In today’s On the News segment: Nestlé has been pumping water out of California without a permit for the last 25 years; an increase in illness is another effect of our environmental destruction; 25,000 Canadians marched through Quebec City earlier this month to demand an end to tar sands development and more action on climate change; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of … Science and Green news …
You need to know this. If the warming temperatures and super storms don’t kill us, we still must survive the onslaught of deadly illnesses that will become more common on a hotter planet. According to a recent piece in Mother Jones Magazine, California’s drought has led to a massive increase in West Nile virus cases. And, that’s not the only illness that prefers warmer weather. Earlier this month, a 20-year old woman died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba that’s normally found in hot springs and under-chlorinated pools. Both of these illnesses survive and spread more easily in hotter temperatures, and they’re only two out of many. Although we had plenty already, this is yet another reason why we must do all that we can in the fight against global warming. As the Weather Channel recently explained, illnesses like West Nile and Lyme disease are typically more common in warmer months. But, normal summer increases are dwarfed by the 800 cases of West Nile diagnosed in 2014, and the 31 deaths that occurred as a result. Warmer temperatures act as a breeding ground for various germs, and allow insects that carry viruses to multiply. While we have to do everything we can to try and stop temperatures from rising, we must also deal with the consequences of a century of pumping carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. Just like the super storms, droughts, and sea level rise that we’re already experiencing, the increase in illness is another effect of our environmental destruction. If we want to reduce the chances that illness will spread, we must reduce the chances that our planet will get even hotter. Saving our species will require climate solutions, and it will require us to deal with the illness and consequences that we’ve already locked in to our future.
Back in February, First Lady Michelle Obama declared that if the big junk food producers “are going to pour money into marketing unhealthy foods, then let’s fight back with ads for healthy food.” And, while it wouldn’t be a bad thing for Americans to see more commercials promoting healthy food choices, an ad campaign for fruits and vegetables isn’t enough to get folks to put down the junk food. The new campaign will have a budget of $5 million, which is one half of one percent of the $10 billion that food companies spend on advertising every year. The fact is that ads for broccoli and apples are never going to be able to compete with ads for junk food. In order to really change how people eat, we need to educate them about food choices, and we need to make healthy food more available and affordable. It doesn’t matter how many commercials someone sees if they’re living in a food desert, or if they can’t afford to buy those fruits and vegetables. There’s nothing wrong with the first lady’s plan to sell more healthy food, but we have to make sure that more people are actually willing and able to buy it.
If we want to generate more solar energy, perhaps we should take a few ideas from South Korea. Last week, EcoWatch.com published a story on that country’s new 20-mile bike lane, which is covered in a massive solar array. That new bike lane encourages more South Koreans to use bikes by providing them with a covered lane that protects them from rain and sun. And, it generates a ton of clean energy. According to South Korea’s Ministry of Security and Public Administration, seven out of 10 Koreans own bicycles, but most consider biking a leisure activity, not transportation. Encouraging more people to bike helps reduce carbon pollution, encourages physical activity, and helps alleviate traffic congestion. Today, only 2.5 percent of transportation in South Korea occurs on a bike, but that nation is looking to improve that number. By providing safe bike paths that also generate clean energy, South Korea is on track to succeed at their goal, and hopefully inspire more nations – like ours – to build a few solar bike paths of our own.
In the midst of California’s massive drought, regulators are doing a little more digging into companies that use large amounts of that state’s water. What they’ve found is stunning. According to Faith Gardner over at the Daily Kos, Nestlé has been pumping water out of that state without a permit for the last 25 years. A group of environmental activists is protesting the fact that Nestle pumps up to 80 million gallons a year out of aquifers, “while Sacramentans who use a mere 7 to 10 percent of total water used in the State of California, have had severe restrictions and limitations forced upon them.” The U.S. Forrest Service admits that it has a severe backlog of expired permits, but they say that Nestlé’s permit “has gone to the top of the pile.” It’s unacceptable that corporations are pumping water out for a profit while citizens are facing restrictions, and it’s unimaginable that they would ever be able to do so without a permit. The water in California is part of the commons, and regulators need to do a much better job of making sure that it is protected.
And finally… Americans aren’t the only ones protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. Earlier this month, 25,000 Canadians marched through Quebec City to demand an end to tar sands development and more action on climate change. The march was organized by a coalition of environmental and social justice activists known as the “Act on Climate March,” and it included representatives from political groups and the First Nations. Protesters hoped to influence the climate change discussions being held by Canadian officials last week, and called on premiers to stop TransCanada’s Energy East tar sands pipeline. One of the organizers explained, “We’re worried that premiers will meet and say yes to protecting our climate, and, at the same time, [say] yes to oil infrastructure such as pipelines and expanding oil sands production.” He added, “You can either protect our climate or you can develop the tar sands, but you cannot do both at the same time.” It’s that simple. Hopefully, these protesters will keep fighting until all tar sands development comes to an end.
And that’s the way it is for the week of April 20, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science and Green News.