In today’s On the News segment: Extreme weather events take place over the Christmas weekend; according to science, blue-eyed humans may all come from a single ancestor; wind energy production has reached a new high; and more.
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You need to know this. For many Americans, this past holiday season was anything but joyous. Flooding in Oklahoma, blizzards in New Mexico, and tornadoes in Texas and Tennessee were just a few of the extreme weather events that took place over the Christmas weekend. And, that doesn’t even address the record high temperatures seen by much of the East Coast during the holiday or the massive storms and flooding that hit people in the UK. This is why many of our leaders and lawmakers correctly identify climate change as the biggest threat to our survival. While some of these recent events can be explained by the El Niño conditions that we are experiencing, that doesn’t fully address the long term trend of a warming planet. As global temperatures increase, sea levels rise and more moisture ends up in our atmosphere. Despite the claims of science-deniers, those factors have been definitively linked to stronger storms, wilder weather, and a massive increase in storm-related death and destruction. Just over the Christmas weekend, there were at least 43 lives lost to this extreme weather and an untold amount of damage to buildings, homes and infrastructure. In case you’re keeping track, that means far more American lives were lost to extreme weather than terrorism in 2015. The climate fight of the future has become today’s fight for survival. Yet, there isn’t a single candidate for president on the Republican side who accepts the fact that climate change is even a problem. Ninety-seven percent of all global scientists agree on the facts, but Republicans in Congress continue to pretend like science denial is simply a partisan issue. And, they continue to call for increased military spending but block environmental funding whenever possible. We must get our national priorities in order. We can’t stop every extreme weather event, but we can influence the strength and frequency of these events in the future. And, we can invest in the type of plans and infrastructure that protect US lives when storms occur. Next time we hear Republicans pretending that climate change isn’t important, perhaps we should ask them why they don’t care about the dozens of US lives lost during Mother Nature’s “War on Christmas.”
According to science, blue-eyed humans may all come from a single ancestor. That’s the take-away from recent findings published in the journal Human Genetics. Researchers have discovered that the genetic code that gives someone blue eyes stems from a unique genetic mutation. The difference between brown eyes and green eyes is caused by the amount of melanin in the iris, but it can vary by wide ranges. In stark contrast, the variation in melanin in blue eyes is extremely limited. Researchers tested the genetic code in blue-eyed people from countries as diverse as Turkey, Jordan and Denmark. All of the subjects they tested shared the exact same genetic mutation. That mutation created a genetic switch that reduces the amount of melanin in the eyes, which effectively “dilutes” brown eyes to blue. Hans Elberg, one of the study researchers, said, “They have all inherited the same switch at exactly the same spot in their DNA.” Because that genetic mutation is exactly the same throughout the world, scientists believe that people with blue eyes must stem from a common ancestor. It just goes to show that even though we may have different languages and cultures, we really are all part of one human family.
Harvard researchers say we need to do more to address the number of police killings. According to new research from that prestigious university, it’s time to look at police shootings as a public health epidemic. This year alone there have been more than 1,000 Americans killed by police, and the number of deaths per capita is twice as high for Blacks as it is for the white population. If these deaths were the result of illness or terrorism, we would be demanding that our federal government do more to find a solution. But, since these deaths occur at the hands of police officers, we are expected to pretend like there isn’t a problem. The United States is the only developed nation that allows those who are supposed to serve and protect to murder so many civilians. Not every cop is bad, and not every person killed by police is an innocent victim, but that doesn’t mean we should allow these killings to continue. We have the momentum and activism now to stand up to this violence, and it’s time that we demand more of our government and those who serve our communities.
Wind energy production has hit an all-time high in our nation. Last month, the American Wind Energy Association announced that wind turbines generated 70 gigawatts back in November. That achievement was long-awaited after reaching the 50 and 60 gigawatt marks in 2012. However, when Congress started to waiver about extending important tax credits for the wind industry, investors became less willing to help the industry reach the next benchmark goal. But, now that the tax credit has been extended, investors are likely to flock back to the wind industry. According to Tom Kiernan of the AWEA, “There’s now enough wind power installed to meet the equivalent of total electricity demand in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.” While that still leaves many states to go, it shows the indisputable truth that our nation can really move to 100 percent clean energy. Between solar, wind and other sources, it’s no longer a question of can we go green, it’s a question of when we will get there.
And finally… If you want to lower your stress level, lend a hand to someone in need. According to a recent study in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, “findings suggest that if we do small things for others, such as holding a door open for someone, we won’t feel as poorly on stressful days.” In other words, simple acts of kindness towards others actually benefit ourselves. These days, most of us occasionally get stressed out or depressed, which often leads to frantic or selfish thinking. By helping others a little, we can help ourselves a lot, and just maybe make our world a little less stressful for everyone.
And that’s the way it is for the week of January 4, 2016. I’m Thom Hartmann on Science and Green News.