IT’S LONG COVID:

Britain Is Leaving the U.S. Gender-Medicine Debate Behind: The Cass report challenges the scientific basis of medical transition for minors. (Helen Lewis, 4/14/24, The Atlantic)

The report drew on extensive interviews with doctors, parents, and young people, as well as on a series of new, systematic literature reviews. Its publication marks a decisive turn away from the affirmative model of treatment, in line with similar moves in other European countries. What Cass’s final document finds, largely, is an absence. “The reality is that we have no good evidence on the long-term outcomes of interventions to manage gender-related distress,” Cass writes. We also don’t have strong evidence that social transitioning, such as changing names or pronouns, affects adolescents’ mental-health outcomes (either positively or negatively). We don’t have strong evidence that puberty blockers are merely a pause button, or that their benefits outweigh their downsides, or that they are lifesaving care in the sense that they prevent suicides. We don’t know why the number of children turning up at gender clinics rose so dramatically during the 2010s, or why the demographics of those children changed from a majority of biological males to a majority of biological females. Neither “born that way” nor “it’s all social contagion” captures the complexity of the picture, Cass writes.

What Cass does feel confident in saying is this: When it comes to alleviating gender-related distress, “for the majority of young people, a medical pathway may not be the best way to achieve this.”

FADS ARE NOT MEDICINE:

How a cult captured the NHS Society fails when it treats children like adults (Kathleen Stock, APRIL 12, 2024, UnHerd)


Pity poor Dr Hilary Cass, the eminent paediatrician charged with managing an independent review of NHS gender services for young people, whose final report was published this week. Given the hair-trigger sensibilities of interested parties, she seems to have been unable to state unambiguously that now-popular treatments for young people confused or distressed by their sexed bodies are blatant quackery: keeping pre-pubescent kids in suspended chemical animation on the basis of a single, discredited study; dosing teenagers liberally with opposite-sex hormones; or — when a child reaches the tender age of 18, though even earlier in other countries — empowering her to have major body parts cut off.

Instead, time and again in Cass’s report she is forced back into the conceit that the most pressing problem for contemporary gender medicine is the lack of good evidence for such interventions either way. It is as if a modern-day medic had been tasked with reviewing the efficacy of trepanning, and then ordered to defend her findings in front of fanatical fifth-century devotees. “It’s not that drilling a hole in a child’s skull to release demons is necessarily harmful, you understand — indeed, it may be the best outcome in some cases. The main issue is the lack of long-term follow up.”

Alongside Cass’s cumulatively devastating account of reckless decision-making, poor evidential standards, and patchy record-keeping at Gids and elsewhere, a whole section of the report gently attempts to educate its readership about “the components of evidence-based medicine” — complete with basic explainers about randomised controlled trials, blinding processes, and the possibility of bias. She might as well be addressing an archaic people who have just emerged blinking from a time capsule, still convinced that disease is God’s punishment for insufficient acts of propitiation.

In a sense, though, this is indeed very like one group to whom the report is addressed: those clinicians, parents and patients immersed in bubbles of identity affirmation, and cognitively isolated from any reasoning or evidence that would confound their worldview. Perhaps unusually for a medical review, it is clear from Cass’s overtly respectful tone and at times still-euphemistic language that her aim is not just to inform these readers but also to deprogram them.

…AND CHEAPER…:

NYC is testing window-mounted devices that could cut heating costs by over 50%: ‘This is the way to do that’ (Stephen ProctorApril 7, 2024, Renew Economy)

These heat pumps are special because they are essentially the same size as a window-mounted air conditioning unit.

These heat pumps will similarly be installed on windowsills, from which they’ll heat apartments in the winter and cool them in the summer. Heat pumps have become increasingly popular across the country, but until now they were only for homeowners with space for the larger prototypical design.

Gradient, one of the companies awarded funding for this experiment, says that on the coldest days, the window heat pumps can reduce heating costs by 15-55% compared to gas-powered steam heat and 51-74% compared to oil-powered steam heat.

Notably, many New York City residents rely on such heat, which the NYCHA calls “19th-century technology incompatible with 21st-century needs.”

PITY THE POOR PETROPHILES:

Scientists make ‘major finding’ with nanodevices that can seemingly produce energy out of thin air: ‘Contradicting prior understanding’ (Jeremiah Budin, April 2, 2024, The Cool Down)

Giulia Tagliabue, the head of the laboratory, and Tarique Anwar, a PhD student, focused their research on hydrovoltaic effects, which can harness the power of evaporation to provide a continuous flow of energy in order to harvest electricity using specialized nanodevices.

In less technical terms: It’s a way to create clean energy using the power of evaporation. And scientists are taking interest in it due to its planet-friendliness.

EARTH FIRST:

Geothermal is the hottest thing in clean energy. Here’s why (Maria Gallucci, 25 March 2024, Canary Media)

Solar, wind power and battery-storage projects are already cleaning up the U.S. electrical grid. But energy analysts warn that these technologies might not be enough on their own to fully buck America’s reliance on fossil-fuel-burning power plants, which are the second-largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions after transportation. The grid also needs carbon-free electricity available on demand to guarantee it can provide the sort of 24/7 power needed by cities, data centers and industrial facilities like aluminum smelters or steel mills.

At the moment, however, these so-called ​“clean, firm” sources remain elusive. Recent advances in geothermal technologies, demonstrated by a handful of real-world projects, suggest that harnessing the earth’s heat could be among the most promising ways to solve this clean-energy conundrum. But that can only happen if it can overcome the sizable challenges that stand in its way.

“If we can crack the nut on this new-generation geothermal, it means we can put geothermal just about anywhere,” Cindy Taff, CEO of the Houston-based startup Sage Geosystems, said during a March 9 panel at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

TAX EXTERNALITIES:

New report outlines surprising side effects of switching to electric vehicles (Leo CollisMarch 23, 2024, The Cool Down)

A study from the [American Lung Association] examined what the world would look like if all new vehicles sold by 2035 were powered by electricity rather than dirty fuel, and the results were promising.

This notable shift could lead to almost 2.8 million fewer asthma attacks among children and reduce upper and lower respiratory symptoms in kids by 2.67 million and 1.87 million, respectively.

That’s alongside 147,000 fewer acute cases of bronchitis and a reduction in the infant mortality rate by 508 cases.

IT COULD HARDLY BE MORE CONVENTIONAL:

Some therapists now offer unconventional form of treatment with surprising benefits: ‘It connects me to being human’ (Jenny Allison, March 21, 2024, The Cool Down)

Over the last several decades, but particularly the last several years, more and more psychotherapists, psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, and social workers have begun incorporating nature into their treatments. These approaches range from simply conducting talk therapy sessions outdoors to going hiking, going skiing, and even building fires. […]

Therapists agree — the technique shows promise, especially for people who are hesitant about traditional therapy or interested in something that doesn’t feel one-size-fits-all. It’s the reason why groups such as Maryland’s Center for Nature Informed Therapy or New York’s Boda Therapy have been growing in recent years.

“By blending the healing properties of the natural world with proven modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Nature Informed Therapy addresses a wide range of mental health concerns, promoting overall well-being, life satisfaction, and a harmonious relationship with the environment,” the Center for Nature Informed Therapy’s website explains.

The benefits aren’t just anecdotal, either. A 2023 study of forest bathing, the Japanese practice of taking a mindful stroll in the woods, found that taking such walks significantly reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, simply just hearing birdsong has been shown to soothe anxiety.

Get out of your own head.

SAVING CITIES:

People Hate the Idea of Car-Free Cities—Until They Live in One (ANDREW KERSLEY, MAR 19, 2024, Wired)

London’s car-reduction policies come in a variety of forms. There are charges for dirtier vehicles and for driving into the city center. Road layouts in residential areas have been redesigned, with one-way systems and bollards, barriers, and planters used to reduce through-traffic (creating what are known as “low-traffic neighborhoods”—or LTNs). And schemes to get more people cycling and using public transport have been introduced. The city has avoided the kind of outright car bans seen elsewhere in Europe, such as in Copenhagen, but nevertheless things have changed.

“The level of traffic reduction is transformative, and it’s throughout the whole day,” says Claire Holland, leader of the council in Lambeth, a borough in south London. Lambeth now sees 25,000 fewer daily car journeys than before its LTN scheme was put in place in 2020, even after adjusting for the impact of the pandemic. Meanwhile, there was a 40 percent increase in cycling and similar rises in walking and scooting over that same period.

What seems to work best is a carrot-and-stick approach—creating positive reasons to take a bus or to cycle rather than just making driving harder. “In crowded urban areas, you can’t just make buses better if those buses are still always stuck in car traffic,” says Rachel Aldred, professor of transport at the University of Westminster and director of its Active Travel Academy. “The academic evidence suggests that a mixture of positive and negative characteristics is more effective than either on their own.”

For countries looking to cut emissions, cars are an obvious target. They make up a big proportion of a country’s carbon footprint, accounting for one-fifth of all emissions across the European Union. Of course, urban driving doesn’t make up the majority of a country’s car use, but the kind of short journeys taken when driving in the city are some of the most obviously wasteful, making cities an ideal place to start if you’re looking to get people out from behind the wheel. That, and the fact that many city residents are already car-less (just 40 percent of people in Lambeth own cars, for example) and that cities tend to have better public transport alternatives than elsewhere.

Plus, traffic-reduction programmes also have impacts beyond reducing air pollution and carbon emissions. In cities like Oslo and Helsinki, thanks to car-reduction policies, entire years have passed without a single road traffic death. It’s even been suggested that needing less parking could free up space to help ease the chronic housing shortage felt in so many cities.

I DON’T THINK WE’RE IN HAVANA ANYMORE:

Long COVID patients report improvements following self-regulation therapy, study finds (Will Houston, 3/13/24, UCLA Health)

Clinical psychologist Dr. Natacha Emerson, the study’s lead author and assistant clinical professor in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, said her study sought to test whether biofeedback would improve both the physical symptoms associated with long COVID and the psychological distress that often accompanies untreated chronic symptoms. While biofeedback has been established for chronic somatic symptoms, this is the first study to explore its effects in long COVID.

Immediately following the six-weeks of treatment, participants self-reported significant improvements in physical, depression and anxiety symptoms as well as in sleep and quality of life. The benefits were also sustained three months later without further intervention.