On the News With Thom Hartmann: It May Take a Disaster for the US to Switch to Green Energy, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Apparently, it’s going to take a disaster in our nation to get the United States to make the switch to green energy; the “Western” diet is making people fat and sick all around the world, and processed foods are the most likely reason for that problem; workers at an Ohio coal waste landfill were told that coal ash was “safe enough to eat”; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

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

You need to know this. In the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, that nation embraced more solar and wind and took a hard look at nuclear power. Apparently, it’s going to take a similar disaster in our nation to get the United States to make the switch to green energy. Not only did our regulators decide to keep building more nuclear power plants, but many local lawmakers are blocking residents from going green. And, several states are actually preventing voters from regulating fossil fuels in their communities. Voters in Fort Collins, Colorado approved a five-year ban on fracking within their city limits, but District Judge Gregory Lammons overturned that ban because it “would substantially impede the state’s interest in oil and gas production. Meanwhile, some homeowners in Plano, Texas are being told that they can’t install solar panels in new subdivisions, because the developers think that panels are ugly and bad for business. And, don’t forget about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s recent decision to allow nuclear waste to be stored above ground, which opened the door for new plants to be constructed. It couldn’t be more obvious that developers and lawmakers would rather do the bidding of the fossil fuel industry than fight for what’s important. When it comes to saving our environment, it’s hard enough to fight against the massive Oil Lobby. Our lawmakers and regulators should not be making it harder to go green. It took a massive disaster to wake Japan up to the dangers of dirty fuel, and it’s not like we haven’t had our own horrible events here in the states. Hopefully it won’t take another BP Spill or Fukushima to get lawmakers on board with making the switch to green energy. If they won’t help us move to the energy of the future, come this November, it’s time to replace them with lawmakers and regulators who will.

The “Western” diet is making people fat and sick all around the world, and processed foods are the most likely reason for that problem. According to EcoWatch.com, when populations start consuming more processed food, they see higher levels of illness. Because the change happens so quickly, within a few short years, it’s fairly safe to assume that the sickness comes from their food, and not their genes. The fact is, chemically processed foods are typically high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and they often contain many artificial ingredients. Many food producers actually dump these chemicals in their products to make them more addictive, which leads to consumers to eat too much junk, and skip out on more nutrient-rich alternatives. The junk food that we consume lacks the vitamins, minerals, and fiber we need to be healthy, but it’s often cheaper and for some, it’s the only option available. Our diet is making us sick, and we must do more to ensure that everyone has access to healthy, nutritious food.

You wouldn’t think a bee hive would be the place to look for individuality and social mobility, but science says that you’d be wrong. According to new research from the University of Illinois, bees have a surprising amount of flexibility in their jobs. The researchers used tiny electronic ID tags and special tubes equipped with laser scanners to track bees as they moved throughout a hive. They found that when elite foraging bees were removed from the hive, bees performing other jobs moved up and a new class of elite bees emerged. In addition, the researchers found that bees had some autonomy in selecting their roles, as different bees had different individual life histories. Gene E. Robinson, one of the researchers, said that they decided to research bee behavior because of “an increasing appreciation of the role of the individual in social insects.” Even in a bee hive, workers have the ability to choose their jobs and move up in life… perhaps we should strive to be a little more like the humble little honey bees.

It’s like the BP oil spill all over again. Workers at an Ohio coal waste landfill were told that coal ash was “safe enough to eat.” Just as clean up crews were told that dispersants weren’t harmful, employees at this landfill were not required to wear the proper protective gear. According to a lawsuit filed on behalf of 77 former employees and family members, the lack of safety precautions resulted in numerous illness, and even some deaths. The sickened workers are suing American Electric Power, the company that owns the landfill, and their former boss Doug Workman, for failure to provide protective gear and exposure to toxic chemicals. Coal ash contains dangerous substances like mercury, lead, and arsenic, yet workers were told that the sludge was only a mixture of “water and lime.” Once again, the fossil fuel industry has proven that they can’t be trusted to protect workers, their families, or our environment. Too often, corporations skimp on worker safety, and view the fall out as nothing more than a cost of doing business. Hopefully, this lawsuit results in enough bad press to make them think twice about putting profit over people.

And finally… For decades, scientists have been warning that humans can be devastating to wildlife. Well, now they have some ancient evidence to prove their point. According to a new report published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ancient Egyptian artwork provides some important clues to animal extinction. The authors of that report studied 5,000-year-old rock drawings, which depicted the hippos, giraffes, foxes, and other animals present in the environment at that time. By creating a timeline from that point through hunting scenes found on later Egyptian tombs, researchers had a rare glimpse into how human hunting practices and over-farming wiped out many of the large mammals of ancient Egypt. They concluded that the “most dramatic shifts in climate and land use” corresponded to the largest reductions of large predators and other species. The writing is literally on the wall. If we want to protect our planet and animals, we must take a lesson from history and learn to live without destroying our environment.

And that’s the way it is for the week of September 15, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.