On the News With Thom Hartmann: Warming Waters Are Drastically Altering Ocean Biodiversity, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Major changes in ocean biodiversity due to climate change are more extreme than anything our planet has seen in 3 million years; 20-year-old Boyan Slat is getting ready to deploy the first-ever ocean cleaning system; earthworms could be a solution to our climate crisis; 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. Our warming planet is causing major changes to our oceans. According to new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, warming waters are drastically altering the biodiversity in our oceans. In fact, these changes are more extreme than anything our planet has seen in 3 million years. And, it’s only going to get worse as our planet gets even hotter. While some may claim that it’s no big deal if species migrate to new areas, scientists warn that such drastic changes could disrupt the entire ocean ecosystem. In order to test their theory, scientists at the National Center for Science Research in France developed what they called a “pseudo-species model,” to see how different species would react to warmer oceans. The researchers could then compare those reactions to different times in our planet’s history. According to that analysis, researchers said that in the most dramatic warming scenario – the so-called “do-nothing” scenario – about 70 percent of the marine life in our oceans would change. Even less dire warning scenarios, about half of all ocean life will have to relocate, adapt, or die off. When species suddenly vanish from their historic habitat, the functions that they served in that environment can disappear as well. Ecosystems that rely on symbiotic relationships can be thrown out of balance, and other species could be forced to move or die as well. And, some marine life – like coral – can’t just get up and move. If you think this isn’t important, you need to think again. Our oceans are the lifeblood of our planet. They are the primary force behind our weather and our climate, and they are the main source of food for millions of people all over the world. Changes to our marine life mean changes to human life. It doesn’t matter whether you live in the mid-west or the Middle East, life as you know it would not exist without our oceans.

We can agree or disagree about the quality of a science textbook, but most of us can still agree that the Bible doesn’t belong in science class. For students in some Louisiana public schools however, that’s exactly where they will read about the Book of Genesis. Back in 2008, that state passed legislation that allows teachers to “critique” well-established scientific theory like evolution, but prohibits lessons that teach creationism. But, that hasn’t stopped many of the Louisiana public schools from presenting students with that story as if it is fact. According to a letter from a teacher from Airline High School, “We will read in Genesis and some supplemental material debunking various aspects of evolution from which the students will present.” What ever your religious beliefs may be, you probably don’t want public school teachers instructing kids on biblical teachings – any more than you’d want your preacher teaching economics. Our nation decided long ago that church and state should remain separate, and it’s time to stop blurring those lines in Louisiana.

At 20-years old, many of us were barely able to save rent money – but Boyan Slat is ready to save the world. Last week, EcoWatch.com announced that Boyan, the founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, is getting ready to deploy the first-ever ocean cleaning system. In a blog post about his project, Boyan wrote, “Not only will this first cleanup array contribute to cleaner waters and coasts, but it simultaneously is an essential step towards our goal of cleaning up the Great Garbage Patch.” That’s the nickname for the massive amount of plastic garbage that has collected at each of the ocean’s nature gyres. The amount of plastic waste in our oceans has been increasing for decades, but Mr. Slat has plans to change that. His 2,000-meter booms will use wind and ocean currents to coral plastic garbage and collect it for removal – and it happens to be the longest floating structure ever deployed in the oceans. This pilot program kicks off in 2016 and lasts for two years off the coast of Japan, and it represents the first real attempt to solve the plastic problem in our oceans. This is just the latest example of the many ways that the younger generation is working on real solutions to our environmental crisis. Boyan Slat is doing amazing work, and he’s inspiring people of all ages to get involved in the fight to save our planet.

Next time you enjoy roasted potatoes, you may want to consider your evolutionary roots. According to a recent article in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the origins of cooking may predate the human species. It turns out that even chimpanzees understand the cooking process, and that they will wait for roasted food instead of eating raw food that is immediately available. In a series of experiments, scientists discovered that chimps will reject raw potatoes even if they have to wait for roasted potatoes. Some of the chimps also learned which containers were used for cooking, and they would carry raw food across a room to place it in a cooking device. Scientists contend that cooking probably originated before our species, but may have been more opportunistic than preplanned. In other words, one of the processes that we view as uniquely human isn’t actually unique after all.

And finally… Earthworms do more than help our gardens. In fact, according to new research from Yale University, they could be a solution to our climate crisis. Scientists conducted a study to measure how much carbon is emitted by microbes that digest organic matter, and they found that earthworms and other small animals dramatically effect those emissions. Without earthworms, microbes give off far more carbon emissions, which contribute to our warming planet. The authors wrote, “the failure to incorporate animals and their interactions with microbial communities into global decomposition models has been highlighted as a critical limitation in our understanding of [the] carbon cycle under current and future scenarios.” In other words, failing to include earthworms in our landfills will dramatically change how much pollution is given off when they decay. And, this study shows how much we still have to learn about the symbiotic nature of all species on our planet. Instead of being grossed out by the next earthworm you come across, maybe you should stop and consider their important roll here on the one-and-only planet we call home.

And that’s the way it is for the week of June 8, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.