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Health is a sustainability issue

Rare and neglected diseases remain a serious problem in our modern world, despite advances in science and technology. Big pharmaceutical companies don't fund research and development into treatments for these diseases because they aren't profitable. The drugs end up costing much more to make than they'll earn back, so they remain un- or underfunded.

Each rare disease affects relatively few people, so the market is too small to make a profit on treatments. Neglected diseases affect about 1 billion people, but most are in underdeveloped, tropical countries. So, although the market is big, treatments are a poor return on investment because the countries can't afford to pay for them.

Humans are compassionate by nature

Bones found in Ireland show that humans have taken care of each other since ancient times. The bones, buried 5,500 years ago, belonged to a child with Down Syndrome. The baby lived to be about 6 months old and was breastfed. When it died, it was buried in a monumental tomb with other adults and children. 

In 2007, at an archaeological site in Vietnam, the bones of a man with a crippling disease were uncovered in a Stone Age grave. His bones indicate that he had a painful condition that would have left him paralyzed for the last several years of his life. Clearly, he was carried by others and given food and other resources that were always scarce in those days. 

Video conferencing problems

These days, video conferencing is part of the everyday lives of most business people. If you have ever worked online, you have probably encountered a myriad of problems. Sometimes, your connection cuts out; at other times, there is too much glare on your face.

Watch this short video and learn about some examples of the issues that occur during video calls. While watching, think about how the participants could avoid these issues.

Two types of digital transformation

To prosper in the digital age, companies must undergo two types of digital transformation. Firstly, they need to become digitized. Secondly, they have to become digital.

Though both transformations depend on new technologies, they require different strategies and rules to implement. Digitization requires companies to update their operational backbones. In the past, core operations, such as delivering goods and services, maintaining accounts, and completing back-office processes, were handled by people. These days, however, they can be enabled by software-as-a-service. In addition to digitizing themselves, companies also need to become digital, which means creating a digital platform for the company’s digital offerings. Not only does this facilitate business development and connection with partners and customers, it also allows companies to better target revenue growth.

Restoring degraded land in Mexico

Indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico, have been working to restore the soil and forests, with remarkable success. Twenty-five communities have restored 49,000 acres (20,000 hectares) over the past 20 years. Restoration efforts are driven by the communities themselves, who together make up the Chocho-Mixtecas Community Alliance.

Before the Spanish arrived, the area supported a city of about 100,000 Mixtec. The current population of 2,800 struggles to find enough water to drink, let alone to grow crops. Large-scale goat ranching by the Spanish destroyed the soil. Goats pull plants up by the roots when they graze, so over-ranching with goats caused the land to erode all the way down to bedrock.

The decline of democracy

Worldwide, democracy and global freedom have been declining since 2006. The COVID-19 pandemic made things worse, with many leaders choosing to use authoritarian measures to contain the virus. It was difficult for the opposition to protest the measures because they weren't allowed to gather in groups.

But the trend towards dictatorship began long before the pandemic. The decline is not just happening in nations with authoritarian governments, but even long-standing democracies have suffered. In 2020, nearly 75% of the world’s population lived in a country where democracy deteriorated. The United States, which has long stood as an icon of democratic values, is becoming so divided that the government can barely function. The 2020 election results were challenged, ending up in an attack on the Capitol building itself.

Look at this graph from Freedom House showing the democracy gap since 2005. Interpret and discuss it with your teacher.

War in Ukraine

The whole world has been shocked by the recent events in Europe. Russia waged war against Ukraine—a dramatic escalation of 8 year long tensions between the countries. 

The conflict started in 2014 during the Ukrainian revolution when Russia annexed Crimea and the Donbas region claimed its independence from Ukraine. However, the international community and Ukraine did not agree to recognize these territories as parts of Russia. One of the reasons is that The Russian Federation has been sponsoring anti-Ukrainian groups in the Donbas region, making it difficult for people there to express what they actually wanted. 

Since the beginning of 2021, Russia has been gathering forces on the Ukrainian borders. On 24 February 2022, Russian armies attacked. Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, claimed that his nation could not be "safe, develop and exist" next to modern Ukraine and announced his goal of "demilitarization and de-Nazification" of Ukraine. 

Dune sequel set for release

After the box office success of Dune last year, director Denis Villeneuve confirms a second chapter of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic is in the making.

“Right now,” he announced, “I’m in what you call ‘soft prep’… It’s that beautiful part where it’s just dreaming, looking at the ceiling and thinking about the movie storyboards… It’s the moment where everything is possible, before we have the shock of reality that will come.”

Like many films of the COVID era, Dune was originally slated for release in 2020 but wound up being postponed to 2021. Despite the roadblock, the sci-fi epic has managed to live up to the hype, with anticipation now building for a sequel.

“[The sequel] has direct continuity to the first movie,” stated Villeneuve. “[So] it's important for me that the audiences see Part Two as soon as possible.” Though an official release date is yet to be set for the new film, Warner Bros anticipates its appearance late 2023.

What is ethical in medicine?

Recently a 57-year-old man received a breakthrough operation. He was bedridden for several months and desperately needed a heart transplant. However, he had several health conditions which made him not suitable for the operation. In a last attempt to save the patient’s life, the Food and Drug Administration gave permission to attempt a genetically modified pig heart transplant for the first time in history. 

The operation was successful. Not only was the patient saved, but the medicine came closer to solving the problem of organ shortages. Unfortunately, the story is not as happy as it might seem.

Invisible disabilities at work

It is easy to see that someone in a wheelchair has a disability, and workplaces are becoming much better at making accommodations for them. But what about people whose disability doesn't show? Chronic illnesses like heart disease, lupus, or diabetes aren't visible to others. Neither are mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. Because of this, it's much more difficult for these workers to get the support they need.