On the News With Thom Hartmann: Researchers May Have Created a Solution to the Global Lack of Drinking Water, and More

In today’s On the News segment: A team of MIT researchers may have solved one of our world’s biggest problems – access to clean drinking water; a once-booming city disappeared into the ocean, but there’s an important lesson to be learned from Bayocean, Oregon, that’s still valuable today; scientists warn of the serious threats our nation will face because of a decline in science spending; 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. If you’ve never heard of the city of Bayocean, Oregon, you’re probably not alone. By 1960, the last home in that once-booming city disappeared into the ocean, but there’s an important lesson to be learned from Bayocean that’s still valuable today. If we don’t learn to work with our planet, and restore balance to our environment, it’s only a matter of time before another city is swallowed up by the sea. Established in 1906, Bayocean, Oregon, was envisioned to be the “Atlantic City of the west,” and at one time it contained a hotel, a dance hall, and numerous homes. Before long, residents grew concerned about having to cross the treacherous Columbia River to reach Bayocean, and they began meddling with mother nature. In an effort to ensure safe travel to the city, residents demanded a protective jetty to calm the waters in Tillamook Bay, but their attempt to work against nature backfired. The Army Corp of Engineers explained to town residents that they would need two jetties to calm the bay, but residents only paid to build one. The new jetty changed the current, and started the slow destruction of Bayocean. Slowly, but surely, water began to wear away at the sand beneath the city, and made it more vulnerable to bad weather. By 1938, almost 60 homes had been washed away, and most residents had abandoned their once-booming city. By 1960, Bayocean had completely disappeared, and all that remained was the hard lesson. Instead of working with their environment, Bayocean residents tried to stand up to mother nature, and the result was tragic. If we don’t learn from their mistakes, and start working with nature to restore our environment, we could be damning ourselves to the same fate. It will be difficult to undo the damage caused by a century of pumping carbon dioxide into our environment, but it can be done. And, our planet’s natural systems can help make it possible. To find out more, check out GreenWorldRising.org.

You may think that people who rise with the sun are woken up by daylight, but it turns out that the color of the sky may have more impact on their biological clock. According to a new study published in the journal PLOS Biology, our neurons are more sensitive to changes in color than changes in brightness. The scientists studied the so-called “brain clock” of mice that were placed under an artificial sky. When the researchers only changed the brightness of the sky, not the color, the day-night cycle of the mice became completely misaligned. When they changed the color of the artificial sky to mimic dusk and dawn, the mice had a normal cycle. Timothy Brown, one of the researchers who worked on the study, said, “This is the first time that we’ve been able to test the theory that color affects our body clock in any mammal.” Although it’s unclear what implications this study has for us in the future, it is interesting to know that the color of our environment has such a large effect on our lives.

A team of MIT researchers may have solved one of our world’s biggest problems – access to clean drinking water. The researchers teamed up with a US-based manufacturing company, and together they invented a solar-powered desalination system that can remove salt from 2,100 gallons of water in just 24 hours. David L. Chandler of MIT News explained the invention, which works by using solar panels to power an electrodialysis machine. In an article about the achievement, Chandler wrote, “Electrodialysis works by passing a stream of water between two electrodes with opposite charges. Because the salt dissolved in water consists of positive and negative ions, the electrodes pull the ions out of the water, leaving fresher water at the center of the flow.” Although solar-powered desalination systems are nothing new, the MIT invention can make 90 percent of the water passed through it drinkable, compared to earlier systems that can only clean 40 to 60 percent of water. If this system is duplicated and expanded, it could literally change the lives of people all over the world.

In 1968, 10 percent of total government outlays went to science and research, but today we’re only spending 3 percent on this important function. In a new report called, “The Future Postponed,” a committee of scientists warns of the serious threats our nation will face because of this decline in science spending. The authors explained that the United States has cut the budgets of the National Institute of Health and other science agencies, while other nations are investing in science and scoring major achievements as a result. In other words, we’re no longer leading the world in areas like space exploration, supercomputing, and medical research. And, our decline in those areas has real-world effects on our economy and national security. We can’t sell the most innovative products if they’re being invented in other nations, and we can’t protect against cyber threats when other countries have more powerful computers. Just like education and infrastructure, we must invest in our nation to excel. If we want to continue to claim “American Exceptionalism,” let’s be exceptional at more than just cutting budgets.

And finally… If you’ve seen Jurassic Park, you know that the T. Rex was a meat eater, but scientists have recently discovered that one of its closest relatives preferred a vegetarian fare. The newly-discovered species of dinosaur is a member of the theropod group, which is mostly made up of carnivores, but it survived on a plant-based diet. The dinosaur was actually discovered by a seven-year old boy named Diego Suarez, while on an expedition with his geologist parents in Chile. In honor of his discovery, the new dinosaur was named Chilesaurus Diegosuarezi. The complete skeletons found at the site indicate that Chilesaurus walked on its hind legs like T. Rex, and it grew to over 10 feet long. However, the dinosaur had blunt fingers for hands and a beak-like snout similar to other herbivores. Thomas Carr of Carthage College in Wisconsin called the new species a “wonderful weirdo,” and explained that we’re still learning things about dinosaur evolution. And, we’re learning that even in the Jurassic Era, you could still be big and strong without eating meat.

And that’s the way it is for the week of May 4, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science and Green News.