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"After 140 Years, Indigenous People Win a Major Victory." That story and more in the latest edition of "This Week in Water" [ Show/Hide Transcript ]

Physicians Warn About the Health Effects of Climate Change

More people are using their asthma medications in Montana due to wildfires; the tick season is lasting longer making Lyme disease more of a worry on the East Coast; and more violent storms and extreme weather events are causing severe damage, like that in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last year where 13 people died during extreme flooding.

These problems, along with others, have led a large organization of doctors to issue a report about health problems caused by climate change. The physicians are members of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health and they’re warning that Americans need to become aware of medical problems associated with global warming. The organization represents more than half of the physicians in the U.S. and have reached the point where they find it necessary to inform the public.

Even if we are not aware of all the medical issues associated with climate change, a new Gallup poll shows that the public’s views of the problem are changing. 45 percent of Americans now say they worry a great deal about global warming. That’s the highest in nearly three decades. The poll also showed that almost 70 percent believe humans are causing the climate to change, and more than 60 percent are convinced we’re already experiencing its negative effects.

While some in the Trump administration and the Republican-led congress will not admit or recognize the problem, the new Secretary of Defense, James Mattis sees it differently. He stated recently that climate change is real and a threat to American interests abroad. ProPublica reports that Mattis has long espoused the position that the armed forces, for a host of reasons, need to cut dependence on fossil fuels and explore renewable energy where it makes sense.

El Niño Brings Devastating Floods to Peru

In Peru about 70 people have been killed and the number of homeless has increased since the deadliest rains in decades have hit the country’s coast. Nearly half of Peru has been affected, and the storms are expected to continue for another two weeks. More than 800 cities have declared an emergency, and the capital, Lima, has been without water for days. The health ministry has started fumigating around pools of water in streets to kill mosquitoes that carry diseases like dengue.

The BBC reports that Peru and other countries around the Pacific Ocean have been affected in recent months by the phenomenon known as El Niño, a rise in sea temperatures that increases evaporation and brings about heavy rains.

River in New Zealand Is the First in World to Gain Legal Rights

The Whanganui River in New Zealand is very important to the Maori people as the source of spiritual sustenance. They see it as a caregiver, and a guardian. It is the nation’s third longest river, and last week it was given legal status just like a human. The New Zealand Herald reports that the river now has all the rights, duties and liabilities that come with personhood.

Among other things, the river will now be represented in court proceedings where one person from the Maori tribes and one from the government will speak for it.

An official says that he knows some will say it's strange to give a natural resource a legal personality; but, it's no different than giving rights to family trusts, companies or a corporation. The Maori have been struggling for about 140 years to protect the river legally. When the law was passed hundreds of tribal representatives wept with joy. The people who live along the Whanganui have a well-known proverb that says: "I am the river. The river is me."

Yoga Pants and Fleece Jackets Are Harming Ocean Wildlife

The things we wear for comfort and exercise may be polluting the oceans according to a new study. The two-year inquiry led by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium found that tiny little plastic fibers from things like yoga pants or fleece jackets and anything that's nylon or polyester, shed microscopic pieces of plastic when they’re washed, and those tiny pieces find their way into fish, oysters, and other wildlife.

And a new follow-up study is being launched along the Gulf Coast to see just how prevalent the problem is.

The Associated Press reports that experts are suggesting that manufacturers of washing machines may need to be encouraged to include filters that reduce plastic waste. A study, conducted by volunteers in Florida, showed that nearly 90 percent of the samples included at least one piece of plastic, and among those, the smaller microfibers made up more than 80 percent.

One clothing company, Patagonia, is supporting research into microfiber pollution and is informing consumers about ways to minimize the effects such as laundering clothes less often and using a front-loading washing machine.

Sinkhole Celebrates First Birthday

California-town-celebrates-birthday-for-year-old-sinkhole And finally, there was cake; there were balloons and streamers—everything you’d expect at a birthday party...everything except that the guest of honor at this celebration was a hole—a 15 by 20 foot sinkhole to be exact that opened up east of San Francisco. Locals gathered at a busy intersection in the suburb of Moraga to sing happy birthday and joke, but they also wanted to call attention to the fact that the massive crater hasn’t been fixed for over a year.

Last March a series of El Niño-linked storms saturated the ground at the intersection causing the collapse, but one year later, the town says it doesn’t have the $3.3 million needed for repairs so, it's been left to jump through federal hoops to get the funds.

Sinkholes can occur for various reasons. Natural sinkholes can result over time from water seeping into the ground and eroding soil and rock. They can also be the result of drilling, mining, or even heavy traffic. Most often they form from broken water or drain pipes.

A spokesperson for public works said they’ve nearly completed the required paperwork and expect repairs to begin sometime this summer. As for the party goers their patience is running thin. Waiting another 4 more months for Washington to send the money? That leaves them 'Fed up' with the 'hole' business.

Music Credits: The Fixer, Funkygroove  | Qin, Dr.Guonake  | Jah Moon, Sun Ska Riddim Originale  |  Scott Holmes, Cat and Mouse  |  Grégoire Lourme, Rain  |  Creative Commons

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