On the News With Thom Hartmann: Lawmakers Are Calling on the EPA To Investigate Water Contamination From Fracking, and More

In today’s On the News segment: For the first time ever, our lawmakers are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate water contamination from fracking; trash in the ocean isn’t just making the search for Flight 370 more difficult – it could interfere with the entire marine food chain; students in Massachusetts are demanding action on climate change; and more.


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

You need to know this. Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued their “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” report. While the predictions in that report might seem dire, the truth is that their warnings were actually quite “small-c” conservative. The report says that climate change has already led to heat waves, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather, and that those events have caused rapid increases in food prices and influenced global conflict. It also says that these issues are on track to get worse, even if we only see moderate increases in global temperatures. A previous IPCC report warned that average temperatures could rise by at least 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century if we don’t take immediate action on climate change. Yet, this latest report, which predicts the “breakdown of food systems” and “increased risk of violent conflict”, only considers a 2 degree rise in temperatures. Essentially, these scientists didn’t even try to project what the future looks like if we continue with business as usual. The dangers this report talks about may be our best-case scenario, and our current policies have us heading down a path to a much scarier future. As the British Medical Journal explained, “The IPCC’s new report should leave the world in no doubt about the scale and immediacy of the threat to human survival, health, and well-being.” No matter what, our future will be difficult because of the decisions of our past, but we must act now if we want a chance to survive it.

For the first time ever, our lawmakers are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate water contamination from fracking. Eight members of Congress have signed a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, asking her to restart investigations in Parker County, Texas, Dimock, Pennsylvania, and Pavillion, Wyoming, and address the water contamination that those communities have experienced because of natural gas drilling. Years ago, the EPA started to investigate polluted drinking water in that area, but the agency withdrew before finalizing the results of that investigation. In their letter to Administrator McCarthy, these congressmen said that when the EPA left, the people in these communities were left with nothing but “polluted water and little explanation.” Ray Kemble, one of the affected residents in Pennsylvania, said, “Europeans aren’t fracking their own countries’ shale gas because they are worried about its environmental and health impacts. They’re right to worry. I haven’t had clean water for four years, and it’s due to oil and gas drilling.” Hopefully, these congressmen can push the EPA to restart investigations, and protect all our drinking water from the dangers of hydraulic fracking.

Whether it’s to finish a project or party with friends, many of us have pulled the occasional all-nighter. Well, it turns out that doing so may have long-term effects on our brain health. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania says that lost sleep could mean lost neurons. When we sleep, our brains clean cells and consolidate memories, and lack of adequate rest can have a wide range of effects. The researchers in this study found that missing just three hours of sleep can damage the locus ceruleus, an area deep within our brain stem. The locus ceruleus helps regulate our “fight or flight” sense, plays an important role in our ability to pay attention, and normalizes our sleep-wake cycles. The scientists also said that napping, or catching a few extra hours of sleep on the weekends, won’t make up for being deprived of sleep on a regular basis. For healthier brains, we may want to rethink those extra late-night hours in front of the TV or computer.

So far, the search for Flight 370 hasn’t turned up any concrete answers about what happened to the missing airline – but it has provided another important discovery. Searchers combing the ocean for the missing flight have found out that our oceans are filled with a massive amount of trash. Since Flight 370 went missing, there have been numerous satellite images showing debris that could have been pieces of the missing plane. However, time-after-time, that debris has turned out to be cargo containers or other garbage. One scientist told CNN that this search, “Isn’t like looking for a needle in a haystack, it’s like looking for a needle in a needle factory.” And, this trash isn’t just making the search more difficult, it’s damaging our entire ocean. Shipping containers turn in to floating hazards, some trash sinks and pollutes the ocean floor, and there’s so much plastic in the ocean that it could interfere with the whole ocean food chain. We’ve treated the ocean like a trash dump, and it shouldn’t have taken a missing flight to make us wake up to this problem.

And finally… Students in Massachusetts are demanding action on climate change. Last week, about two hundred students from various high schools and universities walked out of classes to call on Governor Deval Patrick to ban the construction of any new fossil fuel infrastructure in their state. The walkout was organized by the group Students for a Just and Stable Future, and the protesters met up at a rally outside the Massachusetts State House. While hundreds carried signs and listened to speeches outside, a small group entered the building to set up a later meeting with their Governor. One of the protesters, Martin Hamilton, said, “As a young person, I have an obligation to fight for a livable future, and right now, that means drawing a hard line in the sand against new fossil fuel infrastructure and committing to clean energy solutions.” Students were excited that Governor Patrick agreed to the meeting, and said they looked forward to discussing the infrastructure ban and the future of clean energy in Massachusetts. These young people understand that we need bold solutions to our climate crisis, and they plan to keep fighting for a greener future.

And that’s the way it is for the week of April 7, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.