How the Icelandic volcano's eruption impacted healthcare.
I have had a recurring thought during the past week in the aftermath of the volcanic eruption on Iceland. Remember Klaatu? He was the mythical figure in the 1951 movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still, who came to planet earth warning us about dabbling with nuclear power. We got the message on a different topic when just eight days ago one of the world's least well-known volcanoes in Iceland - Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced: EY-ya-fyat-lah-YOH-kuht) - began to make its presence known, and nearly all of Europe stood still in its wake. Covering nearly all of Europe, the volcano's thick ash closed the continent's airways while stranding millions in what was the largest air-traffic shutdown the world has experienced since World War II. Even the aftermath of 9/11 only lasted three days! But, aside from the massive number of people who were stranded throughout the world, Eyjafjallajökull impacted virtually every aspect of the world economy and has even affected healthcare.
While the television networks and newspapers carried stories on how the major airlines were reportedly losing upwards of $200 million a day with the shutdown, little has been said about the effect on healthcare. Unbeknownst to most people, the supply of human organs has become a global network, from simple blood transfusions to replacement organs. Gaining access to these critical resources is often a make-or-break difference for patients in life-or-death situations. Due to the closure of many airports across Europe, the supply of organs for transplant surgery has been dramatically affected. In fact, as of Tuesday evening, at least 16 patients in the United Kingdom were already at risk of complications ensuing from a lack of access to a transplant organ. With the delivery of organs, bone marrow, and transfusions halted throughout the world, coupled with additional fact that surgeons were stuck at airports, the volcanic eruption has posed a logistical nightmare for patients and providers alike.
As a result, such organizations such as Eurotransplant, one of the largest non-profit organ transplant services in Europe, have been forced to deliver their much needed medical supplies by other means, most often by ground transport - a process that has prolonged the movement of these items by countless hours. In a field where the shortest amount of time from the point of availability to the point of transplant is critical for offering viable tissue, it is also crucial because the time factor affects patient's lives. Time is certainly of the essence in transplants of any type.
The pharmaceutical industry has also felt the impact of the eruption. While general stockpiles of prescriptions with long shelf lives have not been affected by the transportation meltdown in Europe, drug supply experts warned that drugs with short shelf lives would be in danger if the air shutdown lasted much longer.
Interestingly enough, the preferred means of transportation for most drug manufacturers in Europe has historically been through maritime carriers because of lower costs associated with that type of transport. It just shows that even in the strangest of natural disasters, industry standards can shield corporations from financial loss. Just look at drug companies such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer that have had very few problems in the wake of Eyjafjallajökull.
Apart from the short term impact on air travel and transportation, the underlying reality for healthcare is that the world is a much more interconnected and linked place than ever before. This last week illustrated how we are all connected by showing that a volcanic eruption in Iceland can stop a patient from receiving her bone marrow in England while simultaneously effecting salmon fishing in New Zealand, flower distribution from South America, and causing a work stoppage at automotive plants in Japan. All these examples are real, and although seemingly unrelated, they were, in fact, interconnected to each other because of the volcano. In only seven days, the world saw globalization at both its best and its worst, depending on how you look at the issue.
Thankfully for the world economy, many flights are now returning to normal in England and other parts of Europe. While it is interesting to consider the impact of the entire world screeching to a halt, the natural disaster of Eyjafjallajökull has touched the lives of the entire planet in ways that will be revealed further in the coming months and years. The global economy is not subsiding and is only strengthening over time. Our interconnectedness is more than concept. It is a reality that is affecting everyone, everywhere.
Like Klaatu did in the movie- Eyjafjallajökull has let us know that we have been forewarned...
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I haven't posted here in a very long time. I haven't posted on the DCF for maybe two years now. Even on my own Forum and Blog, I have cut my "comments" by some 75%. I look at sites like this one and others on a regular basis, but just to look; trying to find a perspective that would rekindle my desire to post comments. I honesty wasn’t going to write a thing, but then….
Ironically, for me personally, the movie the author refers to caught my eye as soon as I opened D2D. Just yesterday I put the 1951 Blu-ray on the checkout counter at Best Buy. I drop in often and talk to sales reps about their feelings and perspective on Dell and its products. Usually I don't buy anything. People on my forum are laughing now!
I am wrestling with an issue that relates to ethics, values, and morality, concerned that we don't have a clue where technology is taking us and the chances of our ethics influencing the "advancement" of technology are looking slimmer with each new gate added to the surface of a CPU.
We are all quick to agree that we couldn't have prevented the volcano eruption. Amazingly, look where it happened; in one of those places that if interviewed and asked, “Where is Iceland and what does it look like?” most Americans above 5th grade would not make our country proud!
All eyes are on the tectonic plates below California and that cataclysmic event would produce a significant world-wide reaction; a reaction that has a sense of “expectation” with it, not the kind that we saw with some “watch-a-ma-call-it” volcano in a “frozen barren wasteland”. I know, it isn't that at all!
We were caught off-guard by what happened in Europe. I don’t ever remember hearing a “projected scenario” for Europe if this volcano should erupt. Throw as much technology at as many potential "natural" threats that we can think of and in the end, we are going to have to admit: we are smaller than we think we are. We cannot outdo the power contained within this planet. And if that doesn't impress you take a ook at our own Sun; it burns some 100,000,000 tons of Hydrogen per second and has enough to continue at that rate for 4 billion years. and if that won't do it, consider this; if we could one day, with the obvious help of technology, travel at 186,000 miles per second, it would take us 100,000 YEARS to travel from one end of the Milky Way to the other. And....
We are small. And one thing technology will not do- prevent the one thing that we really all do have in common; our time here on this planet is terminal. Unlike technology’s image, we are not going to change the reality that exists for us as the community that the author refers to.
The author of this post, when referring to our interconnectedness and how we are affected by our global economy which is strengthening over time, uses a volcano I don’t even want to type, to illustrate that we have been forewarned regarding the influence that technology (at the core of a global economy) has and will continue to have with increasing strength on each and every one of us.
It is at this final point that I jump ship ( I enjoyed the article) and file this kind of reasoning into my “research file”. He has done what most of our public schools textbooks get away with all across our country; he presented a theory as if it were a fact. How is this volcano a forewarning of things to come? What if our world wasn’t structured the way it is now because we had made a major course correction? The impact of that eruption in that different future might be minimal.
The assumptions, when wrong, destroy the entire thesis. When it comes to technology, which I love by the way, we have given it an awfully significant amount of our trust for today and where it will take us in the future. So much trust have we surrendered that it is common say all kinds of things that are not facts, just theories, assuming them to be facts because it is about technology.
Ever wonder if all of this closeness that the author refers to, that we have because of technology, has in fact made relationships more distant. And ever wonder why a great terrorist threat that Jack on 24 has to prevent is about us losing control of our technology and it being used against us, ultimately becoming our downfall rather than our claim to fame?
How about this conclusion; just maybe this event could be the beginning of ‘the people of planet earth” taking back control over what we can control of technology's influence and power and growth and this volcano is actually a wakeup call challenging us to make sure that our children and great grandchildren don’t grow up in a world where Man no longer stands over all of creation. What if we decided to not buy into the conclusion that Dr. Fickenscher comes to and decide the the future will be different?
Now isn’t that a plausible conclusion that someone might come to. It isn’t a fact because it hasn’t been proven. You can call it a theory. You can disagree. But at least ask yourself the question, “ How much of my critical thinking skills am I willing to surrender in the name of “global economy” and “Moore’s Law” in technology?
If we can’t control, predict, or plan for what this “little, unknown volcano, on a for-the-most-part (maybe “virtually” would be more appropriate here) unknown island” was capable of doing in a matter of minutes; it is at that thought that I stop and reflect on the Doctors conclusion. When I say reflect, I mean to think about it, study it, analyze it, challenge it, and most importantly draw my own conclusions. If they happen to match up with the author that is fine; it isn’t like I am out looking for a conflict.
The conflicts are everywhere. No one needs to search for them. Students in my classroom are tripping over them every day; sadly they just don’t see them. What I do on a daily basis by habit, I am constantly pushing and even begging my students to rediscover and bring back ( if it was ever there) into a student’s “new concept” of what “ getting an education” means in his or her generation.
Carl Taylor, a professor at Michigan State University recently was interviewed by a Free Press newspaper reporter. The article is titled, “Students’ Attitudes A Major Obstacle To Learning, Prof Says.” Taylor has been researching for some time the students that are entering college, coming out of an environment where the definition of education often in the students definition no longer includes “learning”.
The author says, “What gets Carl Taylor is not what his students don’t know; it’s that many don’t care what they don’t know.” Taylor calls it, “normalization of ignorance”- a culture in which the definitions of reading and writing are what can be texted or Facebooked. For many, a Google search counts as heady research and a composition is cut-and-paste. Taylor says, “They are moving so fast that the only thing that matters is the end.”
If I were to simplify the article I would say that many of today's young people are easily led, don’t walk to a different drummer and decide their own futures, rarely confront ideas and challenge the way things are, and grades and transcripts are what counts and if technology can make it easier than so be it. And the icing on the cake of success is to have the greatest number of Twitter followers in the world.
Why do we so often allow changes in technology to dictate to us “which way to go”? Change isn’t always “good”, and “progress” can be deceptive. Are we being lead by this article to assume that technology which is manmade, but can be rendered crippled by a “little” volcano eruption- This technology is what is being elevated to the status of “unstoppable” and said that without a doubt it is in strengthening over time. This global economy that is technology driven will without doubt take us on a course that we can’t stand up to and say, “NO, we aren’t going there!”
Right now my greatest concern with technology is this- because we gave permission before asking the ethical, moral, and value foundational questions step by step always guiding and not trailing further and further behind.. Today technology is so far beyond our ability to bring to bear many of the ethical questions that need to be asked, just like many wanted asked and answered during the “Manhattan Project”, that it is going to take some kind of “forewarning” to get us to wake up and take back some surrendered ground.
When President Clinton announced that every boy and girl in American would have a computer in their home when we crossed that famous year 2000 bridge, did he stop to do what everyone in Congressmen does all the time: add some conditions? The percentage of 8th grade boys entering high school addicted to pornography is staggering. Was that considered? It affects the potential for a successful marriage relationship. 70% of my students come from one or no parent homes. Ask any teacher that is in it for the kids and they will be quick to tell you that the number one impact on a student’s chances of success is the home’s impact. It isn’t technology. Were studies done to find out what a computer would ultimately contribute to the breakdown of the traditional family?
Did Mr. Clinton add a clause that the computer will not destroy creativity and reduce a student’s ability to read and write and perform basic and necessary math skills? 97% of my incoming freshmen this year could not multiply a three digit by a two digit number. 98% could not add together to simple fractions. 99% were unable to divide two numbers, one with a decimal and the answer was easy and obvious. Do you want to know why? I wouldn’t let them use a calculator. Technology had crippled these students and they never knew it was happening.
Curiosity, love of learning, strong well rounded and informed young people with dreams and goals, who are encouraged by society to change it if it is going in the wrong direction, and who are critical thinkers that feel free and are “allowed to” reclaim what place has hurt not helped. We surely aren’t going to say that technology is without flaw?
There once was a time when “The Earth Stood Still” and we never saw articles entitled “Students Addicted To Social Media”, or ,”If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online”.
It isn’t too late to at least admit that, “Houston, WE have a problem”. Interestingly that trip is now called the “Successful Failure”. Those men used their brains, not their calculators to achieve what most thought was an impossible accomplishment. Today in education the answer to the statistics I gave is to use more technology to get out of the technological hole that we were encouraged dig.
I was going to return the movie, but now I am having second thoughts.