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GoGreenNation News: Citizen science leads the charge in environmental protection
GoGreenNation News: Citizen science leads the charge in environmental protection

In a compelling movement, ordinary citizens are stepping up to tackle environmental challenges through citizen science, significantly contributing to research and data collection efforts worldwide. Andrew Kersley reports for Wired.In short:Citizen scientists in Ilkley, UK, driven by the neglect of official bodies, have successfully identified harmful levels of pollution in their local river, leading to its recognition as a protected bathing water site.This grassroots effort exemplifies a global trend where individuals, motivated by a lack of official support and the availability of affordable technology, are becoming pivotal in monitoring environmental health.Safecast, a nonprofit, has harnessed the power of volunteer efforts to create a vast open database of environmental data, demonstrating the potential for citizen science to influence global environmental policy.Key quote: “Citizen science doesn’t just let people collect data, it empowers them and gives them a voice.”— Steffen Fritz, International Institute for Applied Systems AnalyticsWhy this matters: The rise of citizen science not only fills gaps left by underfunded and politically constrained scientific research but also fosters a more democratic and participatory approach to science. Leah Segedie, who runs the blog and wellness community Mamavation, was dubbed the "PFAS Hunter" by Consumer Reports for her work testing products for evidence of PFAS chemicals.

GoGreenNation News: LISTEN: Jose Ramon Becerra Vera on democratizing science
GoGreenNation News: LISTEN: Jose Ramon Becerra Vera on democratizing science

Jose Ramon Becerra Vera joins the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast to discuss arming residents in his native Inland Empire region of California with air pollution data to advocate for their health and community. Becerra Vera, a current Agents of Change fellow and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Purdue University, also talks about the importance of qualitative data and how to center communities from the outset of your research.The Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast is a biweekly podcast featuring the stories and big ideas from past and present fellows, as well as others in the field. You can see all of the past episodes here.Listen below to our discussion with Becerra Vera and subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or Spotify. Agents of Change in Environmental Justice · Jose Ramon Becerra Vera On democratizing scienceTranscript Brian BienkowskiJose, how are you doing this morning?Jose Ramón Becerra I'm doing pretty good. How are you?Brian Bienkowski I'm doing great. And where are you this morning?Jose Ramón Becerra I am in West Lafayette, Indiana.Brian Bienkowski All right, West Lafayette, Indiana. Far away from California's inland empire where you're originally from. So I want to talk to you a little bit about the Inland Empire region. So can you tell us about this place, and perhaps how you see it may have shaped your interest in environmental justice and your research?Jose Ramón Becerra Yeah, sure. So I was born and raised in the Inland Empire. So the Inland Empire is a region in southern California. It's around 50 miles 50 miles east of Los Angeles. Really, depending on who you ask, they might define the Inland Empire differently. So some folks will conceptualize it as the entirety of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. But for me, and a lot of people in my community, we think about it as the Valley portion that's surrounded by this mountain and stone geography. Some things that I love about the places that like, depending on the city that you're at, you're probably like 10 to 15 minutes away from like a nice hike when you go up to the mountains. And you're also –depending on the traffic– only, like 40 minutes to an hour and a half away from the nearest beach. It's a primarily Latino community, who live and work there each day. So there's a lot of great food all the time. I think it's a vibrant community, I love it. And how it shapes my interest in environmental justice and research, while my whole dissertation project is kind of dedicated to looking at air pollution exposure in the in the Inland Empire region. So I would say that it shapes my projects completely. From my research questions to my field site, to the people who I work with. I don't think this came around until I was in college, though. So because I guess growing up the signs of pollution that I see now, like the diesel trucks driving by or the wildfire smoke and stuff like that was just kind of part of the ordinary environment. So it wasn't until I started going to college and learning that like, not everybody in your community should have or like, asthma rates shouldn't be that high for everyone. So that's not it wasn't until I actually got into college I started learning about the issues that I'll see on a day-to-day basis as environmental and justices.Brian Bienkowski Was it a culture shock moving to Indiana?Jose Ramón Becerra Yeah, it was 100% Was it was the first time I was out of the area. So I was like I said, born and raised there. The only other places I really frequency, the war Los Angeles area to visit family and friends or my parents hometown in Tepatitlán, Jalisco, in Mexico. So I was just back and forth in these places all the time. And outside of that, yeah, I just hadn't been outside of like a few days. Maybe I hadn't been outside of California too much. California or Mexico.Brian Bienkowski So before we get And into some of the research you've been doing about the Inland Empire and where you're at now, what is the moment or event that helped shape your identity up to this point?Jose Ramón Becerra You know, funny enough, it was actually coming to Indiana for my PhD, or for my graduate studies for my Masters, and now my PhD. So like I said, I was in the Inland Empire for so long. The only other places I really frequented were Mexico. And so I was really just kind of in the middle of like my culture every day. So whether that's like Mexican culture, or Chicano culture, or just Southern California, Inland Empire culture, I was just immersed in it 24/7. And it was kind of like what they say like, culture is kind of like water for a fish. So it wasn't until I stepped out of there started living out here that I started missing so many things about like, what I see as my identity now, which is like the music, how people dress, how they talk, just the... you know, how people engage, the language and stuff like that. So yeah, oddly enough, it wasn't until I came out here to Indiana that I started really reflecting on who I was and how I was connected to my communities and stuff like that. So yeah, I think that that moment, just living out here has really solidified who I am.Brian Bienkowski I think travel is good for that people always talk about travel in terms of introducing you to other cultures, which is obviously I think, a net good, it's a good thing. But I can say when my wife and I we live in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan, and we are very, we are very Northern Great Lakes people. And when we were in New York City for a week, which I love, you know, it's just such a vibrant place, so fun to visit. And oh my gosh, did we feel like fish out of water, though! you know, we move very slow, we talk very slow, we're in people's way. So you know, I do think there is something to be exposed to other cultures, but also it kind of reaffirms who you are, and your own culture, as you mentioned. So I want to talk about your PhD work. But while you've been doing that, during the PhD work, you've also worked as a fellow in nonprofits, including Elevate in Chicago and for the EPA, the federal agency. So what did these experiences teach you about the value of kind of qualitative versus quantitative data? And do you have any examples?Jose Ramón Becerra Yeah, so I've been lucky enough to work with, and not just with them, I've been lucky enough to work with government, with nonprofits, with environmental justice organizations, and activists, and also just community members in different research sites. And I think the first thing I want to highlight is that there are individuals from all these different places who are doing such meaningful work. They're all dedicated to making environmental justice action happen, and essentially to alleviate disproportionate exposure to pollution. And so while this is happening, something that I kind of saw when I started reflecting on my ethnographic notes, so when I was collecting data for my own dissertation study, while talking to all these people and working with them through fellowships, was that just the underlying fact that quantitative data holds more value in policy arenas than qualitative data. And oftentimes, this is for good reason. So if an agency is going to ban a chemical, for example, they have to show that there's a causal relationship between like that chemical exposure and the health detriment. But at the same time, like an example of this can be like a community that gets together to push against a factory that's emitting whatever type of pollution. Their experiences and the qualitative data they come up with –and even if they organize–, is not going to make environmental change. Oftentimes, what happens is that this causes attention to whatever issues going on, it pulls in scientists and other people to do research and to do those quantitative studies to then make change. But unfortunately, what's happening is that while this science is getting done, or this quantitative data collection is getting done, and analysis and reports are getting written, it's a really slow movement, science is slow in many of those situations, and all the while people are being exposed to that same pollution. So there's no protections that are being offered, even when they present that qualitative information to whoever triggers like these other responses.Brian Bienkowski And so I don't want to put words in your mouth, but this qualitative data that mean these can be things like surveys, personal experiences, and in some cases, you know, in my profession, it's not it's not science, but in journalism, I mean, we look at storytelling and telling these people stories and narratives and communities as kind of a form of qualitative data. And and I think you can, you can tell that that can be really powerful, but as you said, the turns of the regulatory environment and science can move slowly sometimes. Jose, I should have set the stage before that question for you. listeners, what exactly you mentioned air pollution and kind of this data collection. Can you tell us what kind of science and research you're doing?Jose Ramón Becerra Yeah, so I do a lot of anthropology. So I'm in nog refer that means that I, like immerse myself in a community and collect a lot of qualitative data. So I do things like, participant observation. So I do observations and take notes on that. I do a lot of interviews with people. And at the same time, I'm doing community science, where I'm using portable pollution monitors to collect data with people who are from the Inland Empire. So I'm investigating through the frameworks of like political ecology, which is the idea that we're looking at the social-political dimensions of environmental change throughout time. So is like capitalism driving this change? What are the policies driving this change in? How does an environment become toxic, and I'm also really interested in who's exposed to pollution. So that's the environmental justice dimension of it that I include into my research.Brian Bienkowski So I want to talk more about the environmental concerns in the Inland Empire region. I think most of us when we hear warehouses, we don't associate them with pollution, we think of a big Amazon warehouse or something. But can you explain why this dense network of warehouses that exists there in the Inland Empire, what it looks like and what the environmental concerns and impacts are?Jose Ramón Becerra Yeah, so it's really interesting, you bring that up, because... so growing up, I'm from a city, Ontario, California, that's within the Inland Empire. And we have some of the highest warehouse density there. But I never really connected how they were, like sources of pollution. In my head, I was like, "Well, are they producing something in there that's, you know, driving up, like pollution in the region or whatnot?" But so if you look at the larger region, we have over 1 billion square feet of warehouses there. And like I said, we're in close proximity to Los Angeles. So what happens is that each day, we get ships full of containers that have goods inside of them, those containers get hauled eastward into the Inland Empire, it's estimated that 40% of all goods that come into the nation go through the Inland Empire, then the warehouses are locations where workers unload the containers, then later, repackage them and send them out to the rest of the nation, surrounding communities, via rail yard, diesel truck, and airplanes. And all of this transportation just increases massive amounts of pollution in the region that's been trapped by that mountainous dome geography I talked about a little bit earlier.Brian Bienkowski Can you talk about that geography and why it's problematic and how it traps pollutants?Jose Ramón Becerra Yeah, so if you look at a map for San Bernardino and Riverside County, you'll see that it's like this, this mountain that's connecting... this mountain range that connects the Los Angeles area to the Inland Empire. But then there's like this other barrier, kind of east and south of it, so all that, like mountainous dome geography traps pollution there, that comes from Los Angeles, that comes from the warehouse industry. And at the same time, we have with climate change a lot of more wildfires that burn more intensely and more frequent in the region. So even the wildfire smoke accumulates in that same space.Brian Bienkowski So otherwise, the air pollutants would be able to kind of push on into the atmosphere, but here they're getting trapped and kind of hovering above the community, right. So in this battle of residence against developers that I've talked to you about separately, and I know you're thinking and writing about these things, in that region, you say developers are often using outdated evidence and stationary monitor data. So what is your research shown about the monitoring data used and why it can be misleading?Jose Ramón Becerra Yeah, so the whole idea about outdated evidence came from when I was seeing participant observation. So I was following this, this applicant who was trying to build another warehouse in the Bloomington area, which is an unincorporated area in the Inland Empire. And when they were applying to do this, there was moments for the public to gather and kind of have their own comments about the warehouse, and if they wanted, they want to invite it in or not. And so the community was really great at organizing environmental justice organizations gathered the community, there's a lot of folks who are concerned individually. So a lot of folks were going up and giving their testimonials and they were like really talking about how air pollution had been damaging their health or the health of their children, for example, or even talking about like the cancer rates in the area. And in one of those testimonials, one of the one of the people who were, one of the persons talking kind of hinted at the fact that the environmental impact report was misleading. So it was through this person's own analysis and like reading the document that they were identifying that the data that they were using was outdated. And this got me really thinking about things like data sources, and scientific instrumentation, and even analysis. So depending on, like, how you're making your analysis, where the data is coming from, there could be a lot of things that are misleading when we're thinking about personal exposure. And so another thing that I'm really looking at is the differences between, or the limitations, at least, of stationary monitor data. So in places like the Inland Empire, especially where the environment is quickly changing, so we have warehouses that are built within months sometimes. And so the macro geography is constantly changing, people aren't just fixed in one location at all times. So as you know, like throughout our day, depending on our job, depending on what our daily activities look like, we're inside of houses, outdoors, in apartments, in your job side, on the street, driving through traffic, and all these different things are going to expose you to different levels of pollution. So just thinking about how there's these spatial temporal elements of people's activity is important how micro geography –so like the built environment, and how it's changing– also impacts different levels of exposure in the same region.Brian Bienkowski So I live in Sault Sainte Marie Michigan, and across the river is Sault Sainte Marie, Canada, same same name, different city, and there's a massive steel plant, and they all have their air monitoring at one time was placed, northwest of the building, and we live by Lake Superior. So the winds are always coming from the Northwest. And maybe I have this backwards. Basically, they had these monitors in a place where it was never capturing what was actually the air, you know, the wind was coming from the other direction. And so these stationary monitors were just completely they were really useless for a long time. And that's what the federal government relied on, it was industry data. So in your case, how do you how do you account for these micro geographies? Are you working with citizens or residents to try to do some monitoring that you feel is better and more accurate of what's actually happening?Jose Ramón Becerra So one of the projects that I'm doing, and I'm going to be doing from August to December this year, is working with community scientists to carry portable pollution monitors that are GPS-enabled. And this is a collaboration with Dr. Uman Park at University of Connecticut, that and so the project basically is going to be trying to account for how people navigate space. And while they carry these monitors, I'm gonna be able to tell how much pollution they're exposed to, throughout their daily activities, I'm also going to be in the community working with them to train them how to take behavioral notes, and this is going to be done through Qualtrics. So it's a widget that I'm gonna download into their phone, if they want to take notes on their cell phone, or if they want to use a voice recorder, they have that option. And then we're also taking demographic surveys. So that way we can make an analysis when we have enough data to show how social demographics might influence things like access to different types of jobs, and those jobs put you at different levels of exposure compared to you know, whatever, like just depending on the job, you might be exposed to different levels of exposure. So we're going to be really thinking critically about how access to job and just access to and wasted navigate space are kind of shaped by social demographics that are like embedded in deeper roots of like racial capitalism in the region.Brian Bienkowski How do you see these efforts as democratizing science in the region?Jose Ramón Becerra Yeah, so, um, I think that I see this effort is democratizing science, and that the first thing is that it's giving something that's legible for these policy arenas. When people talk about their experiences, like we should value them, that qualitative information should be valued. But for now, I think that it's important to still equip people with the scientific instrumentation in order to make their claims legible. So I think that I'm trying to join that qualitative aspect with the more quantitative and spatial data so that way, when it comes to people advocating for themselves, they have the data that's seen in these policy arenas. And at the same time, something that I see happen when people are advocating for themselves through testimonials is that they're up against people who are considered experts for the quantitative data. And by letting them collect data, it's kind of making them the experts. So they're learning why they're collecting data, how the monitors work, what kind of data they're collecting. So in their own way, they're becoming experts, not just of their own experiences, but also of the data collection process. And so in these two ways, I think that it's it's an effort to democratize science in the community.Brian Bienkowski I really liked that idea that they're already experts have their own experience. And this is making them experts in the data collection. That's a really cool way of thinking about it. I like that. Are you getting pushback in the region at all? Or is there pushback with this kind of economic versus or environmental thing? I have to imagine a good number of the residents work in many of these warehouses and provide for their families. So what's that kind of balancing act been like?Jose Ramón Becerra Yeah, I definitely see this, even in the Commission hearings I mentioned earlier, where there is a lot of people from the community who are trying to push against the warehouse, industry and just development in general. But then there's other people who are like in construction, who might be employed to build these warehouses that are kind of advocating for those jobs, because they're going to be local. They don't have to drive up like to Northern California, for example, to you know, do their job, tey could be next to their family. So there is pushback in that sense. But I think, in general, what I've seen is that people are really concerned with the type of jobs that these warehouses even provide. So what happens in the region is that many of the jobs available there are through agencies. So if you want a job there, you could start by going to an agency, and then the agency, like, recommends you to a warehouse and you start working there, but you're not actually hired through the company. So not being hired to the company has its own consequences, like there's limited liability they're accountable for, sometimes they don't have to provide health insurance and things like that, and you get lower pay. So when it comes to actual warehouse workers, I think that they know that these warehouses aren't necessarily like the like, what they want for their own future for their children's future. So I think that there's also a lot of people who are advocating for like, a different type of industry to, you know, come into the area.Brian Bienkowski I know personally, what I've written about the steel plant I mentioned earlier, you know, I have family who knows workers there and stuff around here. And the idea is not that we are, or I should I should speak for myself, you know, that we're not blaming the workers here. You know, the workers deserve protection, they deserve knowledge, they deserve data. And a lot of times, it's the people who have power and money and who are running these plants or warehouses or, you know, fleets of trucks that have the opportunity to reduce pollution, and they're not doing it because of various reasons. So I always try to make that clear that this isn't, we're not attacking the workers, you know, that it's definitely not their fault that, you know, this is this is goes higher than that to the regulatory, and kind of corporate level of a lot of these organizations. So what what tips would you have for other researchers that want to center communities like this in their own work?Jose Ramón Becerra Yeah, so I think that, um, it's super important to be in communication with the community, and ask them like what they need, even if that comes at the expense of modifying your research project or question, I think that if you want to center the community, the kind of data collection you do the type of analysis and all that should have them involved in they should have a say in like the kind of research you do, especially if you're going into this community fresh. And another thing, if you're doing environmental-justice-based research is to reach out to the local organizations, they are likely already doing a lot of wonderful work. They're connected to the community, they're also connected to policymakers and lawyers, and all that kind of stuff. So starting with them and talking to them having conversations and trying to be as transparent as possible can, in my opinion, take you a very long way in centering communities in your research.Brian Bienkowski I assume you still have family in the region. What's their reaction been to your to your research and your work? Have you have you taught them some things that they maybe didn't know before about where where they're from?Jose Ramón Becerra You know, they I think so. But I think they definitely teach me just as much and that's something I keep learning that like, when I come back home with the instruments, my family, my friends are super excited about it. And they helped me like even theorize for example, sometimes I'm writing a paper and I call them about like an interview we did or or like what their opinion is about, like, the relationship between something really like abstract like capitalism and pollution exposure. And they're super good at like teaching me what their perspective is. And a lot of the times it helps me even like formulate a paper on working on or, or write a piece of it and stuff like that. So I think that if anything there, they just keep teaching me and teaching me more and more stuff.Brian Bienkowski So you mentioned some of you know, some citizen science projects that you have upcoming here in a couple months. You know, maybe it's that or beyond that, what would you like to see change about the air pollution research field kind of broadly? And how do you see yourself as part of that change?Jose Ramón Becerra I think that something I would love to see is more community-based work. I think that, um, like, if we go on Google Scholar, for example, and we search up air pollution, we're gonna see 1000s of studies proving that air pollution is bad for health. And similarly, we'll see 1000s of studies showing that pollution is like, disproportionately distributed across national and global scales. So we know that these things are bad. And I think something important to look at would be community engagement, and also finding ways to merge and bring value to qualitative data and quantitative data together. I think that's what I would love to see. And I think that's what I'm trying to do with the projects that I'm engaged with as someone who's doing both very qualitative and quantitative data collection in my study. So I think that's that's my role in what I would love to see more more community based work.Brian Bienkowski What are you optimistic about?Jose Ramón Becerra I am very optimistic about a lot of the work that environmental justice organizations are already doing. Like in my hometown, or in the Inland Empire. There's people's collective for environmental justice, who are like excellent researchers, policy analyst and advocates for the community. And what I really love to see is that a lot of the folks who I've talked to, and the work that they're doing comes from, like, they're like they come from their hometown. So they're really invested in the type of work that they do. So I'm, I'm really optimistic about that. And it's inspiring to me. And I hope that future generations are able to see all this kind of work that's happening locally, and like in other communities, too. And you know, just find that inspiration and keep pushing forward for whatever cause that they're passionate about.Brian Bienkowski Well, Jose, this has been so so wonderful, I really love hearing about people's hometown, especially when they're very far from where I'm from. And when we were in person, I got to talk to you a little bit about where you're from as well. And it's just really great to hear about the research you're doing. So now I have a few fun questions before we get you out of here. You can just answer these these next three with just one word or short phrase. My first concert wasJose Ramón Becerra Wu Tang Clan.Brian Bienkowski Oh my god!Jose Ramón Becerra yeah, I, I think I also I had gone to other ones for my parents, I think and then like backyard concerts and stuff like that. But the first one like I paid for, and I was really excited about was Wu Tang.Brian Bienkowski Oh, my, oh, my goodness. So another peek behind the curtain. Jose and I talked hip hop a little bit when we were meeting in person. So Wu Tang, being your first concert is is quite something that's very cool. If I have a whole day off, I am likelyJose Ramón Becerra To invite everyone over for a carne asada.Brian Bienkowski You sound like an extrovert. I would be by myself reading a book. So one of my all time favorite movies isJose Ramón Becerra Friday.Brian Bienkowski Oh, man, me too.Jose Ramón Becerra Oh, I really, really love that movieBrian Bienkowski very much. So when I was yes, that was a that was a must watch, I would say between the ages of like, oh god, 16 to 25. I'd watch it a few times a year every year. Chris Tucker's is so fantastic in it. Well, thank you so much again, Jose, this has been a whole lot of fun. And before we get you out of here, what is the last book you read for fun? And you don't have to confine yourself to one word or a phrase here.Jose Ramón Becerra Yeah. All right. So I have like the nerdy answer to that, because I'm truly passionate about my research in my hometown. So there's a professor there named Dr. Juan de Lada, who wrote a book inland shift. And he's also like a hometown scholar that writes about the Inland Empire. So I really love that book. But something that I've read, that's just fun and not connected to my research, because I really don't read that much outside of, like, for research purposes, would probably be back in the day elementary school like Captain Underpants I really loved like the flip action. So surely that was like the last fun fun book I read, like just for fun.Brian Bienkowski Well, Jose, thank you so much. You're doing such incredible work. I'm so glad you're part of this cohort and have a great rest of your day.Jose Ramón Becerra Thank you so much.Brian Bienkowski All right. That's a wrap for this week, folks. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Jose I think I need to dust off the old Friday DVD this weekend and give it a watch. If you enjoyed this podcast visit agentsofchangeinej.org And while you're there, click the donate button to support us or sign up for our free monthly newsletter. Maria does such a great job putting that together. It's a great way to stay on top of all the work that fellas are doing. You can also find us on X and Instagram and please follow us on Spotify or iTunes where you can subscribe, give us a rating and never miss an episode.

GoGreenNation News: Op-ed: When it comes to food chemicals, Europe’s food safety agency and the FDA are oceans apart
GoGreenNation News: Op-ed: When it comes to food chemicals, Europe’s food safety agency and the FDA are oceans apart

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are two major global agencies in charge of food chemical safety. It is common to hear that food chemical regulations in the EU are more protective of human health than in the U.S. The latest example is the recent ban of four food additives in California. The state’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, noted that the chemicals were already banned in the EU, implying that the lack of action by the FDA was putting the health of Californians at risk. We examined the FDA and EFSA’s responsibilities on food chemical safety to better understand why EFSA decisions are in general more protective of health. We specifically looked at the agencies’ approach to the safety of bisphenol-A (BPA) as an example of disparate decision-making.We found that in the EU the risk assessment and risk management of food chemicals are made by different entities: EFSA focuses on science and the European Commission decides on how the risk is managed. EFSA is independent to follow the science on BPA, for example, which resulted in three risk assessments with the last one showing greater harm to human health. In contrast, the FDA conducts both risk assessment and management and it is unclear how decisions are made. Over the years, the FDA has reviewed BPA studies but continued to maintain that its uses are safe.As the FDA undergoes a reorganization, the agency has a prime opportunity to increase transparency, collaborations and update its approach to evaluating food chemical safety. Separation of risk assessment and management Both in the EU and the U.S., the safety of chemicals allowed in food is based on the chemical’s inherent hazard and the level of exposure. If the risk is such that public health must be protected, a risk management decision is made, often via regulation. These decisions could range from banning chemicals to establishing a consumption level that would not increase health risks. "EFSA focuses on science and the European Commission decides on how the risk is managed ... In contrast, the FDA conducts both risk assessment and management and it is unclear how decisions are made."In the EU, the risk assessment and the risk management decisions are made by different entities. EFSA conducts risk assessments and the European Commission then makes the risk management decision based on EFSA’s findings. This separation allows the risk assessment to be grounded in science and the risk management to consider not only the science but also social, political, technological and economic factors, as well as the precautionary principle.In the U.S., the FDA conducts both risk assessment and management.Striking differences in assessing and managing riskThe EFSA relies on scientific panels composed of independent experts with high standards to limit conflicts of interest and bias. There are ten permanent panels and a scientific committee that supports their work. The scientific opinions are often unanimous, but when they’re not, minority reports are published in the EFSA Journal and also inform the European Commission’s risk management decisions.Unlike the EFSA, FDA staff review safety assessment and information provided by manufacturers. In a safety assessment there usually are four sections: toxicology, chemistry, environmental impact and policy; but it is unclear whether there is an epidemiologist among the reviewers. One FDA staff member from each section writes a memo with a summary of information and the conclusions. These memos inform the risk management decision about the use of a substance. The scientific evaluation is not always publicly available. It is also unclear how and by whom risk management decisions are made and whether the risk assessors are also involved in risk management. Prioritization of chemicals for reassessmentThe EFSA is mandated by law to re-evaluate all food additives authorized for use before 2009. The EFSA also identifies emerging risks and collects data about things like consumption, exposure and biological risk and responds to similar requests from member states.In the U.S., there is no legal mandate for the FDA to re-evaluate the use of the approximately 10,000 chemicals allowed in food, many of them authorized decades ago with little or no safety data. It is unclear if there is a process to identify emerging risks. The first reevaluation of chemicals was in response to President Nixon’s 1969 directive to reassess hundreds of substances the FDA determined to be generally recognized as safe. Only recently, the FDA took the initiative to re-evaluate the safety of partially-hydrogenated oil, Irgafos 168 and brominated vegetable oil. Other reevaluations have been in response to petitions from public interest organizations. BPA: A tale of two agenciesThe risk assessment of BPA — which has been linked to myriad health problems including cancer, diabetes, obesity, reproductive, immune system and nervous and behavioral problems — in food-contact materials is a good example of how two science-based agencies have made very different risk management decisions.EFSA conducted risk assessments of BPA in 2006, 2015 and 2023, each time at the request of the European Commission in response to new science. The second and third re-evaluations resulted in reductions in the daily allowed exposure of BPA due to new evidence showing greater harm to human health. To complete the process, the Commission recently published its proposed regulation of BPA, which includes a ban of most common uses in polycarbonate plastic and metal can coating.The FDA assessment of BPA has been riddled with missteps and lack of transparency. The FDA approved BPA for use in food contact applications in the early 1960s. It didn’t a draft safety assessment until 2008, at the request of its commissioner in light of findings by the National Toxicology Program and ongoing evaluations in Europe. FDA then asked its Science Board to review the draft and establish a subcommittee; there was also a public meeting and a report. The subcommittee, which included some members of the board and external experts, had several concerns about FDA’s assessment. In 2014, the FDA published a memo summarizing an updated safety assessment of BPA. The five-page memo cites the toxicology evaluation conducted in previous years and exposure assessment using an unpublished model. The agency concluded that the estimated consumption amount of BPA was safe to protect children and adults. This was the FDA's last safety assessment. Unlike the EFSA, the FDA process is less structured and open. At the FDA "it is also unclear how and by whom risk management decisions are made and whether the risk assessors are also involved in risk management."The FDA has conducted its own studies on BPA at different life stages and in different species. The agency was a member of the Consortium Linking Academic and Regulatory Insights on BPA Toxicity (CLARITY-BPA). Launched in 2012 by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Toxicology Program and the FDA, the aim of CLARITY was to combine a traditional regulatory toxicology study from the government and investigational studies from academics who wield more modern techniques. As part of CLARITY, the FDA also conducted a two-year guideline compliant study on BPA toxicity. In 2018, FDA concluded that “currently authorized uses of BPA continue to be safe for consumers.” This statement was based on the results of only the first year of the CLARITY two-year study conducted by FDA according to its toxicity guideline and did not include analysis of data produced by the multiple academic laboratories involved in the project. Furthermore, it was not based on an assessment of risk which also necessitates exposure data. Meanwhile, the results of CLARITY, including the academic studies largely ignored by the FDA, played an important role in EFSA’s latest BPA risk assessment. Unlike EFSA, the FDA has not made public the criteria applied to select the data, to evaluate and appraise the studies included in the hazard assessment, or the weight of evidence methodology used in its current reassessment of BPA. The lack of transparency was a concern previously expressed by FDA’s Science Board subcommittee in 2008.A “deep misunderstanding” of the risk assessment and management distinctionEFSA’s independence from risk management decisions and recruitment of independent experts to conduct risk assessments gives the agency the freedom to follow the science. By comparison, the FDA has stagnated.One explanation for such a difference would be FDA’s strong adherence to its historical decisions, rather than considering more recent science. This bias toward their own work is not conducive to change. Another explanation would be FDA scientists conflating risk assessment and risk management. In 2013, the FDA conducted a review of its chemical safety program and an external consultant noted that there appeared to be a “deep misunderstanding of the risk assessment – risk management distinction” among the staff. This observation is apparent in a commentary in Nature in 2010, where FDA toxicologists said that dismissing “out of hand” risk management factors such as economics, benefits of existing technologies, cost of replacing banned technologies and the toxic risk of any replacement “is, to say the least, insular, and surely imprudent in a regulatory setting.” The consultant added that FDA staff suggested that the agency “should not be too quick to adopt new scientific approaches.” Such an approach has likely deterred its scientists from acting on new evidence.FDA is undergoing a reorganization, including the creation of a new Human Food Program. Almost a year ago, the agency announced it was “embarking on a more modernized, systematic reassessment of chemicals with a focus on post-market review.” For this to be successful, the FDA should adopt updated processes and methods, include outside experts when it encounters challenging scientific or technical issues, increase collaboration with other agencies, and engage with stakeholders including consumers, academic institutions, public interest organizations and industry. But above all, the FDA must restore the public’s trust in the agency with a strong commitment to transparency in decision-making and clear separation between risk assessment and risk management.For more information check these summary tables.

GoGreenNation News: LISTEN: Gabriel Gadsden on the rodent infestation and energy justice connection
GoGreenNation News: LISTEN: Gabriel Gadsden on the rodent infestation and energy justice connection

Gabriel Gadsden joins the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast to discuss the intersection of rodent infestations and energy justice and how we can simultaneously tackle both issues.Gadsden, a current fellow and Ph.D. student of Environmental Sciences at Yale University’s School of the Environment, also talks about getting researchers to break out of siloed thinking, tips for science communicators and how his golf game is going. The Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast is a biweekly podcast featuring the stories and big ideas from past and present fellows, as well as others in the field. You can see all of the past episodes here.Listen below to our discussion with Gadsden, and subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.Agents of Change in Environmental Justice · Gabriel Gadsden on the rodent infestation and energy justice connectionTranscriptBrian Bienkowski Gabriel, how are you doing today?Gabriel Gadsden I'm doing great. It's very exciting to be on the podcast. Also, we've gotten some time to hang out with each other and learn a little bit about each other. And so to bridge that conversation further is exciting. And hopefully, you know, people listen to it and take something away from our conversation today.Brian Bienkowski Yes, hopefully people do listen to it. That's an important part of this. And I know that people will and are listening right now. So that's, that's good to know. And Gabriel, where are you today? Where are you talking to us from?Gabriel Gadsden I'm in New Haven, Connecticut. In the basement, in my office, my advisor said that doesn't look like I live in ... which I don't know if is a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your take on academia being a grad student. Funny or not even funny. But we just had our first snowstorm in New Haven. But it's already gone.Brian Bienkowski Came and went, heyGabriel Gadsden yeah, already gone, indeed.Brian Bienkowski When our snow comes here, it doesn't leave 'till May. So we just keep, we just keep stacking it, and stacking it on top of old snow, which I like it is a good, it is a good thing for us to have that. So speaking of place, if you've listened to the podcast, you know, I'd like to go back to the beginning, before we talk about the exciting stuff you're working on now. So tell me about Hayti. I hope I'm pronouncing that right. But historically Black community in Durham, North Carolina where you grew up.Gabriel Gadsden Yeah, no. So Hayti. And don't feel bad because I feel like everybody gets it wrong when they first read it. It does read like Haiti, but it's Hayti. It is the Black section of I would say more like center-southerner. There's actually a Hayti historic center, which kind of documents both a congregation space but also a area that documents the history of that area. So it kind of runs between Fable street and Highway 55, in North Carolina. The Center is around there. A lot of Black businesses, the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company is kind of connected to the Hayti center, a lot of Black elementary and middle schools ... Shepherd Middle School is around there. So a hub of you know, Black entrepreneurs and academia educators kind of in that areas, putting roots down. And that's where a lot of my family grew up in North Carolina.Brian Bienkowski And I'm guessing that Hayti, since you grew up there as a child, you don't know any difference, right? I mean, when you're a child, wherever you grow up, that's what you know. But what can you pieced together from growing up there? maybe it is how it affected you now or in your youth?Gabriel Gadsden you know, but maybe not outside so much of Hayti in my family. I... my dad was always big on you know, understanding the history of where we're coming from, you know, ancestors and whatnot. Understand the history of Durham. He was there when he was a child while his mother was in grad school at UNC in public health while his dad was in law school as well. And so, you know, he got to see Durham and Hayti in a very different light. And so, you're just kind of understanding that, you know, by the time that I was being reared in North Carolina, North Carolina Mutual had closed down its doors. And so that's kind of, you know, you can see in a lot of black areas of cities, you know, there's this really steep incline of entrepreneurship and whatnot, and then there's a decline, for whatever reason, whether there's a highway being built, you know, just kind of distant disinvestment into an area, it still had a lot of the history and the roots was still there, but it wasn't maybe as bustling as, as it would have been in maybe the 50s, 60s.Brian Bienkowski And where and how did science enter your life?Gabriel Gadsden Yeah, you know, I was most excited about this question. And I kind of molded over it and thinking about it. I think that for me, science was always a part of my trajectory, as it was a part of my life. And so I'll say this: growing up, I was diagnosed with a speech impediment that was in part because I couldn't hear, and I still can't hear out of my right ear. And so, you know, not being able to talk to kids, and not really being able to hear anybody, I kind of stayed in my own head, stayed to myself, but, you know, when you're wandering, you know, devoid of interaction with other kids, you find other things to interact with. And so my first thing was rocks, loved them loved how they looked, clean them, you know, put them in buckets, and had this rock collection. So you know, first thing was geology for me. And then I got a little bit older, and then it became PBS. So I was watching Zoom. And learning about chemistry didn't know it was chemistry at the time. But they were adding baking soda and sodium chloride and making gases. And so I would go into my parents’ bathroom probably wasted about $200 worth of product throughout that time period. And I was mixing Vitalis, and Listerine, and alcohol and hoping that I was making and make a discovery of some new chemical, some new gas. My mom had a bachelor's degree from North Carolina Central University. That was her first degree from there. And, you know, she said to me, "don't mix ammonia and bleach." As you know, she saw what I was doing, but they kind of let me stay off for myself after that it was Zaboomafoo. And, you know, I won't sing the catchphrase. But you know, you know, who do you see? Can you identify this mystery? What was this animal? and loved Animal Planet, "Top 10 dangerous," and all of these other shows just really captivated me when I was younger. And so you know, taking that into the classroom, being generally curious, not really having the foundations. And I think we'll get into that a little bit more. But in the last thing, I'll say, and why I say that science was just kind of always the part of me, was that I grew up and still am religious. And so in Christianity, what is my religion that I identify with, but you know, whether it's Judaism, Buddhism, Muslim, you will find environmentalism, ecology in the roots of them. And that's something that I've kind of come back to now here at Yale School of the Environment, a lot of connections with the Divinity School, and recognizing the similarities and recognizing that our morality is tied to the environment. And obviously, with traditional ecological knowledge, TEK, I think kind of making a resurgence in people's psyche, and the paradigm shift that we need to really get back to, quote-unquote, "roots" is something that I've always carried with me. There's tons of verses in the Bible that a lot more knowledgeable people could spout off in terms of connecting those two. And so I was filled with wonder when I was a kid, and it carried me to here.Brian Bienkowski Excellent. And you just alluded to this; you said, I remember this in your application. You mentioned that your primary education left you woefully unprepared to conduct research, which I don't think is an uncommon thing. I know I hadn't seen a scientific paper until graduate school. I didn't know what they were. So I don't think you're alone. But can you talk about this obstacle? And how you overcame it to go on to, right now, one of the most prestigious universities in the country?Gabriel Gadsden Absolutely, I'll start with this. I don't want that statement. You know, people hear it to say that I had bad instructors or teachers. My elementary school was filled, filled with amazing educators. I could name them, and some of them are still friends with me now. These were incredible people. But when it came to specialists, we had computer PE, art, and music. There was no science special. It was, there was one teacher at the school at the time, Mrs. Daniels, who had a classroom filled with animals and that was probably the closest thing we got to true science education at that time. Then I went to middle school and so obviously I've been watching these shows and asking my own questions, reading my own books. But it's just another step up now you're just learning about tectonic plates and geology, you know, kind of periods and whatnot, the Paleocene or Jurassic, kind of understanding that. But that stuff there I had already read. It wasn't fascinating to me. It was nice to be able to raise my hand and know that, you know, the question that kind of kept my interest in science. But we weren't learning the scientific method, we weren't looking at two different species and asking, Why is this one different, and whether or not we could change in the laboratory, we weren't getting any kind of hands-on experience. Same thing in high school. I didn't see science shown to a younger audience until I was a TA, and teaching assistant for Duke TIP, which is a talent program run by Duke University. And there I saw, you know, true scientific method building, trying things, failing, going back, you know, iterative process, that's kind of part of the science experiments that you see in laboratories. You know, went to a high school college. And so, I did get some early science classroom experience before going off to the UNC. But when I got there, you know, understanding how to navigate those classrooms, but also recognizing that there was a world outside of chemistry and biology, which just was not something that clicked to me, I think about it now, and I probably should have should have been an environmental science major, I would have had an easier time. You know, it wasn't until sophomore year that I realized that I was taking classes that were for pre-med, you know, doctors, and that's not what I wanted to do. I knew that going in. But I didn't know of other majors. And so it's it's kind of a multi-tier thing, both from the kind of primary education getting students prepped for the many fields that are going to be available to you as a college student, but also colleges recognizing and you know, I've seen I have some friends now who are in like STEM education, at the kind of academic level, and are trying to write papers and trying to understand what fails when they make that jump from high school to college. I think that there's some really good progress going on. But I think it's kind of a two-fold issue. One, a lot of the primary education, particularly in Black communities, don't have the money to bring in science instructors to do specials, or science Fridays and stuff like that. But then two, when you get to the university level, universities just aren't understanding that students are coming in from very different standpoints, and maybe have very different interest and maybe only thinks that biology is the only way to get into science, which isn't the case.Brian Bienkowski It's a great point. And I like to think that this program, not only is... the point is to show that scientists themselves are from diverse backgrounds and can be diverse people. But also that science itself is diverse. I think I grew up thinking that science; maybe, I think you were saying this kind of too, I thought of chemists, chemistry, beakers, and you know, the lab experience experiments and didn't think of social scientists or, you know, even forestry and fisheries to a certain extent, were things that I think if I would have been exposed to at a younger age, I would have said, "Oh, my goodness, yes, I want to do that! That's excellent" So yeah, those are excellent points. And I hope I hope some of this program is opening people's eyes to different types of cool science. So before we get into that cool science that you are doing right now, what is the defining moment or event that shaped your identity?Gabriel Gadsden So from a science standpoint, when I was an intern with the Applied Wildlife Ecology Lab, with Dr. Harris, Sam Harris at the University of Michigan, at the time, was the first time going and doing kind of forested wildlife ecology fieldwork. And I remember going into the forest and kind of seeing the light beams, and hot and sweaty – and had just climbed a hill and gone through the thicket– and I kind of emerged into this field and felt a spiritual connection, a birthing. You know, it was, it was truly a moment of great pleasure for me to knowing that I had finally done that, what I felt like my life was supposed to be, like was going out and collecting data and trying to then come back and share that data with with people. From a more personal standpoint... Maybe, man, my parents would have a different story. I know the story my dad would tell. For me, it was maybe a bit of a devotional, I was actually dedicated to God when I was seven. And I felt like I was always a good kid, I felt like I always had this connection, you know, we talked about a little bit earlier. But for me, it was this recognition that... humbling experience to know that I am just a small dot in this great big world, and a lot of it that we don't understand and that we have faith in it. We have faith in science, right, that we'll learn some of our answers, and we have faith in our religions. We have faith in humanity and our people. I think that was a moment, you know, being very young and actually just realizing that I'm just a dot in this, you know, kind of vastness, but I could make a difference. Clearly, people felt like I was making a difference in their lives within that, that congregation. And so I think, "oh, I can make a difference in this world. And whatever capacity I am," I've tried to carry that with me.Brian Bienkowski Excellent. That's an excellent, excellent couple of moments. And let's get into some of the research you're doing now in making that difference. And so I've had the good fortune to not only talk to you when you applied for this program, but we met in Philadelphia and talked about your research. So some of this I know, but some I don't. And I find it fascinating. So as you put it, it's kind of at the intersection of human health, wildlife, and energy justice. So can you, just off the top, tell us how these three fields merge in your research?Gabriel Gadsden How does it merge? It started when I was back an intern, and walking through the forest with with my advisor, Dr. Harrison, starting to ask questions about society, and how all this what it really meant, when it boiled down to it. Again, my dad and mom had instilled in me, you know, we need to stand up for what we think is right. You know, being just and being fair, and morality. Science was the path that I was taking. It wasn't like I was gonna go to law school, though my dad might still think that's a possibility. And the questions in ecology just weren't there. At that time, I don't think ecology –this was, you know, back in 2016, 2017– I don't think that they had really kind of saw that ecology could really be tied to social justice or social equity. And at that point, I'm really grateful that Dr. Harris kind of saw that and wants people to be great. So it's like, well, you should probably go into environmental science, try to find Dr. Tony Reams, who was at the time taking on students who does energy justice work. And I kind of made that pivot and knew at the time that it was a hard pivot. But it worked out. And I just had a text message kind of chat with Tony and just, you know, still believes in me, He still thinks that the ideas are great, and going to continue to do good things. But there, I was able to actually collect data that was directly tied or more visceral for people doing air quality data in an efficient housing. And so environmental justice is, you know, public health, public health is epidemiology, and you know, all these things kind of merge and mix together. And so recognizing that people were living in inefficient housing, and then had bad health, having this background in ecology with wildlife, and you know, how as a story goes, I was reading energy justice papers, and I was reading wildlife papers. And I thought to myself, "Oh, foxes, and other things like raccoons and bats live in people's homes. How do they get into those homes, though?" And then, you know, I just, you know, the literature, you know, they talk about these gaps in the foundation and inefficient walls. And so there's no insolation. So it becomes, basically just a nesting place for wildlife. And I thought, "Oh, wow, this is, it's pretty interesting." And, you know, lo and behold, there wasn't a lot of data on it. Now, I can certainly talk more about the literature that is there. But at the time, and still to a large degree, there is not any hard data about housing quality and wildlife and health and putting those two together, even though you know, wildlife, they carry zoonotic diseases that can be, you know, obviously transmissible to humans, that make us sick. And so, you know, it's kind of becomes this double jeopardy of if you have wildlife that are in your house carrying diseases and you're already in poor health because of your inefficient housing, what that could mean for public health crises? and kind of being cost effective. If there's a solution to multiple things, we should probably champion that solution. And I have to thank Dr. Grove for that, in the urban ecology class that I just was a teaching fellow for, understanding this complex nature of problems. And if we don't think complex, you know that they are complex problems, and there's multiple ways of entering the issue, then we're not going to get very far.Brian Bienkowski And just on the ground level, what does this research look like? How do you conduct a study that examines both energy inefficiency and rodents?Gabriel Gadsden Yeah, so, as a first year, as then, last year, first-year Ph.D. student or someone trying to get into grad school, I thought I was going to save the world and then realized, no, it wasn't realistic. But you know, we have an unlimited supply of plunder, right? Um, I thought I was going to talk to some people in Philadelphia; they were going to let me into the house, we were going to get all this money and do home interview scores. ATS is, and then we're going to trap inside. And then we were going to retrofit with another $15,000. And then do a before-and-after controlled trial. None of that happened or didn't happen yet. We were still optimistic that some of those things would happen in time. And hopefully, you know, the funders who are listening to this will recognize the importance of this. But the reality is that we're starting outside, you know, Philadelphia. While they do have vector control, Philadelphia has not kind of systematically kept ties with, you know, what the pathogens are, and where the rodents are in the city outside of 311 calls. And so hopefully working with them to get them just kind of more data, where the rodents in the city, I think it's kind of the first question and what environmental variables, you know, both, you know, trash receptacles, Park size, you know, trash on the street, housing, type of housing stock, is attributing rodent populations, or is increasing or decreasing rodent populations, excuse me. I think that’s, so that's the first step. And then the second step is to then, you know, ask for in these neighborhoods, collecting rodents making contacts, hopefully, we have a meeting tomorrow with 57 Blocks, which is a gun violence advocacy kind of research group out at the DA office in Philadelphia, recognizing that some of these issues with what is attracting rodents in cities, also could mitigate or increased gun violence. And so I say that to say, you, you work with people who are already doing great work in the city on different issues – Philly Thrive and other folks that are doing EJ work – And hopefully, by those connections and those collaborations, then they will say, "Oh, yes, this person, it would love to talk to you about this research." And that's how we're going to get into homes.Brian Bienkowski So to zoom out, we're talking about cracks in the foundation are problems in the home that are first leading to energy inefficiency. So maybe your bills are higher, your house isn't as warm, your house isn't as cool. And then the second part of that is rodents are able to get in. And what kinds of diseases or health problems are we talking about when we think about rodents getting into people's homes?Gabriel Gadsden So first is childhood asthma, allergens that are already so if you're in a low income area, you likely maybe have some type of power plant or some type of industry that's near you. So you already have those pollutants getting into your home more because it's inefficient, or for whatever reason, you have higher rates of asthma, and now you add on allergen load from mice and rats, so that's going to be exacerbated. So, you know, more ER trips, more money spent on inhalers and other types of treatments. There's also the issue of leptospirosis, which, and hantavirus, s more in the west right now. And I'm not going to get into kind of the debacle of funding that research in cities or in other areas outside of the West. But but certainly those are kind of the two main ones. There's also typhus –plague is still in Detroit.Brian Bienkowski and I have to imagine that there's a mental health, stress component to this. There's social stress, I mean, the idea of maybe you don't want to invite people into your home when you know you have an infestation. So I can see this kind of spider webbing outside of the very acute, physical, physical illnesses into mental and social struggles. So I don't want to place blame here and I know this is probably a large issue with some historical roots. But who's to blame? What is the... why is this historically been a blind spot for regulators, housing officials and others?Gabriel Gadsden 1950s was a really big time. I don't know the researcher's first name but Davies, I believe it's his last name, did a lot of work in Baltimore. There's a lot of really great case studies in Budapest and some other cities of like kind of rat-proof towns that brought population levels of rats down to less than 1% of their historic numbers. Even in Philadelphia in the 1940s, they have their first really big campaign about getting rid of rodents. And then in the 1960s, the mayor kind of created the rat control group, and that rat control group, you know, said, you know, that we will not take the job, if you do not seal up all the cracks in any, you know, in your home, you know, essentially, you know, back then maybe they didn't think about is energy efficiency of sealing up your envelope and the energy inside it, you know, get that, but it makes sense. But life happens, policy change, you know, turnover, it's a lot easier to say, you know, put out bait blocks, and rodent trapping, than to actually do systemic change. We see that time and time again. Actually, solving an issue takes coordinated efforts between many different factors from public health, to housing and development, to parks and rec, all coming together at that table. And cities are not willing to make that choice, at least in America right now, major cities, I'm not going to bash on any politician. But if you follow New York politics, you would have received like a rat czar job posting recently. And the reality is, you know, all the memes where, you know, Charlie Day from Always Sunny Philadelphia, kind of what's his kind of mace-bat-like situation that's gonna go, get rid of all the rodents. And that's not going to work. You know, it’s, and it's not just sanitation, is not just sealing up the home. And it's not just getting rid of vacant lots. It's all of those things at once, across a large scale in a city. And so until we're ready to put up that money, allow natural predators into our cities and kind of coexist with nature in a healthy way. And I don't think that you know, so, you know, really, really comes down to is political will and resource allocation. I mean, most researchers will say, you know, that's a lot of the issues. And if you throw money out enough, it'll fix itself, and you get the right people in the room. But right now, we just, there's really great researchers. Jason Munchie. I'm drawing a blank. But even Merkin Rosenbaum. These are people who are doing rodent research right now. And certainly know more than I do. But I think would advocate the same thing that is a, you know, you have to have this team of teams. To quote Dr. Grove, Morton Grove, if you don't have this team of teams, you're not going to solve the issue. And so cities have to really be ready to sit down and bring people together and spend the money.Brian Bienkowski What makes you hopeful about this? you mentioned some researchers who are doing very good work. Are you seeing any on-the-ground movement in Philadelphia or beyond? What makes you hopeful and optimistic?Gabriel Gadsden Yeah, I mean, Matt Fryer, another researcher, just trying to create like this really handy, simple rodent tool you can kind of put into cracks and understand whether, you know, it is susceptible to being infested by rodents. So you have this, you know, research-entrepreneurship, kind of burgeoning space, you also have new sensors, with Rat Mo, there are different technologies that are trying to get up, you know, making sure that we spend money in an efficient manner. As much as I don't think the idea of a rat czar going to work, the fact that, that that is a possibility that, you know, maybe the right person that's in that position could really make a change if they're kind of advocating for all of these different methods and allocating funds in the right spaces. I also think that there's maybe a little bit of a change in public perception... I kind of write and so I'm working on, you know, Environmental Health News with you and Maria, that, you know, it's time that people stop accepting this as the normal and I'm seeing that more and more maybe that's because I'm in this space. But I certainly think that as it gets out of hand again, I think COVID-19, and this kind of increase in route and sightings people at home are recognizing that, you know, they're out during the daytime, they're out during the night time, they're, you know that the squeaky wheel is going to get squeakier. And so I think I'm seeing a little bit more of that. I certainly know all of my friends know about it more. And so they send me a lot of papers and different articles from different fields, kind of hinting at this as well. And so I think that does make me optimistic. You know, I certainly have gotten some great responses for my work and so recognizing that people see this as a, as a serious issue, I think it will only get easier to advocate for true rodent exclusion or reduction of populations in an impactful way.Brian Bienkowski Yeah, sometimes a big first step for any of these kinds of wicked issues is just awareness. It's a good, it's a good first step. And speaking of that, so I know after I talked to you about your research, it seemed very intuitive, that these problems would be linked, but it is different and intersectional. And I'm sure you've had to explain it to folks, I'm wondering if you just have any tips for scientists interested in learning to better communicate.Gabriel Gadsden After just giving two presentations, two final presentations, I should have practiced more and everybody in my lab as a practice, you know? giving a talk to very different fields also helps. You know, most people don't study rodents, particularly in ecology, or at least well, urban ecology, just because they're not considered wildlife. And so you have to talk to the epidemiologists who are in a very public health, atmosphere or medical research. And so you have to link these things, even this idea of, you know, retrofitting versus, you know, sealing up the envelope, what word you use? those choice words, getting rid of the jargon, paring it down writing different grants, and then writing research talks, and then writing an academic article about it, you're putting it in very different ways. And you find out what works and what clicks with people. Just keep harping on it, if you believe in it, you know, the right words are going to come. And, you know, the same thing as you're reading widely talk to as many different groups. Because they know, someone in social science may say, "this is a word that would really clicked with people."Brian Bienkowski I also think starting off, as you as I've heard you do, with just kind of how this affects people is a very tangible way to make these issues click with people. I mean, we've all, most of us – I had a mouse in the house the other day – I mean, this is, this is common, this is a common thing that a lot of people have dealt with, maybe not on the scale that you're researching. But I think starting with, how does this impact people and their health is a really good starting point. And I've seen you do that. So of course, you can't be out there chasing rodents and looking at foundations all of the time. I happen to know you're a golfer. So what is... I don't know if it's golf weather out there if you're getting a bunch of snow, but when you are able to golf, do you get out much, and what's your handicap these days?Gabriel Gadsden I do get, I get out as much as I can. Yale is really generous and allows students to play at a discounted rate after turn hours. And so I'll go over there, it's a great golf course. And handicap, you know, I'll say this, there are no pictures on a scorecard. And that can work in a good way or a bad way. What I'll say is that I can get some pars most of the time. I'm shooting bogey, every now and again. I'll get a double bogey or triple bogey more often than I'd like. But if I were doing like a two-man scramble, I wouldn't hold you down as badly as you would think.Brian Bienkowski Before we get you out of here today, I have three rapid-fire questions that are supposed to be fun. Hopefully they are fun, where you can just answer with one word or a phrase. So the first one is, what was the highlight of the past year for youGabriel Gadsden was able to go to... see my family. You know, I don't get to see them often. And so in spending any time with my dad and playing golf with my brother. It's always a treat seeing my nieces and my nephews is always fun; being with themBrian Bienkowski For sure. The best concert I've ever been to was Gabriel Gadsden Oh, two. So Mick Jenkins not maybe a conscious rapper but a little bit less conscious. Really fun and authentic feeling, and then Jidenna, the '85 to Africa tour was really great. I'm a small concert like... I'm huge I love going to concerts. I like going to the smaller ones. I don't think I'll ever go see Beyonce or Drake. But the 30,000 people do It doesn't seem fun.Brian Bienkowski That makes, that makes two of us this, the more intimate concerts are, well, they're more intimate. You get to see and feel things in a much different way. I totally agree. And last question every day I look forward to blank.Gabriel Gadsden Being a good person, trying to be a genuine and caring person, I think, sometimes can throw people off. Like, what's up with this guy? But I hope that I hope that people who know me and or will meet me now this is just as genuine as I can to be nice.Brian Bienkowski But I sure hope being kind doesn't spark too much skepticism among people in your life or beyond. Because it's, it's something I felt from you, and I think it's it's a good thing. We should all be kind and genuine. So last question. I've been asking everybody, what is the last book that you read for fun?Gabriel Gadsden Cool. The last book I read for fun. I have to I pulled them off-site, so I won’t butcher their name. So the one I actually just finished was The Age disaster, the failure of organizations in New York and the nation. Great book, quite old, at this point. 1990 was published, but still is very salient, particularly because of the COVID-19, the climate disaster, I mean, you name it, there's a lack of, of coordination and whatnot. So yeah, go go get that. And that was like a free book lying around that I had just picked up from the department. And then, the other book is Fighting the good fight: The militarization of the civil rights movement. And so I'm currently reading that, and I've had some really good conversations because there's something to be said about whether or not we should be using this language. Is it helpful? Is it actually more harmful because of traumatic kind of imagery that comes with militarization? I'm still debating that myself, but I certainly find it a thought-provoking book, if not a bit challenging for a person to kind of wrap their heads around. So I've been asking people, you know, that's my question now at talks. Hey, should we be using this language? Is that hopeful to take that militarization of civil rights to the militarization of climate justice, and whether or not these campaigns and precision and training and communications, those types of things that make campaigns go well, should be co-opted?Brian Bienkowski Excellent. Sounds like a thought-provoking book. And speaking of thought-provoking, you can find Gabriel's essay soon out on ehn.org, where you can learn more about his research. And we'll be sure to get that in front of readers and listeners, Gabriel, thank you so much. We're doing this today. It's a pleasure having you in the program.Gabriel Gadsden Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day. And thank you to everybody who's listening.

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