On the News With Thom Hartmann: Pope Francis to Urge Catholics to Address Climate Change, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Pope Francis will urge the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to do more to address global warming; more than 50 percent of the food tested by our government contains pesticides; Vermont just proved we have the power to shut down nuclear plants; 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 & green news…..

You need to know this. The fight to save our planet isn’t only about survival. According to Pope Francis, we have a “grave ethical and moral responsibility” to reverse global climate change, and later this year, the pontiff will direct all Catholics to take action. In March, Pope Francis will urge the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to do more to address global warming. In addition, Francis will also give a speech at the United Nations, and he will address the climate at a summit of the world’s religions. Although we don’t yet know how the Pope will lay out his call for action, his recent speeches shed some light on why he sees this as a moral issue. At an event in October, Pope Francis explained, “The monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, and agro-toxins are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.” In other words, rising temperatures around the world are already causing massive destruction and suffering around the world, and things will only get worse if we don’t act. At a speech in Lima, Peru, Pope Francis warned that “the time to find global solutions is running out.” That’s why the Holy Father is doing everything in his power to encourage people to act. We do have a moral responsibility to prevent the destruction and suffering caused by climate change, and we have to fight to ensure the survival of all species. Pope Francis can push a billion Catholics to help stop global warming, and that’s a cause that even non-Christians can support.

More than 50 percent of the food tested by our government contains pesticides. Last month, the Department of Agriculture released their latest round of pesticide sampling, and some of the results show cause for concern. Although many samples showed pesticides within so-called “tolerance” levels, many of these chemicals are linked to negative health impacts – even at low levels. One type of pesticides, called chlorpyrifos, have been associated with lowered IQ and brain development issues, but they were found in 12 out of the 18 types of food tested for those chemicals. Even at low levels, many of these chemicals can be dangerous, but most people have no idea that they are found in our food. They also may be unaware that some produce, like peaches, celery, and raspberries, were found to have the highest number of pesticides, but are still within “tolerance” levels set by out government. We shouldn’t be measuring any chemicals by how much we can tolerate – but by whether they are safe in our food at all. The government needs to do a better job protecting us from dangerous pesticides, and a better job at informing us of what we’re actually eating.

Vermont just proved we have the power to shut down nuclear plants. Last week, the owners of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant lost their battle to renew the plant’s license, and residents won their fight to get that plant shut down. After several accidents occurred at that plant in recent years, residents and anti-nuclear activists began campaigning to block the Yankee plant from renewing their operating license. If that license had been renewed, Yankee would have been able to keep running for decades, which would have been far beyond its original 40-year license. In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, many communities are thinking twice about nuclear power. However, Vermont Yankee is the first plant to be shut down over concerns about public safety since the deadly Pacific tsunami. The fact is, there is no such thing as safe nuclear power, and it shouldn’t take a massive disaster to wake people up to the risks.

Happy Meals may be harming your child’s education. According to a new study from Ohio State University, kids who ate fast food every day didn’t learn science, math, or reading skills as well as their peers. The research was part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which surveyed 12,000 students. Researchers asked kids in the fifth through eighth grade about their eating habits, and compared that data with academic gains over a three-year time span. The ten percent of the students who said that they ate fast food every day, showed lower growth in three key academic subjects. Kids who only ate fast food once in a while were able to keep up with their classmates in terms of academic growth. While the occasional happy meal doesn’t hurt, long-term consumption of fast food leads to nutritional deficiencies which impact cognitive development. In other words, junk food doesn’t provide kids with the vitamins and minerals needed for healthy brains. Eating fast food as an occasional treat is fine, but feeding our kids nutritional meals is one of the best ways to ensure they’re prepared to get a good education.

And finally… Our cell phones are changing our brains. Scientists researched how touchscreen phones and devices have changed how we use our thumbs, and determined that we are actually increasing sensory perception in our brain. The study was published in a recent issue of the journal Current Biology, and it says that one episode of intense use of our thumbs leaves an imprint on the sensory processing area of our mind. In addition, the more we use our thumbs to navigate our phones, the more we alter our brains, and using our thumbs more actually leads to higher levels of sensory perception in other fingertips as well. The authors wrote, “our results suggest that repetitive movements on the smooth touchscreen reshaped sensory processing from the hand and that the thumb representation was updated daily depending on its use.” Scientists recognize that our brains are amazing when it comes to being able to adapt to our environment, and this new study provides a great example of how it happens. Technology is changing the world around us, and when it comes to smart phones, it’s even changing the way our brains work.

And that’s the way it is for the week of January 5, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.