On the News With Thom Hartmann: Agricultural Runoff Is Poisoning the Gulf of Mexico, and More

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In today’s On the News segment: The Hague District Court recently ruled that the Dutch government has a legal duty to cut carbon emissions 25 percent by 2020; a new document proves that TEPCO did not do everything in its power to protect the Fukushima nuclear power plant, even after it learned of the risks; agricultural runoff is poisoning the Gulf of Mexico; 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. Corporate negligence is not unique to the United States. According to a recent article in The Guardian newspaper, TEPCO, the company that operated the Fukushima nuclear power plant, “knew of [the] need to protect against tsunami but did not act.” A newly-revealed internal company document shows that the Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) company ignored a 2008 warning that the plant could be hit with a tsunami more than 15 meters high. And, this document proves that TEPCO did not do everything in their power to protect the plant, even after they learned of the risks. The 2011 tsunami that hit Fukushima led to the biggest nuclear accident since Chernobyl, and the world is still struggling to deal with that disaster. Now we learn that this ongoing nuclear catastrophe may have been avoidable. Since the incident in March of 2011, TEPCO executives have maintained that they were powerless to protect against a tsunami of such massive size. That 13-meter wave was almost exactly what TEPCO’s internal document predicted, yet they never took the adequate precautions that same document suggested. Radiation leaks from Fukushima caused the evacuation of more than 150,000 people, many of whom have yet to return. That disaster led to the dumping of tens of thousands of gallons of highly-radioactive water into the ocean, and the nuclear contamination of the surrounding area. And, the effects of all that radiation will be felt for generations. This revelation shows that TEPCO could have minimized or prevented the damage from the 2011 tsunami, and it proves exactly why they shouldn’t be trusted to deal with the clean up. This disaster is too big and too dangerous for a corporation to deal with alone, especially when we know that they can’t be trusted to address risks. It’s long-past time for the world to intervene at Fukushima, and to wake up to the facts that corporations will always cut corners, and nuclear energy will never be safe. No nukes!

Climate action is a human right. That’s according to The Hague District Court’s recent ruling which states that the Dutch government has a legal duty to cut carbon emissions 25 percent by 2020. That landmark ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed in 2013 by the Amsterdam-based environmental group called Urgenda Foundation. With the help of 600 Dutch citizens, that organization argued that their government’s failure to reduce carbon emissions was a violation of international law. And, in what’s being hailed as a precedent-setting victory, The Hague District Court agreed. They ruled, “The state must do more to avert the imminent danger caused by climate change, also in view of its duty of care to protect and improve the living environment.” Now that this case has been litigated successfully, activists and environmental groups in other nations are working to launch similar lawsuits. From Brazil to Australia to Ireland, we may soon see more legal challenges to the fossil fuel industry’s destruction of our planet. Hopefully, we’ll see more victorious rulings as well!

A high-fat, high-sugar diet may be bad for more than just your waistline. According to a recent study from Oregon State University, diets high in fat and sugar may disrupt gut bacteria and cause the loss of cognitive function. In fact, the researchers found a strong connection between high-sugar diets and the loss of so-called “cognitive flexibility,” which is the ability to adjust and adapt to changing situations. Scientists tested their theory by studying mice that consumed different diets before facing a range of tests. In addition to finding that the mice performed better on a healthy diet, they found that the rodents’ ability to adapt to changes decreased over time when they were fed a high-sugar diet. One of the study’s authors said, “It’s increasingly clear that our gut bacteria, or microbiota, can communicate with the brain.” And, this study shows that sugar and fat disrupt that communication. While there may be more to learn about how this connection works, this science proves that a healthy mind depends on a health diet.

Agricultural run-off is poisoning the Gulf of Mexico. Nitrates and phosphorus from rivers flowing into the Gulf are choking off the oxygen to an area the size of Connecticut. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that this year’s dead zone – which is the name for an area with oxygen levels too low to support life – will be about 5,400 square miles. In other words, our industrial farms are making a large part of the Gulf uninhabitable for marine life. Based on data from more than 3,000 real-time sensors, about 100,000 metric tons of nitrates and 18,000 metric tons of phosphorus farm run-off flowed in to the Gulf just in May of 2015. All that fertilizer creates huge algae blooms, which choke off the oxygen, and make it impossible for marine life to survive. Our oceans – including the Gulf – are the lifeblood of our planet, but we’re doing a despicable job of protecting them. Whether it’s oil spills or plastic or industrial farm waste, we need to keep our pollution out of the water.

And finally… Most humans show a preference for using a particular hand, but we’re not the only species to do so. However, while most of us tend to be right-handed, it turns out that most kangaroos prefer to use their left. According to a new report in the journal Current Biology, our preference for one hand or another may vary from species to species. To test their theory, scientists observed four different species of marsupials – three types of kangaroo and one wallaby. They found that the wallaby and two of the kangaroo species all preferred their left hand, but the tree kangaroo, which walks on four legs, did not show a preference. They didn’t expect to find any preference, as marsupials don’t have a neural circuit that links to the left and right hemispheres of the brain like mammals do. So, they concluded that our preference for one hand or another is likely related to our ability to walk on two legs. But, you’ll have to make up your own mind about whether kangaroos using their left paws means they’re a bunch of creative geniuses.

And that’s the way it is for the week of June 29, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science and Green News.