In today’s On the News segment: The large infrastructure projects planned in the next 15 years could have a disastrous effect on our planet; the US Navy is investing in the world’s largest solar farm; Ben & Jerry’s is joining the fight to protect Vermont’s GMO-labeling law; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Science and Green News …
You need to know this. Although our national infrastructure is in desperate need of an update, scientists warn that more building isn’t always better. According to a recent letter signed by the world’s leading farmers, environmentalists, philanthropists and scientists, the large infrastructure projects planned in the next 15 years could have a disastrous effect on our planet. The letter explains that while it’s vital to update the world’s roads, bridges and ports, “trillions of dollars spend in pursuit of typical mega-projects in the energy, transportation, agriculture, and water sectors could put in place infrastructure that eliminates wildlife habitat, destroys fisheries, undermines vital ecosystems, and further destabilizes the Earth’s climate.” In other words, it’s not only important that we replace our crumbling infrastructure, it’s important that we do so in a way that protects our planet. And, many of the infrastructure updates announced by the G20 aren’t going to meet that requirement. William Lawrence of Australia’s James Cook University broke down this problem in a recent edition of the journal “Current Biology.” He said that there are specific issues that must be addressed when we plan the infrastructure of the future. Those issues include making banks include the suggestions of social and environmental experts in their infrastructure investments, keeping wilderness areas free of roads that divide ecosystems and considering the “secondary effects” in environmental impact assessments. By considering aspects like these when planning infrastructure projects, we can build the airports, roads and bridges of the future, while ensuring that there is a future for our species as well. We have the technology, the know-how and the ability to remake our infrastructure with these goals in mind. The only questions left is whether we have the will to make it happen.
Ben & Jerry’s is serious about their ice cream. In fact, they’re willing to go to great lengths to ensure that their customers know exactly what is in their products. That’s why they are joining the fight to protect Vermont’s GMO-labeling law. According to a recent press release, the ice cream company has joined forces with other businesses and groups and submitted a brief supporting the disclosure of genetically-engineered ingredients. The genetically-engineered food industry claims that businesses can’t afford to make the labeling changes required, but cofounder Jerry Greenfield, the “Jerry” in “Ben & Jerry’s,” disagrees. He said, “I’ve been in the food industry for more than 35 years, and I can tell you that slight label changes do not raise food costs.” He went on to say, “We work hard to source the best possible ingredients, so it’s hard for me to understand why any company wouldn’t be proud to tell you about the ingredients they use.” Hopefully, Ben & Jerry’s can help ensure that Vermont’s labeling law stays in place, and that people in their state continue to have the right to know what’s in their food.
The world’s largest solar farm has a big, new investor – the US Navy. The Mesquite solar farm is located in Arizona, where the natural climate provides up to 300 days of sunshine every year. Two early phases of that farm are already up and running, and the Navy’s investment will extend the solar farm even further. Considering that China, India and other nations are making huge investments in clean energy, it’s about time that our country starts doing the same. And the Navy’s announcement prompted the Indian government to announce their plans to construct an even larger solar plant. If we are going to have a competition among different countries, fighting to become the world leader in clean energy could be a big win for our environment. Let’s become the biggest and the best in the world for solar and wind power development. The Navy’s recent solar investment is a great step towards making America exceptional in the fight against climate change.
General Mills says that they can’t make Wheaties without wheat. Last week, the sixth-largest food company on the planet announced plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent in the next decade. In an interview posted to the company’s blog, Chief Sustainability Officer Jerry Lynch said, “As a global food company, we recognize the need to mitigate the risks climate change present to humanity, our environment, and our livelihoods long term.” He explained that their goal of a 28 percent reduction is “science-based” and it includes the action that scientists say must be taken to avoid the “worst case scenario” climate outcomes. Although many of our lawmakers are still disputing the facts about climate change, the nation’s businesses can’t afford to keep pretending like it isn’t a problem. So, they’re making big changes to make sure that they can produce the food and other items that we consume. CEO Ken Powell said, “Obviously we depend on that for our business, and we all depend on that for the food we eat.”
And finally … It may be a bit cliché to say that brilliance often coincides with mental illness, but it happens to be the truth. According to a recent article over at LiveScience.com, “multiple studies have found a link between creativity and neuroticism.” And now, scientists say that they’ve figured out why that connection exists. It turns out that the prefrontal cortex – the very same part of the brain that produces creativity – is also the source for irrational negative thinking. So-called “self-generated thoughts” can lead to someone imaging a creative dance or work of art, but they can also lead to imagining problems that do not exist. The researchers, however, say that this finding isn’t all bad news. A neurobiology of personality lecturer at King’s College in London, Adam Perkins, said, “Neurotic people feel sort of miserable spontaneously, and they also tend to be better at coming up with creative solutions for things.” For example, he explained, Isaac Newton, who formulated the laws of gravity, admitted to focusing on an issue constantly, “and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light.”
And that’s the way it is for the week of September 7, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science and Green News.