In today’s On the News segment: Americans waste enough food to end world hunger; in Florida, a new community is being designed to exist in harmony with the environment; air pollution affects more than just respiratory health; and more.
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Thom Hartmann here — on the best of the rest of Science and Green News …
You need to know this … While much of the mainstream media was focused on 2016 election cycle, Secretary of State John Kerry was making history with his granddaughter at the United Nations. Late last month, Secretary Kerry joined a gathering of the majority of the world’s nations and signed on to the historic Paris climate accord. As of the end of April, more than 100 countries have officially signed on to the climate pact, but there is still much more work to be done to make the agreement official in the eyes of international law. To put the climate accord into force, at least 55 nations representing at least 55 percent of global carbon emissions must sign the pact and approve it domestically. Here in the US, there is some debate on whether or not that means Senatorial approval. And there is also some dispute about whether the Paris agreement goes far enough to prevent the worst climate scenarios. But those questions don’t mean that this climate accord is any less historic. During the opening ceremony last month, UN messenger of peace Leonardo DiCaprio said, “More countries have come here to sign this agreement today than any other time in human history.” He added, “That is cause for hope.” There is no legitimate debate on whether or not we must act on our climate crisis, but that action will be much more successful if we can act together with the rest of our planet. At the agreement signing, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Climate change will test our intelligence, our compassion, and our will, but we are all equal to that challenge. In every possibly sense we are all in this together. Together we will make ours a better world.” There is still more work to be done to fight global warming, but that fight will be easier when we work together.
As our population increases, real estate development will likely increase as well. But according to Florida developer Syd Kitson, that development shouldn’t come at the expense of our environment. That’s what Mr. Kitson was thinking when he began planning Babcock Ranch, a new community designed to exist in harmony with the environment. Construction on that project is set to begin this summer, and Kitson expects residents will start moving in by the following year. The new development will get all of its electricity from a neighboring solar power plant, which will provide more than the community can use from day one. In addition to solar power, Babcock Ranch is also surrounded by a 73,000-acre nature preserve that was part of the land Kitson originally purchased for the community. He plans to equip the town with an all-electric public transportation fleet, and develop the town to be “the most sustainable, most innovative, and health-focused new town in the country.” The fact is, good science is good business, and a new, sustainable home in sunny south Florida appears to be a win-win for home-buyers and our environment.
America’s food waste is flat-out astonishing. According to a recent article over at AlterNet, Americans waste nearly $200 billion of food every single year. While the cost and environmental impact is alarming, it doesn’t even address the fact that we’re throwing away tons of food while many Americans are going hungry. By some estimates, 160 billion pounds of food are tossed out during harvest, processing, distribution and consumption. As food justice activist Alex V. Barnard explained, “By one calculation, Americans dispose of enough calories of edible food each year to bring the diets of every undernourished person in the world up to an appropriate level.” In other words, Americans waste enough food to end world hunger. And that means we waste all the labor and resources that went in to that food production. In 2008 alone, Americans wasted more than $4 billion worth of tomatoes, which coincides with almost 9 million hours or labor and 15 billion gallons of water. For the sake of workers, food producers and hungry people around the world, we simply must reduce the amount of food we waste.
Solving our obesity epidemic may require us to clean up our air. According to recent research published by ScienceNews.org, serious air pollution may increase our risk of obesity. To test their theory, scientists monitored rats who were exposed to unfiltered Beijing air, and compared them to rats exposed to cleaner air that is typical of US cities. On bad days, air in Beijing contains 10 times as many air pollutant particles as the World Health Organization determines are safe to consume. The rats exposed to high levels of air pollution gained more weight and overall were unhealthier than rats who breathed cleaner air. And as one scientist explained, “It is highly likely that this is happening in humans.” That means air pollution isn’t only bad for our respiratory health, it’s also bad news for our waistlines. And all that added weight increases our risk for various other illnesses, like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. We often focus only on diet when it comes to losing weight, but this study shows that our weight may be tied to many more factors in our environment.
And finally … If you want to get healthier, be more generous. According to research recently published by the World Economic Forum, spending time or money to help others may lead to lower blood pressure levels and prevent against other declines in our health. The authors of that recent article did clarify that the studies they reviewed could not prove that being generous caused better health, but they found multiple research projects that found a strong correlation between generosity and reduced stress levels. Interestingly, who you decide to help may impact how much you reduce stress or benefit your health. The authors wrote, “People seemed to benefit most from spending money on others they felt closest to.” In other words, helping those who mean the most to us may actually help us the most. Regardless of the science, most of us could stand to be a little more generous with our time, and perhaps the 1% could be a lot more generous with all that wealth.
And that’s the way it is for the week of May 2, 2016. I’m Thom Hartmann on Science and Green News.