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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Drinking Water Polluted for Thousands of Ohians and Canadians, and More

A farmer decides to use an abandoned prison to grow pot, and more.

In today’s On the News segment: Residents in Ohio were denied clean drinking water after being told their water supply was polluted with toxins; a Colorado farmer uses an abandoned prison to grow pot; a new Swedish study reveals musical ability may be hardwired into our genes; and more.


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

You need to know this. We can’t survive without clean water, but we’re completely irresponsible when it comes to protecting this vital resource. Last week, a half a million people in Ohio were told that their water was so toxic that they should avoid any contact with it, and more than a billion gallons of mining waste poisoned drinking water for many Canadians. Sewage plants, factory farms, and other industries dump tons of phosphorus into our waterways, which is an excellent source of nutrients for toxic algae blooms. And of course, we all know the Fossil Fuel industry’s horrendous track record of polluting our lakes, rivers, and oceans. We have the power to enact regulations to prevent these disasters, but our politicians opt to please Big Business instead of protecting The People. Last week was a terrifying example of how easily our water supply can be destroyed, but it wasn’t the first time corporations put profits over people, and it certainly won’t be the last. Corporate power has corrupted our democracy, devastated our environment, and destroyed our middle class, and now it’s threatening a resource we need to survive. The same toxic algae that poisoned drinking water in Toledo could soon pop up in other states with similar agricultural runoff, and the Fossil Fuel industry is always working to get their hands on more land. If we don’t fight back, more and more of our water supply could be contaminated. We need to stand up to corporate power to save our democracy, our planet, and our economy. However, protecting our water supply may be one of the most important fights we have ever faced.

A Colorado farmer has a great idea for an abandoned prison – grow pot in it! A medium-security prison in Brush, Colorado shut down back in 2010, and it left 85 residents in that community out of a job. Since Colorado has legalized marijuana, a farmer named Nicholas Erker came up with a great plan to get people in his town back to work. Mr. Erker told the Denver Post, “I was walking through the empty [prison] one day by myself and I thought, ‘This place would be perfect to grow marijuana.'” He explained that the facility has plenty of water and electricity, and it’s extremely secure. Currently, the city has a ban on all marijuana businesses, but Mr. Erker is calling on the City Council to overturn the moratorium and put people to work. He even sat down with the Mayor of his town to explain that the grow-house could employ at least 30 people, and increase city tax collections by 30 percent. Legalizing cannabis has already saved states money on criminal prosecutions and allowed police to focus on real crime, but it can also bring states more revenue. States can tax the marijuana sales themselves, and expanding this new industry can also create jobs and boost local economies.

If you’ve been unable to learn how to play a musical instrument, it may have not have anything to do with lack of practice. A new study from the Kaorlinska Institute in Sweden says that music ability may be built into our genes. The researchers studied about 1,200 pairs of identical twins and 1,300 pairs of fraternal twins, and found that DNA plays a strong roll in certain musical abilities, like recognizing pitch and rhythm. The study showed that regardless of how much time one twin had spent practicing, the other twin had an equal level of ability in these musical skills. Scientists did consider that environmental factors may influence musical ability, like both twins being exposed to music throughout their lives. Despite these findings, the researchers said that practicing is still important to mastering an instrument. One of the authors said, “Clearly, practice will increase many skills necessary for playing an instrument, [like fine motor skills], and it is necessary to become a good player.” Practice still makes perfect, but unfortunately, some of us may not have been born with natural rhythm.

The giant craters discovered in Siberia last month have been given a new name – dragon burps – and scientists say that they may be just as scary as a fire-breathing monster. According to, these massive craters are methane blow-holes, and they may be a sign of runaway climate change. Russian scientists who went to investigate the craters found alarmingly high levels of methane present at the bottom of the massive holes. The normal level of methane in our air is less than 0.0002 percent, but the air deep within the craters is almost 10 percent methane. As permafrost melts because of rising temperatures, gas pressure increases beneath the surface until it’s high enough to burst through and create a crater. When these craters burst, they release large amounts of methane into the atmosphere, which is a potent greenhouse gas. The methane contributes to global warming, which melts more permafrost, and creates a so-called positive feedback loop that leads to even higher temperatures. We only have one planet to call home, and we must start doing more to protect it while we still have a chance.

And finally… They say that everything’s better in moderation, and that even applies to video games. A new study in the journal Pediatrics says that there is a benefit to electronic games, but only in small doses. Researchers from Oxford University studied 5,000 young people and found that those who played video games for less than one hour a day were more socially adjusted than their peers. Playing the games in moderation actually had more benefit than not playing at all, or than spending three or more hours a day playing. One of the researchers said, “Those who played video games for less than an hour a day were associated with the highest levels of sociability, and we most likely to be satisfied with their lives. They also appeared to have fewer friendship and emotional problems, and reported less hyperactivity than the other groups.” So, as long as parents set some time limits, science says there may be some real benefits to that X-box or Playstation.

And that’s the way it is for the week of August 11, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.