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Margot McConnell
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I think one of the biggest things I took away from this class that can especially be applied to the reality we live in now with COVID-19 is the injustices that many face in relation to pollution. The studies we read earlier this semester about peak expiratory flow rate, other negative health impacts and the effect it can have on cognition. In today’s world, it seems that now more than ever we must act in order to fight this injustice. It is not fair that those who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage have to live closer to factories or coal power plants, that those are the people working in these more dangerous environments, and that they suffer the health consequences but lack access to proper health care most of the times. It seems to be cyclical in nature when you look at poverty and injustice. I think an important theme that we kept emphasizing in class is while there is always room for bad news, we must also focus on the good news. While I cannot say that there is much good news about environmental injustices right now, maybe there will be some in the near future. I think that COVID-19 is shedding light on a lot of the inequities that exist throughout the United States. While I am not sure what will happen in terms of health care injustices within the United States after this pandemic, I hope that one positive outcome of this is that people realize there is a serious need to reform. These people do not deserve to be put at a disadvantage, and right now, the fact that they are is the harsh reality of the morality rates that are affecting these communities. Nevertheless, I try to remain optimistic that COVID-19 can expose some of the faults within the United States in regards to equality and justice so that it can be changed for the better. I know I, in particular, will be more cognizant of these disparities going forward.
Toggle Commented Apr 21, 2020 on ECON 255 Final Exam at Jolly Green General
Fraker’s article points out something that all of us face on a daily basis but probably do not always recognize. When I read this article, I started to reflect back on times when I have felt guilt for not being sustainable. For example, when I have a plastic water bottle and I cannot find a place to recycle it, I feel guilt throwing it away in the regular trash can. Even though this is something small, we know it makes a difference to recycle, and it is something I always make an effort to do. I feel like this article connects really well with what we have talked about in terms of injustice and pollution. If people knew the actual extent to which their choices were affecting the public health of others especially those at a socioeconomic disadvantage, maybe they would change their behaviors some because of the guilt and anxiety that they are feeling about their actions and the impact it has on others. I found this really interesting article about how large companies are a large contributor to pollution and plastic waste. It seems like these large corporations try to place their responsibility and blame somewhere else. Apparently Coca Cola has put out 3 million tons of plastic packaging into the world. It is similar to the EPA loosening restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The argument there was that large companies did not need to be worried about their carbon footprint right now. It is just another excuse for these large companies to pollute as much as they want. The worst part is the pollution will affect those live nearby who are more than likely at a socioeconomic disadvantage. This article from the New York Times talks about a man who felt guilt for his emissions, so he started teaming up with Climate Care, which is a carbon-offset trading company. I did a little research on Climate Care itself and it sounds like they have done a ton of incredible work to reduce carbon emissions. It seems like they work with companies and people to generate ways to reduce carbon emissions. I found their website to be really great—it is definitely worth looking at. According to their data, they have cut 35 million tons of carbon dioxide and improved the lives of 37 million. They work all over the world. It is promising to see that organizations like this are making such a big impact in the world. What I found most interesting about the article was actually the year it was written: 2007. It is really interesting to see that even 13 years ago there were people who were feeling guilty about their carbon footprint. Fast forward to 2020 and we are in a much worse situation, so the guilt is even worse now. https://environmentaldefence.ca/2019/04/11/plastic-pollution-guilt/ https://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/20/business/worldbusiness/20carbon.html https://climatecare.org/
Back when I did the project on investing for the sustainable development class, I came across this organization. The plan that Mark Jacobson has come up with completely lays out how we could go about converting to sustainable energy. He lays out one for each country, and it is truly incredible that he has such a reasonable plan. Also, the pay-off that these renewable energy sources can provide in the long run is truly insane to me. The Bloomberg article linked below is a good summary of what Jacobson is laying out in his plan. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-20/going-100-green-will-pay-for-itself-in-seven-years-study-finds https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CountriesWWS.pdf One of the things I constantly find sad and frustrating about climate change among the fact that switching to more renewable energy sources can be economically a better idea is the injustice that we always discuss in class. Therefore, I decided to read the paper “Toxic Injustices” by Derrick Jackson. One thing that the paper mentioned in relation to the Green New Deal is how advocates for it argue that environmental destruction results in racial, regional, social, environmental, and economic injustices. This is the point that people never see or can wrap their heads around. People in the government are more concerned with protecting the coal industry for example because they want to “create jobs.” However, they are not considering that the people in the job are exposed to the risk and that in addition the community is also exposed to these dangers. It just seems like there is no concern for public health. Yes, jobs are important. However, if we switch to other forms of energy, Jacobson even shows how those jobs can be converted into jobs in a renewable energy sector. I know the job issue obviously is complex, but at the end of the day as we are seeing with COVID-19 pandemic, public health should be a priority. If people are healthy, they will be able to work. If people are suffering from chronic lung disease because of pollution, they will struggle to work. This article really opened my eyes even more and is something everyone should read because it shows a real life situation and a REAL perspective. People are not making this up!
In the John Oliver video, I thought the most salient point was that when the Green New Deal was implemented, you can see how many different things the media can make out of something without having read the 14 page document. The thing that is so dangerous about media sources sharing facts that are so out of left field is that people actually believe every single word that people are saying on these news stations. Therefore, all the dedicated viewers of Fox News are reading that the Green New Deal means no airplanes and no hamburgers, and they are then taking that information and telling their friends and family. It almost feels like rumors or gossip in a way. The thing that I continue to find so frustrating about climate change and things like the Green New Deal is that people who are so against reducing carbon and other greenhouse gases clearly do not understand the public health crisis that so many people face from pollution alone. If anything, you can argue that the Green New Deal is trying to improve the public health. Period. I don’t think anyone would argue with trying to improve the health and wellbeing on people in the United States. The issue is that instead the Green New Deal is framed dramatically in a way in which the government is taking away everything from people just to reduce pollution and then further to make people pay more money in taxes to the government. After Bernie dropped out of the race the other day, I saw a clip from Fox News that was discussing if Biden had a chance against Trump. Trump runs his campaign for re-election by blasting the Green New Deal. When they were describing Biden and what he supports, they immediately discussed the Green New Deal and how Biden was going to lose supporters because of it. I honestly found it funny that they even made that comment. They were framing the Green New Deal as the worst thing that could happen for this country (probably worse than COVID-19 honestly). This article I found in the Rolling Stone does a great job of showing how there are big initial costs to decarbonizing and switching to more sustainable energy, but the pay offs in the long run are going to be so beneficial for the economy and the environment. It also does a good job of showing how any of the arguments made against the Green New Deal really are just excuses. Additionally, this article discusses a lot of Jacobson’s work at Stanford, which was a big focus of mine in my sustainable development presentation on investing in renewable energy sources. Also, I found an article earlier this semester discussing some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Green New Deal according to energy experts at Stanford including Jacobson. It is definitely interesting and easier to get on board when you hear a scientist at Stanford discussing why the GND can work and is reasonable. https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/why-the-green-new-deal-is-cheap-actually-965794/ https://news.stanford.edu/2019/03/28/strengths-weaknesses-green-new-deal/
Toggle Commented Apr 14, 2020 on ECON 255: The Green New Deal at Jolly Green General
I found this article particularly interesting because of the talk about Texas. When COVID-19 was beginning to be a problem, our governor refused to put a shelter-in-place order in Texas because there were only certain hot spots within the state, especially in Dallas. Therefore, he left it up to individual counties/cities to make these decisions about shelter-in-place. The argument behind it was a lot of Texas is rural areas and they were not high risk for COVID-19 like other cities such as Dallas with an international airport and so on. Just because Dallas puts a shelter-in-place order does not mean that people are not going to travel to other cities in Texas and potentially spread the virus. The main problem with this was that people who live in Dallas and Houston for example were traveling to the lake houses or ranches on the weekend in rural areas. While these people probably did not think much about it, they were going to restaurants and grocery stores in these rural towns and had the potential to expose people there. And to take this one step further, as I discussed in my development final paper last semester, Texas really lacks rural health care. There is a lot of room for improvement. If a lot of these rural towns have outbreaks of COVID-19, it could potentially be really bad. The moral of the story is that there has to be a collective action even if we are just talking within a single state about COVID-19. People regardless of where they live need to collectively decide that we are all going to stay in one place and not be traveling back and forth. It is not fair to people in small rural towns to be exposed to COVID-19 just because other people are being selfish and traveling to their other houses on the weekends. https://www.texastribune.org/2020/03/31/greg-abbott-texas-executive-order-closures/
Overall, I really enjoy the article on The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends. One of my pet peeves when it comes to environmental policies is that they have to be politicized as being “liberal” or “leaning left.” The media especially tries to frame you as a bad guy if you are conservative and believe in policies for the environment. This article really proves that all the nonsense arguments that people try to make against carbon dividends, taxes, and so on are just excuses. One of the points that sticks with me the most is that these carbon dividends can help working class Americans. That should be enough just by itself for people to want to vote for such a policy. Helping working class Americans and the environment seems to be like the best combination there could be when it comes to environmental policies because it consists of the added bonus of helping Americans struggling to make ends meet and increasing disposable income. I also found the argument about less government involvement to be an important point. Conservatives always argue that they do not like taxes and so on because it increases government involvement. The idea is focused on the fact that if there are fewer taxes, people have more disposable income, and will use that extra income on supporting small businesses, donating to hospitals, and so on. In this case, they would make the argument that maybe with more disposable income people would have the choice to switch to more sustainable forms of energy, for example, like installing solar panels on their house. In reality, this argument never holds. Especially when it comes to the environment, we see that having taxes or tourist fees or whatever it might be are important because otherwise people would not pay the money to support these environmental issues. Therefore, as this article points out, being able to shrink the size of the government and streamline regulations would be beneficial to both economic growth and the environment. In the other article, The Progressive Case for a Carbon Dividend, I thought it was interesting that the same point we have talked so much about in class about the inequalities between pollution and socioeconomic status is one of the main points talked about. This article does a good job of further emphasizing how important it is that even if your only argument towards solving the pollution issue is that it would help those in poorer communities, it is enough of a reason for something to be done and for change to be needed as soon as possible. I actually was reading an article earlier today about how the Dutch are planning to delay putting a carbon tax into effect because of COVID-19. The main argument made is that pollution is already down because of the virus. However, what I found most interesting is how the idea of the carbon tax even came about in the Netherlands to begin with. It turns out that it was a Supreme Court ruling that said that the state is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the grounds that it is necessary to protect people’s health. Imagine what it would be like if people thought of pollution this way in the United States. https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2020/04/dutch-to-delay-carbon-tax-for-industry-because-of-coronavirus-fd/ https://www.dnb.nl/en/news/news-and-archive/DNBulletin2018/dnb379743.jsp This last article is one that I found while researching the Dutch carbon tax, and I thought it was interesting. The main argument is why it is important to report carbon emissions especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. As we have talked about, now is not the time to back down on environmental policies towards reducing pollution. https://cointelegraph.com/news/the-need-to-report-carbon-emissions-amid-the-coronavirus-pandemic
Toggle Commented Apr 10, 2020 on The Case(es) for a Carbon Tax at Jolly Green General
This article reminds me a lot of what we discussed in class and what I wrote about in my last blog post. It really is sad that certain communities are affected more from pollution and therefore COVID-19. The burden is placed on those that are poor. All of this is a problem of injustice because the burdens are being disproportionately placed on those of lower socioeconomic status and in black communities. A lot of the news recently has discussed the disproportionate weight that black communities bear in the face of COVID-19. They are more likely to catch COVID-19 and die from it. In fact, studies are showing now that it is twice as deadly for black people as it is for white people. The reason for this probably lies in a lot of the factors talked about in the Vice article because these people are generally in poorer communities and are closer to powerplants and so on that emit high levels of pollution. As we know, COVID-19 affects the respiratory system, so when people are already in poor health due to environmental pollution, it makes them more likely to die from Coronavirus. An article I read on ABC discusses a lot of the problems that the black community faces in general in terms of health care disparities. Experts argue that COVID-19 is just shedding light on health care disparities that have been affecting the black communities for years at this point. It is sad that it has taken a global pandemic to make some people see the inequalities that we see on a daily basis in the United States. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/coronavirus-disproportionately-killing-black-community-experts/story?id=70011986 https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/07/coronavirus-is-infecting-killing-black-americans-an-alarmingly-high-rate-post-analysis-shows/?arc404=true
Something I think is important to always point out in the context of climate change is that there is always an unequal distribution of burdens, which ultimately can have an impact on economic outcomes. An article I read earlier about this injustice shows that there must be action towards addressing climate change in order to help reduce these inequalities. We talked a lot in class earlier this semester about the impact that climate change has on certain populations such as the rural farmers. When the climate is warmer, it can be harder for them to grow certain crops. Additionally, there is more likely to be a shortage in the water supply. Issues that people like rural farmers face due to climate change have a big impact on their lives especially when farming is their main source of income and is what their family has traditionally been doing for many years. It is not easy to switch to another job outside of farming when the climate becomes too hot. Also, learning how to work with a new crop, for example, requires a different set of knowledge. Just by this example with the farmer, you can see how much climate change can affect someone on the individual level. This article goes further to mention that maybe addressing these climate issues will incentivize people to consider social injustices in general, not just on the climate front. I think that is something that our country and others need to focus on, and starting on the climate front could be a great way to acknowledge and address these inequities. https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/climate-change-inequality-climate-justice/ Reading the article from the Boston Review made me think back to the Sustainable Development class. My project focused on the investment piece of sustainability. The main point is that there has to be an effort from both the public and private sector when it comes to investing in sustainable technology especially in terms of energy. I think this in a lot of ways ties back to what the Boston Review article pointed out about how the rich and the poor have to come together through a set of shared goals in order to address these global issue. The point on global collective action is really important when it comes to climate issues. We all exist together on this earth, so it should not be up to just a select few countries to make progress towards improving environmental equality; everyone has to be in this together. In a lot of ways, what is happening with COVID-19 reminds me of this whole concept of global collective action. Even just within the United States, there has to be a collective action among all the states to listen to social distancing measures and to stay at home if we want to combat this pandemic. This sort of idea can be carried over into the environmental realm. Half the states within the United States cannot decide they are not going to abide by environmental regulations (not that there are any right now to be honest) while the other half make strides towards improving sustainable efforts. Nothing will ever be accomplished unless there is a collective action to combat an issue that is on the larger scale than just one city or state.
It really baffles me that EPA decided that in the middle of a pandemic that effects the respiratory system that it would be a good idea to ease restrictions on pollution. At this point, everyone knows that COVID-19 affects your respiratory system the most, and therefore, the increased threat from easing pollution restrictions could pose as an increased threat to everyone’s health, especially if they contract COVID-19 and already have a compromised respiratory system. Additionally, I think the article makes a good point in arguing that the health care system does not need more people coming to the hospital because of asthma attacks, heart attacks, and so on. I know people think that at this time we don’t need to be concerned about how much industries are polluting when there is a global pandemic, but it seems counterintuitive. Right now we should be concerned about people’s health and well-being, which seems to be the case, but lifting pollution bans is threatening people’s health in addition to the looming COVID-19 threat. An article on read on CBS points out a lot of the same things, but one thing that really stuck out to me that is important to remember is that certain populations of people are going to be more affected by this than others. This point is even more real now that we deal with COVID-19 because we are seeing that some communities are facing institutional barriers to healthcare access in the midst of the pandemic. This does not just mean poor people who are not able to get the testing like players in the NBA or celebrities. It also means the elderly population. In Italy, their health care system is so overwhelmed that they are choosing who lives and who dies, and in most cases, the elderly are the ones who are being told they will not get the ventilators. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-trump-administration-epa-suspends-environmental-protection-laws/ Also, the New York Times had a really interesting article the other day about how to take care of your lungs. It is extremely relevant right now and points out how pollution can compromise your lungs and lead you to be more susceptible to COVID-19. The article also mentions how certain people are more likely to be exposed to more pollution and how they can possibly try to mitigate those effects within their homes. It is definitely worth a read. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/climate/climate-pollution-coronavirus-lungs.html In terms of an economic model to describe the situation, you can use one that just shows a negative externality on the production side. Another model that can be used is the MAC/MDF model that we discussed in class. It seems like other students have already explained how it would work in this situation, and I agree with them, so I am not going to explain it again since they got the point across. The moral of the story is easing pollution restrictions is not a good idea, especially when you consider the health of citizens in the United States.
These three articles tie together something that I can share some insight on based on research I have done the past two summers at a lab called the Institute of Exercise and Environmental Medicine. I specifically worked in the cerebrovascular lab, so we were looking at the relationship between the vascular system (heart and lungs) and the brain. After reading these three papers, it all made sense to me and basically lined up exactly with what the literature is saying even if you take out the pollution aspect of things. The lab I was in has been running clinical trials looking at how exercise can mitigate/delay the effects of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and even mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI occurs when cognition is impaired but not to the same level as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Basically, these clinical trials all implement an exercise intervention that subjects participate in, and throughout the study, certain levels of physical function are measured as well as cardiovascular fitness (maximal oxygen uptake). While we did not look into PEFR like the article on the Australian children, typically PEFR and maximal oxygen uptake are somewhat correlated. One of the benefits of exercise, especially for the at risk elderly population for dementia, is that it increases blood flow to the brain which is essential for the brain to properly work and has been shown to improve memory and cognitive performance. Therefore, when articles like Nel’s point out that pollution leads to an increase in cardiac and respiratory problems, it does not surprise me that children’s PEFR is also affected by pollution. Ultimately, it does not surprise me that pollution’s effect on both PEFR and the cardiac and respiratory systems then leads to effects on cognitive performance. We are essentially getting the same results that we see in the lab I work in when you look at sedentary individuals and how they are more at risk for getting dementia than those who are active. It is due to a decrease in blood flow and oxygen to the brain to put it in simple terms. The science is the same in both situations. The only difference is pollution is now affecting children, whereas these studies on increasing exercise/activity are mainly targeted at the elderly population who is naturally at a greater risk of dementia. The fact that children are being negatively impacted because of pollution on a cognitive level is insane, but the science behind it makes sense.
Toggle Commented Mar 11, 2020 on 3 short papers for Friday at Jolly Green General
I found this paper to be really fascinating. My initial reaction is that I did not even really consider the fact that the whole “life cycle” of coal has negative externalities and to consider the full cost, you have to take into account all those externalities. For example, I did not even think about rail fatalities and how that has to be considered in the cost of coal as that is yet another negative externality. I started thinking about coal mining, and some of the attention it received in scenarios like when the miners in Chile were stuck underground back in 2010. It is interesting that coal has so many negative externalities to the environment and to public health as well as the mere fact that it is extremely dangerous to mine. Something I found interesting is how the costs of coal mining on the health of miners is supposed to be compensated for in their wages, but in the long term, these costs have to be picked up by state or federal funding. Interestingly enough, I bet one would find that the alleged increase in wages probably is not enough to compensate for getting a respiratory diseases like Black Lung. Additionally, the article briefly mentions the toll on mental health that mountain top removal can play. I found this interesting because it is definitely something people do not focus on when they think of the negative externalities of MTR. However, if you think about it, it makes sense because people and their family and friends are getting sick, and their communities are also being destroyed. How could this not have an impact on their mental health? After reading this article, I was interested in what Professor Casey had mentioned at one point during last class about the group at Ohio State who is looking to find a way to extract the energy out of coal in a clean way, getting rid of all the negative externalities. They have been working on a new technology called coal-direct chemical looping at Ohio State’s Clean Coal Research Laboratory. Using their technology, the coal is not burned with fire but with a sealed chamber that chemically combusted it and traps all of the harmful products, mainly carbon dioxide, that typically pollute the air. The team argues that while renewables are in the future, this technology could help bridge the gap in transitioning from coal to other forms of clean energy without having to continue to pollute the air. https://www.osu.edu/features/2013/ohio-state-develops-clean-coal-technology.html https://insights.osu.edu/science/clean-coal-technology
Toggle Commented Mar 5, 2020 on Discussion Paper for Friday at Jolly Green General
I thought that this study was a very interesting follow up to what we talked about in class on Wednesday. This paper and non-market valuation, in general, remind me a lot about what we talked about in Sustainable Development and what I did my presentation on when we added the additional SDG of “investment.” A lot of what I talked about has to do with NGOs and finding ways to fund conservation/sustainability efforts. Tourism in a lot of ways tends to increase pollution and so on for the environment, but it is also an important part of the economy for many countries such as Belize. A way to increase funding especially in areas of high tourism that I honestly had not thought about 2 years ago when I did my research project is through exit fees through PACT. Because of this paper, I became curious in other exit fee programs and also, more generally, programs that look into the funding of conservation. One of the articles I read looked into different conservation efforts through tourism. For example, in Uganda, they use the proceeds from gorilla trekking permits towards conservation efforts. I would be curious to know if they raised the price of the permits, if people would still pay for it. In an article published by Stanford, there is talk about how to increase conservation efforts to make it profitable, but how those plans are hard to put into place. This is a problem that I ran into when I was working on my project on sustainable investment. The ideas are there, but the implementation is what is lacking. Therefore, people are having to think about how to actually put these plans into action effectively as climate change and other environmental issues are continuing to rise. In Africa specifically, there has been talk about reforming governance in order to include more sustainable efforts and help transform the economy towards more conservation. This lines up with a lot of what is being talked about by Marc Jacobson and others at Stanford in their plans to order to implement more sustainable sources of energy. The problem is that the money initially needed to invest is a lot and would probably require some sort of government involvement whether in the form of paid taxes or something else. I think it will be interesting moving forward to see how countries like Africa adapt in order to have a more conservation focused economy especially because of the levels of tourism in Africa these days.
Krutilla’s article places importance emphasis on finding the right “balance” when it comes to conservation. On one hand, we want to conserve ecosystems and natural resources around the world completely by stopping as much destruction as possible. However, we must realize that there comes to be an economic balance between conservation and productive, and the answer it not to stop destruction but rather to reconsider how we are going to reserve these resources before anything further detrimental happens in which there are negative effects to human welfare. Reading this article on conservation from the 1960s made me wonder what conservation efforts are being made today. One of the articles I came across was discussing that in Nevada, they are looking to change their approach to conservation by increased funding and more public engagement. More and more species are coming closer to extinction, and a lot of it has to do with global warming because it is changing the habitats of these animals, and it is causing them to get more diseases due to the warmer climate. Another interesting point the article makes is that historically 95% of revenue for the Department of Wildlife came from mostly hunting and some fishing. Therefore, they want to restructure funding towards wildlife efforts to increase revenue without relying so heavily on hunting and fishing. Additionally, they are aiming to increase public engagement by educating people about the “real” importance of these ecosystems. People tend to have an appreciation for nature and wildlife, but they fail to really consider that these places are where animals live and how we keep biodiversity present. The article does note, however, that receiving federal funding for such projects like conservation of wildlife is difficult to come by. One thing that is interesting is that government tends to support gun makers because there are loopholes which allow these companies to make incredible profits. If only those profits were going to conservation efforts rather than gun makers. https://nevadacapitalnews.org/2020/01/15/the-nevada-department-of-wildlife-looks-to-enhance-conservation-through-broader-funding-and-expanded-public-engagement/
Throughout the article, I was reminded of a lot of concepts we learned about in microeconomic theory in terms of transaction costs and the overall market failure of externalities. I kept being reminded of the production of coal and the extreme negative externality that is has. Coase makes a good point when he talks about how it is easier to think of factors of production as rights, and when you think of it in that way, you understand why certain things should be wrong and limited like coal mining. When coal companies exercise their right to employ workers and mine for coal, there is a loss suffered somewhere else. Here, it is the environment and human health/lives. The effects of coal mining was really what drove home to me sophomore year in the Sustainable Development class just how bad negative externalities can truly be just when thinking about human health, which makes it more tangible and easier to relate to sometimes. The actual cost of mountaintop removal when all of the costs are internalized is very expensive especially because of its negative impact of human health. A common misconception is that coal is a cheap form of energy; however, that is without considering any of its negative effects. Communities especially in West Virginia suffer from increased prevalence of cancer and cardiovascular disease as a result of being located near areas of mountaintop removal. Also, studies have shown that pregnant women are at an increased risk of harming the baby just by living in communities where mountaintop removal occurs. Not only are community members affected by this but also the workers themselves. Many supporters of Trump argued that his plan to save the coal mining industry would secure jobs for people that otherwise might not have one especially in rural parts of West Virginia where coal mining has been part of people’s lives for many generations. These people failed to see the real negative impact it is having on the people that actually have to live in the area and work in the mines. People living in Lexington, Virginia can freely use coal and find it to be “cheap,” but they are not bearing the endless negative health consequences like those in West Virginia are. Instead of creating and saving jobs that are doing more harm than good for people living in these areas, it would be better to find a solution that involved creating jobs for these people that did not involve coal and In general did not harm their health.
In the World Bank’s article about climate change, the article emphasizes that climate change is more than just the simple heating of the earth; there are so many things that are negatively impacted by an increase in temperature on earth. Climate change creates a huge negative externality. One of the things that stood out to me the most after what we have talked about in class all semester is the impacts that it has on the spread of disease and agriculture and how those two things can have a negative impact on human capital. Malaria, for example, as we read in another article for class, is increasing and spreading to more parts of the earth as a result of climate change. The article even mentions that there is an increased risk of diarrheal disease and even just thermal discomfort, which can have negative impacts especially on those who have heavy labor jobs outdoors. Additionally, climate change can increase the chance of floods, droughts, landslides, and other disasters to nature which can have an impact on crops and farming in general. Not only does this have an impact on the availability of certain crops and an overall decrease in yield, but it also impacts the incomes and lives of farmers. As we have discussed in class, it is important to focus on the agricultural sector because many of the poor in the world are farmers and their income is dependent upon crop yields. Think about the amount of people that are negatively impacted if certain areas of the world are now experiencing these extreme climate changes that are hindering the production of certain crops. Going off of this, another important source of food for many and also a source of income for many countries especially in the Caribbean is fish. The increase in climate temperatures is leading to an increase in ocean acidification. Moreover, coral bleaching is an important result of climate change. Coral reefs are home to many creatures within the ocean, so coral bleaching negatively impacts them, which can have a greater impact on fishery catches and an overall migration of fish to cooler areas. One thing that certainly stuck out to me was that local food security in the Caribbean and Latin American countries is greatly threatened by climate change due to the negative impacts it has on the ocean and coral reefs as I just mentioned because of the decrease in fishery potential. While reading this article, I was reminded of the discussions we had in the Economics of Sustainable Development Spring Term course. I was reminded of the large impact that fossil fuels and carbon, in general, have on almost everything discussed in this article in terms of climate change. Switching to more sustainable forms of energy is the biggest but maybe the most necessary step towards addressing this global climate crisis. I was reminded of an article I had read while in the Economics of Sustainable Development Spring Term course. It was a study done by people at Stanford that basically proved how the United States can switch to completely renewable sources of energy. Jacobson and his team created a plan for all 50 states to move to more renewable forms of energy by 2050. There would have to be initial funding and investment into these new sources of energy; however, in the long-run, the returns would be millions and maybe even billions of dollars saved in addition to all of the other positive spillover benefits to the environment, human capital, and so on. Switching to these renewable energy forms would decrease air pollution and slow global warming, which are two major contributors to many of the problems that are addressed in the World Bank’s article. Here is a brief summary of the plan proposed by Jacobson and his team: https://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/february/fifty-states-renewables-022414.html Many of these ideas are brought up by top research institutions that are leading the way towards dealing with the climate change crisis; however, the real question is whether or not leaders will act to make a difference. For example, Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement. Along with many of the other statements and decisions he has made, it is hard to see the United States moving towards more sustainable sources of energy especially in combating the climate crisis given some of the current leaders even though it is clear that it is possible to do and has many long-run benefits.
Toggle Commented Dec 1, 2019 on Last Blog Post for the Year at Jolly Green General
Parker and Vogl’s paper on conditional cash transfers really stuck out to me because I think it shows the importance that these CCTs can have on people, specifically children, in developing countries, especially in the long run. CCTs create a unique opportunity that incentivizes low income families. The CCTs will be provided to the family conditional on the fact that the children must have regular attendance at school and go to the health clinic regularly for check-ups. This paper emphasizes multiple things we have been talking about all semester in this class. First, increases in investment in education can lead to better labor market outcomes, health outcomes, and more generally, increased investment in human capital. The paper mentions that the principal driver to other outcomes including labor market outcomes is investments in education. CCTs not only incentivize people to send their children to school, but also lead to increases in health outcomes which leads to longer lives and better labor market outcomes in the long-run. One thing that caught my attention was the positive impact it had on women. As we have discussed in this class, empowerment of women, in general, is so important to economic growth. This study has shown that CCTs do incredible things for women. Before Progresa was put in place in Mexico, labor force participation for women was very low; most women worked within the home. Due to CCTs, women had increased labor market participation as well as incomes. I also thought it was interesting that migration seemed to play a possibly big role for the increases in labor market outcomes, especially if women are moving to the urban core. This article sparked my interest in CCTs, so I thought I would look into what other countries are doing in terms of CCTs and seeing if they see similar results as was seen in Mexico. An article recently posted in the Bangkok Post states that its CCT program allowed 98% of poor students go to school, which increased equality in education. This program was targeted mainly to primary and secondary school, which is important as stated in Parker and Vogl’s paper. Another article discussed CCTs targeted at women in Nigeria, specifically those who were breast feeding. These were targeted at increasing trips to the health clinic for pre-natal and natal care. Additionally, these were targeted at increasing vaccinations. These should increase the health of not only the mother but also the child, which could have positive long term impacts.
Toggle Commented Nov 20, 2019 on Next Week at Jolly Green General
In Eichengreen and Mody’s article, they take previous studies one step forward to understand what many of those studies have previously overlooked. Many of these previous studies argue that interest rates, a proxy for global financial markets in advanced countries, are a determinant of capital flows in developing countries as well as the pricing of debt. However, what Eichengreen and Mody find is that this relationship is not as clear-cut as people first thought. These linkages been advanced countries and developing countries in terms of global finance is much more complex, and there are many factors that go into what we see in the real world. This article really proves the complexity of finance, and some parts of the paper are definitely hard to understand for someone who is not well versed in finance. However, I have a few thoughts on international finance just from what we have learned in class and what I have learned in some of my other classes. Therefore, I am going to talk about what I understand in terms of finance and developing countries. First, I think that this paper points out that within the realm of finance, there are many players, and everyone is “working together” in some sort of way because of the way cash flows work. I think this really emphasizes a point that I know we discussed on Tuesday and have in previous classes about the importance of the public sector. However, it is not just up to the public sector to do all of the financing, there has to be work within the private sector as well. In terms of microfinance, we discussed how microfinance has to be working on the same terms as the public sector in order to be executed properly. The idea of the private and public sector working together is important especially in developing countries. In class last Thursday, we discussed malaria and the burden that it places on communities and even countries. If malaria is to be eradicated, it has to be done through the work of both the private and public sector. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does a lot of work to help with controlling malaria, but there needs to be more involvement at the public sector level from countries like the United States. This idea of involvement of both the public and private sector also reminds me of the Spring Term class on the Sustainable Development Goals and how the 18th SDG was made up to be conservation finance. My part of the presentation focused on how the private and public sector can work together to create sustainable and renewable forms of energy which will have long term positive spillovers that will have more benefits that costs. The California school system was an example of this because they divested hundreds of millions of dollars from fossil fuel. New York also did the same in which it divested $200 billion of fossil fuel stocks. They planned to use this money towards creating more renewable forms of energy, which have long-term benefits. At the private sector level, Conservation International and The Global Conservation Fund are two big organizations that contribute millions of dollars a year into helping protect the environment. If the issue of climate change is going to be addressed, it has to be done through the work of both the private and public sector. A common misconception these days is that the private sector will figure it out, and there is no reason for the public sector to spend its money and be involved. However, many studies like some done at Stanford show the importance of public sector involvement as well. These ideas could be taken into developing countries to help solve some of its issues especially in terms of environmental issues.
Toggle Commented Nov 13, 2019 on For Thursday's Discussion at Jolly Green General
One of the important things that comes from both of these articles is, more generally, the importance of investments in health and how these have much larger scale impacts on just about everything else within a country. Furthermore, what I generally saw across both articles is a particular focus in the benefits that come from children who are treated for these diseases. This is all tied together through human capital theory. When Sachs and Malaney discuss that malaria effects both high income and low income countries, I think it really drives home the point of how big of an issue malaria is. In my Health in Developing Countries Economics class last year, we read an article about eradication of malaria in Sri Lanka. Malaria kills approximately 2% of the population within Sri Lanka. A few things in particular really stunned me when I realized just how complex the issue of eradicating malaria really is. The first is that, in Sri Lanka, they used a multidimensional approach to eradicating it. Additionally, as eluded to in Sachs and Malaney’s article, it was very expensive, costing millions to billions of dollars. However, the costs extend far past just the financial aspect. There are huge positive spillovers that arguably outweigh the large financial burdens. However, because this is ultimately a burden that effects both the rich and the poor, it is important for these countries to work together to try to fight against malaria because success stories like the one in Sri Lanka prove that the benefits outweigh the cost in the long run, especially because people are living longer. Sachs and Malaney also discuss how children are more at risk to die from malaria and that they are negative effects to fetal development when an adult has malaria. It is interesting to see how a mother’s exposure to malaria can have long term effects on the baby in the womb. Malaria is effectively “killing” two birds with one stone. Moreover, there appears to be long term cognitive effects due to malaria. These cognitive effects have an impact in education and labor market outcomes. Wellbeing and quality of life are two important things that are emphasized within human capital theory, and when there are negative cognitive effects due to the burden of disease that carry with you for the rest of your life, you are going to see those negative spillovers into education and the labor market as well. Baranov and Kohler’s article about AIDS treatment works in conjunction with the malaria article because it emphasizes the importance of treatment for diseases that place a large impact on human lives. However, one thing I noticed in particular in relation to AIDS treatment that ties in to malaria treatment is access to healthcare to get treated for the disease but also access to information about the disease. In a lot of poorer countries, I think there is a large deficiency in knowledge about just how bad these diseases are and the impacts that these diseases will have especially in the long term. Especially in relation to AIDS, I think the social stigma surrounding it also plays a large barrier into getting treatment especially in countries like the United States. Besides just access to preventative care, education, and treatment for AIDS, I think there needs to be more movement towards figuring out how to reduce social stigma about AIDS. Again, I think this is all tied to human capital theory because it relates back to well-being and quality of life. Together, these two articles really emphasize the negative externalities of the burden of disease and how they negatively impact the quality of life for these individuals on a much larger scale than just suffering from the disease itself.
Toggle Commented Nov 5, 2019 on 3 readings for next week at Jolly Green General
Schultz’s Nobel Prize talk on the Economics of Being Poor fits in perfectly with just about everything we have discussed in this class. The first part of his lecture talks about the misconception economists and others who are not poor have about those who are poor and the choices they make. This goes hand-in-hand with Banerjee and Duflo’s article that we read at the beginning of the year. There are a lot of choices that poor people make that might not make sense to someone who is rich. It causes many to look down on those who are poor for not making “the right decisions.” Schultz hits home, however, when he says that we need to work on improving population quality, specifically human capital. The quality of life of these poor individuals is important. Perhaps some of the choices that these people are making is because they would prefer to be able to listen to the radio and be happy than have an extra bowl of pasta and be sad. Because it is important to focus on the human capital side of things, it makes sense that there should be a large focus on agriculture as that is the sector where many of the poor people in the world work. One thing that always comes to mind to me when reflecting on the treatment of people in agriculture has to do with pesticides. Many of the pesticides that are used in these countries are harmful to the people working in the fields. In fact, in my developmental biology lab, we are looking at the effects of organophosphates and pesticides on development in frog eggs and C. elegans. There are massive negative spillovers to the mass use of pesticides, and the fact that it hurts so many of the workers is truly unacceptable. Therefore, more reform needs to be made in order to protect these farmers from harm, not just with pesticides but also with other diseases, physical labor, and so on. One constant topic we always bring up is government policy/investment in health and education. We talked about how in South Korea there were major improvements due to an increased focus on health and education. However, one thing that Shultz mentioned that I had never really considered before is the importance of placing emphasis on highly skilled workers. We tend to discount poor countries because of their lack of resources; however, they can be considerably helpful especially in terms of research. Last year in my Health Economics in Developing Countries class, we looked at Cuba and its reciprocal relationship with Latin America. In Cuba, people can attend medical school for free. They are given this education for free with the incentive that they will go to other countries and help those in need. In other words, people from poorer countries who cannot afford medical school will go to medical school in Cuba (one of the largest medical schools in the world) and will get their degree then return to their country to improve healthcare.
Toggle Commented Oct 30, 2019 on Blog Post for Next Thursday at Jolly Green General
This article fits in nicely with what we read for last class in Sen’s book. One of Sen’s main focuses is about the empowerment of women, which is one of the key aspects to development. I think a lot of the feminist movement today is due to the empowerment of women. Women have taken to the streets to protest for equality because they are no longer shy of standing up to men. While reading this article, I was reminded of a situation I was put in early on in my college career. I was shadowing a male doctor who asked me what profession I wanted to go into. I told him that I was interested in surgery. He immediately responded by telling me that women should not ever go into profession other than primary care because it impedes on your ability to take care of children and raise a family due to the busy hours and the longer residency. I sat there unsure how to perceive this information. As an 18 year old girl who has been fascinated with surgery since middle school, how am I supposed to digest the fact that because I was born female I cannot follow my dreams of being a surgeon? After this experience, I remember I talked to my aunts, both of whom are surgeons, who told me that women can raise a family and be a surgeon as long as they have the drive to do it. So what did I do? I used that experience with that male surgeon to fuel my drive to want to become a surgeon even more. Why should males be the only surgeons? There is no reason why. I think one of the key points Duflo points to throughout her paper is for people to embrace differences between men and women and to use those differences to an advantage. In terms of healthcare, for example, having male and female doctors is important. It allows there to be two perspectives, and it might allow the female doctor, for example, to better understand what the female patient is going through emotionally compared to the male doctor. This brings me to another important thing Duflo points out which has to deal with in terms of policy making and political party inequality. Within the realm of politics, there is a lot of inequalities within the United States especially. Maybe having more female voices representing our countries would allow us to see a fresh new perspective on a topic that has been dominated by men in political positions, such as abortion. I remember seeing an article talking about the abortion ban in Alabama. While this ban was ultimately not surprising given the fact that it is Alabama of all states, it was almost all men who voted to criminalize abortion. While a few women voted on this bill, the large proportion of men who voted against this bill bothers me. Maybe if there had been more women in positions of power in Alabama, there would have been more of an effort to stand up for women’s reproductive rights. This also brings up another point the Duflo mentions about how normally policies towards equality are written and controlled by men. As we discussed in class, men are the ones that are making the decisions about what they think women want rather than asking women specifically. Learning the lesson to ask the group affected, specifically women in this context, is key to understanding how to reach gender equality.
In Rodrik’s paper, “Growth Strategies,” he discusses some of the key ideas to economic growth. He brings in two arguments that form that basis for his discussion and analysis throughout his paper. The first is the flexibility of the neoclassicial economic analysis. The second has to do with the difference between “igniting” economic growth and actually sustaining it. Additionally, Rodrik emphasizes the idea that there is not a specific set of policies that all countries can use to achieve economic growth; each country is unique. Initially, the first idea that stuck out to me was about the importance of sustaining economic growth and how that relies on a totally different set of ideas than actually “igniting” it. A common misconception about development is that once economic growth begins, it is going to continue. However, as we have seen in class, there are periods in which economic growth stagnates or even falls. One example that stuck with me is Indonesia and South Korea. During the 1997-1998 East Asian financial crisis, Indonesia was not able recover, while South Korea had a quick turnaround. This was mainly driven by the strength of the institutions. By being able to combat against the effects of the financial crisis, South Korea was able to maintain economic growth—something that can be difficult to do successfully. Throughout this paper, South Korea is used as a prime example of successful economic growth over the years. I find South Korea to be a fascinating case study. South Korea has been at the forefront of innovation recently. There are thousands of cars produced there every year that are shipped globally, and many technology companies like LG and Samsung are located there. While South Korea has been a hot topic in terms of economic growth and development, an article I read yesterday discussed how South Korea is likely to miss its GDP growth forecast of 2.2% according to the central bank of South Korea. It will be interesting to see what South Korea does, if anything, in order to combat the lower GDP growth. Will they implement any policies or make any changes in order to sustain economic growth? If so, what will those policies be? Another point in the paper that I found interesting was the idea about economic convergence. A lot of talk within economic development is about how all countries need to converge rather than diverge. While there is some truth to that, and yes, divergence is bad, countries do not necessarily need to converge. This emphasizes the point that a set of rules and policies for economic prosperity in one country will not necessary have the same results for another country. Many factors can contribute to this including social preferences and complementarities among institutions. This emphasizes the point that there has to be consideration for the characteristics of a specific country, including the people and the government in place. Each country is like a case study, and while other countries’ experiences can help give us insight about how to act in another country, certain policies and ideas have to be tailored to meet the needs of that individual country. I think this is something that is often missed when it comes to development economics. In fact, this can be applied in current times with the healthcare debate. While I do believe that healthcare is a right to all citizens, politicians must be careful to develop a policy that gives everyone the right to affordable healthcare. Simply saying that Canada or Sweden’s plan to healthcare works, so it should work for us too does not suffice. We have a much larger population, for example, than these countries, so a politician must keep that in mind when he or she develops his/her plan for how to solve the healthcare dilemma in the United States.
Toggle Commented Oct 2, 2019 on Rodrik article for Thursday at Jolly Green General
In Krugman’s article, “The Fall and Rise of Development Economics,” he discusses how economic development took a down turn due to ignorance. He explains that from the 1940s to 1970s, there was a rise in understanding of certain economic principles and events, but there was also a lack of confrontation about areas that were less understood. Part of Krugman’s Segway into his main argument about “the big push” is the idea that most of science is very similar in that one will have to make models that simply situations, and therefore, the analysis will never be fully complete. This is why models are used—in order to simplify situations so that we can better understand them. He goes on to say that creating a model is essentially the same for all disciplines because you have to start with some assumptions. Even though the assumptions might be unrealistic, it helps us be able to draw ideas about the relationship between variables, especially those that have to do with economic development. Krugman’s connection between economic modeling and the big push idea helps to tie in the idea that while models are not always realistic, they allow us to have a better understanding of the world. Therefore, one can use that information in order to understand why certain countries might be underdeveloped and what possible policies might lend a helping hand to fixing the development issue. As Krugman analyzes the big push idea/model, he argues that one cannot conclude from the high development idea that countries are trapped in the low-income cycle. However, it can be concluded that self-reinforcing growth is possible. This was an important point he makes because a lot of developing countries end up caught in the cycle of poverty. This shows that while the big push model does not allow us to draw a conclusion about the low-income cycle, this could be one of the flaws within the model. The low-income cycle helps to explain why changes must be made in order to help improve living standards and the lives of those in developing countries. When I was doing medical service work in Jamaica last December, it made me truly understand the low-income cycle. The people there are generally poor. They have very limited access to health care. I worked in a public hospital, which is funded through the state. In order to get treated at a private hospital, which is much cleaner, has more qualified doctors, and very little wait times, an individual has to pay a large amount of money. The average Jamaican cannot afford that. Therefore, in these regions where I was doing medical work that are rural, we had to travel over an hour in the mountains in order to reach these people. Most of these people lived in cement-like homes that were very open, lacking windows and sometimes had dirt floors. Some of them had plumbing and running water, but most of the time, the water had to be pumped from a well at a place far away. Additionally, many of the younger children had to take care of their parents who were ill, which caused them to miss days from school. One of the main takeaways I found from my experience was that the lack of access to quality health care either because it is too far away or it takes too long to wait in line at the emergency room caused a lot of other issues within the household. These people were able to work less because they were disabled or sick. Their children could not go to school. Their children were the ones that had to go fetch the water or buy the food that they were going to eat that night. Lack of education and lack of work are two things that can trap people in this cycle of poverty. In addition, the lack of treatment for even the simplest of treatments because of lack of accessing the right medicine or getting quality care shows that improvements have to be made in certain areas within the country in order to help these countries break out of this cycle. Development economics and its models are what helps to explain these issues and helps to characterize how to best solve these issues.
Toggle Commented Sep 25, 2019 on Reading for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
Wang, Wong, and Yip’s article examines why there are income disparities between the fast-growing economies and those that they call “developmental laggards.” They ultimately study this through examining individual countries in depth in order to determine what causes each country to have its economic standing within the world. Their method of looking in depth at individual countries made it interesting so that I could better understand the economic background and policies in each respective country. Three things caught my eye as a read through this article in terms of “developmental laggards.” The first is agriculture. Agriculture is one of the main ways of making money in developing countries. Agriculture is an important part not only to the economy but also to lives. The food we eat every day comes from farmers. What is interesting, however, is that farming is typically different in developing countries in comparison to other countries like the United States. I remember in the Spring Term Sustainable Development class, we discussed the importance of empowering farmers as well as sustainable farming. Allowing farmers to increase crop production through more productive means is essential. In developing countries, farmers do not have access to the technology we do in the United States. For example, they have little to no access to pesticides and fertilizers, and they do not have tractors or other machinery to help them with their work. Additionally, if there is a drought or a disease that kills all of the farmer’s crops, he or she does not have an income for that season. It puts these individuals in a tough situation, and they deserve more recognition, especially in developing countries. Therefore, something really important in terms of policies for helping out developing countries is to focus on the agricultural sector. The second thing that stood out to me was government corruption. Whenever I think of government corruption, it reminds me of Venezuela. It is a powerful example of what government corruption can do to a country. The economy completely collapsed. In addition, many people are trying to leave the country due to the poor living conditions—lack of food, violence, and unemployment. While the corruption is much more complex than what I just summarized, it proves the point that government corruption can have drastic impacts on the economy of a country and the wellbeing of its citizens. Brazil, another country in South America, is stated in the paper to have lost approximately $41 billion a year due to corruption. Corruption alone has led to billions of dollars gone in a country that desperately needs them. One last thing that is important to note that came to mind was the discussion of the Philippines and how natural disasters have an impact on them. While the authors do not go into depth about natural disasters, the mere mentioning of it brings to mind the fact that a poor country like the Philippines is prone to many tsunamis and earthquakes, which can greatly impact the country. These countries rely on a lot of foreign aid when these events occur. It brings up a good point that in some cases, things that dramatically affect the economy are not things we can control. Natural disasters is a good example of this.
Banerjee and Duflo’s article discusses various aspects of the poor and identifies different issues that affect their lives due to their economic state. It is interesting because there are many aspects being poor that seem obvious to all, and there are others that are not so obvious. One of the more obvious things people assume when discussing poverty is that they do not have choices with spending. However, Banerjee and Duflo demonstrate that the poor do get choices. In many of the countries, “extra money” is spent on tobacco and alcohol. Even more surprising is the fact that these poor families will spend a lot of money on festivals. This really shows the importance of culture and tradition in these countries. Something important to identify when making policies to eradicate poverty is to consider the beliefs and cultural traditions of the country in consideration. One important point that stood out to me is that poor families tend to be rather large. Something I would be interested to see addressed is if part of the reason for the large families, assuming there are a lot of children, is because of the lack of education about and access to birth control. Last year, in my health economics class, we looked at a paper about contraceptives in Senegal. It showed that when there was increased education about birth control and more available access, there was a decline in fertility rates, which can, in turn, have a lot of benefits especially for women in developing countries. Another point I found interesting was that many of the poorest households have a member who migrates temporarily for work. It would be interesting to analyze how this affects family life and the wellbeing of the individual who is now at a distance from his or her family. As we talked about in class on Tuesday, having meaningful work is important. Do most of these poor people find their work meaningful? How does it affect their wellbeing? Another topic brought up that is relevant even today is that of insurance. Insurance is a major obstacle for the poor. There were two things, however, that I found most shocking. First, I never realized that in some countries there is informal insurance through social networks. The second thing I found interesting was that the poor will often eat less or take their children out of school as their form of “insurance.” It is a sad reality that two basic needs, education and food, are sacrificed in order to pay for insurance. This further emphasizes the fact that insurance is something every individual deserves to have, and it is an issue that needs to be addressed. In fact, an article I read last month in The Economist argues that the poor need insurance more than those who actually have it. Finally, the point about why the poor do not invest more in education was very interesting. It is something I had never really thought of. It never resonated with me that the parents are often illiterate themselves, which causes their parents not to realize the bad quality of education. It seems like the cycle of limited and bad quality education is continuing because parents were not educated and now their children are not receiving a good quality education either but are completely oblivious to it. The cycle will continue on unless some action is taken in order to break it.
Toggle Commented Sep 11, 2019 on Readings for next week at Jolly Green General
Margot McConnell is now following The Typepad Team
Sep 10, 2019