In today’s On the News segment: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that at least two health care workers were exposed to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in Florida and Indiana; to make the switch to green energy, our nation will have to embrace new ideas and technology; the oil and gas industry was responsible for more than 7,600 spills, blowouts and leaks in 2013; and more.
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You need to know this. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that at least two health care workers were exposed to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in Florida and Indiana. After coming in contact with patients who were diagnosed with the deadly MERS virus, the workers began feeling flu-like systems, and were admitted to local hospitals. News of the first MERS cases being diagnosed in the US is alarming enough, but it’s even scarier that these cases popped up in states that refused to expand Medicaid. Indiana is currently working out a health-care-savings-type system, but it could require that patients chip in more than $1,000 dollars before those plans pay for any services. And, despite being offered a waiver to privatize their expansion, Florida lawmakers are still refusing to provide health coverage to low-income residents. In both states, people are stuck in the Red State doughnut hole if they make more than four to six thousand a year, but don’t earn enough to qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. These Republican lawmakers aren’t only blocking state residents from getting health coverage, they’re putting us all at risk by increasing the likelihood that serious diseases like MERS can spread rapidly. When people can’t afford health care, a small outbreak can easily turn into a widespread health emergency. That is the most important reason why healthcare should be a right, not a privilege, and why caring for the sick should never be about politics. The CDC appears to have this outbreak under control, but Red State lawmakers must expand Medicaid and protect us all from serious illness.
To make the switch to green energy, our nation will have to embrace new ideas and technology. Thankfully, people like Julie and Scott Brusaw have been thinking green for some time. The Brusaws have designed – and built – special solar panels that can be used to replace concrete roads. The panels are made out of high-tech glass that can withstand the heaviest of trucks, power electric vehicles that drive over them, and even melt snow and ice to eliminate plowing. The special glass is textured to prevent slipping in wet or icy conditions, and they can even be equipped with LED lights that would replace painted-on road lines. The Brusaws estimate that if all of our nation’s paved roads were replaced with these solar panels, we could eliminate our use of fossil fuels and cut greenhouse gasses by 75 percent. They’ve already built a test parking lot with their solar panels, and their hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho is already looking to be their first customer. These panels could turn our patchwork of roads into a national solar grid, and they’d be a great infrastructure project to put people back to work. It looks like Brusaws have created a win-win project for everyone, and we should get busy building some new solar roads.
The oil and gas industry was responsible for more than 7,600 spills, blowouts, and leaks in 2013. According to a new analysis by EnergyWire, that’s an average of about 20 spills every single day of last year. Although most of the spills were small, altogether they add up to about 26 million gallons of gas, oil, fracking fluid, and other toxic substances. And, this data doesn’t even include figures from spills in Louisiana, one of our nation’s largest natural-gas producing states. The oil and gas industry has been spewing toxic sludge all over our country, and leaving us to deal with the fall out. Making the switch to renewable energy is not only about fighting climate change. Millions of gallons of oil and gas are polluting our land, water, and air, and oil giants are privatizing their profits, and sticking us with the bill for clean up. Not only will solar and wind help end our addiction to fossil fuels, they’ll prevent us from socializing the costs of living with Big Oil. Renewable energy will give us a greener future, and it can give us a cleaner nation today as well.
National Nurses United is joining the fight against petcoke. Last week, nurses joined local residents to protest the giant piles of petroleum coke – a waste byproduct of refining tar sands – which are being stored out in the open in the Southeast side of Chicago. These piles of toxic waste sit uncovered along the Calumet River in that city, and residents say that it’s blowing into their homes, their waterways, and their lungs. These nurses stood with residents who see petcoke as a serious public health issue, and want it banned from being transported or stored in their city. Sheilah Garland, one of the nurses who joined the protest, said, “We deal with patients one on one, we see it in our hospital beds, in our clinics. When young people are dying of pulmonary issues, this is very real to us.” These nurses are the people who see the real effects of fossil fuels, and they’re taking a stand against petcoke in the Windy City. Hopefully, some Chicago lawmakers are listening.
And finally… Love is truly a powerful emotion. A recent study from the University of Jena and the University of Kassel in Germany shows that the emotion actually boosts personal development in young adults. And, a loving relationship can even help stabilize the personality of young people with neurotic tendencies. Researchers found that patterns of depression, low self-esteem, and general dissatisfaction diminished in people who were in a loving relationship, and those changes were more pronounced in the test subjects who identified as neurotic. One of the doctors who conducted the study explained that longer relationships had a stronger effect, but even short, loving relationships had a positive benefit. He said, “Generally we can say [that] young adults entering a relationship can only win.” It turns out that the power of love is more than just a Huey Lewis song… it’s actually supported by science.
And that’s the way it is for the week of May 19, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.