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Challenges, Volume 14, Issue 3 (September 2023) – 9 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): Planetary health is gaining traction in the curricula of institutions of higher learning, and online asynchronous courses offer the promise of scaling up to make grand challenges of education accessible to many. In this paper, we summarize learning outcomes and student sentiment towards our changing planet in a new online asynchronous course on Planetary Health at Brown University. We demonstrate how online learning can educate students about the myriad challenges facing human and planetary health, broaden knowledge of environmental changes, and bolster hope by offering solutions and peer community (even when virtual). Future efforts to integrate planetary health into higher education should focus on broadly accessible and scalable courses, undergraduate majors, and extension into institutional programs focused on ensuring equity and wellness for all. View this paper
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15 pages, 883 KiB  
Review
The Escalation of Informal Settlement and the High Levels of Illegal Dumping Post-Apartheid: Systematic Review
by Xolisiwe Sinalo Grangxabe, Thabang Maphanga, Benett Siyabonga Madonsela, Babalwa Gqomfa, Takalani Terry Phungela, Karabo Concelia Malakane, Kgabo Humphrey Thamaga and Daniel Angwenyi
Challenges 2023, 14(3), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14030038 - 11 Sep 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3823
Abstract
Illegal disposal of solid waste is a significant issue in many parts of the world, particularly in urban areas. Because of unprecedented urbanization, these areas are crowded, putting pressure on the already inadequate municipal services such as waste management. As municipalities fail to [...] Read more.
Illegal disposal of solid waste is a significant issue in many parts of the world, particularly in urban areas. Because of unprecedented urbanization, these areas are crowded, putting pressure on the already inadequate municipal services such as waste management. As municipalities fail to provide adequate and effective waste management services, the expansion and proliferation of informal settlements contribute to the problem of illegal dumping. Apartheid spatial planning produced environmentally unsustainable cities characterized by glaring disparities in municipal resource allocation, disturbingly inefficient transportation systems, and widespread urban insecurity. Therefore, this study examines how the expansion of informal settlement at an unprecedented rate contributes to illegal dumping post-apartheid by conducting a systematic review. Using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, a literature search from 1994 to 2023 was conducted in the field of waste management. The review focuses on three key aspects: (1) factors that contribute to illegal dumping in townships; (2) waste management laws during apartheid and post apartheid; and (3) waste collection system in townships and spatial planning. South Africa’s inequality is a major contributor to environmental degradation. The situation was exacerbated by efforts to prevent urban migration and forcefully remove black people from cities; apartheid ideology justified the dormitory-like nature of urban townships. In the South African context, the literature reveals that there is a research gap in the application of technologies and effective waste management plans to keep up with the growing number of informal settlements. Furthermore, despite progressive environmental policies, implementation has been ineffective. This study offers valuable evidence on the spatial and temporal dynamics of informal settlements, addressing both the location and time aspects. A robust government-led Community Participation in Solid Waste Management program is required immediately. Full article
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23 pages, 384 KiB  
Viewpoint
Nutrition, Behavior, and the Criminal Justice System: What Took so Long? An Interview with Dr. Stephen J. Schoenthaler
by Alan C. Logan and Stephen J. Schoenthaler
Challenges 2023, 14(3), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14030037 - 3 Sep 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3929
Abstract
In the ongoing series of interviews, Challenges Advisory Board member and Nova Institute for Health Fellow Alan C. Logan meets with thought leaders, scientists, scholars, healthcare professionals, artisans, and visionaries concerned about health at the scales of persons, places, and the planet. Here, [...] Read more.
In the ongoing series of interviews, Challenges Advisory Board member and Nova Institute for Health Fellow Alan C. Logan meets with thought leaders, scientists, scholars, healthcare professionals, artisans, and visionaries concerned about health at the scales of persons, places, and the planet. Here, Dr Stephen J. Schoenthaler of California State University, Stanislaus, responds to a set of questions posed by Challenges. For over forty years, Dr. Schoenthaler has been at the forefront of the research connecting nutrition to behavior and mental health. In particular, Dr. Schoenthaler’s work has examined relationships between dietary patterns, nutritional support, and behaviors that might otherwise be associated with criminality and aggression. Although the idea that nutrition is a factor in juvenile delinquency was popularized in the 1950s, the area received little scientific attention. In the 1970s, the idea that nutrition could influence behavior gained national attention in the US but was largely dismissed as “fringe”, especially by those connected to the ultra-processed food industries. Today, relationships between diet and behavior are part of the robust field called “nutritional psychiatry”; emerging studies demonstrate clear societal implications, including those within the criminal justice system. Here, Dr. Schoenthaler discusses how we got here and updates Challenges on where the field has moved, with an eye toward future possibilities. Dr. Schoenthaler reflects on the early influences that shaped his interest in the field and discusses the ways in which this research, especially in the context of criminal justice, is related to the many interconnected challenges of our time. Full article
11 pages, 216 KiB  
Article
Planetary Health—Global Environmental Change and Emerging Infectious Disease: A New Undergraduate Online Asynchronous Course
by Kristina Monteiro, Ciciely Davy, Jesse Maurier and Katherine F. Smith
Challenges 2023, 14(3), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14030036 - 9 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1639
Abstract
Will a warmer world be a sicker world? What is it about the New England landscape that supports the proliferation of Lyme disease? How are local wildlife trade and global species invasions contributors to emerging diseases such as the 2003 outbreak of monkey [...] Read more.
Will a warmer world be a sicker world? What is it about the New England landscape that supports the proliferation of Lyme disease? How are local wildlife trade and global species invasions contributors to emerging diseases such as the 2003 outbreak of monkey pox virus in the midwestern United States? Undergraduate students explore these and related questions in BIOL 1455 Planetary Health: global environmental change and emerging infectious disease—a new online asynchronous course at Brown University. Planetary health is gaining traction in the curricula of institutions of higher learning and online asynchronous courses offer the promise of scaling up to make grand challenges education accessible to many. In our new course, we assessed student learning outcomes (LOs) and sentiment towards the health of humans and the planet using a mixed-methods approach. Students demonstrated competency in each of the LOs after course completion as measured in a pre–post assessment scored with a standardized rubric. Student sentiment was analyzed with an immersion–crystallization qualitative analysis to elucidate themes in responses to the assessments. Many themes on the pre-assessment focused on barriers and problems associated with the health of humans and the planet, while themes on the post-assessment centered on more solutions-based thinking. Collectively, these findings indicate that this online asynchronous course successfully educated students about the myriad challenges facing human and planetary health, broadened knowledge of environmental changes (beyond climate change) that impact health, formalized understanding of now common terms such as “emerging infectious diseases”, and bolstered hope by offering solutions and peer community (even when virtual). Future efforts to integrate planetary health into higher education should focus on broadly accessible and scalable courses, full programs of study (i.e., majors/scholarly concentrations), and extension into institutional programs focused on ensuring equity and wellness for all. Full article
21 pages, 1585 KiB  
Review
Bitcoin’s Carbon Footprint Revisited: Proof of Work Mining for Renewable Energy Expansion
by Juan Ignacio Ibañez and Alexander Freier
Challenges 2023, 14(3), 35; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14030035 - 8 Aug 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 18095
Abstract
While blockchain and distributed ledger technology offer immense potential for applications in transparency, security, efficiency, censorship resistance, and more, they have been criticized due to the energy-intensive nature of the proof of work consensus algorithm, particularly in the context of Bitcoin mining. We [...] Read more.
While blockchain and distributed ledger technology offer immense potential for applications in transparency, security, efficiency, censorship resistance, and more, they have been criticized due to the energy-intensive nature of the proof of work consensus algorithm, particularly in the context of Bitcoin mining. We systematically explore the state-of-the-art regarding the relationship between Bitcoin mining and grid decarbonization. We specifically focus on the role of flexible load response through proof of work mining as a potential contributor to renewable energy penetration and net decarbonization of the energy grid. The existing literature has not comprehensively examined this area, leading to conflicting views. We address the gap, analyzing the capabilities and limitations of Bitcoin mining in providing flexible load response services. Our findings show that renewable-based mining could potentially drive a net-decarbonizing effect on energy grids, although key adaptations in mining practices are needed to fully realize this potential. Overall, the paper suggests a re-evaluation of the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining, highlighting its potential role as a facilitator for renewable energy expansion, and decarbonization more broadly. Full article
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19 pages, 828 KiB  
Project Report
Investigating the Mental Health Impacts of Climate Change in Youth: Design and Implementation of the International Changing Worlds Study
by Ans Vercammen, Sandhya Kanaka Yatirajula, Mercian Daniel, Sandeep Maharaj, Michael H. Campbell, Natalie Greaves, Renzo Guinto, John Jamir Benzon Aruta, Criselle Angeline Peñamante, Britt Wray and Emma L. Lawrance
Challenges 2023, 14(3), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14030034 - 5 Aug 2023
Viewed by 4836
Abstract
As climate change continues unabated, research is increasingly focused on capturing and quantifying the lesser-known psychological responses and mental health implications of this humanitarian and environmental crisis. There has been a particular interest in the experiences of young people, who are more vulnerable [...] Read more.
As climate change continues unabated, research is increasingly focused on capturing and quantifying the lesser-known psychological responses and mental health implications of this humanitarian and environmental crisis. There has been a particular interest in the experiences of young people, who are more vulnerable for a range of reasons, including their developmental stage, the high rates of mental health conditions among this population, and their relative lack of agency to address climate threats. The different geographic and sociocultural settings in which people are coming of age afford certain opportunities and present distinct challenges and exposures to climate hazards. Understanding the diversity of lived experiences is vitally important for informing evidence-based, locally led psychosocial support and social and climate policies. In this Project Report we describe the design and implementation of the “Changing Worlds” study, focusing on our experiences and personal reflections as a transdisciplinary collaboration representing the UK, India, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Barbados, the Philippines, and the USA. The project was conceived within the planetary health paradigm, aimed at characterizing and quantifying the impacts of human-mediated environmental systems changes on youth mental health and wellbeing. With input from local youth representatives, we designed and delivered a series of locally adapted surveys asking young people about their mental health and wellbeing, as well as their thoughts, emotions, and perceived agency in relation to the climate crisis and the global COVID-19 pandemic. This project report outlines the principles that guided the study design and describes the conceptual and practical hurdles we navigated as a distributed and interdisciplinary research collaboration working in different institutional, social, and research governance settings. Finally, we highlight lessons learned, specify our recommendations for other collaborative research projects in this space, and touch upon the next steps for our work. This project explicitly balances context sensitivity and the need for quantitative, globally comparable data on how youth are responding to and coping with environmental change, inspiring a new vision for a global community of practice on mental health in climate change. Full article
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19 pages, 2369 KiB  
Conference Report
Outcomes from the First European Planetary Health Hub Convening at ARTIS in Amsterdam
by Remco Kort, Jeremy Pivor, Josep M. Antó, Annemarie Bergsma, Peter J. Blankestijn, Olette Bollen, Egid van Bree, Joyce L. Browne, Judith de Bruin, Jasper Buikx, Chiara Cadeddu, Jennifer Cole, Francesca Costabile, Aimée de Croon, Anneliese Depoux, Ian Fussell, Bernhard Goodwin, Arte Groenewegen, Milo Grootjen, Jaana I. Halonen, Riitta-Maija Hämäläinen, Pieter ten Have, Martin Herrmann, Pauline de Heer, Godelieve van Heteren, Jopke Janmaat, Marija Jevtic, Hans Mulder, Nathalie Lambrecht, Vincenzo Lionetti, Camilla Alay Llamas, Maarten Manten, Pim Martens, Ariadna Moreno, Francine Müller, Cristina O’Callaghan-Gordo, Sara Muller, Cecilia Manosa Nyblon, Juliette Mattijsen, Hans Ossebaard, Karlien Pijnenborg, Nynke Postma, Lisa Pörtner, Marju Prass, Lekha Rathod, Alexandre Robert, Andrée Rochfort, Alexis Roig, Anja Schoch, Eva-Maria Schwienhorst-Stich, Ralf Klemens Stappen, Ingrid Stegeman, Jorieke van der Stelt, Peter Stenvinkel, Rembrandt Sutorius, Valesca Venhof, Martine Veenman, Leonardo Villani, Maike Voss, Michiel de Vries, Laura van der Zande, Andreea Zotinca, Arnau Queralt-Bassa and Samuel S. Myersadd Show full author list remove Hide full author list
Challenges 2023, 14(3), 33; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14030033 - 14 Jul 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3183
Abstract
A new network of over 72 organizations from 12 countries was activated during a convening at ARTIS in Amsterdam on 26–27 September 2022. Representatives are aligned with the transdisciplinary field and social movement of Planetary Health, which analyzes and addresses the impacts of [...] Read more.
A new network of over 72 organizations from 12 countries was activated during a convening at ARTIS in Amsterdam on 26–27 September 2022. Representatives are aligned with the transdisciplinary field and social movement of Planetary Health, which analyzes and addresses the impacts of human disruptions to natural systems on human health and all life on Earth. The new European Planetary Health Hub consists of organizations from various sectors, including universities, healthcare, youth, business, and civil society. The Convening, co-organized by the Planetary Health Alliance (PHA), the European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils Network (EEAC), and Natura Artis Magistra (ARTIS), aimed to develop Planetary Health Working Groups for Education, Policy Engagement, Research, and Movement Building. The Convening resulted in an outline for each of the Working Group’s aims, visions, missions, priorities, and activities, and set the framework for sustaining their activities in the future through the establishment of the European Planetary Health Hub Secretariat in the Netherlands. The Hub members shared lessons learned, built relationships, and developed artwork-inspired perspectives on Planetary Health. In conclusion, the Convening led to the establishment of a strong European foundation to contribute to the transformations needed for sustainable, just, and equitable societies that flourish within the limits of our ecosystems. Full article
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16 pages, 284 KiB  
Article
Legal Conditions for Refugees’ Mental Health: Implications of Legislative Changes in Programs for Newly Arrived Refugees in Sweden
by David Gunnarsson, Sofia Larsson and Linda Vikdahl
Challenges 2023, 14(3), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14030032 - 14 Jul 2023
Viewed by 1251
Abstract
As the number of refugees in the world is increasing and it is known that social inequality negatively impacts mental health, it is important to study integration policies, such as labour market measures. In this article, the strategic interventions of the Swedish Public [...] Read more.
As the number of refugees in the world is increasing and it is known that social inequality negatively impacts mental health, it is important to study integration policies, such as labour market measures. In this article, the strategic interventions of the Swedish Public Employment Service are analysed to determine how the agency’s management handled and implemented the legal changes in the new support document for its case workers. The focus is on the effects of the changes in the legal text that transferred the responsibility for establishment initiatives for newly arrived migrants to the agency and, as a result, changed the conditions for newly arrived refugees’ mental health in the new establishment programme. Eight people representing different management functions at the agency were interviewed. The results show that the intention in the new programme to view newly arrived refugees in the same way as all other unemployed people, rather than as a special category, has meant that less attention is paid to the refugees’ mental health, and the opportunities for the agency’s street-level bureaucrats to help clients have decreased. In the face of predicted growing numbers of people having to abandon their homes due to conflicts and climate changes, governmental strategies such as these needs to be revisited in order for societies worldwide to be better prepared for that challenge. Full article
7 pages, 1206 KiB  
Editorial
Lost Connections: Why the Growing Crisis of Loneliness Matters for Planetary Health
by Susan L. Prescott
Challenges 2023, 14(3), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14030031 - 6 Jul 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2801
Abstract
Healthy social connections—belongingness and relatedness to others—are considered to be basic human needs [...] Full article
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12 pages, 5648 KiB  
Article
Evaluation of Everyday Living Areas for Deinstitutionalized Community-Living People with Mental Illness
by Yuri Nakai and Hisao Nakai
Challenges 2023, 14(3), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14030030 - 26 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1432
Abstract
Deinstitutionalization of psychiatric care has been associated with increased homelessness, crime, and suicide, partly owing to insufficient, adequate, and accessible community resources. Therefore, appropriate resource placement is a key deinstitutionalization issue. The study’s aim was to identify residential group homes for people with [...] Read more.
Deinstitutionalization of psychiatric care has been associated with increased homelessness, crime, and suicide, partly owing to insufficient, adequate, and accessible community resources. Therefore, appropriate resource placement is a key deinstitutionalization issue. The study’s aim was to identify residential group homes for people with mental illness in Kochi Prefecture, Japan, and the social resources necessary for social reintegration using a geographic information system (GIS). Everyday living areas (ELAs), as defined by the Japanese Community-Based Integrated Care System for People with Mental Illness (CICSM), were assessed using ELA location simulations. We used GIS to determine the spatial distribution of group homes, visiting nursing stations, psychiatric hospitals, daycare centers, and employment support offices. Following the CICSM definition of ELAs, we identified areas that people with mental illness could reach within 30 min on foot/by bicycle and counted the number of social resources in them. The ELA location simulation results suggest that policymakers should avoid uniform distribution of ELAs according to the CICSM definition. Establishing ELAs in suburban areas requires careful consideration of the available community resources, number of people with mental illness, existing support systems, and feasibility of the location. Full article
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