Our Health Is Suffering Thanks to Air Pollution

John Slifko

Air pollution poses a serious threat to public health. According to a recent study conducted by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), 44 out of 51 U.K. cities and towns, including London, have unsafe levels of airborne particulate matter. Unfortunately, exposure to this heavily polluted air contributes to a myriad of diseases and illnesses.

Respiratory Illness

Respiratory illness is often attributed to air pollution. As explained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to airborne particulate matter — soot, smoke, car emissions, etc. — triggers an inflammatory response in the respiratory system. And when a person’s airways become inflamed, it can cause coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and asthma.

Children are particularly susceptible to harmful effects if air pollution because their lungs and other organs are still developing. As particulate matter makes its way into a child’s lungs, it restricts the growth of new tissue while subsequently making the child vulnerable to chronic respiratory conditions like asthma.


Medical experts also believe that individuals who are exposed to air pollution have a higher risk of lung cancer than their counterparts who are exposed to clear air. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially listed air pollution as a carcinogen in 2013. WHO researchers further warned that rates of bladder and lung cancer will continue to rise unless the world responds to the growing problems of air pollution.

Heart Disease

The health concerns of air pollution don’t end there. Because of its inflammatory and oxidative effects, medical experts say exposure to air pollution places individuals at risk for heart disease. On its website, WHO says 27 percent of all heart disease deaths are attributed to this invisible killer. Being that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United Kingdom, this shouldn’t be taken lightly.

What the Public Can Do

While the statistics mentioned above are alarming to say the least, everyone has the power to turn these numbers around and create a cleaner environment. Carpooling or cycling to work, for instance, will reduce emissions. Even turning off the lights and other electronic devices can reduce air pollution caused by coal-burning power plants. The bottom line is that everyone should do their part to create a cleaner environment.

Battery Electric Vehicles to Become More Popular with Recent Technology Advancements

John Slifko - Battery Electric Vehicles to Become More Popular with Recent Technology Advancements

Volvo’s announcement on July 5, 2017, which all its vehicles will be hybrid or electric by the early date of 2019, made it the first auto manufacturer to talk of ending the reliance on combustion engines.

However, that raised questions about how they can accomplish this promise to populations throughout the globe whose transportation traverses many hundreds of miles. What are several current happenings in battery technology that could make believers out of those drivers who are on the cusp of electric vehicle (EV) conversion? What will aid in removing the daunting barriers of distance and cost that presently keep many potential buyers skeptical?

For example, in China, with its conservation mindset, taxis are powered by electricity, electric scooters outnumber gas ones, and buildings and towers are topped with solar panels.

So why isn’t there a United States-based conversion to battery-powered modes of transportation? Mostly convenience and not having the patience to wait nor stop after a short haul. The average American driver who may be planning a vacation doesn’t want to face the possibility of running out of power and air-conditioning.

Because of an abundance of hydropower, the Pacific Northwest is the nation’s largest producer of carbon-free and renewable energy. Coupled with residents who are conservation-minded, it becomes an ideal location for a wholesale conversion to electric vehicles.

John Goodenough, now age 94, joined colleagues in inventing the rechargeable lithium-ion battery in 1980. Now he has improved on his design and created the first all-solid-state battery cell, which means that the batteries, being rechargeable, will last longer and be noncombustible, which would be a real boon to mobile handheld devices and electric cars.

Because the energy density in a battery determines an EV’s driving range, and those battery cells have three times the density of lithium-ion batteries, drivers will eventually be able to drive farther and longer.

With no timeline for when the above will be on the market, we need to look toward other advances that are closer to becoming accessible, like Israel startup StoreDot’s FlashBattery technology which is said to charge a car in just five minutes. Its technology leverages nanotechnology to create uber-fast charges and hopes to debut the five-minute smartphone charger next year.

Although in its infancy, another possibility is a dynamic electric vehicle charging (DEVC) system being developed by French automaker Renault along with Vedecom and Qualcomm Technologies. In May, outside of Paris, two electric vehicles drove on a test track of 100 meters with buried coils emitting an electromagnetic field that converted into the cars’ electricity systems. Electric vehicles that are driven by DEVC even 25 percent of the time would not need to stop to be recharged.

From Purdue University, their instantly rechargeable “flow” membrane-free IFBattery extends the battery life and is more cost-effective. Drivers would just pull up to a fueling station that dispenses fluid electrolytes in water and methanol or ethanol solution. Spent battery fluids would be safe enough for residential storage and could later be recharged at an energy-efficient wind, solar, or hydroelectric facility.


Since transportation accounts for 14 percent of global greenhouse gasses, it is becoming critical to expand electric car driving and wean drivers away from gas guzzlers.

Battery Electric Vehicles: The Future is Tesla

John Slifko - BEV Tesla

Battery electric vehicles, also known as BEVs, run on a chemical energy that’s stored in a battery pack. These battery packs are rechargeable. In BEVs, there is no use for an internal combustion engine (ICE), a fuel cell, or even a fuel tank, because they use electric motors and motor controllers for propulsion. BEVs aren’t just in the form of cars; they’re also trucks, buses, construction vehicles, watercrafts, bicycles, motorcycles, and many other forms as well.

For the past few years, Nissan’s Leaf model has been the world’s top selling highway-capable BEV with a 100-mile range from one single charge. Nevertheless, Bloomberg is reporting that the Leaf is set to be overthrown by a different automaker. Tesla Inc is the brand to watch for this upcoming year. The co-founder and CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, has been known for creating vehicles that go from zero to sixty in less than three seconds, giving you an adrenaline rush similar to riding the world’s fastest roller coaster. However, in the past year, Tesla has been focusing their efforts on creating a BEV that’s more suited for the everyday commuter.

The Model 3, which appeared on the market in late summer, is the BEV we’ve all be waiting for. While the vehicle won’t go from zero to sixty in under three seconds, it will do it in under six. The vehicle looks sharp, seats comfortably, and has a 220-mile range from a single charge on its standard battery. Starting at an MSRP of $35,000, the Model 3 is much more affordable than the previous models which start at just under $100,000.

Tesla is the only automaker to have broken the 300-mile range, and they’ve now done it with two of their models: Model S and the long-range battery for Model 3. Along with this amazing feat, Tesla is also known for their vehicle safety, which isn’t always common with BEVs or Hybrids. Tesla tweeted a video in late July showing the comparison of an impact test between the Model 3 and Volvo’s S60, what is thought to be one of the safest cars on the road today. The Model 3 withstood the side-pole impact much better than the S60.

The future is battery electric vehicles, and Tesla is paving the way. It will be interesting to see what the Elon Musk will come up with next.

5 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to Air Pollution

5 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to Air Pollution - John SlifkoAir pollution is the cause of many health related issues. They can range from short term medical difficulties to very serious lifetime diseases. Poor air quality can affect your cognition, decrease your life expectancy, and cause developmental issues in children. If you’re living in a city with high air pollution, here are five ways to reduce your exposure.

For starters, find out what is your current air quality index (AQI). Head to AirNow.gov to see the current AQI for your area and what is forecasted for the rest of the day. On this site, you will also find resources pertaining to your specific area. Your local newspapers may also publish information about the daily air quality as well. If the air quality for that day is poor, consider staying indoors.

If you enjoy exercising outside, do it during the morning. Early hours of the morning are when the ozone is the lowest. Cardio workouts draw air deeper into your lungs which can cause an issue if the air you’re breathing is heavily polluted. Working out in close proximity to a roadway is highly inadvisable as well, since that is where the air is dense with pollution from vehicle exhaust.

Additionally, you should avoid heavy traffic whenever possible. Sitting in bumper-to-bumper rush hour exposes you to the exhaust of trucks, busses, and other commuters around you. These air pollutants have proven to increase negative health outcomes. If possible, commute during irregular traffic hours. If you find yourself in traffic such as this, keep your windows closed and set your fan on recirculate to avoid the outside air from coming in. Don’t forget to replace your car’s air filters on a regular basis as well.

If you’re a smoker, it’s time to learn how to quit. If your friends and loved ones smoke, help them quit as well. Smoking causes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and many other diseases. Second hand smoke is just as harmful so not only are you causing harm to yourself, you’re also causing harm to those around you. To avoid second hand smoke from others, stay away from places that allow smoking indoors such as restaurants and bars.

5 Insightful Books To Read About the Hydrogen Economy

There are many books out there that are great reads for anyone interested in the hydrogen economy. With that being said, some books are better than others and go into more detail. These books are insightful and will really make you think. Below are 5 of those books.

1) The Hydrogen Economy: The Creation of the Worldwide Energy Web and the Redistribution of Power on Earth

This book, written by Jeremy Rifkin, is one of the best ones to read. It focuses on helping people move away from the destructive times of oil and towards hydrogen. It is very clear and comprehensive and argues a great case.

2) Hydrogen Economy

The authors of this book are P K Pahwa and G K Pahwa. This book explains the importance of using hydrogen as energy, looks at the usefulness of moving, dispensing, and using hydrogen, looking at how safe hydrogen is, and looking at any possible hazards there might be.

3) The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs

This book was written by the National Academy of Engineering. This book looks at many things, including opportunities, costs, barriers, and R&D needs. It goes into depth on all of these things and really gives a comprehensive idea of the factors that go into deciding whether or not hydrogen is the way to go.

4) The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities and Challenges

There are 8 main authors of this book who contributed writings. The editors are Michael Ball and Martin Wietschel. This book stands out from others on the subject because not only does it have the perspective of multiple different people, but it also covers every aspect of using hydrogen. It even covers environmental, socioeconomic, and geographic impacts on hydrogen. It also covers the aspects of meeting a growing demand for transport energy over a long period of time.

5) The Solar Hydrogen Civilization: The Future of Energy Is the Future of Our Global Economy

This book, written by Roy McAlister, is great because it completely shoots down any myths surrounding hydrogen. Another great thing about this book is that it uses many diagrams and is a great starting point for anyone looking for information.

As you can see, these books are ones that will make you think and will give your information that you might not have already known about the hydrogen economy. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, give these books a chance. You won’t be disappointed!

What is the Hydrogen Economy?

Many leaders have varying opinions on what exactly the hydrogen Economy is.  The hydrogen Economy, in its simplest form, is the mission and vision people have to see the world run off of hydrogen-fueled electricity and energy.  This dream is not based upon using high-carbon methods of production.  Low-carbon emissions are what these dreamers hope for.  Hydrogen, an element that is not naturally generated and found on this earth, is something that takes natural gas to create it.  Once hydrogen is liquefied or compressed, hydrogen can be used to create stores of energy.  Some believe that hydrogen is more of an intermediary between the user and natural gas, which has high-carbon emissions.  Regardless of what side of the wire you stand on, one thing we do know is that hydrogen is of such great interest to people nowadays because it’s only “emission” is water.  That is it.  Now do you see why hydrogen is still on the table?

Automobiles, for example, would probably have the greatest benefit from using hydrogen as energy, because it could use something called a “fuel cell” to convert the energy into electricity.  According to The Guardian:

“At the moment, hydrogen is most commonly produced from natural gas. In this situation, a typical fuel cell car generates 70–80g CO2 for each kilometre driven – similar to a modern gasoline hybrid or to a battery electric vehicle charged with today’s UK grid electricity. These emissions can be reduced towards zero if the hydrogen is produced using low-carbon electricity sources such as renewables, nuclear or CCS to electrolyse water. The downside is that in this situation only around half as much electricity comes out of the fuel cell as was put in to produce the hydrogen in the first place. The rest is lost as heat.

“Partly for this reason, and partly due to concerns over the commercial readiness of hydrogen fuel cell cars, battery-based electric cars have received more attention in recent years than hydrogen cars. However, hydrogen vehicles retain a number of important advantages: they can be rapidly refuelled in just a couple of minutes and have a range of many hundreds of kilometres. So the best technology depends on the final cost, carbon mitigation potential, and consumer needs in each case.”

Do you think it would take more energy to have only a hydrogen-run fuel economy? What are your thoughts on hydrogen being used as fuel? Tweet me @JohnSlifko to continue the discussion!

Part Two: Did You Know War Affects Children’s Education This Badly?

War disrupts the normal trajectory of children’s lives, due to the fact that tens of thousands of children are forced out of their schools during these times. Children who might have finished high school by the age of 18 are now child soldiers or have been in refugee camps for so long that they have no education at all. According to the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health (NLM/NIH), “It is estimated that there are tens of thousands of young people under 18 serving in militias in about 60 countries.” Getting a proper education can keep war from happening in certain areas by making the area more civilized. Education is massively important, and it’s time to start facing the facts about how it is affecting our civil society as a whole.

Leaving School

War keeps children from gaining an education due to the armed forces taking over schools or playgrounds children once played on. Many children are forced to run for their lives, as they are in immediate danger for trying to attend school. This splits apart families and causes children to have to start working to provide for themselves or to join armies to survive.

Living in Refugee Camps

Children are forced to live in refugee camps, because they have nowhere else to go. The NLM/NIH shares that “they wait for years in miserable circumstances for normal life to resume, if it ever does.” Refugee camps do not start out with educational facilities in them. Those that have some educational resources are fortunate but have them in extremely small quantities. NGO’s and NPO’s try their best to support these educational efforts, but it’s not nearly enough to keep a country from becoming underdeveloped.

Creating an Underdeveloped Country

War makes education such an impossible feat for so long in many countries that it starts to change the culture. According to the Peace Pledge Union:
“As the conflict continues without an end in sight and humanitarian organisations continue to struggle to provide the immediate material needs of the victims of the war, it is increasingly possible that a whole generation might be left without a basic education. This turn of events alone will plummet a developed country into an underdeveloped country.”

Countries that do not have education for numerous years in a row leave children grown up with no sense of direction. They have little to no job skills and have to obtain exceedingly low paying jobs in order to survive. This will leave a country with fewer resources and means to live and will start to affect their ability to import and export. This slowly starts to deteriorate a country’s ability to conduct business, plummeting the economy further and further down.

If war alone can do this in one country, how powerfully does it speak to war’s ability to impact negative change throughout the entire world? War needs to end, now.

This blog was originally posted here.

Part One: Did You Know War Affects Children’s Health This Badly?

Children are left broken and destitute as a result of war. According to Letty Thomas of WarChild.org, “[C]ivilians were once far removed from the fighting; they’re now routinely targeted and make up 90% of the casualties.” Thousands of children die as a direct result of violence in war each year. Thomas goes on to say that “Hospitals and health [centers] are destroyed. Doctors and nurses are killed or have fled. Children are most vulnerable to diseases like [diarrhea], malaria and cholera. Treatment is simple and cheap, but millions of children have died through lack of it.” Moreover, thousands of children are injured each year specifically by weapons. Landmines are particularly vicious. Children are more likely to get hurt by landmines than adults are. Injuries occur as a result of poor knowledge of how to use weapons, being in the line of fire, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Children are further disabled from war. According to the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health (NLM/NIH), “A child may have to wait up to 10 years before having a prosthetic limb fitted.” The NLM/NIH further states that children have poor access to proper, “nutrition, water safety, sanitation, housing, and… health services.” Because of this, illness becomes an indirect effect of war on children. Because children are often separated from their parents/guardians throughout the lifespan of a war, they are often left with guardians who do not care for them as much. These children end up having to scavenge for medical help on their own, which most can’t or won’t.

Oftentimes, people do not view mental health as a part of physical health, but it is. The mind is just as much of an organ as any other body party, and it gets affected deeply during the process of war. Children will oftentimes have high levels of anxiety and depression as a result of experiencing horror and loss of life, both of loved ones and strangers. Many end up with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. The NLM/NIH explains that “They may have to change their moral structure and lie, steal, and sell sex to survive. They may have their moral structure forcibly dismantled and replaced in training to kill as part of a military force.” Sexual assault is becoming a way to wage war now, too, leaving many young girls pregnant or unable to have children. Being taken advantage of physically can result in incredibly traumatic experiences for children both psychologically and on their physical bodies. They can be abused verbally or physically and be taken advantage of.

Children are true victims in the case of war. They are vulnerable because of their age, their size, and their naivety. Children are often lead astray and get involved in things they never wanted to, to begin with. Children need to be helped more than most other people groups. Learn about how children are negatively affected next month, because their education is stolen from them. Feel free to tweet me any thoughts, questions, or comments you may have @johnslifko!

This blog was originally posted on here.

Cyber-Activism: Harnessing the Power of the Internet to Enact Change

As you may have already gathered from my other blog posts on this website, my primary academic interests lie in the origins of democratic civil society and eighteenth-century worlds of print. What you may not know is that outside of the classroom, I’ve spent most of my life championing for equal rights as a social and political activist. Interestingly, as the internet continues to grow and change, it seems as though my academic and personal interests are beginning to overlap with one another in the form of what is referred to as Cyber-Activism.

Egyptian Revolution John Slifko

Cyber-Activism on Twitter played a significant role in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.

In a 2015 podcast for PhilosophyTalk.org, John Perry defined Cyber-Activism as “political activism that is made possible by the use of cyber tools like email, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other sites.” Essentially, the internet has now made it possible for activists to spread their messages to a wider audience than ever before by using digital platforms as their soapboxes. As you can imagine, this has certainly changed the face of activism; for proof, one need only recall the Egyptian Uprising of 2011, in which social media played a crucial part in letting the rest of the world know what was going on in that country when all other vehicles for communication were locked down. During the Egyptian Uprising, people around the world changed their IP addresses – or the digital string of numbers that tells other people and the internet the location from which you’re accessing the internet – to Egyptian IP addresses. They did this to protect Cyber-Activists in Egypt from having their identities exposed, which would have led to them incurring the wrath of their government for spreading this information. Or think about the fact that with the internet, we are now plugged into a global 24-hour news cycle, capable for the first time of watching events unfold in other parts of the world in real-time.

To me, Cyber-Activism is a stellar example of how the invention of the internet represents a new era in the way humans communicate with each other and advocate for those in need. With more access to information and to each other than we’ve ever had before, this shift is as historically significant – if not more so – than the one that occurred after Gutenberg invented the Printing Press. I, for one, am certainly looking forward to witnessing the myriad other ways that the internet will help propel us into a brighter future…a future in which it is virtually impossible to plead ignorance about the injustices that are committed every day around the world.