationships with family and friends, or even inadvertently amplifying anti-vaccine views. Instead, assess that person’s position on vaccination, your goals and what is most important in your relationship.

Julie Leask is a Professor at the University of Sydney and Maryke Steffens is a PhD Candidate at Macquarie University

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

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Environment

Changes Brought On by Coronavirus May Help Tackle Climate Change

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Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST

by Glen Peters for The Conversation

Stock markets around the world had some of their worst performance in decades this past week, well surpassing that of the global financial crisis in 2008. Restrictions in the free movement of people is disrupting economic activity across the world as measures to control the coronavirus roll out.

There is a strong link between economic activity and global carbon dioxide emissions, due to the dominance of fossil fuel sources of energy. This coupling suggests we might be in for an unexpected surprise due to the coronavirus pandemic: a slowdown of carbon dioxide emissions due to reduced energy consumption.

Based on new projections for economic growth in 2020, we suggest the impact of the coronavirus might significantly curb global emissions.

The effect is likely to be less pronounced than during the global financial crisis (GFC). And emissions declines in response to past economic crises suggest a rapid recovery of emissions when the pandemic is over.

But prudent spending of economic stimulus measures, and a permanent adoption of new work behaviours, could influence how emissions evolve in future.

Global fossil CO2 emissions (vertical axis) have grown together with economic activity (horizontal axis) over extended periods of time. Glen Peters/CICERO

The world in crisis

In just a few short months, millions of people have been put into quarantine and regions locked down to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Around the world events are being cancelled and travel plans dropped. A growing number of universities, schools and workplaces have closed and some workers are choosing to work from home if they can.

Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has cancelled a critically important meeting and will instead hold it virtually.

The International Energy Agency had already predicted oil use would drop in 2020, and this was before an oil price war emerged between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The unprecedented coronavirus lockdown in China led to an estimated 25% reduction in energy use and emissions over a two-week period compared to previous years (mostly due to a drop in electricity use, industrial production and transport). This is enough to shave one percentage point growth off China’s emissions in 2020. Reductions are also being observed in Italy, and are likely to spread across Europe as lockdowns become more widespread.

The emission-intensive airline industry, covering 2.6% of global carbon dioxide emissions (both national and international), is in freefall. It may take months, if not years, for people to return to air travel given that coronavirus may linger for several seasons.

Given these economic upheavals, it is becoming increasingly likely that global carbon dioxide emissions will drop in 2020.

Global air travel is down significantly as a result of the pandemic. Andy Rain/EPA

Coronavirus is not the GFC

Leading authorities have revised down economic forecasts as a result of the pandemic, but so far forecasts still indicate the global economy will grow in 2020. For example, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) downgraded estimates of global growth in 2020 from 3% (made in November 2019) to 2.4% (made in March 2020). The International Monetary Fund has indicated similar declines, with an update due next month.

Assuming the carbon efficiency of the global economy improves in line with the 10-year average of 2.5% per year, the OECD’s post-coronavirus growth projection implies carbon dioxide emissions may decline 0.3% in 2020 (including a leap year adjustment).

But the GFC experience indicates that the carbon efficiency of the global economy may improve much more slowly during a crisis. If this happens in 2020 because of the coronavirus, carbon dioxide emissions still could grow.

A decomposition of CO2 emissions growth into economic growth (orange) and carbon efficiency improvements (green) to estimate future emissions based on OECD economic growth projections. Glen Peters/CICERO

Under the worst-case OECD forecast the global economy in 2020 could grow as little as 1.5%. All else equal, we calculate this would lead to a 1.2% decline in carbon dioxide emissions in 2020.

This drop is comparable to the GFC, which in 2009 led to a 0.1% drop in global GDP and a 1.2% drop in emissions. So far, neither the OECD or International Monetary Fund have suggested coronavirus will take global GDP into the red.

The emissions rebound

The GFC prompted big, swift stimulus packages from governments around the world, leading to a 5.1% rebound in global emissions in 2010, well above the long-term average.

Previous financial shocks, such as the collapse of the former Soviet Union or the 1970s and 1980s oil crises, also had periods with lower or negative growth, but growth soon returned. At best, a financial crisis delays emissions growth a few years. Structural changes may happen, such as the shift to nuclear energy after the oil crises, but evidence suggests emissions continue to grow.

Global fossil CO2 emissions (in Gigatons or billions of tonnes of CO2) and carbon intensity of world Gross Domestic Product (grams of CO2 per $US, 2000), with the most important financial crises. Global Carbon Project

The economic legacy of the coronavirus might also be very different to the GFC. It looks more like a slow burner, with a drop in productivity over an extended period rather than widespread job losses in the short term.

Looking to the future

The coronavirus pandemic will not turn around the long-term upward trend in global emissions. But governments around the world are announcing economic stimulus measures, and they way they’re spent may affect how emissions evolve in future.

There is an opportunity to invest the stimulus money in structural changes leading to reduced emissions after economic growth returns, such as further development of clean technologies.

Fewer people are expected to use public transport during the coronavirus outbreak. Steven Saphore/AAP

Also, the coronavirus has forced new working-from-home habits that limit commuting, and a broader adoption of online meetings to reduce the need for long-haul business flights. This raises the prospect of long-term emissions reductions should these new work behaviours persist beyond the current global emergency.

The coronavirus is, of course, an international crisis, and a personal tragedy for those who have lost, and will lose, loved ones. But with good planning, 2020 could be the year that global emissions peak (though the same was said after the GFC).

That said, past economic shocks might not be a great analogue for the coronavirus pandemic, which is unprecedented in modern human history and has a long way to go.


Glen Peters is Research Director, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

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Community

WeHo Annual Arbor Day Celebration Plummer Park – Mar 21

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WEST HOLLYWOOD — The City of West Hollywood invites community members to join staff and City Councilmembers for a tree planting ceremony in Plummer Park as part of the annual Arbor Day celebration.

Arbor Day is a special day that is set aside throughout the world to raise awareness of trees and the important role that they play in our environment.

People throughout the world take part in tree planting events and other celebrations of trees and the role that they play in our environment.

The first American Arbor Day was originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton. On April 10, 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted in Nebraska.

Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 9 a.m. at the Parkway on N. Vista Street on the West Side of Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard.

For more information, please contact Debbie Gonzalez at (323) 848-3116 or dgonzalez@weho.org.

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Environment

House Passes Schiff’s Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act

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WASHINGTON D.C. – Rep. Adam Schiff has applauded the bipartisan passage of The Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, which would add more than 191,000 acres of the Rim of the Valley Corridor to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA). The bill passed the House on a bipartisan basis with 231 Yeas and 183 Nays

Schiff first introduced this legislation in 2017, and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris introduced companion legislation in the Senate. It recently passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a bipartisan basis.

To view a map of the proposed expansion under the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, click here

“I am thrilled that the House of Representatives has passed the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, legislation I have championed for nearly 20 years,” Congressman Schiff said. “Preservation of the open space in our communities is not only good for our environment, wildlife, and ecosystems, but it is beneficial for the health and well-being of residents of all ages. The Rim of the Valley corridor is an area of striking and breathtaking natural beauty, and we must do whatever we can to preserve that beauty for the benefit of LA residents, the millions each year who visit, and for generations to come.”

“Today’s vote in the House is a win for the Rim of the Valley Corridor and the millions of Los Angeles County residents living in the surrounding communities,” said Senator Feinstein. “Preserving this unspoiled terrain will protect sensitive habitat for California wildlife and open space to benefit local economies. I am glad that Congressman Schiff was able to pass it in the House and look forward to doing the same here in the Senate, where it has already advanced out of committee.”

“The Rim of the Valley corridor is home to some of Southern California’s most beautiful wildlife and landscapes,” said Senator Harris. “That is why we must take immediate steps to protect this area’s habitats and natural resources. I am grateful to Congressman Schiff for his leadership on this issue and I applaud the House of Representatives for prioritizing the preservation of this area so it can be enjoyed by future generations. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get this bill across the finish line.”

The proposed expansion is based on a six-year study of the region completed by the National Park Service in 2015. This legislation would expand the SMMNRA to include many, but not all, of the land included in the study. The lands included within the expansion will be known as the Rim of the Valley Unit and stretches from the Simi Hills and Santa Susanas to the Verdugos and on to the San Gabriel Mountains. The bill will enable NPS and the local community to better protect natural resources and habitats, and provide members of the community with improved access to nature for recreational and educational purposes.

To view the fact sheet about the legislation, click here.

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