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On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Sonora River Poisoned by the Mining Industry, and More

In today’s On the News segment: The mining industry pollutes the Sonora River and drinking water in Northern Mexico, and more.

In today’s On the News segment: The mining industry pollutes the Sonora River and drinking water in Northern Mexico; a federal judge has restored protection for wolves in Wyoming; Archbishop Desmond Tutu has added his voice to world leaders calling for action on climate change; and more.


You need to know this. We all know the saying, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” But, when it comes to drilling and mining, big business thinks that they can fool us over and over again. Last week, authorities in northern Mexico had to tell 25,000 residents not to use water from the Sonora River, as it had been stained orange by a toxic spill from a copper mine. Just like the coal ash spill by Duke Energy in North Carolina, the waste water spill by TransCanda in Alberta, and the various others in between, corporations have proven that they can’t be trusted to protect us, or our planet. The recent spill in Mexico occurred less than a month after 10 million gallons of heavy metals and acids contaminated two rivers and a dam. The back-to-back spills have left farmers in the area struggling to keep crops alive, and left tens of thousands of people without access to a clean water supply. And, just like spills in the US and Canada, the mining firm Grupo Mexico is being accused of lying about containment and clean-up measures, and of failing to properly supervise the massive mine. Carlos Arias, the director of Sonora’s civil protection agency, says that the mine has “blocked access to investigators,” but warned that authorities will return “backed up by security forces.” This is what happens when corporations are allowed to amass too much power. Companies that ignore regulations should not be granted the privilege of doing business in a nation. These mining and drilling companies have shown that they will always put profit over people, and it’s time that the people fight back. They’ve fooled us way more than once, and in the words of George Bush, we can’t get fooled again.

A federal judge has restored protection for wolves in Wyoming. Last week, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the state’s plan to maintain wolf population did not include adequate safeguards. The gray wolves were previously protected under the Endangered Species Act, but that protection was partially lifted as their numbers began to rise. A special season allowed trophy hunters to kill the wolves, and they were labeled as predators that could be shot if they endangered livestock in other areas of the state. Judge Berman said that Wyoming’s population management plan was “arbitrary and capricious,” and she placed the wolves back under full protection until the state has an adequate plan to protect the species. Bonnie Rice of the Sierra Club’s Wild America Campaign said, “We think the court is right to require them to develop a plan that’s more science-based, and [that] doesn’t treat wolves as vermin in the majority of the state.” Although many of us would love to see a ruling that offers even more protection for this native species, the fact that wolves are once again protected in Wyoming is good news.

Many of the world’s greatest leaders have already called for action on climate change. Now, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has added his voice, and said that it’s time to “move beyond the fossil fuel era.” The Nobel Prize-winner released a special video last week, calling on world leaders to come up with real solutions at the UN Climate Summit. The Archbishop said that individuals and nations must redirect investment from oil and gas into renewable energy, and hold the fossil fuel industry legally liable for damaging our environment. He said that “time is running out,” and that the Climate Summit is “a decisive moment in the struggle to maintain God’s Earth.” Mr. Tutu echoed the spirit of the massive People’s Climate March, and explained that protecting the environment is the human rights challenge of our time. He said, “We can no longer tinker about the edges. We can no longer continue treating our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow.” Hopefully, Desmond Tutu’s powerful message helps convince world leaders that now is the time to act.

Monsanto may control many of our lawmakers here in the U.S., but it looks like they don’t have much sway with the Dutch Parliament. Last week, lawmakers in the Netherlands passed a ban on Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide, and said that the glyphosate-laced chemical must be kept away from the public. Various studies have shown that the herbicide is linked to cancer, kidney disease, birth defects, and other health issues, and the Netherlands doesn’t need more proof to know that the chemical is toxic. As of 2015, the sale of RoundUp will be prohibited for agricultural or private use, and farmers and gardeners will have to use safer products to keep weeds away. The Netherlands joins Mexico, Tasmania, and Russia in saying “no” to Monsanto, but here in the U.S., our regulators and lawmakers continue bowing down to the chemical giant. Millions of people around the world have called for an end to GMOs and toxic pesticides, and it’s time for those in power in all nations to start listening.

And finally… From the time we learn to speak as children, most of us understand the concept of “fairness.” Well, science says that evolution may be the reason that even little kids often use the phrase “that’s not fair.” According to new research published in the journals Science and Nature, humans may have developed a sense of fairness to help us survive. Scientists conducted an experiment by having two Capuchin monkeys perform the same task. When they gave one of the monkeys a superior reward, the other would become extremely agitated. Researchers found that some primates, like humans, will give up some of their own reward in order to equalize the benefits, and maintain long-term cooperative relationships. In other words, even apes understand that short-term selfishness doesn’t benefit them in the long-term. Scientists hypothesized that the ability to think about the future and the self-control to turn down a reward helped humans form early societies, which helped us survive as a species. It looks like science may have explained why we feel strongly about injustice in our current economy. However, it appears we may have to wait for more research to explain why most billionaires can be so selfish.

And that’s the way it is for the week of September 29, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.