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On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Largest Food Companies Are Big Polluters, and More

In this week’s On the News Segment: The largest food companies are big polluters, and more.

In today’s On the News segment: The largest food companies are big polluters; the North Carolina GOP protects the fracking industry; world leaders meet for the UN’s climate summit; radiation levels around Japan are at an all-time high; the US government plans for a zombie apocolypse; and more.

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

You need to know this. If the 10 largest food companies were a country, they would be the 25th most polluting nation on Earth. A new report from Oxfam International says that the “Big 10” food and beverage companies together emit more than 260 million tons of green house gases every year. That’s more than Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway combined, and Oxfam says that these companies could do much more to reduce their massive amount of pollution. The list of food companies includes big names like Nestle, General Mills, and Kellogg, and Oxfam’s “Behind the Brands” campaign found that these companies could reduce emissions by at least 80 million tons by 2020. However, most of these giant corporations are simply being negligent by ignoring the massive amount of pollution being emitted from their supply chains. While many of these companies have plans to reduce their emissions from operations, they barely acknowledge the green house gases released during food production, harvesting, and transportation. Only two out of these ten companies – Unilever and Coca-Cola – have pledged to reduce emissions in their supply chains. However, not even one of these giant corporations has plans to address pollution from agriculture production. The worst part of this whole problem is that the pollution that these corporations emit leads to more extreme weather, like droughts, which make food production more difficult, and much more expensive. These exact same companies are losing millions every year because of climate change, yet they are some of the biggest contributors to global warming. The “Big 10” food companies can save themselves – and us – a ton of money in the long run by reducing emissions, and more importantly – they can help us all save our planet.

The North Carolina GOP is going to great lengths to protect the fracking industry. Hydraulic fracturing has been banned in that state until lawmakers enact some regulation. Last week, North Carolina Republicans introduced a new bill that they say should “complement” new rules related to fracking. Rather than working to protect residents, this new law would make it a crime to disclose the chemicals found in fracking fluid. In addition, the Republican bill would block local governments from banning, regulating, or even testing water at a new drilling operation. Many natural gas companies have claimed that fracking fluid chemicals are proprietary information, and they’ve refused to share that information – even with government regulators. While some states are forcing companies to disclose the contents of this toxic soup, North Carolina Republicans are actually making it easier for companies to hide this important information. When a spill happens – as it inevitably will – the people stuck dealing with the clean up shouldn’t have to worry that they might go to jail for trying to protect public safety.

This September, world leaders will meet at the United Nations building in New York City for the UN’s 2014 Climate Summit, but they won’t be alone. A large coalition of environmental groups and activists will take to the streets of Manhattan to demand immediate, global action on climate change. The protest is being called the People’s Climate March, and it’s backed by and the group’s co-founder Bill McKibben. In an article published last week in Rolling Stone magazine, McKibben extended an invite to people around the world “who’d like to prove to themselves, and to their children, that they give a damn about the biggest crises our civilization has ever faced.” The People’s Climate March will take place on September 20th, and McKibben said he expects tens of thousands of people to show up and participate. The Facebook page about the event states, “Together, we’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for the people and the planet. A world safe from the ravages of climate change. A world with good jobs, clean air, and healthy communities for everyone.”

Radiation levels have spiked to an all-time high in the seawater surrounding Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. Earlier this month, Tokyo Electric Power Company announced that they detected similar levels in groundwater at the plant, but say that the cause of the spike is still unknown. Tepco has been trying to reduce contamination at the damaged nuclear site, but almost every week we hear of a another leak, another spill, and radiation levels that keep rising. Officials plan to contain radiation with a huge underground ice wall around Fukushima, but Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority has not approved that plan because of concerns for public safety. In addition, international experts have expressed doubts over how effective such a plan will be at protecting the public and keeping radiation out of ground water. Tepco has proven that they are not capable of dealing with this massive problem, and the situation at Fukushima has gotten worse – not better. It is time for the international community to step in, and prevent an even more serious disaster.

And finally… You may have heard last week that our government has an official plan to deal with a zombie attack. Although that news is, in fact, true, don’t get ready for World War Z just yet. CONPLAN 888, as it’s known by the Department of Defense, was really only a training tool. Planning joint operations that involve multiple branches of the military is a complex task, and using the names of real countries during training could lead someone to mistake a teaching tool as a real plan. So, the D.o.D. used a fictitious zombie attack to teach a local squadron how to coordinate a joint military operation. The authors of the report said that using zombies turned a boring, monotonous task into “something rather enjoyable,” and instructors had an easier time teaching trainees how to design and implement military plans. So, there’s no need to worry about a real-life Walking Dead episode, but maybe it’s slightly reassuring to know that our military is prepared just in case.

And that’s the way it is for the week of May 26, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.

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