Thumbs up to the generosity of donors to Minnesota State University, who have provided a record amount of aid to students.

In these times of pandemic upheaval, the MSU Foundation raised nearly $13 million in fiscal year 2021, the third-highest total in its 63-year history. The foundation set a record in the grants and scholarships it awarded, topping $2 million for the first time.

International students were especially hampered by COVID-19 when much of campus life shut down and with it the MSU jobs they rely on. Along with regular scholarships for those students, the foundation came through with an extra $1,000 per student in recognition of the uniquely precarious financial situation they were under.

Loyal donors and new donors stepped up during the year and recognized the extra pressures brought on by the pandemic. Of course there were six- and seven-figure donations that substantially filled the pot, but the median contribution was about $50 with 3,952 alumni giving.

Every little bit counts. Sometimes even a modest amount of assistance to a student makes the difference between them staying at MSU or dropping out. With many hands extended to give a few dollars, numerous students were helped.

Blood needed

Thumbs down to the continuing shortage of blood supplies.

The aftermath of COVID-19 brought fewer people who donated blood and more people who underwent surgeries that were put off last year. That’s led to consistent blood shortages here and across the country.

Recently natural disasters have added to the demand. The Minnesota and Dakotas Red Cross has sent nearly two dozen relief workers and several vehicles to help people affected by Hurricane Ida, floods in Tennessee and wildfires in California and elsewhere.

A Red Cross spokeswoman tells the Star Tribune they are delivering blood products at a rate 12% higher than at this time last year and continually on the verge of running short of blood as its shelf life is not long.

Blood is a truly life-giving gift. If you are able, consider donating blood to help out at home and in other parts of the country.

Bad air days

Thumbs down to climate-change fueled fires adding more unhealthy air days in Minnesota and elsewhere.

The smoky haze from forest fires in Canada, northern Minnesota and as far away as California triggered 20 air quality alerts triggered in Minnesota this year for unhealthy air, a record that far exceeded the previous record of six alerts in 2018.

The unprecedented alerts are likely to be something we deal with in the future thanks to more and bigger forest fires that are aided by our changed climate.

Beyond the air health risks, there is, of course, the damage to property and risks to life from fires. Already in California the treasured area of Lake Tahoe remains under threat and homes and buildings have been destroyed across the West.

It’s just one more reminder of why more serious action needs to be taken on the climate.

They got the lead out

Thumbs up to the global abolition of leaded gasoline in automobiles.

Algeria was the last nation to allow the highly toxic fuel, blamed for a wide range of human health problems. It cut off sales in July, and this week the U.N. Environment Agency hailed the “official end” of its use in cars.

Petroleum containing tetraethyllead was first sold almost 100 years ago to increase engine performance. It was widely used for decades until researchers discovered it could cause heart disease, strokes and brain damage. Developed nations, such as the U.S., started banning it in the 1970s, and the U.N. agency estimates abolishing tetraethyllead has already prevented $2.45 trillion in damage to the global economy.

Leaded gas is still used in this country for aviation fuel for small planes. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration are working on getting rid of it for that purpose as well.

The demise of leaded gas should be a roadmap for future global environmental agreements on pollution, biodiversity and climate.

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