Lyme disease : The first epidemic resulting from climate change

Lyme disease is the fastest growing infectious disease in the USA. It is caused by the bite of the tick that is infected with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. This virus is helix or spiral shaped and is very versatile which make it very difficult to treat. The deer tick that cause the lyme disease often called the black legged tick.  For the last past  two decades, lyme  infected population has been increased, and experts believe that climate change is one of the main culprit because it is providing suitable environmental condition for the tick habitat to grow and expand. The first case of lyme disease was found  in Colorado and ticks were found in only in the east region in USA, but now the ticks are found in all fifty  states in America.

The  tick has three stages in life : larvae, nymph and adult. It has two years of life span.Ticks need to feed on the blood of three animals to complete their life cyle.  Rick Ostfelt, an ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y. “We know that climate change has contributed to Lyme disease spreading northward and to higher elevations.” He   further explained that the cold blooded  bugs can only move and look for a meal when the weather is warmer, so when it is near freezing point it is very difficult to thrive. If they find their yummy warm meal before finishing up the reserve, they will die sooner. Now we see the early blooming and leafing before even the spring start. As the spring is coming earlier now and the summer is getting longer, it is much easier  for the tick to creep on northward to find the animal  to latch on for the blood.

The tick usually latches on its meal for 36 hours and it takes time to transfer the Borellia bacteria from their gut to saliva, so it is very important to check and look for the tick in the body when a person goes  hiking, camping or the heavily infested tick area. The circular bull’s eye rash, along with the fever, chills are the classic symptoms of the infection. But this rash is not seen in everyone who is infected. It is usually treated with the first line antibiotics and the duration of the treatment depends on the symptoms and its severity. If left untreated it usually cause further severe symptoms like meningitis and many form of disabilities. This disease  is one of the most under reported disease because the sign and symptoms of the lyme disease mimic  other diseases. Lyme disease often is mistaken for fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, arthritis or even with alzheimer. Dr. Pal, a researcher in the University of Maryland mentioned  the importance of diagnosing and  treating  lyme disease as soon as it gets diagnosed. Recently he discovered a protein marker, that will identify the lyme infection in the body. He also found that even if the immune system responds perfectly, the bacteria can spring back in the body weeks later. He also explained if the bacteria is not destroyed by our first wave of immunity, our adaptive immunity actually will overreact so strongly that it will cause inflammation in all joints and areas ( heart and nervous system) where the bacteria invaded.


According to the Centers for Disease Control CDC, 300,000 people are getting infected with lyme disease annually. There is no specific treatment regimen or  vaccine for lyme disease in the market currently. A vaccine, called lymerix, was withdrawn from the market in 2002.  Many people now are conscious about  human activity on climate change. Climate change is a threat to public health in every aspect, from the vector born disease to environment pollution. We cannot stop climate change, but as people we  are capable to slow down the global warming process, which will certainly help to minimize the spread of these tick-borne disease. Hopefully we will have an effective vaccine for lyme disease soon, which will make us less worried when we will go  hiking and camping in the summer in thewoods.




Personal Changes and Shortcomings

Recently, I’ve been doing my best to reduce the amount of waste I produce through my daily activities. This includes reducing the amount of plastic and disposable products I use, making my own products, and recycling when I can

I did my best to make more of an effort to avoid things such as straws, Styrofoam, napkins, plastic bags/wrappers, and any other wasteful products. This was hard for me, and I realized that a had a heavy reliance on some of these things, and to cutting down on them was very hard for me to do. But it put into perspective for me how easily accessible these wasteful products are.

I already make my own hair products, so I didn’t have to reduce my consumption in that department very much. I significantly reduced the amount of eating out I usually did and opted to pack a lunch instead. While it was less convenient than just walking in to the closest fast food place, I didn’t mind it, and I also saved money doing this.

One of the biggest changes I made was to only use reusable containers for my lunch. Instead of using bags and bottles that would usually get thrown away, I bought some containers from Walmart to pack my food in instead. I also did all my shopping using reusable shopping bags. I’ve also found that I liked both these methods more and wonder why I hadn’t been doing this before.

I also recycle, though I’m not as reliant on it. One of the issues I have with recycling is if the materials we recycle are indeed getting recycled. And it turns out a lot don’t. A pizza box with grease stains and melted cheese stuck to it gets thrown in the landfill. PVC plastics contain too many additives also get trashed. Broken shards of glass are thrown away as well. Also, how is the process of recycling these materials impacting the environment? While I think recycling is good and useful for reducing the amount of trash going in the landfill, I think it’s important to not let it give us a false sense of security. Recycling isn’t the only thing we should be doing to decrease our ecological impact.

Most importantly in my journey of personal change, I did my best to start composting. When it came to composting, I found it was easier to find composting bins and stations downtown than in North Charleston. Much like with recycling bins and centers, there’s very little access to composting areas near where I live. I’m planning on starting a compost at home, but there’s been some reluctance from the people I live with at the moment.

Overall, it’s been an interesting experience with changing my habits. I hope I can refine then and improve for the future as well.

Farmers Market

I volunteer at MUSC on Mondays and Fridays under the 4C Program (Collabortive Care for Children and Families). Some days, depending on how many appointments the practice has scheduled, I just sit in a cubicle doing my homework or making phone calls. If it’s a busier day, I will do a childcare, make copies, run errands, or do a transport (taking patients to and from their appointment). On one of my busier days I was walking to the NCVC (National Crime Victim Center) and I passed by the MUSC library. In the front of the library was a little farmers market. I had a few minutes, so I took a stroll through to see what they had to offer.

Since it’s Spring there were an abundance of Apples, Avocados, Bananas, Broccoli, Carrots, Onions, Spinach and Strawberries. At the time, I didn’t have my wallet on me or I definitely would have bought some apples and strawberries. This farmers market was rather small, but it is a great spot and very centrally located for all of the employees and students of MUSC.

Farmers markets are the best way to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables that are grown healthily and sustainably. In class we watched Food Inc. and discoverd the truths behind the industrial farming industry. First, that it is a very monopolized industry and that we are made to believe that we are offered a lot of variety, when in all honesty all of our food comes from 3 or 4 different industrial farms. We also learned that industrial farms use a lot of pesticides that aren’t particularly good for us and the environment. Buying from a farmers market gives us more of a choice and a say of what goes into our food. Farmers markets also only offer foods that are in season and it is important to try to stick with foods that are in season because they utilize less pesticides to grow and use less fuel to transport to grocery stores. Also they are a great way to fund and encourage local small business farmers.

I wish farmers markets were more common since they are so beneficial to our health and the environment. I believe farmers markets are not as common as they should be because their benefits aren’t really known. I think it is so important for communitys to realize the importance of things like farmers markets as well as eating whole fruits and vegetables. We learned from one of our guest speakers how important fruits and vegetables are for our health for a number of reasons. And farmers markets are a great way for us to incorporate plenty of healthy and sustainable whole fruits and vegetables into our diets. 

No Straw Please

Over the years, I have gotten very used to my family lovingly calling me a crazy hippie. They laugh when I save scraps of food to feed my worms and roll their eyes when I pull out my reusable grocery bags at the store (though I have convinced my grandma to carry around a reusable bag too). So, I expected similar reactions when I decided to stop using straws. I bought a pack of reusable stainless steel straws and I bring them with me everywhere now. The first time I got to use them was when my whole family and I were out for brunch. Luckily, we were already at a restaurant that only serves straws upon request. When our waitress brought out our drinks, I smiled and pulled out a straw for each member of my family. For a few minutes they stared at me like I was crazy and rolled their eyes at me like usual. However, by the end of the meal, my aunt asked me to order straws for her too. Since then, my whole family has given in and has started asking for no straw when we go out to eat. I have also convinced a few of my mom’s friends to go strawless as well. It is amazing how many conversations I have with people when they see me pull out a reusable straw or ask for no straw during my meal. Sometimes it seems like all of our efforts of convincing people to be more environmentally friendly or conscious goes unnoticed, but at least for my experience with straws, something about the idea gets people’s attention.

No More Plastic!

In order to live more sustainably, I cut out my use of plastics. Instead of buying plastic bottled drinks, I carried a YETI rambler bottle. I went straw-less, as well. I also invested in reusable bags for when I go grocery shopping. The issue around plastic is that plastic never goes away. Today billions of pounds of it can be found in swirling convergences making up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. Every year thousands of seabirds, sea turtles, seals and other marine mammals are killed after ingesting plastic or getting tangled up in it. My triumphs were that it made me feel good as a human being that I had the thought of I am making a difference every time I did not use plastic. My struggles were not shopping online and constantly having to clean my YETI rambler for multiple uses. I think more people use plastics because of the same reasons why people use paper plates instead of actual plates; NO DISHES! Haha, but I felt really good by myself with this change. I do think I will continue with this change because of the impact it does have, especially in Charleston with the ocean nearby. You can start cutting down on your plastic waste in a few simple steps: always bring reusable bags when you shop, ditch one-time use water bottles and avoid products made from or packaged in plastic whenever possible (e.g. select unwrapped produce at the grocery store, shop local, cut down on online shopping.)

Plastic Invasion of the Seas

Image result for turtle eating plastic

There is way too much plastic in the ocean, and that too much, is 150 million tons of plastic trash, a number that is set to triple in the next seven years. People use plastic every day, and it is something that has become almost essential to 21st-century living. There is plastic involved in our clothing, our eating, and in our hygiene. But people do not think about where a lot of their plastic is going. It is going to the ocean.

Marine animals every day, are having their homes invaded by plastic, and every year 8 tons of it are being dumped on their front door. 70% of the plastic found in the ocean is a plastic product, and because we are putting so much plastic in the water, a terrible thing is happening. Marine animals are confusing the plastic for food and are eating it.

Why are animals eating plastic?

              Animals are consuming microplastics that are floating around in the sea because it looks almost like algae, or algae grow on top of the floating plastic, or because plastic bags look like jellyfish. There are many different factors that go into who animals are eating the plastic. Some animals like blue plastics because their food is typically food, and so goes for other creatures and other colors of plastic. Also, animals do not always use the same senses that humans do when it comes to food, and their senses are different from ours. To a human, a plastic bag in the water looks exactly like a plastic bag, but to a sea turtle, the bag could look like a jellyfish with weird tentacles.

What is the harm in eating a little plastic?

              Because animals are eating a lot of plastic, they are filling their bellies with something that they cannot digest but will sit in their stomachs making them feel full. Because these marine animals are full from the plastic, they have no desire to eat and they become malnourished from starvation and/or lack of nutrients. If an animal decides to eat something that has a sharp edge, they could be at risk of piercing something.  Also, from a more anthroponotic viewpoint, if a fish is eating a ton of plastic, and you get that same fish on your dinner plate, are you not also eating plastic?

What can be done?

              There are a lot of alternatives to plastic out there, and they are definitely worth the extra cost. There are many people trying to enact change, and a great example is how the UK banned microbeads, tiny pieces of plastic, from their country. In the US, California placed a ten-cent fee on plastic bags, so for every plastic bag the consumer gets, they have to pay ten cents. Because of this law, many people began using reusable bags and the liter from plastic bags in the streets was greatly reduced. Another fun plastic free item is the bamboo toothbrush, which either uses bamboo or charcoal bristles. Buying a metal or glass reusable water bottle not only saves the consumer money in the long run but also is plastic free and means no one must lug around a heavy pack of water bottles.


Works Cited:

Inspiration In The Natural World

Nature is honestly a constant inspiration to me. Since moving to South Carolina I have actually felt quite disassociated with nature from living right in the city and not owning a car to travel to nature. When living in Maine I had nature right outside my back door and could walk to numerous walking and hiking trails. Maine really shaped my love and passion for the natural world and taught me that I find so much peace within and beneath the trees or laying in a grassy field with the sun shining. I would be happy living in the forest next to a babbling brook, foraging for food and not having to face politics and our polluted society that is today. Although this is not an option for me even the thought brings me a bit of happiness. In the meantime I try my best to find nature wherever I go and find peace within that space. I go to the Battery often and do yoga or listen to music or even do my homework. Just the presence of the trees and fresh air brightens my experiences.

Humans use nature as a resource so often but the simple act of living and being in nature is rarely taken advantage of anymore. I feel humans are meant to have a relationship with the natural world and that anxiety and depression could come from this society that we created with little nature involved. I was very delighted when seeing this option for a blog post because it is important to be in touch with nature and many don’t put as much weight or importance on this action. Although it may seem pretty simple or easy it is sometimes the hardest to get out of your own head and be in the now and appreciate everything around you. I love meditation and yoga so that is what I did during my trip into nature for this blog post. It is more challenging still being within the city because of the noise pollution created but this just adds a little more challenge to your inner concentration. I have not been able to reach complete peace in South Carolina yet but everything takes practice and adjustments!

When I first find myself in nature I make sure I find the perfect spot to spend my time. I always bring a blanket and usually a snack. Most of the time I find the sunniest spot with the softest earth, whether it be sand, grass, clay, dirt, or even a flat large rock. Under a tree is always wonderful on especially hot days, those just didn’t come often in Maine. This time I found the best spot on the grass far enough away from disturbance. Then I just flow and do me. I stretch and listen to music while practicing yoga usually finishing with meditation. While I practice yoga I like to be aware of my surroundings and let all my senses thrive and enjoy the breeze that brings cool air and wonderful smells of different plants and flowers, listen to the ocean and the birds singing, children giggling. Then while meditation I focus on my core and my own body to gain concentration and less thoughts on stress or unimportant jumbled thoughts. Overall I always leave nature happier than entering and this simple fact is all that is needed to know the natural world is important for human’s psyche.

Sustainability Event- Race, Place, and the De-Gentrification of Nature Conservation in the South

On March 14, I attended a talk led by Dr. Drew Lanham, who is a professor at Clemson University. Lanham studies natural wildlife as well as the integration of race in nature. The name of the discussion was Race, place, and the de-gentrification of Nature Conservation in areas of the south. Dr. Lanham began the discussion by introducing a song: Mercy Mercy Me which was written by Marvin Gaye in 1971. Initially, I had thoughts as to why he presented this song to the audience. I supposed it was a simple tactic in order to gather the audience’s attention, ensuring that they were ready to be engaging. However, I believe that it was a creative way to start off the discussion. The reason the song was presented to the audience was because it held a deeper meaning and had connections to the topic of the talk. The meaning of the song ties to the topic of ecology and its comparison of how the world was in the past and how it has evolved. The song also explains the struggles of the environment: socially, environmentally, and economically. Although the song was written in 1971, the world still displayed signs of change that would have negative impacts on the conservation of nature.

The next thing he mentions is the topic of water, which is a very important aspect considering people and the environment depend on it. He made a statement about how water is everywhere and how it is needed to sustain life. He followed with a question that asked, “what is your water?” The question that Dr. Lanham was asking refers to something that you consider important to sustain your life. When he made this statement, I thought about the different things in my life that I felt are important to my survival, like food and shelter. Dr. Lanham managed to also tie race into the topic of water by stating that despite what the past consisted of we are all connected to water. No matter what race you are, your life depends on water!

He wrapped up the discussion with his personal connections to water. Dr. Lanham discusses a story of his personal experiences, which he wrote in his book, about times when his father would go to their spring well and collect water for them. Unfortunately, his father became ill and past away. Times became rough after the passing of his father, water wise. Dr. Lanham and his mother needed to find a new source to gather water. There was a pipe put into place for them to receive water, however it had a foul taste and wasn’t fresh compared to what his father used to collect for them. This really had a major impact on them because this one aspect that was important to sustain their lives wasn’t pure/fresh. He explained how crucial water is to our lives and how it can impact it as well. At this moment I realized how many individuals, including myself, take water for granted. His talk was very eye-open for me because he mentioned several things that will stick with me about water’s impact on individuals as well as the society.

Sustainability Solutions- Composting

As I have said many times in class and in my other posts, I am very lucky to be an intern for MUSC Sustainability and Recycling. On my first week there I was in a hairnet in the hospital kitchen, on my hands and knees in the dirt, and feeding paper towels to worms. It was extremely weird but also eye opening!
There is a lot of talk in the world and media about becoming “zero waste,” but what does that mean? It does not exactly mean that a person or entity will not create any waste at all, but that none of the waste created will be sent to a landfill. It means that all of the waste will be able to be reused. We want less waste going to landfills because when waste goes to a landfill, it is there forever. There is currently too much waste going to landfills, and when it decomposes it creates methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas, and we definitely want less of that! Landfills affect the economy because so much of what is already inside of them could have been used for reusable projects. Also, those reusable objects take up a ton of space that can be used for other landfillable objects.
So how can this be fixed? Education is necessary, but not efficient. There needs to be action taken!
So first, we have to educate people on what waste goes where. My favorite topic to talk about is something I’ve become very familiar with as the MUSC intern; Composting!
MUSC uses composted soil all over campus. I am lucky enough to get to feed and mix the worms on a monthly basis. However, it gets very challenging when the MUSC campus fails to correctly compost. If any raw meat gets into the worm bin, it’s a smelly nightmare and we have to air out the compost shed. But composting is so easy if done correctly, that it’s possible for everyone to compost at home!
There are tons of resources to start at-home composting, and I will link a video down below!
Composting is an easy and rewarding way to become that much closer to zero waste!

News Report

The article in the news that I found which was on the topic of sustainability is called Famed Walden Pond, which inspired Henry David Thoreau, is being killed by urine. The intended audience for this article is really open to the public to those who watch and or read this news site. Who it may concern is the people who do or plan on visiting Walden Pond in the future. The agenda of this news article is to inform the public of the issues surrounding this natural environment that is affecting not only the beautiful view but also the wildlife in the area, specifically fish. I feel there is no possible bias in this article because these findings are scientific and the are evidence based to be informative. Though there is scientific research to back these findings up I am not completely certain that this is a reliable source. The findings are backed up with research, but this is also a new site that is nothing like a journal article where someone has looked over the work from a scholarly stand point and made sure everything was correct and could be backed up. I like the quote that the article starts off with. The news article states, “If Henry David Thoreau were alive today, he might re-title his most famous work “On Golden Pond.” The issue surrounding the pond is the high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus from what we know now from scientific research is caused by human waste, specifically urine. “More than half of the summer phosphorus budget of the lake may now be attributable to urine released by swimmers,” the study states. This quote from Dr. Jay Curt Stager best summaries what is happening with the lake. “These findings suggest that, although mitigation efforts have curtailed anthropogenic nutrient inputs to Walden Pond, the lake has not returned to the pre-impact condition described by Henry David Thoreau and may become increasingly vulnerable to further changes in water quality in a warmer and possibly wetter future.” The nitrogen and phosphorus are producing algae by speeding up its growth which in turn creates a mass of algae that covers the pond. This mass of algae causes sunlight to be blocked from reaching into this water. This then effects the fish, killing the off because they do no have sunlight. The scientist recommend that swimmers stay out of the lake. Since people are the main contributors to the issue. They recommended that a swimming facility with a pool be built around the pond location. This will allow people to see the wonderful views of Walden Pond but not harm its natural environment. This pool would serve as a swimming area, so contamination could stop, and restoration of the pond can be brought fourth. In my opinion I agree with this article. In class we have talked about Walden and the nature of the pond. I have even read the book, so I feel like I have somewhat of an understanding of protecting this natural environment.

Alexis Waters-Peterson