Zoe Beckham, Honors College class of 2010, returned to campus today to talk to our students about Teach for America, the national program that recruits highly talented students into the nation’s classrooms. Based in Nashville and now in her second year of the program, Zoe has thrived as a teacher and now is helping with recruiting for the organization. I asked Zoe to explain her work in the short video below.
One of the joys of working in the Honors College is seeing so many students like Zoe thrive upon graduation. Whenever possible we try to have them back to campus to talk about what they’ve been up to. It’s a great way for our students to get exposed to the breadth of possibilities awaiting them after graduation.
Both historical evidence and everyday experience strongly suggest that human beings are simply not very good at replacing short-term interest with concern for long-term well-being. How else to explain that we continue to ignore mounting evidence that continued reliance on fossil fuels is already making us sick and very likely will destroy the very underpinnings of planetary life as we know it?
Each new study of the real and likely impacts of climate change – not some distant possibility, but very much here-and-now reality – is more grim than the last. Already in 2011, Scientific American chronicled the direct annual U.S. health impacts of fossil fuel burning: 10,000 hospital admissions due to cardiovascular ills, 600,000 athma attacks, over 30,000 premature deaths, more than five million working days lost to fossil fuel related pollutants.
Those statistics barely hint at the health impact of of what will come with fossil fuel-indudced, climate change-related ecosystemic breakdown – crop failure, ocean acidification, rising sea levels and storm intensification, lost habitat and massive species death, newly virulent disease outbreaks. Yet fossil fuel dependence forges on untrammeled, indeed picking up steam, it seems, the nearer we approach the precipice of our own destruction.
Are homo sapiens really so incapable of behaving in their own long-term self-interest? Are we really so mad?
The battle over Medicaid expansion in Mississippi has moved into high gear. Legislative and ideological battle lines largely follow party lines, with Democrats favoring expansion and Republicans opposing it. All parties to the struggle are passionate.
Nobody denies that Mississippi is distressingly poor and unhealthy, with far too many poor and near-poor citizens left without any form of health care short of the emergency room. But there the agreement ends. For every “pro” – expansion means more coverage, more prevention and earlier intervention, and lots more federal money (money the hospitals say they desperately need) rippling through the Mississippi economy – there seems a “con” – expansion will only foster greater dependency; costs are initially low but will rise rapidly to budget-breaking levels; expansion will overtax the state’s already sputtering health care workforce pipeline.
As a health care professional educator and advocate for the poor and marginalized, I come down squarely in favor of Medicaid expansion. Mississippi’s Republican leadership should take a leaf from former Republican opponents in other states who now embrace expansion as a deal “too good to pass up,” whatever the risks. But I do acknowledge that the issue is complex and hardly one-sided. There are risks, there will be costs, and most assuredly there will be unintended consequences, as there are with every major policy change.
Yesterday two Honors College students gave me some good news that absolutely made my day. The two seniors told me they have been selected to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University, a program developed by the Clinton Foundation to get college students and graduates worldwide involved in solving societal problems. It’s a significant honor for the students and for the university, given just how hard it is to win acceptance into this program, which brings together student leaders, experts, and policy makers for a meeting next month in St. Louis.
The students, Jazmyne Butler and Ashley Betts, are both seniors graduating in May. I asked them to come to my office to do a brief video to tell you about the program.
Tomorrow is the deadline for bills passed in one Mississippi legislative chamber to be approved by relevant commmittees of the other chamber if the legislation is to remain alive. Let’s hope House Bill 798, authored by pragmatic Hattiesburg legislator Toby Barker, makes it through the Senate’s Public Health and Welfare committee. Mississippi needs it.
A modest piece of legislation, the Healthy Foods Retail Act tries to chip away at the serious problem of “food deserts” – places where fresh produce is hard if not impossible to access, typically characterized by low, and low-income, populations. HB 798 authorizes the Mississippi Development Authority to make small grants to small retail grocery operations carrying fresh produce to locate in food deserts.
Reducing the number of Mississippi’s food deserts – and we have plenty of them, unfortunately – won’t solve Mississippi’s many health problems. But it’s something, and every little bit helps.