On the News With Thom Hartmann: California Schoolchildren Are Being Taught With Misleading Textbooks, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Leaders from around the world are meeting in Paris to work out the future of global climate action; there may eventually be a new ringed planet in our solar system; California school children are being taught with misleading textbooks; and more.

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


Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of….science & green news…..

You need to know this. This week, leaders from around the world are meeting in Paris to work out the future of global climate action. But, while our president is overseas trying to come up with climate solutions, Republicans back in the states are undermining him at every turn. And, their typical obstruction could pose a threat to the entire Paris summit. Rather than working on ways to solve our climate crisis, our right-wing lawmakers have vowed to block $3 billion that President Obama has pledged to help developing nations. During the 2009 climate talks, trust broke down between developing and developed nations, and threatened to derail the entire summit. Thankfully, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton managed to save the talks by pledging to help raise $100 billion in annual aid for developing nations. A small part of that $100 billion so-called “Green Climate Fund” was supposed to come from the United States, but Republicans are blocking our small contribution. In a recent letter to President Obama, 37 Republican Senators said, “We pledge that Congress will not allow US Taxpayer dollars to go to the Green Climate Fund until the forthcoming international climate agreement is submitted to the Senate for its constitutional advice and consent.” In other words, they want to block the funding because they know that doing do could undermine the Paris talks, insult the president and keep their oil-industry donors raking in massive profits. Thankfully, many other developed nations have contributed their funds to the Green Climate Fund, which will help up-and-coming nations skip over the fossil fuel stage of their development. And, Democrats in Congress say that they won’t make it easy for Republicans to back out of international commitments. If we want to lead the world in the next century, we have to help the world make the switch away from last century’s dirty energy. That means we need to help fund the clean development of the future.

There may eventually be a new ringed planet in our solar system. According to new research from astronomers, the mini moon that circulates Mars will break apart and give that planet a ring of its own. But, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that ring to appear. Scientists say that it will take somewhere from 20 to 70 million years for that occur. Astronomers who study that moon, called Phobos, noticed that moon is moving 1.8 centimeters closer to Mars every year. Although it may be a long, long way off, eventually the moon will break apart and send 10 trillion tons of material into orbit around that planet. Scientists are not sure whether Phobos will actually hit the surface of Mars, or whether it will break apart as it orbits, but it’s still pretty amazing that they can predict the moon’s inevitable demise. Despite our view of our planet and solar system as stable, the fact is that we’re just sitting on a rock in a dynamic environment that’s constantly changing.

North Vancouver, British Columbia wants drivers to be aware of how they impact our climate. That’s why the Canadian city will be the first to implement climate change warning stickers at each and every gas pump. Earlier this month, North Vancouver passed a new law which mandates that all gas pumps help drivers understand how small changes can have a big impact. For example, one of the proposed warning labels reads, “Idling your vehicle for more than 10 seconds wastes more gas than starting your engine.” While officials don’t believe that the new labels will make people stop driving, they hope that the warnings will get people to think about their buying habits. Rob Shirkley of the group Out Horizon, which spearheaded the labels, said, “We have a habitual automatic downstream behavior – we don’t think about pumping gas. We all say in Canada, ‘shame on Alberta, shame on tar sands,’ but by pointing [our] finger up-stream, we distance ourselves from the problem.” He added, “We’re providing most of the demand for that product.” Hopefully, the new labels will make more people aware of how their small decisions have a impact our warming planet.

California school children are being taught with misleading textbooks. According to a recent article in the Guardian newspaper, the science books used by sixth-graders in that state express doubt about whether climate change is real. That article summarized a Stanford University study, which analyzed four different science textbooks and found that they “framed climate change as uncertain in the scientific community – both about whether it is occurring as well as about its human-causation.” In fact, one of the books actually claims that climate change “could have some positive effects.” Despite the fact that there is virtually no debate on whether climate change is occurring, all of these books use conditional words like “may,” “might” or “could” when discussing the climate. One of the authors of the Stanford study, KC Busch, said, “Saying that ‘if temperatures go up, climate change could occur’ is completely misleading.” She added, “We don’t want children to be brainwashed; we just need to be clear about what scientists know and what they are uncertain of.” Students’ educations should not depend on political ideology, and it’s time to get the climate science denial out of our education system.

And finally… If you – like many Americans – love all things flavored with pumpkin spice, you may owe a big thanks to early North American farmers. According to a recent study published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” if early Americans hadn’t cultivated pumpkins and squash, they most likely would have gone extinct on our continent. Researchers conducted a genetic analysis of 91 ancient and modern gourds and discovered that humans started to cultivate the plant about 10,000 years ago. But, when the population of large mammals declined in North America, there were few remaining natural ways for pumpkin seeds to be spread so they could flourish. If humans didn’t domesticate the plant, they wouldn’t have survived, and we wouldn’t have the tasty pumpkin treats that we all know and love today. So, the next time you take a bite of pumpkin pie, perhaps you should take a minute to give thanks to our nation’s first farmers.

And that’s the way it is for the week of November 30, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.