On the News With Thom Hartmann: Zika Is Headed for the US, but Republicans Are Ignoring It, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Climate change is reducing the amount of oxygen in the oceans; the Zika virus is coming to the United States, and we are dangerously unprepared to handle it; Philadelphia City Council is working to promote more vertical and urban farming; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here — on the best of the rest of Science and Green News …

You need to know this … Our oceans are slowly suffocating. According to a recent study published in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, climate change is reducing the amount of oxygen in the ocean, and that’s bad news for us and for marine ecosystems. By using modeling data to predict ocean oxygen levels, scientists were able to determine that we could see widespread deoxygenation in as little as 15 years. As our planet heats up, much of that temperature increase is absorbed by our oceans. But when the water temperature increases too much, the ocean system that regulates oxygen at different depths gets thrown off balance and oxygen levels in some areas of the ocean become too low to support marine life. The warmer the ocean gets, the less those ocean layers mix and the levels of oxygen get even lower. As the lead author of the study, Matthew Long, explained, “It’s that mixing that’s responsible for sustaining oxygen levels at depth.” And just like on land, marine animals like crabs and fish need oxygen to survive. That’s why areas of the oceans without enough oxygen are often referred to as “dead zones,” because where there’s no oxygen, there is also no life. Mr. Long warned, “As oxygen levels decline, more and more of the ocean is going to be uninhabitable by certain organisms. Habitat will become more fragmented, and the ecosystem will become more vulnerable to other stresses.” All too often, people think about global warming in terms of hotter summer temperatures or bigger storms, but they forget about how those higher temperatures affect our ocean. That isn’t only bad news for fish and marine life, it’s bad news for the millions of people who depend on our ocean for food. If we don’t make some big changes to save our oceans, it won’t only be the fish who find it more difficult to survive.

The City of Brotherly Love may soon be the City of Vertical Farming. According to a recent post over at EcoWatch.com, the Philadelphia City Council is working to promote more vertical and urban farming. Local lawmakers want to support local businesses, and help ensure that more of the area’s food is produced locally. That’s why they made their announcement about the new goal at Metropolis Farms, the first indoor, hydroponic vertical farm in Philadelphia, and the first vegan-certified farm in our country. Councilman Al Taubenberger said, “The most noble thing a human being can do is produce food for others.” He added, “Vertical farming is something very special indeed, and [it] fits like a glove in Philadelphia.” Producing food locally uses fewer resources and it provides fresh fruit and vegetables to inner-city areas that have historically been called food deserts. To feed the population of the future, it’s going to take tons of innovative ideas, and vertical, urban farming seems like a win-win for communities everywhere.

The Zika virus is coming to the United States, and we are dangerously unprepared to handle it. According to a recent article at the ThinkProgress blog, federal and state budget cuts have pretty much decimated emergency funding over the last decade. And Congress is refusing to let the Obama administration step in to help. Recently, President Obama asked Congress to approve $1.9 billion in supplemental funding to fight Zika, but Congress refused. The president reallocated money from the Ebola response fund, but that fund only contained about half of the money that he asked for, and many state budgets are too tight to come up with the difference. In fact, many Southern states, which are at the highest risk of Zika, had already reduced or eliminated mosquito spraying programs before the virus made headlines because of budget cuts. Now, they’re left woefully unprepared, and Congress won’t let the president help. That’s a new low for Republican obstruction. Call Congress today and tell them to fund the Zika fight before it’s too late.

Scientists say they’ve discovered our best chance yet for finding life outside our solar system. According to the French Press Agency, an international team of scientists recently discovered three “potentially habitable” planets in outer space. The lead author of the study, astrophysicist Michael Gillon, explained that all three planets had the “winning combination” of being “potentially habitable,” being similar in size to Earth, and they are all close enough to be analyzed using current technology. He said, “This is the first opportunity to find chemical traces of life outside our solar system.” Because the three planets are similar in size to Earth and a similar distance away from their sun, scientists believe that they are also a similar temperature to our planet. So they could be our best chance yet at finding a planet we could survive on in outer space. For all that we know about our solar system, there are still many mysteries to unlock, and this discovery could be a huge step towards solving some of those mysteries.

And finally … Neurobiology may be bringing a whole new meaning to the term “runner’s high.” According to a recent piece in the Guardian newspaper, scientists are discovering that marijuana and marathons might just go hand-in-hand. In fact, the hormone released during and after long distance runs acts like THC in many ways, so using marijuana before a run might reduce pain and decrease anxiety in the same way a “runner’s high” helps people complete long-distance marathons. One runner in Colorado explained, “It helps me stay in the moment and embrace what’s going on right then and there.” And another runner suggests that incorporating pot into exercise is more common than most people realize. He said, “There is an ignorant stereotype about people who use marijuana not being athletic, but that’s because they aren’t often represented.” So that’s why groups like the 4/20 Games began touring the country a few years ago, to host runs and athletic events, and why online communities like Cannafit are increasing in popularity. Doctors do warn that people just starting an exercise routine should avoid cannabis, but the practice may soon become much more common in the marathon community.

And that’s the way it is for the week of May 9, 2016. I’m Thom Hartmann on Science and Green News.