By Mike Wilcox
Two major news stories broke in the last few days.
First a judge has ruled big pharma’s Johnson and Johnson must pay $572 million to the State of Oklahoma for its part in fueling the opioid crisis. Although $572 million is a drop in the bucket to J&J, the fact that a judge ruled against the company’s high-priced lawyers bodes well for the many lawsuits that have been filed against big pharma.
Waiting patiently for a landmark verdict to come down against opioid manufacturers were dozens of lawyers who will try a case this fall that involves 2,000 plaintiffs accusing several drug makers of causing the opioid epidemic. The federal case which involves cities, counties, communities and tribal lands, will undoubtedly have major ramifications for the defendants if they lose.
This certainly is a good start to ending a crisis that kills nearly 130 people a day in the United States. In 2017 alone, opioid overdoses were responsible for 7,000 deaths. It is a public health crisis like America has never seen, and I believe its origins lie at the doorstep of big pharma.
Much praise is due Oklahoma. They have been aggressive in going after opioid makers, reaching settlements with two others before the big win in court against J&J this week. Other states will soon be in court, hoping to win big dough from big pharma.
Secondly, major media outlets have been chattering incessantly about the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest. I didn’t think much of it until I read a startling statistic: that is 20 percent of the world’s oxygen is generated by the Amazon rainforest.
The Amazon is known as the “lungs of the planet.” Were the rainforest to disappear, the world would drastically change, with impacts on everything from drinking water to farming. Simply put, it would be devastating.
The BBC reported last week they counted more than 2,500 active fires burning in the rainforest. So far in 2019, Brazil’s space research center INPE has counted nearly 73,000 fires in that country. Brazil since has declared a state of emergency.
Rainforest fires are not unusual. At this time of year they number in the 100s if not upward to 1,500. However this year the number of fires has risen by 83 percent over 2018. It is a humungous problem and we all need to do our part to see that these fires are contained.
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio announced earlier this week he is contributing $5 million to efforts to extinguish the fires. I suspect few of us have $5 million available, but there are other ways we can help:
- Donate a small amount to Rainforest Trust to help buy land in the rainforest. Since 1988 they have saved over 23 million acres.
- Explore Change.org petitions. A lawyer in Rio Branco has accumulated more than 3 million signatures to mobilize an investigation into the rainforest fires.
- Explore Amazon Conservation. which accepts donations and lists exactly what your money goes toward. You can help plant trees, buy a solar panel or sponsor rainforest education.
- Ecosia.org plants a tree for every 45 searches you run on their search engine.