environmental justice

LISTEN: Robbie Parks on climate justice and mental health

“It’s not just moving people around that’s going to solve public health disasters.”

Dr. Robbie Parks joins the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast to discuss the need to treat destructive storms, hurricanes and typhoons as public health and justice issues.


Parks, a current fellow and assistant professor in environmental health sciences at Columbia University, also talks about moving to the U.S. from the U.K., population-level health lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, and his love of football (soccer!).

Parks also plays an original song for us — a first on the podcast! Visit his Bandcamp to hear more of his music.

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 Parks, and subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Transcript

Brian Bienkowski

All right, I am super excited to be joined by Robbie Parks. Robbie, how're you doing today?

Robbie Parks

Very well. Thank you. How are you, Brian?

Brian Bienkowski

I'm doing excellent. And where are you coming at us from?

Robbie Parks

I'm in New York City, or Brooklyn to be precise. We're at home. And that's where I live and work, in New York City. So here I am.

Brian Bienkowski

Excellent. And you are not from there. Of course, maybe people have already picked up a slight accent. You are from the UK, having been raised in London. Tell me about your upbringing. Tell me about the beginnings.

Robbie Parks

Yes, very perceptive. I am indeed not from New York City. I'm a transplant from the UK, in London. So you know, London was an amazing place to grow up, I grew up specifically right in the middle in a place called Pimlico. So just to give a quick shout out to my local area there. And I really loved growing up there. You know, it was sort of, in some ways people might say as a first pass, it was like New York City in that you could really feel the world in the city in lots of different ways. It was very multicultural, and it still is. Lots of different things to do. You can never be bored if you you know, they say "tired of London, tired of life." So, you know, really, there was always stuff to do. I really had a great time and lots of opportunity from, you know, the education system and was really fortunate to get a couple of really good breaks there that changed my life. And, you know, though I grew up without, you know, huge amounts of means, most of the time, I didn't really think about that I was just really excited to to be in such a big and vibrant city. And I think my friends and family would probably agree that it's turned me into a real city person. I am really comfortable in the city. So yeah, I loved growing up in London.

Brian Bienkowski

Well, we, we have had the chance to meet and I feel like you're a kindred soul. But I will say that is one place that we part ways as a person. So I'm glad. I'm glad there's some of you out there. So places like where I live can stay remote and, and sparse. So you mentioned London's multiculturalism. And I think that's an interesting point, because maybe I'm pigeon-holing my fellow Americans, but I think there's this misinformed notion that all British people are royal or wealthy and London is a full of that. And it's not, of course. So when you came to the States, how would you describe that transition? And if you felt that coming here?

Robbie Parks

Well, you know, just to be clear, all British people do know at least one royal member of the family. So you know, we are very well-versed and we do often go for tea at Buckingham Palace. But that aside, in all seriousness, yeah, it is a very vibrant, diverse place, London in particular, but also many parts of the UK. And I sort of came over after my Ph.D. finished in late 2019. And, you know, I think I was quite naive really, with the transition because I'd never lived anywhere else really apart from UK. And so I thought coming to New York would be relatively easy in the grand scheme of things because you know, one of the main languages being English, I thought it'd be very straightforward, but you know, the transition was anything but straightforward. I found it incredibly stressful and traumatic, especially because I didn't really didn't know anyone when I moved to New York, but also, you know, lot large parts of my life was still in, in London, in the UK. And, you know, I taught that when I moved, I knew that 2020 was coming. But in 2019, what everyone was thinking about in 2020 was the presidential election. And that's all everyone was talking about, you know, when I first moved, and little did we all know, that that wouldn't really even be one of the biggest events of 2020. But it would be merely one of the top five, probably, and so, you know, the transition into the pandemic really was a real shock to everyone. But for me, away from family and friends and family, I would say that, that was particularly difficult. And I was really blessed and fortunate to have so many new and good friends that I'd made in New York City in a large part because of, you know, meeting people through my university there. And so, you know, in terms of the other elements of it, where I think I was naive, I think, on a first pass, you know, New York City and London are quite similar. You know, there's similar populations, similar sorts of multicultural nature. They both got subways, you know, one is better than the other, I would say, but then I'm biased towards London, probably still. And, but really, I think culture and society are actually quite differen when you scratch below the surface. I think one of the first things I realized, you know, the silly example is I, I needed to fill in tax forms before I even started working, that was incredibly confusing, but really, I think that there's just a different sort of flavor on the way that people behave. I think, you know, the, the old cliche with with New Yorkers, they're trying to get somewhere all the time. And that really is the sort of case. And I found that that was, you know, very different from London, where people were in a rush. But I think there's a certain dynamism in New York and a certain... I don't know what the word is, but maybe you might say grittiness that, that isn't really necessarily everywhere in London. And I think that, my friend, Russ, told me that something I remember in New York, he said, Now, I still to this day, use it to sort of justify why I live here. And he said that, you know, "it makes the easy thing is hard, and the hard things easy." And I think, you know, getting groceries can can take half a day. But you know, if you want to see world-class art and science, it's right here, and it's easy to get. So that's the way I think about it. And that kind of helps me live day-to-day here.

Brian Bienkowski

I've never heard that. And that's, that's so true. What a great what a great way to put it. And you're mentioning, I didn't actually didn't know that you move there during pre pre-pandemic right before. And when you mentioned a difficult transition, I find cities can be some of the most lonely places, despite the fact that you're surrounded by billions of people. And it's kind of a little bit of... screws with your mind a little bit because I had that in Chicago a little bit just feeling very lonely, but surrounded by a lot of people. So I'm glad you've found your footing. And of course, your research has helped us understand that pandemic a little bit. And we are going to get into that soon. But I wanted to know, what is the defining moment or event that shaped your identity up to this point?

Robbie Parks

Yeah, what a great question. I think, you know, there are many things in everyone's life every day that shape your identity. If I had to reduce it to one life event, it would probably be you know, in relation to my parents passing away. My dad passed away when I was relatively young, in my early teens, and my mum passed away a few years ago, and both events, looking back and the longer I think about it, and the longer I sort of write my research and do my research and go through my career, and just in general, my interactions with everyone, I feel like it's a lens – that bereavement and that grief from from both my parents loss – I feel like that's really a lens through which I see a lot of my life and that's personal and professional as well. I think it's influenced a lot from from my professional life. And I think I'm looking forward to sharing the essay that I've written with with you, because I think that that will sort of help as well put flesh on the bone there. But yeah, definitely sort of those bereavements for me.

Brian Bienkowski

Well, thanks so much for sharing that. And I don't know, I don't know when your essay will come out, but I encourage everybody to read it. You should be reading all the essays. But Robbie's in particular has really stuck with me as we've started the editing process. So as I mentioned, now you are studying all kinds of important things and I want to start with COVID, because we're still dealing with it here in 2023, unfortunately. So you're, broadly you're researching how environmental hazards impact the world's population, both now and in the future. And you've researched the pandemic and its responses from different angles and in different countries. And I'm wondering if you could just kind of share some of the more important and interesting bits of research you found, and how it can or should inform us as we still deal with it today.

Robbie Parks

Yeah, so just to be clear, I would be speaking from a population health expertise perspective. So you know, of course, I'm not an expert at all in sort of the medical side of things, but really, from a demograph/population health side of things, but I, you know, I do have a voice and based on my research on what we found, from official death records, essentially in many different countries. And the way that we would, and we have analyzed COVID-19's impact on public health is through excess deaths. And excess deaths, in a nutshell, what happens to the number of deaths now relative to similar periods in the past. Now, of course, we all know that lots of people died from COVID, and is a tragedy, and it's an ongoing tragedy, this global pandemic, however, the way you would manage –let me start again. However, the way you would manage that impact, really is a function of, you know, the infrastructure of recording deaths in each country, and that varies. However, you know, assuming you have reliable death records, you can create models and design models to measure the difference between the expected number of deaths at one point and the actual number of deaths at that particular point. And of course, during many parts of the COVID 19 pandemic, a lot more people died than otherwise would have had there been no pandemic. So why did that vary between countries? And why did that, in fact, vary between states? Well, of course, policies matter. So, you know, we're seeing a sort of unfortunate natural experiment. And we did see that in the United States, especially over the first couple of years, how different policies and different behaviors would impact something like infectious disease, like COVID-19. And so, you know, lockdowns and other non-pharmaceutical interventions, made a critical difference, especially at the beginning. And so, you know, in the first half of 2020, if I invite you, your day you to, to go back to that particular time, especially in the United States, you know, over half of excess deaths really were –at the beginning half of 2020– for countries like England and Wales and Scotland and Spain, whereas in the second half of 2020, you know, that's when the bulk of excess deaths in that year happened in Bulgaria, Croatia, other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. And so why was that? it was largely a function before vaccines, remember, that the pressure and the scale of lock downs and the speed at which, and the timing of which those lock downs were placed. And, you know, that is inevitably a political decision, as well as the scientific position. And that goes, of course, in terms of, you know, the United States too. And, you know, behavioral science is probably, I would say, an underestimated element of the way we understood the pandemic before it happened. And in early stages, because the idea of telling people, a pandemic was happening, we thought probably was enough to make people sort of think we have to look down. But now what we realized is there's lots of unintended consequences to those ideas. And in the end, people's belief in science is really, really important. And, of course, there are forces that don't always help with the belief in science, but it's sort of incumbent on scientists to sort of understand that we need people to believe the science that we produce. And that's super important. And, of course, vaccines matter. And that's relevant to it. I'm not a vaccine expert, but, you know, the impact of vaccines has been clear. But really, if we're talking about non-pharmaceutical measures, then preparedness matters. That's before, during and after a pandemic. There are lots of lessons to learn there in terms of what politics and what the social fabric can do if we work together. Now, of course, in the United States, and, you know, other sorts of high-income countries, you know, vaccines are readily available. And so, you know, the latest sort of insights I would talk about really would be would be in the younger ages and how COVID-19 is impacting the children and adolescents. And, you know, recent research that I've been involved with is really highlighting how important it is to focus on the health of our children and adolescents with respect to COVID-19. because it is one of the top 10 causes of death for most age groups below 19. And in fact, the death rates for many of those age groups for COVID-19 pre-vaccination was higher than many of the worst regarded diseases like measles were before vaccines were available for those diseases. So it's really important to frame it in a historical context of how dangerous COVID-19 is, even for people we regard as safe from COVID-19 it is still very dangerous, potentially deadly virus that we need to contain.

Brian Bienkowski

I don't want to give listeners whiplash here, but you are studying lots of things, not just COVID. And I want to switch gears to tropical cyclones, which I've noticed, when I was looking at your your body of work. So you're focusing a lot of your effort here now and we think, I think we... in terms of infrastructure damages, the first place my mind goes when I think of tropical cyclones. But can you walk us through why this is also a public health and and climate justice issue?

Robbie Parks

Of course, you know, when a tropical cyclone, hurricane, typhoon, cyclone, whatever it's called anywhere in the world, you know, life can be destroyed by a tropical cyclone. And that includes, you know, infrastructure from buildings, of course, that's what people think of when they see the press, the tropical cyclone having laid waste to a particular area, or flooded a particular area or destroyed buildings, etc, etc. And there's no doubt that the damage to property is one of the huge influences of tropical cyclones. But, you know, as I said, life can be destroyed very quickly by a tropical cyclone, or actually in slow motion over months and years. And so the impacts on public health, the impacts can be short to mid-term to long-term. You know, in the sort of hours and days after a cyclone has arrived at a particular place, there are direct impacts on public health. Now they can be deadly or in fact, they can damage your health but not kill you. And the first obvious example would be from injuries, fron electrocution, clearing up debris, being hit by flying debris. Then, of course, you've got a multitude of other causes, which sort of span into the days, weeks and months and even years after a cyclone has hit without appropriate recovery. And that could include infectious and parasitic diseases, cardiovascular diseases, neuropsychiatric conditions and respiratory diseases. Now take a few in turn, you know, infectious diseases can can spread from compromised drinking water, sanitation, damage to water pipes, which is related to infrastructure and disruption to treatment plants. Whereas cardiovascular diseases, you know –increases to heart attacks–, I'll start again. Cardiovascular diseases have increased related to heart attacks, cardiac arrests, from physical overexertion. People with pre-existing conditions who are taken unfortunately over the edge to death, from the stress and over-exertion of tropical cyclones, and, of course, traumatic psychological consequences, with a high prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders, evident of the, you know, American hurricane such as Harvey and Katrina, and increased risk of dementia, and decreased survival rates of people living with those conditions after tropical cyclone disasters and other similar ones. And of course, you got respiratory diseases disrupted from dust kicked up after tropical cyclones. But really one of the main issues of interest is for me, is really the power network and how robust that is to attacks from disasters. And so disruptive power supplies can disrupt all sorts of care, including breathing aids. And of course, we all know that, you know, cyclones are essentially stochastic events – they're random – but where they tend to hit, you know, both of is biased towards hitting more disadvantaged areas, and historically disadvantaged communities, both in the US but also in the world. But also, when those places are hit, they are really unprepared or less-well prepared than other areas. And in terms of the money that goes in afterwards, you know, it's harder to make sure that that money goes to the places where it's needed most. And I think that's why really, it's an issue of environmental and climate justice. So the disruption is, can be short term. It could be, but it can also be a matter of decades. And I think you're seeing that in some areas of America too.

Brian Bienkowski

What are some of the ways – and I'm thinking about the US in particular here, just picking up on the notion of this as a justice issue – that our responses is lacking? Where can we do better? And do you have thoughts how we can better serve these communities and dealing with the aftermath of the storms?

Robbie Parks

Absolutely, I think, you know, though, cyclones will inevitably arrive each year. The worst consequences on society and public health are often avoidable, with an equitable, long-term approach. So, you know, resilience to tropical cyclones is actually built over a long time. And so the depth of preparation is really a function of the amount of time needed. And so, robust societal infrastructure, including social services, housing stock, power distribution, and the recognition that you know, in the United States and elsewhere, one tropical cyclone or one hurricane can can affect communities differently, and that those differences are driven, you know, in large part by demographic, economic, social factors. You know, in non-affluent communities, impacts are often exacerbated due to institutional neglect and historical racism. And, of course, the recovery is, is also often very inequitable, with federal aid and private insurance, particularly difficult to obtain by Black and low-income individuals compared with other individuals. Now, of course, people talk about evacuation as a useful way to provide short term relief from a cyclone. But again, it's a very short term fix. And you know, what people come back to may not be what they left in any way, shape, or form. But I also want to stress the point that evacuation is a luxury in some ways. Because, you know, even if you've got an adequate early warning system, your family may not have the financial resources or adequate transport, or indeed, the faith and belief that their belongings are safe. And, you know, others are also expected to stay because of long-term health conditions for themselves or their close loved ones. And it's a very reasonable expectation that they wouldn't leave because they're actually worried that leaving may imperil people's health, more than actually staying. And so, you know, with evacuation, I would say this: it's a luxury for some people. But you know, if you evacuate the next question, I would say is where to, and so some simply have nowhere to go and cannot leave. And so in summary, really, you know, all of the all of the above is important, you know, resilience, recovery. And in understanding that people in place require a resilience that is not just moving people around, which is going to solve the public health impact of disasters like tropical cyclones.

Brian Bienkowski

One area research that is really interesting to me, and I'm starting to see more coverage both in the scientific community and in kind of the media writ large, is the link between environmental issues and mental health. And I'm sure there are some of these with tropical cyclones as well. But can you talk about some of your work examining the impacts of high temperatures, on things like assault, suicide, alcohol use and other kinds of mental health downstream impact?

Robbie Parks

Yeah, absolutely. You know, of course, it's related to tropical cyclones. But there are other things you know, which are known as ambient exposures, if you like, like pollution and temperature, which are essentially there all the time. And there's more and more research on the impacts of those on mental health related outcomes. Now, of course, for me, I'll talk about what I've done. Now in, you know, in previous published work that I led, in part from my Ph.D., I researched how anomalously warm temperatures were associated in the United States with suicides and assaults. And I found that there was indeed a robust association, which has actually been borne out by other studies around the world and in the United States, over the past few years. And you know, what I found, which is very interesting, really, is that we predicted from our analysis that the majority of the additional suicides and assaults would be largely concentrated in younger males. And so there's an element of trying to understand what would be driving that particular vulnerability in those people. And you know, it's an emerging subject in the global stage as well. And so I've been working in a working group with the WHO on a report on the impacts of climate change on mental health worldwide. And you see, you know, the idea that, you know, having scarcer resources, having higher temperatures put stressors on the body and the mind, which would potentially lead to more conflict and more sort of violent behavior and actually more despair. And that's sort of related to the idea that, you know, feeling like, you've got nothing, feeling like, you've got a loss of the place that you call home, your friends and family, you know, all of that ties together to sort of highlight the idea, and really the concept that climate change impacts not just physical health, but also mental health.

Brian Bienkowski

I can imagine this work can be a mental stressor for you, you're looking at things that... COVID deaths, climate change, cyclones – I mean, these are these are heavy things, you're looking at population-level impacts. What are you optimistic about?

Robbie Parks

I think, you know, one of the reasons that I probably am still doing the work that I do, and have still got body and mind to gather in some way is because I am, I think, automatically optimistic, or by default, I am optimistic. And I think I still hold true. The idea that, the basic idea really, that humans care about each other fundamentally, and, and given the choice with, you know, the right availability of those choices, they're always do the right thing. But you know, society is constructed that mostly that sometimes we're not given a fair shot. But really generally what I see every day, in day-to-day interactions with people is that, you know, humans do care about each other. So I do have hope about the idea that we can tackle this beast called climate change and other huge problems in the world.

Brian Bienkowski

And for more on that, I would encourage listeners to check out I believe the podcast was titled "Meet Maria and a COP 27 review," where I spoke with Robbie and Alexa White, another fellow, about their experience at COP last year, and Robbie speaks more about kind of some of the things he's optimistic about when it comes to the activist presence at some of these larger climate negotiation events. So Robbie, I know you're a football fan or soccer for us, here in the States. Tell me about who is your favorite team because I think that's a big deal where you come from, just like, American football would be here and maybe describe to me and listeners the passion that comes with football fandom in the UK.

Robbie Parks

Yes, so you're completely right that, you know, soccer or football as we choose to call it, because we do touch the ball with the foot, So it kind of makes more sense than than American football or football, as you call it here. But that, you know, that's the minor jibe. But really, so my dad was from Glasgow, Scotland. So, you know, I'm always gonna have a soft spot for Celtic football Club in in Scotland. But of course, for people who follow football or soccer, they know that, you know, it's actually the UK is one country, but has four nations. And so Scotland has one league, or several Scottish leagues, and England has the Premier League and, and, you know, I, I sort of have great admiration for Marcus Rashford of Manchester United as a player and as a person. I think, if listeners haven't heard of Marcus Rushford, then I think I'd really recommend looking him up not only he's an excellent player for the England team, but he's also just from what I can tell just a fantastic person. And you know, speaking of the England team, I think, you know, really watching the England team makes me nostalgic about the way that we would grew up, we would sort of go to pubs and drink, you know, a pint of beer while watching the football during World Cups and European Championships. And I think we'd get very excited. And then invariably, we'd be disappointed. And I think that sort of peak and trough was very, very imprinted in my mind. So I've been beaten out of them enthusiasm. Now surprisingly, over the past few years, the England team has actually been quite good. And so, you know, despite not having won anything still, since 1966, yes, 19 66 is the date that most England fans will will have on their wall, when we won the World Cup. It was in England, so you know, whether or not that was played a role, I don't know. But I think you know, the idea that Englands are, you know, an ascendant force in football, gives me sort of a bit of solace. And so now I do allow myself to get a little bit excited. But you know, football instills, a lot of passion in the UK, and England in particular, as well as other places. But it sort of goes hand-in-hand, as I said, with pub culture. And so it has positive implications and negative implications. But for me, I'm going to focus on the positive because it's inherently social. And, you know, I am still, you know, if any, any listeners have any idea about the best place to do that in New York City, from a football fan, that replicates the English pub experience, I'd be all is.

Brian Bienkowski

Oh, that has to exist somewhere. I remember being in New York and finding a bar that catered to Detroit fans, I was there to watch a Tigers game. And it seems like there's everything there. So there has to be a good football bar. Do you get to play in New York? Do you ever get out and, and play soccer?

Robbie Parks

I have now and then but you know, really, I I focus on trying to find time to do exercise in between work and sort of music that that tends to be alone, so tend to go on a run to Prospect Park or go to Fort Greene and do exercise. But you know, when I do see people playing team sports, I always, I am always a little bit envious of the fact that, you know, it's a social event, rather than just having to focus on the pain that you're going.

Brian Bienkowski

I'm, I'm a cyclist here. And I spent a lot of years as a runner, and it was obviously a solo – well, not obviously, you can run with folks – but it was mostly a solo activity training. And I switched to cycling, and I ride a lot alone, but I started riding with a group and I look forward to that group or that group ride so much every week, there's something about being around other people that brings out a little competitive spirit, and also just makes the time kind of click by, so

Robbie Parks

Absolutely. Absolutely there.

Brian Bienkowski

And you mentioned your other hobby, passion, former job maybe, is a musician. So what role, what role does making music plays in your life now, and if it at all intersects with your research and the rest of your professional life?

Robbie Parks

Yeah, so, you know, after my undergraduate degree, and my Ph.D., I did spend a lot of time really focusing on on music and trying to build myself as a, as a musician with a band. So you know, music for me, really, is, you know, to avoid a cliché, or barely avoid a cliché sort of, music is the soundtrack of my life. And, you know, I mean that, whatever I'm doing, I'm always thinking about music, I'm always looking at music, reviews, I'm always trying to find new music, I'm always listening to my favorite records while I work. So for me, you know, probably like most people, music has provided a lot of that secure that I need in my good times, and my bad times, in my low times, I think whatever my mood, there's always music for it. And so for me, it's that universal, sort of self that I always need in my life. And, you know, that sort of originated from, you know, my parents. You know, in Filipino culture, my mom was Filipino, you'd always have a piano in the house, electric piano that tended to be an instrument, which gather dust more than anything else. So like, it was always the idea that you wanted your, your child to learn piano. And so I was lucky enough to learn piano and I taught myself guitar. And then, when I was 11, or 12, I was in a supermarket in UK and I saw this record called Kid A, and I was fascinated by the cover. And then I was like, mom, who's that, and she had no idea. And then, you know, turns out was a band called Radiohead, and I, and they're British band, for those you haven't heard of them. And for me, they really sort of provided the compass direction that informs really the rest of my musical tastes and career. So, you know, other British bands like Pink Floyd and The Beatles, and some other American groups, but really, it sort of starts and ends with Radiohead for me. And so I really love that band. And, you know, I think in terms of my research, it sort of activates a different side of my brain than I use in science. So you talk about left and right brain sort of ideas. But I think using the two sides of my brain at different times, they kind of merge into each other in in good ways, I think. And so the creativity of, of music and the creativity of science, I think, are complementary, but also the logical side of, I guess the objective side of science can really help me to sort of think of the way I write songs as well. So, so I think, you know, I don't think there's a direct obvious way in terms of me, you know, playing music at scientific conferences or something, but I think in terms of the way that informs my art and science, I think there is something in that keeping both activated. It really helps me

Brian Bienkowski

We might have to do a whole podcast on Radiohead just a couple of quarter life to midlife dudes talking Radiohead. That's, that's what the podcast world needs needs another one of those, but I love that record. Kid A is a fantastic record, as was The Bends, was the other one that really that really stuck to me. I hate to put you on the spot. But I happen to know that there's a guitar around there and would you be so kind as to play us, play us a song? it would be a first for the podcast.

Robbie Parks

Well, I really never thought you'd ask. So you know, thank you for the invitation. So that Yeah, sure. Sure. Why not?

Brian Bienkowski

Wonderful. And what is this song called?

Robbie Parks

So this is a song I wrote in collaboration with my fantastic partner, Elissa, who is an excellent fiction writer. But we also quickly discovered while collaborating that she's actually a fantastic lyricist, so this song is called "Heaven not far away."

Brian Bienkowski

All right, Robbie, that was beautiful.

Robbie Parks

Oh, thank you very much.

Brian Bienkowski

Excellent. Well, thank you so much. Well, we will make sure to include a link. And before I get you out of here, I just have some last fun questions. Hopefully they're fun most of the time they're fun. And these first three, you can just answer with a word or a phrase. If I wasn't a researcher, I would want to be a

Robbie Parks

musician.

Brian Bienkowski

The best way to spend an hour of free time is

Robbie Parks

playing music.

Brian Bienkowski

I notice a theme. My favorite concert I've been to is

Robbie Parks

As I said Radiohead several times, but if I picked one, it probably be at Lollapalooza in Berlin in 2016.

Brian Bienkowski

And what is the last book you read for fun? you don't have to confine yourself to one word here. I'd love to hear a little bit about it.

Robbie Parks

So, you know, my favorite author, author of recent times, is a British author called Kazuo Ishiguro, and my favorite book of his, which I only really read recently, is "Remains of the Day." And really, it's this very strange English situation. It's about a butler. And it's about a butler called Mr. Stevens during the sort of interwar period between the First World War and the Second World War. But really, you know, the reason I love Kazuo Ishiguro so much is because he sort of deals with issues about loss and yearning, and covering up that loss and yearning, which is in many ways, sort of fundamental to British society, but lots of different societies everywhere. And I find the way that he sort of writes, which is used the writing is, is filled with with something else. And as I think as you read it, you sort of get a sense that there's something coming and I really love that book "Remains of the Day."

Brian Bienkowski

Excellent. Well, Robbie, this has been a lot of fun. I have found myself, since I met you and talk to you, reading specific environmental articles, and thinking to myself, "I would love to talk to Robbie about this." And I think that is the highest praise I can give a scientist and I hope you take it as

Robbie Parks

Thank you. So yeah, it's been a pleasure. Thank you.

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Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way
Coast Guard inspects Cameron LNG Facility in preparation for first LNG export in 2019. (Credit: Coast Guard News)

Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 1 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
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Global climate impacts are set to drastically reduce average income levels by 2050

A new study reveals that by 2050, global incomes will decrease by almost 20% on average due to severe climate impacts, which will cost significantly more than proactive measures to limit temperature rises.

Jonathan Watts reports for The Guardian.

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Biden's Arctic policy curbs drilling
Credit: JLS Photography - Alaska/Flickr

Biden's Arctic policy curbs drilling and blocks road construction

President Biden curtails fossil fuel extraction in Alaska, aiming to preserve the region's pristine habitats.

Maxine Joselow reports for The Washington Post.

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New rule prioritizes conservation on US public lands

A new rule introduced by the Biden administration aims to balance conservation with economic activities on America's public lands, enhancing protections and sustainable use.

Catrin Einhorn reports for The New York Times.

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Deepwater Horizon oil spill
Credit: Florida Sea Grant/Flickr

The lasting impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill on marine life

A recent expedition to the Gulf of Mexico has revealed ongoing environmental damage from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, showing little signs of recovery for the marine ecosystem.

Xander Peters reports for Hakai Magazine.

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Impact of climate change on Indigenous communities documented in global study

Indigenous and local communities' firsthand experiences with climate change are vividly detailed in a new extensive study.

Sonam Lama Hyolmo reports for Mongabay.

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From our Newsroom
New EPA regulations mean a closer eye on the nation’s petrochemical hub

New EPA regulations mean a closer eye on the nation’s petrochemical hub

Houston’s fenceline communities welcome stricter federal rules on chemical plant emissions but worry about state compliance.

plastic composting

Bioplastics create a composting conundrum

Biodegradable food packaging is a step in the right direction, experts say, but when composted carries risks of microplastic and chemical contamination.

plastic treaty

Groups push Biden administration to take leadership role at upcoming plastic treaty talks

The US has taken a “middle of the road position” so far, environmental groups say.

chemical recycling Youngstown

Listen: Why communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia are fighting chemical recycling plants

EHN reporter Kristina Marusic discusses her new three-part series on the controversies surrounding chemical recycling.

chemical recycling

Latest chemical recycling plant closing spurs concern over the industry’s viability

Oregon’s Regenyx plant announced its closing in late February, with those involved calling it a success, despite never reaching planned capacity and millions of dollars lost.

plastic treaty

Everything you need to know for the fourth round of global plastic pollution treaty talks

Countries will meet this month in Ottawa to move forward on the historic treaty — but obstacles remain.

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