The Conversation

Coronavirus today: Academics shout out

Coronavirus is pretty much all there is for now. Academics at various national and international institutions are weighing in with practical tips (not touching your face, staying healthy, using screen time effectively) to science (the older immune system and R0) to economics (paying for stimulus, sending out checks) to politics (functioning courts, quarantine rights) to arts (pandemic lit). Stories written by academic scholars and researchers,…


Rats! People got to change or rats will prevail

(Editor’s Note: A statewide panel of pest control experts says San Diego and other urban areas in California are experiencing a rat infestation that threatens public health. A report released by Reform California last year said a survey of 23 rodent control companies across the state showed a sharp increases in rat populations everywhere. More than 78 percent of the companies reported an increase of at least…


You’re eating microplastics and don’t know it

We’re increasingly aware of how plastic is polluting our environment. Much recent attention has focused on how microplastics – tiny pieces ranging from 5 millimetres down to 100 nanometres in diameter – are filling the seas and working their way into the creatures that live in them. That means these ocean microplastics are entering the food chain and, ultimately, our bodies. But fish and shellfish…



Reflecting on grief during the holidays

The year-end holidays are a time of social gatherings, traditions and celebrations. They can also be a time of revisiting and reflection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.8 million people die each year in the U.S. If we conservatively estimate four or five grievers per death, there are 11 to 14 million people who are experiencing their first holiday season without…


California is living America’s dystopian future

The Golden State is on fire, which means that an idea of American utopia is on fire, too. Utopias are the good places of our imagination, while dystopias are the places where everything goes terribly wrong, where evil triumphs and nature destroys her own. Frequently utopias and dystopias are the same place, because perfection may not be possible without someone suffering. Ursula LeGuin writes about…


Many people can’t afford wildfire insurance

California’s relatively quiet 2019 fire season ended in October, with serious wildfires in both Northern and Southern California. There are many things Californians can do to prepare for these blazes, but one option – taking out wildfire insurance – is out of reach for many of them. For example, after massive fires in 2018, an estimated 350,000 Californians could no longer get property and casualty…


Learning from Native American wildfire management strategies

For several months in 2019, it seemed wildfires wouldn’t rage across the West as they had in recent years. But then came the dry autumn and California’s Santa Ana and Diablo winds, which can drive the spread of wildfires. Utilities are shutting off power across the state to reduce the risk of damaged equipment or downed trees on wires causing fires. There’s no lack of…


Treating wildfires as a public health issue

Deadly fires across California over the past several years have shown how wildfire has become a serious public health and safety issue. Health effects from fires close to or in populated areas range from smoke exposure to drinking water contaminated by chemicals like benzene to limited options for the medically vulnerable. These kinds of threats are becoming major, statewide concerns. Many people still think of…


Earthquake risk is underappreciated danger

On July 4 and 5, two major earthquakes, followed by several thousand smaller ones, struck Southern California. Their size and the damage they caused captured attention around the country. What tends to get much less notice from the public is what can be done to prevent catastrophic damage from big quakes. Had the epicenter of these latest large California earthquakes been closer to downtown Los…