In today’s On the News segment: Wildfires in Alaska have already consumed more than 1 million acres of land this year alone; the Dalai Lama publicly endorsed Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on the climate; BP and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation will have to pay out billions of dollars in fines as a result of the 2010 oil disaster; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Science and Green News …
You need to know this. The 2015 wildfire season is off to a blazing start. And, even though you may not be in the immediate area, that doesn’t mean that you’re safe from the impact of the fires. According to the ThinkProgress blog, there were 45 large, active wildfires burning in Western states as of June 30, and fires in Alaska – yes, Alaska – have already consumed more than one million acres of land this year alone. The lingering drought and above-average temperatures have created the perfect environment for wildfires to start, spread and intensify. But, the flames aren’t the only reason that these fires are dangerous. Even for those who live miles away from any ongoing wildfire, smoke pollution can cause serious health concerns. Fine particles within the smoke can cause an increase in asthma attacks and allergies, and can even make conditions like heart disease worse as far as 100 miles away from a large fire. In addition, as fires burn and destroy forests and surface vegetation, they expose the soil to more erosion, which leads to more drought and a recipe for more wildfires. And that soil erosion causes more soil and farm runoff into local water ways, and lowers water quality for humans and animals alike. Although wildfires are a natural occurrence, the last century of pumping carbon in to the atmosphere has made them more likely, and harder to fight. These massive blazes threaten our homes and our communities, and they pose a serious risk to human life. We’ll never stop all wildfires from happening, but we can stop creating the conditions that make them more likely. To help make the next wildfire seasons less dangerous, we need to do much more in the fight against climate change.
While Republican presidential hopefuls say that religious leaders should leave the climate talk to the scientists, more religious leaders are speaking out about global warming. Last week, the Dalai Lama publicly endorsed Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on the climate. The Buddhist leader spoke to a crowd at Glastonbury festival in Somerset, England, where he praised the pope and called on more religious leaders to “speak out about current affairs which affect the future of mankind.” In fact, the Dalai Lama said that we need to do more than talk in order to protect our species. He said, “It is not sufficient to just express views, we must set a timetable for change in the next two to four years.” Like the Catholic leader, the Dalai Lama recognizes that the future of mankind is tied to how we treat our planet, and that the basic tenants of most religions center on how we treat each other. Whether you are an atheist or a Catholic or a Buddhist, hopefully you can see the value in that philosophy.
Despite what you’ve seen in their commercials, BP and their partners have not made everything better in the Gulf of Mexico. But, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, BP and their partner Anadarko Petroleum Corporation will have to pay out billions more in fines as a result of the 2010 oil disaster. Those companies previously filed an appeal to block the additional $15 billion in fines that the federal government is seeking. The Supreme Court recently rejected that appeal, and left the case in the hands of U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who may impose those fines any day. Judge Barbier previously ruled that BP was grossly negligent and subject to more severe fines under the Clean Water Act, so it’s unlikely that judge will go easy when it comes to handing out penalties. The companies involved the Deepwater Horizon blowout have done everything they could to deny responsibility and limit their costs at every turn. And during that time, BP has had the audacity to say that they’ve cleaned up the Gulf. You can’t put a price on the marine life killed in that spill, or on the devastation felt by the families who made their living off that body of water. As far as the people impacted are concerned, there is no fine large enough to pay for that damage, and it’s great news that our Supreme Court agrees.
Republicans must be terrified of broccoli. The House of Representatives recently passed not one, but two bills to make it harder for scientists to tell you to eat healthy. And, at the same time, Republicans in a Senate subcommittee passed a bill that bars the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) from considering how our diet effects the environment or vice versa. Because they’re terrified that anything may come between their party and their planet-destroying corporate donors. The recent DGAC guidelines issued the common-sense statement, “a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.” But, to Republicans, that equates to government overreach. It doesn’t take a Masters degree in science to understand that vegetables are good for you and that industrial animal farms are bad for our planet. Thankfully we can all recognize this, even with Republicans’ pathetic attempt to avoid the science.
And finally… Next time you listen to your favorite drum solo, you may want to take a second to consider the math. That’s right, according to a recent analysis from physicist Holger Henning, professional drummers bang out patterns of timing and loudness that have a mathematical form. Specifically, these patterns of time and volume deviation take the form of a fractal – a mathematical pattern that looks “self-similar” on many different scales. That pattern repeats at specific intervals of volume and time, creating the fractal form, but to most of us it just sounds like a groovy drum beat. Previous papers have documented the mathematical patten in drum beats, but this new study found a similar pattern in the volume variations that drummers use throughout a song. Henning said, “It seems that the timekeeper in the brain not only produces fractal timing, but likely also fractal intensity or, in this case, loudness.” And, it seems that science just proved that there is a little bit of math geek in every one of our favorite musicians.
And that’s the way it is for the week of July 6, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science and Green News.