On the News With Thom Hartmann: We Are Running Out of Time to Save Our Oceans, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Our oceans are in a dire state, and we don’t have much time left to prevent more widespread destruction; the 62-year-old oil pipelines that run beneath the Great Lakes could cause a massive oil spill in one of our nation’s most important water sources; scientists discovered a never-before-known extinct human species; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Science and Green news …

You need to know this. We are running out of time to save our oceans. According to a new comprehensive assessment by the United Nations, “Human impacts on the sea are no longer minor in relations to the overall scale of the ocean.” In other words, climate change, pollution, overfishing and other human-caused activity has left our oceans in a dire state, and we don’t have much time left to prevent more widespread destruction. The 55-chapter report, called the “World Ocean Assessment,” was presented last week to a United Nations working group, and it calls for bold action to save our oceans. The team of experts who completed the assessment looked at a variety of issues to determine how each effects oceanic ecosystems and marine biodiversity. From climate change to ocean acidification to offshore drilling to industrial runoff, our oceans are under serious threat. And, without out our oceans, life as we know it would quickly disappear. Ocean currents have an enormous effect on our weather and climate, and more than 3.5 billion people depend on our seas for income, energy and food. Last year, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to draft a legally-binding international treaty to protect our oceans, and this latest report explains what we need to do to save our seas. Unsurprisingly, it can be summed up by saying that we need better international management of all human activities that affect the oceans. But we can find ways to benefit from making these necessary changes. John Tanzer, director of the Global Marine Programme at the World Wide Fund for Nature, said that the way we undertake such action can even provide new opportunities for businesses, communities, and governments to work together. We have the ability to save the oceans, and even create jobs in the process. We can’t survive long without our oceans, but saving them could help us shape a better future for all.

It isn’t everyday that a discovery changes our understanding of history, but one-such discovery has just been made. Last week, scientists announced the discovery of a never-before-known extinct human species, but they haven’t yet figured out how it fits in to our evolutionary past. Our newest relatives had hands and feet nearly the size of our own, but their brains were only about the size of an orange. And, while they may be the most primitive human species unearthed yet, they were already advanced enough to perform ritual burials of their dead. The new species has been named Homo naledi, but, some scientists aren’t yet convinced that the fossils are hominid at all. Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist with the American Museum of Natural History, said that “the genus Homo has been made over-inclusive.” He added, “I don’t think we have the vocabulary needed to describe the diversity we’re seeing in early hominids.” No matter what you call them, this discovery changes much of what we know about our early ancestors, and shows that we still have much more to learn.

Scientists say that there’s a ticking time bomb hidden beneath two of our Great Lakes. The 62-year-old oil pipelines that run beneath Lake Michigan and Lake Huron – known as the Enbridge pipelines – could cause a massive oil spill in one of our nation’s most important water sources. Last month, the news agency “Motherboard” started an investigation into those pipelines, and found, “if just one of the pipelines ruptured, it would result in a spill of 1.4 million gallons of oil – and that’s if Enbridge, the company that owns them, is able to fix the pipeline immediately.” Our nation has a pretty bad history when it comes to stopping oil leaks, and the company that runs these pipelines has a track record that’s even worse. They are responsible for more than 800 spills between 1999 and 2012, including 800,000 gallons that spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Yet, somehow they’re still allowed to operate a half-century-old set of pipelines beneath our Great Lakes. No company should be allowed to do business in this country if they can’t do so safely, and a risk this great requires that our government intervene. It’s time to stop using out-dated energy, and the out-dated pipelines that pose an immediate threat.

It turns out that “service with a smile” doesn’t benefit customers or employers. And, forcing workers to fake happiness actually takes a toll on their health. According to organization psychologist Alicia Grandey, forcing employees to stay smiling is “sort of an invisible for of work.” She explained that so-called emotional labor has a real cost, and added, “We really want management to think about this: If this is really important to you as a company, if you value it, then you should train for it, and compensate for it. And you should create an environment that is supportive for the employee.” She came to that conclusion after working on a review paper with her colleagues, which went through decades of research about the costs and benefits of emotional labor. They found that maintaining false happiness is extremely challenging, and it leads to emotional exhaustion and employee burnout. And, not one of the studies that they reviewed found that bigger smiles translated in to higher sales or repeat customers. If you want employees to seem happy, give them the pay and working environment that makes them happy. Forcing workers to smile, no matter what, doesn’t benefit anyone.

And finally… Sarah Palin wants to be Donald Trump’s energy secretary, and it could be a blessing in disguise. In a recent interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, the half-term Alaskan governor said that if Trump asked her to be a part of his hypothetical cabinet, she’d choose to decide our nation’s oil policy. She said, “I think a lot about the Department of Energy, because energy is my baby.” She added, “If I were in charge of that, it would be a short term job, but it would be really great to have someone who knows energy and is pro-responsible development to be in charge.” No word on whether should would only serve for half of Trump’s term, or whether she’s be issuing each of us an oil-profit-sharing check like she does in Alaska.

And that’s the way it is for the week of September 14, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science and Green News.