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Challenges, Volume 14, Issue 2 (June 2023) – 10 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): Despite growing optimism for inner transformations to support progress towards sustainability, no study has so far attempted to assess to what extent and how current interventions for inner development address core requirements for collective wellbeing. Using a novel assessment framework, we examine how mindfulness-based interventions address inner and outer sustainability criteria during a global health emergency. Our findings reveal that mindfulness interventions have a broad range of desirable to detrimental implications for social and biophysical systems. Accordingly, we recommend that normative conceptions of mindfulness and inner change be contextualised anew in order to support more viable, just, and inclusive transformations towards sustainability. View this paper
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10 pages, 1110 KiB  
Article
Fish Consumption Improved Head Circumference and Mid-Upper Arm Circumference among Infants in Zambia: A Randomised Controlled Trial
by Given Chipili, Averalda Van Graan, Carl J. Lombard and Evette Van Niekerk
Challenges 2023, 14(2), 29; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14020029 - 06 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1295
Abstract
Fish is a good source of Animal Source Proteins (ASP). Families from low-income countries with limited access to other animal source proteins can utilize it to improve the nutrition status of infants and young children. The objective of the study was to assess [...] Read more.
Fish is a good source of Animal Source Proteins (ASP). Families from low-income countries with limited access to other animal source proteins can utilize it to improve the nutrition status of infants and young children. The objective of the study was to assess if fish fed during the early complementary feeding period had an effect on improved head circumference (HC) and mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) among infants aged 6–7 months. A randomised controlled trial was conducted from April 2019 to January 2020 in the Samfya district, Luapula Province, Zambia. The infants (238) were randomised to either the fish group (intervention) or the sorghum group (control). Every week for a period of 6 months, infants received seven sachets of fish powder and sorghum powder, respectively. Compliance was also monitored during the fish powder distribution. The head circumference measurements were conducted at baseline and once each follow-up month for a period of six months while the MUAC measurements were conducted twice (at baseline and endline). Using statistical software for data science (STATA) (version 16), a linear mixed effect model was used to analyse the data. The results showed that fish improved head circumference for age z score (HCZ) by 0.53 (95% CI: 0.23–0.82), p-value < 0.001, and MUAC by 0.36 (95% CI: 0.13–0.59) p-value < 0.002. Therefore, fish can be used as the main source of protein in complementary foods for infants and young children in low-income communities with limited access to meat. Full article
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9 pages, 763 KiB  
Article
Phytoremediation of Heavy-Metal-Contaminated Soils: Capacity of Amaranth Plants to Extract Cadmium from Nutrient-Poor, Acidic Substrates
by Henrik Haller, Lesya Pronoza, Mark Dyer, Maya Ahlgren, Louise Bergqvist, Ginnette Flores-Carmenate and Anders Jonsson
Challenges 2023, 14(2), 28; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14020028 - 30 May 2023
Viewed by 1612
Abstract
Soil pollution is a threat to food security and ecological and human health. Cd is one of the most common pollutants in agricultural soil and, due its human toxicity, one of the most hazardous. Amaranth is a documented hyperaccumulator of Cd and other [...] Read more.
Soil pollution is a threat to food security and ecological and human health. Cd is one of the most common pollutants in agricultural soil and, due its human toxicity, one of the most hazardous. Amaranth is a documented hyperaccumulator of Cd and other pollutants, and it is commonly grown in Asia and South America. A considerable amount of amaranth is grown in suboptimal conditions, including nutrient-poor acidic soils. The objective of this experimental study was to examine the capacity of Amaranthus hypochondriacus to extract Cd from a nutrient-poor, acidic substrate that was spiked with different concentrations of Cd (2 and 20 mg kg−1 dw) during a period of 180 days. The plants grown in the substrate that was spiked with 20 mg Cd kg−1 dw did not develop into mature plants, but the plants grown in substrate that was spiked with 2 mg Cd kg−1 dw extracted a significant amount of Cd from the substrate by accumulating it into the above-ground biomass. The Cd levels varied from 113 to 176 mg kg−1 in the stems at the four measuring points, and from 64 to 94 mg kg−1 in the leaves. The concentrations in the plants increased with time and reached a maximal concentration of 176 ± 45 mg kg−1 dw for stems and 94 ± 41 mg kg−1 dw for leaves after 180 days. The mean bioaccumulation factor in the plants was 86 ± 15 after 90 days, 72 ± 12 after 120 days, 105 ± 37 after 150 days, and 99 ± 31 after 180 days, which confirms the previously reported capacity of Amaranthus hypochondriacus to hyperaccumulate Cd. Amaranthus hypochondriacus may, thus, be used to improve ecological and human health by remediating moderately Cd-polluted soils, even in nutrient-poor acidic soils. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Planetary Health)
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14 pages, 1067 KiB  
Perspective
Bitcoin Is Full of Surprises
by Murray A. Rudd
Challenges 2023, 14(2), 27; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14020027 - 18 May 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2010
Abstract
Bitcoin has been embraced by many individuals with strong right-leaning views on freedom, property rights, and self-sovereignty. Among left-leaning progressives, Bitcoin is often quickly dismissed as irrelevant or a major source of carbon emissions. Bitcoin seems, however, to be full of surprises. A [...] Read more.
Bitcoin has been embraced by many individuals with strong right-leaning views on freedom, property rights, and self-sovereignty. Among left-leaning progressives, Bitcoin is often quickly dismissed as irrelevant or a major source of carbon emissions. Bitcoin seems, however, to be full of surprises. A rapidly advancing body of anecdotal evidence suggests that its adoption may affect causes important to progressives, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, accelerating electrification of economies, alleviating poverty, and supporting human rights for people living under political repression, even though scientific confirmation is lagging. In this paper, I highlight how a Pragmatist perspective can be applied to Bitcoin, a technological and financial innovation that may well reshape how humans perceive and use money, preserve wealth, and structure governance. I first cover Bitcoin’s technological and financial fundamentals and some core concepts of Pragmatism, before outlining how Bitcoin might surprise progressives. Pragmatism offers a philosophical and political grounding for left-leaning “progressive Bitcoiners” who prioritize environmental and social well-being and view inclusive deliberative democracy as the preferred form of governance. Full article
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20 pages, 317 KiB  
Article
How Do Mindfulness Offerings Support Inner–Outer Sustainability Progress? A Sustainability Assessment of Online Mindfulness Interventions
by Kira J. Cooper and Robert B. Gibson
Challenges 2023, 14(2), 26; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14020026 - 28 Apr 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2520
Abstract
While there is growing optimism for inner transformations to catalyse systemic shifts towards more sustainable ways of being, no study so far has attempted to assess how well current interventions for inner development address core requirements for collective wellbeing. In this article, we [...] Read more.
While there is growing optimism for inner transformations to catalyse systemic shifts towards more sustainable ways of being, no study so far has attempted to assess how well current interventions for inner development address core requirements for collective wellbeing. In this article, we apply a novel assessment framework to examine how mindfulness-based interventions address inner and outer sustainability criteria during a global health emergency. This inquiry informs a growing field of study concerned with leveraging inner transformations for systemic shifts towards sustainability progress. Using three prominent online mindfulness-based offerings as a case study, we demonstrate that mindfulness-based interventions have a broad range of potential desirable to detrimental implications for social and biophysical systems. We conclude by discussing how normative conceptions of inner interventions might be contextualised anew to effectively support more viable, just, and inclusive transformations towards long-term viability. Full article
6 pages, 209 KiB  
Viewpoint
Liminality: Change Starts Within
by Vivianna Rodriguez Carreon
Challenges 2023, 14(2), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14020025 - 25 Apr 2023
Viewed by 2949
Abstract
Change Starts Within is the welcome title to the Inner Development Goals (IDGs) toolkit. The tools are resources to support the inner growth of individuals and organizations committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This reflection article emerged from reviewing my earlier experiences [...] Read more.
Change Starts Within is the welcome title to the Inner Development Goals (IDGs) toolkit. The tools are resources to support the inner growth of individuals and organizations committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This reflection article emerged from reviewing my earlier experiences in inner development while collaborating in the development of the IDGs. Years of continuing inner growth involved going through the liminal stage several times. Evolution is ongoing. Liminality has been conceptualized through different ways of embodying knowing by anthropologists, phenomenologists, psychologists, philosophers, scientists, and spiritual teachers, among others working in transformational processes. Through a lived experience approach, I explore my relationship with the liminal stage. Learning and practicing the “unseen” inner muscle leads to becoming “sensitive” to the subtle qualities. It involves perceiving the world through sensorial qualities, which leads to a conscious action to purposefully commit to what lies along the path to sustainable humanity. At the same time, I notice the limitations for understanding the language of the inner world. The inner world communicates through dynamic manifestations of the lived experience, and when conceptualized in a logical and structured way, it constrains how the animacy of the inner being can be described. The invitation to understand spaces of inner transformation in liminality is to learn to manifest the state of being. The effects of understanding inner development accelerate wisdom and human evolution. Full article
10 pages, 259 KiB  
Article
Burden and Psychological Distress in Caregivers of Persons with Addictions
by Mirjana Mikulić, Ivan Ćavar, Darija Jurišić, Ivana Jelinčić and Dunja Degmečić
Challenges 2023, 14(2), 24; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14020024 - 25 Apr 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3198
Abstract
Addiction is a complex psychosocial problem that has significant psychosocial effects on family members. The aim of this study is to gain insight into the burden and psychological distress suffered by caregivers of drug abusers. Ninety-nine caregivers of hard drug addicts participated in [...] Read more.
Addiction is a complex psychosocial problem that has significant psychosocial effects on family members. The aim of this study is to gain insight into the burden and psychological distress suffered by caregivers of drug abusers. Ninety-nine caregivers of hard drug addicts participated in this study. The test group consisted of 50 participants and the control group had 49 participants. The participants filled out the General Demographic Questionnaire; Caregiving and the Experience of Subjective and Objective Burden; SCL-90-R; and WHOQOL-BREF. Caregivers of addicts who were preparing to join the community exhibited a significantly higher objective burden, subjective burden, subjective stress burden and greater psychological distress in comparison to caregivers of addicts in the community, and their quality of life was poorer (p < 0.001). The following showed to be risk factors for psychological distress: families with a greater number of children, marital, employment and economic status and duration of addiction. The protective factors were better quality of life, long-term marriage and higher education level of caregivers. Caring for addicts who are living with their families is a significant responsibility and burden for caregivers. Full article
20 pages, 1935 KiB  
Article
Forest Inventories in Private and Protected Areas of Paraguay
by Andrew G. Cervantes, Patricia T. Vega Gutierrez and Seri C. Robinson
Challenges 2023, 14(2), 23; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14020023 - 21 Apr 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2268
Abstract
Environmental degradation in Paraguayan ecosystems relates to anthropogenic intervention and has intensified with wildfires and drought. To help mitigate forest cover loss, the local government created laws, parceled land to private owners, and established protected areas. How differences in land tenure regimes affect [...] Read more.
Environmental degradation in Paraguayan ecosystems relates to anthropogenic intervention and has intensified with wildfires and drought. To help mitigate forest cover loss, the local government created laws, parceled land to private owners, and established protected areas. How differences in land tenure regimes affect dendrology and biodiversity remain to be answered. This preliminary study examined the differences and similarities between three protected area forests (National Park Ybycuí, and Natural Monuments Cerro Koi, Cerro Chorori) and three family-owned forests in Guairá, Central, and Paraguarí of eastern Paraguay. Forty-three transects were established following FAO protocols to examine tree diversity, floristic composition, and complementary vegetation structure information using two biodiversity indexes. Nine hundred and three individuals were registered, representing 92 species, 80 genera, and 35 families. The most abundant families were Fabaceae, Rutaceae, Myrtaceae, and Rhamnaceae; and the most abundant genera were Pilocarpus, Columbrina, Acrocomia, Plina, and Astronium. The most important species were Parapiptadenia rigida, Peltophorum dubium, and Astronium fraxinifolium. Results showed higher species richness and significantly greater tree diversity, but a nonsignificantly larger diameter in private forests compared to protected areas studied. Detected differences were small, indicating a need for additional research of forests with differing land tenure regimes as climate dynamics continually shift and management strategies show effects. Full article
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8 pages, 1833 KiB  
Communication
The Reemergence of Monkeypox in Nigeria
by Nzube Ekpunobi, Oluwamayowa Akinsuyi, Theresa Ariri and Temitope Ogunmola
Challenges 2023, 14(2), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14020022 - 20 Apr 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2835
Abstract
The emergence and reemergence of infectious diseases caused by viruses continue to be a major public health concern globally, affecting both humans and animals. One such disease is monkeypox, a zoonotic infection caused by the monkeypox virus (MPXV) that has recurred in sub-Saharan [...] Read more.
The emergence and reemergence of infectious diseases caused by viruses continue to be a major public health concern globally, affecting both humans and animals. One such disease is monkeypox, a zoonotic infection caused by the monkeypox virus (MPXV) that has recurred in sub-Saharan Africa over several decades. Notably, the 2022 outbreak of monkeypox in Nigeria follows a deadly outbreak in 2017, which was preceded by the disease’s first recorded outbreak in 1978. Epidemiological investigations in 2017 showed no apparent link between human monkeypox cases and the outbreak that year, indicating the potential existence of multiple sources of the virus and limited human-to-human transmission. This underscores the presence of an alternative ecological niche in humans. Furthermore, in some communities in Nigeria, monkeys are regarded as sacred and not hunted or consumed, leading to their proliferation and increased likelihood of MPXV transmission. This mini-review focuses on the occurrence, epidemiological distribution, geographical distribution, endemicity, and possible solutions to reduce the spread of human monkeypox in Nigeria. The implications of this reemergence and the need for effective public health measures to prevent and control outbreaks of monkeypox are also discussed. Full article
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14 pages, 624 KiB  
Perspective
A Medical Equipment Lifecycle Framework to Improve Healthcare Policy and Sustainability
by Bruce Mang, YeonJae Oh, Chabelly Bonilla and Jennifer Orth
Challenges 2023, 14(2), 21; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14020021 - 19 Apr 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 4275
Abstract
The healthcare sector is struggling to become more environmentally friendly compared to other industries, evidently seen by the contribution to global emissions. These struggles have elicited some research on sustainable methods regarding the lifecycle of medical devices. Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) [...] Read more.
The healthcare sector is struggling to become more environmentally friendly compared to other industries, evidently seen by the contribution to global emissions. These struggles have elicited some research on sustainable methods regarding the lifecycle of medical devices. Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) encourages the reuse of equipment and ethical donations, namely for the sake of the environment and sustainable global health. However, there is a lack of synthesis–multiple greener alternatives to the current healthcare system are developing without a connection to each other, hindering an increase in sustainability. Thus, there is a lack of global organization and standardization in medical equipment lifecycles. Inspired by the findings and guidelines of the Safe and Sustainable Medical Equipment Supply Subgroup (SASMES) of the International Rotary Fellowship of Healthcare Professionals, we created the Re-processing Medical Equipment: Rotarian Research Group for the Environment (Re-MERGE) to expand on these challenges. Re-MERGE follows the life cycle of medical devices in the United States of America through its initial stages of classification and various regulatory pathways, the middle stage of post-market requirements, and the end stage of disposal or donation and reprocessing. Our findings indicate that current medical device end-stages are inefficient, damaging to the environment, and burdensome to donation recipients; however, existing processes can provide improvements to medical device end-stage methods by drastically reducing environmental damage, improving healthcare globally, and increasing sustainability in the field. We identify that more research is needed to connect the implications of different medical device end stages. Additionally, we encourage the findings to be implemented to create more sustainable, effective methods of medical device disposal, donation, and reprocessing. Full article
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13 pages, 288 KiB  
Perspective
Global Environmental Health Impacts of Rare Earth Metals: Insights for Research and Policy Making in Africa
by Habeebullah Jayeola Oladipo, Yusuf Amuda Tajudeen, Emmanuel O. Taiwo, Abdulbasit Opeyemi Muili, Rashidat Onyinoyi Yusuf, Sarat Ayomide Jimoh, Muhammad Kamaldeen Oladipo, Iyiola Olatunji Oladunjoye, Oluwaseyi Muyiwa Egbewande, Yusuff Inaolaji Sodiq, Abdulhakeem Funsho Ahmed and Mona Said El-Sherbini
Challenges 2023, 14(2), 20; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14020020 - 03 Apr 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 6436
Abstract
The rise of globalization and industrialization has driven the demand for rare earth metals (REMs). These metals are widely used in various sectors of the global economy with various applications in medicine, renewable energy, electronics, agriculture, and the military. REMs are likely to [...] Read more.
The rise of globalization and industrialization has driven the demand for rare earth metals (REMs). These metals are widely used in various sectors of the global economy with various applications in medicine, renewable energy, electronics, agriculture, and the military. REMs are likely to remain an important part of our global future, and, as production increases, areas contaminated by REMs are expected to expand over the coming decades. Thus, triggering significant adverse environmental, animal, and human health impacts. Despite increased attention on REMs outside China in recent years, there are limited studies exploring REM production, deposits, and associated health impacts in the African context. Proper mine management, adequate safety protocols, sustainable processing methods, and waste handling systems have been identified and proposed globally; however, the nature and scale of implementing these management protocols on the African continent have been less clear. Therefore, planetary health-centered solutions are urgently needed to be undertaken by researchers, policy makers, and non-governmental actors in Africa and across the globe. This is with the overarching aim of ensuring eco-friendly alternatives and public health consciousness on REM exploitations and hazards for future generations to come. Full article
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