On the News With Thom Hartmann: First Ebola Case Diagnosed in the US, and More

In today’s On the News segment: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announce the first case of Ebola in the United States; California becomes the first state to officially ban single-use plastic bags; New York state is going solar; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of….science & green news…..

You need to know this. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the first case of Ebola had been diagnosed in the United States. While the disease is spreading rapidly in several undeveloped African nations, it does not pose the same threat in our nation. In fact, there are much bigger threats to public health. Despite all its faults, our healthcare system is strong enough to stop the spread of Ebola, and the scary disease doesn’t pass from person to person as easily as many other illnesses. To put this health scare in perspective, we must remember that even in third world nations, only a few thousand people have become sick. At the same time, every year in the United States, hundreds of thousands of Americans die of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease – yet, the public isn’t in a panic over those conditions. A new article in the British Medical Journal says that climate change is actually a much larger threat to our species than Ebola, yet we can’t even get lawmakers here in the states to agree that global warming is real. The scare tactics over the Ebola case are nothing more than fear-mongering. We could use this discussion as an opportunity to strengthen our healthcare system, or to point how thousands more people die from shootings in our nation ever year. There may be more people diagnosed with Ebola in our nation, and we should be doing everything we can to stop the disease from spreading. However, let’s not lose focus on the many other real threats that we face. Ebola is scary, but it’s not a reason to panic – it’s a reason to remember that we’ve got much bigger threats when it comes to saving our species.

Following the lead of many major cities around the U.S., California has become the first state to officially ban single-use plastic bags. Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to phase out the bags over the next year. According to EcoWatch.com, the measure passed despite out-of-state corporations spending big money to lobby against the ban. After signing the legislation, Governor Brown said, “This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting out beaches, parks, and even the vast ocean itself.” He added, “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.” Environmentalists and activists have been working for the last decade to raise awareness of plastic pollution, and most people are now familiar with the infamous “Great Garbage Patches” in the world’s oceans. Single-use plastic bags account for a large portion of this waste, and many people have already made the switch to renewable. Bans like this one will provide that final push to make more people skip the plastic, and they go a long way towards protecting our environment.

Much like human beings, the web of life can’t survive when it’s missing too many parts. According to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund, a staggering 52% of the world’s mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and amphibians disappeared between 1970 and 2010. That means half of the web of life disappeared in just 40 years. Sure, some extinctions happened naturally over the course of time, but human activities have accelerated the pace so much that the web of life can’t keep up. Every time a species dies off, the web of life unravels just a little more and loses more of its balance. As more and more species continue to die off, our planet is losing the interconnectedness and balance, and the web of life is becoming badly unraveled. Fortunately, there’s still time for us to prevent a complete disaster, but it’s time to get serious about fighting back against the greatest threat our planet and the human race have ever faced. If we put a price on carbon, we can help save the web of life – and the ecosystem that supports our species. Check out www.greenworldrising.org for more information.

The water on our planet is old – like really old. Accounding to a new study from the University of Michigan, most of the Earth’s water actually predates the birth of our sun. The researchers used scientific models to simulate reactions around forming planets, and estimated that as much as 50 percent of the water in our oceans was originally formed in space. Conel Alexander, one of the study’s co-authors, explained why this news is so important. He said, “If water in the early solar system was primarily inherited as ice from interstellar space, then it is likely that similar ices, along with the prebiotic organic matter, are abundant in most or all protoplanetary disks around forming starts.” In other words, if the water on our planet came from space, that means that other planets may contain water – and the building blocks for life – just like ours. The researchers did explain that having the same molecules – hydrogen and oxygen – doesn’t necessarily mean that a planet could sustain life. But, it’s still pretty cool that there could be life-sustaining water somewhere out there in outer space.

And finally… New York state is going solar. Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced another $100 million dollar investment in solar energy, which will increase New York’s solar capacity by almost 70 percent. This investment marks a huge step in that state’s $1 billion dollar commitment to solar projects. Along with another $275 million in private funding, the state of New York is investing in green infrastructure that will allow them to move away from fossil fuels. The 142 new solar installations will help protect our environment, and they’ll save New Yorkers a heck of a lot on energy costs. The solar projects will be spread throughout the state, and they’re going to be split up to produce clean energy at schools, nonprofits, government buildings, and even businesses. In a statement about the new investment, Governor Cuomo said, “this is a significant step forward in our goal of creating a better place for New Yorkers to live and work, and I look forward to seeing these projects contribute to a cleaner environment.” Hopefully, more states will follow New York’s leadership and start going green.

And that’s the way it is for the week of October 6, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.