Climate Refugees and the Delusion of Isolation

One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic

Forced MigrationBe it from social unrest, economic upheaval, or environmental collapse, forced human migration is at unprecedented levels. According to the UNHCR, there are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today. Of those, more than 22 million are forced refugees. Over half are under 18 years old. Nearly 20 people are displaced from their homes every minute.

Sixty-five million people forced to flee their homes?

However disquieting, it almost doesn’t matter. As awful as that sounds, our emotional and mental resources aren’t naturally up to the task of finding empathy for so many. What researchers call “compassion fade” creates “psychic numbing.” Our minds are desensitized by numbers like these. It is, as research psychologist Paul Slovic calls it, the “arithmetic of compassion.”

Continue reading Climate Refugees and the Delusion of Isolation

Will the Push to Dismantle Obamacare Lead to States Passing Single Payer Bills?

The U.S. is the only one among modern, industrialized countries to not adopt some form of single payer healthcare. And Americans are paying dearly for it.

The U.S. is also the biggest spender on health care. An analysis by the Commonwealth Fund found that the U.S. spent 17.1 percent of its GDP on healthcare in 2013. That was much higher than what France spent at 11.6 percent of GDP and the U.K. at 8.8 percent.

High-priced healthcare

Private spending on healthcare is highest in the U.S. where the average spending per person in 2013 was $1,074 in out-of-pocket costs. France and the Netherlands spent less than one-fourth ($277 and $270, respectively).

The U.S. also spent much more than other countries in other private spending at $3,442 per capita, which was over five times more than Canadians spent at $654. Canada was the second highest spending country.

Riskier healthcare

A study comparing the U.S. and Canadian health care systems found that the Canadian system has “lower costs, more services, universal access to health care without financial barriers, and superior health status.” Researchers also found that Canadians have longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates than Americans.

The U.S. has the highest rate of deaths related to health care or the lack of it than among comparable countries, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The disease burden is also higher in the U.S. and hospital admissions for preventable diseases occur more frequently than in comparable countries.

Increasing cost

Health care costs in the U.S. are expected to increase. Health Affairs projected that they will grow at 5.8 percent from 2015 to 2025, comprising 20.1 percent of the GDP.

The business world is taking note of the high health costs. Back in April, the American Sustainable Business Council launched the Business Leaders Transforming Healthcare campaign.

There are 128 companies supporting the campaign, ranging from small, mid-sized and large businesses in 30 states in sectors that include consumer products, finance, energy and real estate. The purpose of the campaign is to engage the business community in the U.S. to push for a single payer health care system.

Three states introduce single payer bills

California, New York and the state of Washington have all introduced single payer bills this year into their legislatures.

California

The Healthy California Act or SB 562, introduced in February, passed by the state senate in June. It now sits languishing in the Assembly.

The bill would create a Healthy California program to provide universal single-payer health care coverage. It would also create a health care cost control system.

The program would provide a “wide-range of medical benefits and other services.” It would incorporate in the “benefits and standards of other existing federal and state provisions,” including California’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medi-Cal.

The Healthy California board would use all “waivers, approvals, and agreements” so existing federal health care payments would be paid to the program.

 

Washington

Washington state House Bill 1026 would create a single-payer health care system by using the Affordable Care Act’s state innovation waiver 1332, which became available this year to state legislators.

With the waivers, states can use 95 percent of the federal funds provided to state residents for cost assistance to use for Affordable Care Act (ACA) alternatives. It would create the Washington Health Security Trust and create guidelines to establish board and advisory committees that would manage the health care of state residents.

New York

The New York Health Act passed in the state assembly in May. It would create a single payer health care system for the state of New York.

It would be paid for with payroll taxes and non-employment income such as capital gains. Introduced in February, the bill would seek “waivers and other approvals” that relate to federal programs such as Medicaid, the ACA, and Medicare.

An economic analysis of the bill found that the bill would save more than $70 billion in 2019, which is 25 percent of that year’s projected health care spending, with savings increasing over time. During the bill’s first year, it would save $44.7 billion, or almost $2,200 per person. The analysis also found that it would also create over 200,000 jobs, which would more than replace the jobs lost in insurance and billing.

Single payer healthcare makes sense

What states like those three understand is that a single payer system is not socialized medicine. Delivery of care would remain private, doctors would regain autonomy. The way to achieve universal, single payer health care in the U.S. just might be through the states. And if Republicans keep trying to dismantle the ACA, the states just might become emboldened to achieve what every other developed country has in place.

The way to achieve universal, single payer health care in the U.S. just might be through the states. And if Republicans keep trying to dismantle the ACA, the states just might become emboldened to achieve what every other developed country has in place.

And if Republicans keep trying to dismantle the ACA, the states just might become emboldened to achieve what every other developed country has in place.


Image credit: Michael Fleshman, courtesy Flickr

 

The Message of a Better Tomorrow Resonates Across the U.S. (and the globe)

Last month I spoke with Cyril Dion, a French filmmaker, writer, and activist. Dion co-produced the documentary Tomorrow with the actress, director, screenwriter, and musician Melanie Laurent.

Tomorrow won the 2016 French César for Best Documentary. After a successful release in more than 20 countries, the film made its U.S. debut in the Bay Area the weekend of April 14.  When we talked the following Monday, a tired yet determined-looking Dion said he was encouraged by the overwhelming enthusiasm for the film’s message of solutions and empowerment.

That enthusiasm continues. In a nation beleaguered by uncertainty and antagonism, Tomorrow has clearly struck a chord across the U.S.

As of this writing, Tomorrow is held over in  NY, LA, San Diego, San Francisco, among other cities.

The road to Tomorrow

Like any mother, Melanie Laurant wants a better future for her childrenShortly after Laurent gave birth to her first child, she learned of the  2012 Nature article, Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere.  Co-authored by Anthony Barnosky,  a paleobiologist, professor emeritus of integrative biology at UC Berkeley and currently executive director of the Stanford Jasper Ridge Biological Reserve, the paper’s stark warning of a rapidly approaching biological tipping point was an alarming awakening for a new mother in the 21st century.

We can avoid the severely – and suddenly  – altered world that potentially awaits Laurent’s child and the two billion other children expected on the planet by 2050. But the time to act, the article warned, is now. Waiting until after an ecological collapse to find viable solutions will be too late.

Fighting catastrophe fatigue

With that dire message, Laurent, Dion and a crew of four set out to tell a different story. We can imagine a better future for our children. If that sounds improbable, we need only look at what people all over the world are doing right now to shape the future of their families, communities, and the

The film acknowledges the urgent message from Barnosky’s work, and that of many others, but doesn’t dwell on the darkness. Instead, it focuses on active solutions.

Filmmaker Cyril Dion“People feel helpless… that they are too small to do anything about it,” Dion says.

“I really wanted to make a tool to empower people. To show them that we can start where we are and we can also build a movement.”

A better world, the film posits, can rest on four pillars, looking at each one in turn:

    • Agriculture:  For anyone living in the industrialized world and born after 1950, the idea of anything other than industrial farming is an esoteric “niche.” It’s hard to imagine that the exact opposite might be true.

    • Energy: A low carbon energy economy is the right side of history. A continued “business-as-usual” reliance on high-carbon, extractive energy sources is the wrong side of history. Everybody know that. Well, almost everybody.
    • Education: The chances of success for a single individual, and thus an entire society, rests on a good education.

    • Democracy: How we choose our leaders demands an informed and engaged citizenry (see above). Oligarchy is what happens when people don’t know or don’t care, allowing fear and emotion to dictate their decisions.

There are innovative solutions for each. Solutions not only “being tried,” but working and expanding.

People from all walks of life making a better Tomorrow, today

A world reimagined

In another interview yesterday, Barnosky told me he remains optimistic. Messages like the one in Tomorrow are important, he says. It demonstrates  the groundswell of community action globally, suggesting a different narrative for a “global economy.” One that starts with people and communities, connected through a shared belief in their own power to effect change. Not by “saving the world,” but by working in their own communities, their own little plot of land. Think globally, act locally.

But it’s also about being present, here and now, and imagining the kind of future we want.

“If we can imagine the world differently,” says Dion, “it’s going to have an impact on the economic and political structure.”

“We are human beings, so we imagine first. We first need to change the vision, the narrative of the world.”

Tomorrow shows a world reimagined, but real.

Tomorrow – Trailer from Under The Milky Way on Vimeo.

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