Sunday Reads — July 17, 2022
Summer may be slower for some, but it’s not been a dull time for new programs, data centers and researchers. This past week brought some help in the fight to prevent suicide and new insight into public approaches to gambling, climate change at home, housing construction and the hunt for alien life. Maybe we can find some answers from other worlds to help us here….
Many times we have noted Georgia’s dismal record for health care access and mental health, but this is not one of those. Georgia’s had a suicide/mental health care crisis hotline since 2005, and now — unlike nearly 30 other states — it joined the new national 988 crisis call hotline on Saturday. Congress appropriated $105 million for the establishment of the national mental health call line, and other grants are available as well, so the effort will be funded. Each state must take responsibility to make it happen. While Georgia has had a crisis line for a while, it just didn’t always have the services to help a caller. The new laws passed by the legislature in the spring should fix some of that over time.
In the meantime, it’s important to note: There’s one death by suicide every 11 minutes in the US. In 2020, nearly 46,000 Americans died by suicide, a 30% increase in the rate since 2000. An additional 1.2 million adults and 629,000 adolescents attempted suicide in 2020. In 2020, suicide was among the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 25-34. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988.
We know how summer days can be – family members are home, there are tons of things to do and you’re traveling fast. Here’s a look at some stories you might have missed this week.
- How hot is it? It’s so hot that data can now prove exactly how each of us is affected by climate change. A new Climate Shift Index uses realtime info to show how you are experiencing the warming planet in your life. Environment reporter Mary Landers explains how the changes manifest in Coastal Georgia. So next time someone says “Global warming doesn’t affect me,” you can show them this tool from ClimateCentral to show them what’s up.
- Covid cases rise: A new coronavirus subvariant of Omicron — BA.5 — is now making the rounds in your neighborhood. It’s easier to get and easier to pass along, so understand your own risks and the dangers to those you love. Georgia hospital admissions for Covid are nearly double this time last month. In Coastal Georgia, Camden, Glynn, Liberty and Chatham counties had rising case rates per 1,000 ranging from 250 to 339. (With fewer tests reported, most rates are accepted as an undercount.) Here’s the updated look for your county.
- Two noteworthy environmental moves this week: The textile factory linked in 2011 to a giant fish kill on the Ogeechee River will close. The plant’s current owners will move operations from the facility that has missed its Clean Water Act compliance for 11 of the last 12 quarters. And, the US Army Corps of Engineers will hold off dredging in Brunswick harbor until the busy turtle nesting season is over. A short cycle of dredge work in March killed 7 turtles.
Sports betting picks up steam
The Georgia General Assembly remains a graveyard for legislation on gambling and sports betting. Several data sets and reports came out last week about the effects of betting and the changes in states’ regulations. But the state is becoming an outlier: 30 states are now playing and 5 more are in the process of adding some form. A new survey of the legalities of sports betting by state comes from the Consumer Choice Center, an independent group that “fights for lifestyle freedom, innovative technologies and smart regulation.” Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama remain without sports betting or the proceeds that come from it. It’s legal in Tennessee. And, more Americans are in favor of legalized betting, according to a new poll by the Washington Post and the University of Maryland Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement. 66% of those participating now approve of legal sports betting, up from 55% in 2017.
Another problem rises: Although the legal age starts at 18 in most states, between 60% and 80% of high school students report having gambled for money in the past year, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. The Washington Post-UM poll found roughly 60% of respondents said they were concerned that the increasing availability of sports betting will lead to children gambling. Since we are older than 18, we’ll continue to spend our occasional legal gambling dollar on a lottery ticket (for education). Or maybe Bingo, for charity of course.
More houses to make homes
By any measure, rents and home prices are rising from inflation, a recession then pandemic construction lull and demand. A multi-faceted report out last week from Up For Growth on “underproduction” in the housing sector puts the shortages front and center with solutions and suggestions for construction and the future. The group focuses on policies and partnerships to “achieve housing equity, eliminate systemic barriers and create more homes.” The comprehensive report drew attention from various news sources and most brought a different point to the table. The full report gives views from different parts of the country along with solutions to save on infrastructure and maintenance while growing tax revenues per acre.
NPR’s story on the report, along with a chart of housing status of more than 300 cities is linked here. One piece of the report looked at 800 cities in the US to analyze the shortage. Savannah ranked 263 and is charted with a 4% surplus with needs met but “situation worsening.” One common problem cited was the lack of new house construction within existing cities to create more walkable neighborhoods near employment. Families are forced to move farther from work and commute, adding transportation needs. That type of migration is already evident around Savannah, which is now surrounded by fast-growing cities of Richmond Hill and Pooler. The migration pits cities and developers and rural homeowners in a battle well-defined in this piece by Zoe Nicholson at savannahnow. The conflicts in Coastal Georgia will grow as housing needs swell in neighboring counties to the west as the giant Hyundai EV development starts to take shape.
Another take on Up For Growth report and the quickly changing environment is from the New York Times, where one chart points out that our northern neighbors in Bluffton-Hilton Head, SC, had a 6.55% housing surplus in 2012 that fell into the a 3.3% shortage by 2019. In Georgia, Gainesville continues to show the greatest needs, along with metro Atlanta. A third article on the report, from Bloomberg, addresses the immediate effects of the pandemic and inflation to the current construction markets. All the perspectives are worth your time if you or someone you know may be thinking about moving.
Your second cup: Looking for life just got easier
This week’s view of a new speck of the universe, thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, answers a few questions but sparks a galaxy-load more. One old question gets renewed attention with new data coming in and more telescopes under construction: Is there other life out there? Two researchers say it all goes back to how starlight interacts with a planet’s surface, and now we have a much better view. Here’s the story.
Pandemic call volume strained Georgia’s crisis line but officials prepare for new surge as national 988 line opens.
Infections and hospitalizations are rising across Georgia as new subvariant of Covid arrives.
Milliken purchased the plant about three years after the fish kill, when an estimated 38,000 fish died in the free-flowing blackwater river days in 2011. State regulators eventually determined that then-owner King America had been operating for five years without a permit for its fire retardant line.
A planned dredging operation that was likely to kill sea turtles is rescheduled to a turtle-friendlier season.
To detect life on a distant planet, astrobiologists will study starlight that has interacted with a planet’s surface or atmosphere. If the atmosphere or surface was transformed by life, the light may carry a clue, called a “biosignature.”
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