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Earth Talk ®

EARTHTALK(R): EARTH DAY 2014

 

E - The Environmental Magazine

April 5, 2014 (San Diego)--Dear EarthTalk: What’s going on with Earth Day this year and how can I get involved? -- Christine B., Boston, MA

This coming April 22 will mark the 44th annual celebration of Earth Day, and the focus this year will be green cities. “As the world’s population migrates to cities, and as the bleak reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever,” reports Earth Day Network, the Seattle-based non-profit that helps coordinate Earth Day celebrations and serves as a clearinghouse for related information and resources. The group hopes to galvanize the support of more than a billion people across 192 countries this Earth Day for increasing the sustainability and reducing the carbon footprints of urban areas everywhere.

EARTH TALK(R): GREEN APPS FOR YOUR PHONE

 

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What are some cool apps that work with a mobile phone that can help me get in better touch with the environment?                                                           -- Mitchell Brown, Troy, MI

Not surprisingly, there are thousands of “green” apps out there that make it easier for people to find and share information to help us all become better stewards of the natural environment.

EARTHTALK(R): SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY

 

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Should those of us who care about our health and the planet be concerned about the new trend in genetic engineering called synthetic biology?                          -- Chrissie Wilkins, Bern, NC

“Synthetic biology” (or “synbio”) refers to the design and fabrication of novel biological parts, devices and systems that do not otherwise occur in nature. Many see it as an extreme version of genetic engineering (GE). But unlike GE, whereby genetic information with certain desirable traits is inserted from one organism into another, synbio uses computers and chemicals to create entirely new organisms.

EARTH TALK: DIRTY FUELS

 

Dear EarthTalk: What are “dirty fuels” and why are they so called?    -- Bill Green, Seattle, WA

February 25, 2014 (San Diego's East County) - The term “dirty fuels” refers to fuels derived from tar sands, oil shale or liquid coal. Just like their more conventional fossil fuel counterparts such as petroleum and coal, they can be turned into gasoline, diesel and other energy sources that can generate extreme amounts of particulate pollution, carbon emissions and ecosystem destruction during their lifecycles from production to consumption.

EARTHTALK®: CLIMATE CHANGE IS KILLING WHITEBARK PINE TREES ACROSS WEST

E - The Environmental Magazine

Photo by Frank D. Lospalluto/Flickr: Clark's Nuthatch on whitebark pine

Dear EarthTalk: How is it that climate change is responsible for killing whitebark pine trees and thus impacting mountain ecosystems?   -- Dale Livingstone, Salem, OR

January 24, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--Whitebark pine trees are a “keystone” species in high-altitude ecosystems across the American West, meaning they play an important role in maintaining the natural structure of many of our most iconic mountain regions. Wildlife from grizzly bears to songbirds are dependent on whitebark pine seeds for nourishment, while forest stands of the trees stabilize and shade the snowpack in winter, which helps reducing avalanches and helps extend snowmelt flows into the dry summer months.

EARTHTALK®: CLEANING WATERWAYS

 

December 18, 2013 (San Diego) – Dear EarthTalk: Is there a way to get local communities involved in cleaning up waterways, like rivers, lakes, streams and creeks?

-- Rebecca, via e-mail

Indeed, many of our local waterways have seen better days, thanks to decades of pollution. And cleaning them up and preventing further damage can be challenging, since much of the contamination has accumulated over time and results from what is known as “non-point source” pollution, which accounts for as much as 60 percent of the water pollution in the U.S.

EARTHTALK®: NAVY SONAR TESTING IN OCEANS IMPACTING MARINE MAMMALS

 

December 11, 2013 (San Diego) -- Dear EarthTalk: I understand the Navy is doing sonar testing and training in the oceans and that their activities will likely kill hundreds if not thousands of whales and other marine mammals. What can be done to stop this?

-- Jackie Bomgardner, Wilton, CT

Active sonar is a technology used on ships to aid in navigation, and the U.S. Navy tests and trains with it extensively in American territorial waters. The Navy also conducts missile and bomb testing in the same areas. But environmentalists and animal advocates contend that this is harming whales and other marine wildlife, and are calling on the Navy to curtail such training and testing exercises accordingly.

EARTHTALK®: POLLUTION INSIDE CARS

 

December 4, 2013 (San Diego) -- Dear EarthTalk: Can you discuss pollutants in car interior materials, and also pollution inside cars originating from gasoline and diesel exhausts outside the car?

-- Mervyn Kline, Philadelphia, PA

EARTHTALK®: EARLY PUBERTY

 

November 21, 2013 (San Diego) -- Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that American kids are going through puberty earlier today than in previous generations, and are there any environmental causes for this?   

-- Paul Chase, Troy, NY

Research indicates that indeed Americans girls and boys are going through puberty earlier than ever, though the reasons are unclear. Many believe our widespread exposure to synthetic chemicals is at least partly to blame, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why our bodies react in certain ways to various environmental stimuli.

EARTHTALK®: ENVIRONMENTAL INTERNSHIPS

 

October 24, 2013 (San Diego) – Dear EarthTalk: I understand that there are many internships available at environmental organizations, some involving working outdoors, some year-round with expenses paid. Where do I find these?

-- Jason Baar, Los Angeles, CA

Internships can provide professional experience and on-the-job training for individuals looking to enter the environmental field. There are numerous opportunities and the key is to know where to look. Many businesses, non-profits and governmental organizations offer internships that are environmentally focused and can range from office work in many different departments to working outdoors, some year-round and some short term. Compensation also varies significantly and can range from unpaid (but earning college credit) to salaried and/or all-expenses-paid.

EARTHTALK®: A FIERCE GREEN FIRE

 

September 19, 2013 (San Diego) – Dear EarthTalk: What is the new documentary film A Fierce Green Fire about and what does the title refer to?                                                                           

-- Gloria Howard, Washington, DC

A Fierce Green Fire is a new film documenting the rise of the modern environmental movement from the 1960s through the present day. It premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and will be playing at select theaters across the country beginning in September 2013. Educators, environmental groups and grassroots activists also will be showing the film at small and large events from coast to coast over the course of the fall. Written and directed by Mark Kitchell, Academy Award-nominated director of Berkeley in the Sixties, A Fierce Green Fire (the film) is based on the 1993 book of the same name by environmental journalist Philip Shabecoff.

EARTHTALK®: GREEN HOME RENOVATION

 

September 12, 2013 (San Diego) – Dear EarthTalk: I’m planning a major home renovation and want to include as many green-friendly features as possible. Where do I begin to look?             

-- Matthew Glaser, Queens, NY

There has never been a better time to renovate green, given the abundance of Earth-friendly building material choices as well as contractors well-versed in energy- and resource-efficiency. Many homeowners don’t realize that they can save money in the long run, despite the up front costs, by choosing materials and strategies that will lower utility bills and reduce maintenance and replacement costs moving forward.

EARTHTALK®: HUMAN OVERPOPULATION - STILL AN ISSUE OF CONCERN?

 

September 5, 2013 (San Diego) – Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that human overpopulation isn’t such a big issue any more as numbers are expected to start declining in a few decades?

-- Melinda Mason, Boone, IA

Ever since Thomas Malthus published “An Essay on the Principle of Population” in 1798, positing incorrectly that humans’ proclivity for procreation would exhaust the global food supply within a matter of decades, population growth has been a hot button issue among those contemplating humankind’s future. Indeed our very success going forth and multiplying, paired with our ability to extend our life expectancy, has meant that we are perpetually pushing the limits of the resource base that supports us.

EARTHTALK®: FOOD WASTE TO ENERGY

 

August 26, 2013 (San Diego) – Dear EarthTalk: Might another possible source for ethanol be discarded pastries from bakeries? For that matter, wouldn’t fermenting unsold bananas, oranges and apples from grocery store produce departments be able to provide an ample supply of fuel?

-- Curious in Warren, PA

Food waste is indeed an untapped resource with great potential for generating energy. Some one third of all food produced around the world gets discarded uneaten, and environmentalists, energy analysts and entrepreneurs are beginning to take notice. Diverting even just a portion of this waste to so-called waste-to-energy (WTE) systems could free up large amounts of landfill space while powering our vehicles and heating our homes, and thus putting a significant dent in our collective carbon footprint. Perhaps that’s why WTE is one of the fastest growing segments of the world’s quickly diversifying energy sector.

EARTHTALK®: SEA LEVEL RISES NOT LETTING UP ANYTIME SOON

 

July 29, 2013 (San Diego) -- Dear EarthTalk: Hurricane Sandy brought more sea water onto shorelines than I’d ever witnessed before and many communities near where I live are now being required to raise their homes up. What is the prognosis for sea level rise in the years immediately ahead?

-- Scott P., Fairfield, CT



Since sea level measurements were first recorded, in 1870, global averages have risen almost eight inches. The annual rate of rise has been 0.13 inches over the past 20 years, which is close to twice the average from the previous 80 years. Future estimates for sea levels vary according to region but most Earth scientists agree that sea levels are expected to rise at a greater pace than during the last 50 years.

EARTHTALK®: DROUGHT LESSONS FROM THE DUST BOWL



 

By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss, E - The Environmental Magazine

June 17, 2013 (San Diego) -- Dear EarthTalk: Could it really be true that we are in the midst of the worst drought in the United States since the 1930s? -- Deborah Lynn, Needham, MA

Indeed we are embroiled in what many consider the worst drought in the U.S. since the “Dust Bowl” days of the 1930s that rendered some 50 million acres of farmland barely usable. Back then, drought conditions combined with poor soil management practices to force some 2.5 million Americans away from the Great Plains, only wreaking further havoc on an already devastated Great Depression economy. The lack of native prairie grasses or cover crops to keep the soil in place meant large swaths of formerly productive agricultural land turned to dust and blew away in so-called “black rollers.”

While we have learned a lot about maintaining soil quality since, drought conditions today are nevertheless taking a heavy toll on agricultural productivity, fresh water supplies and the economy—especially as the effects of global warming start to kick in more seriously.

EARTHTALK®: TOXIC INGREDIENTS IN CLEANING SUPPLIES



By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss, E - The Environmental Magazine

June 10, 2013 (San Diego) -- Dear EarthTalk: I'm concerned about toxic ingredients in my cleaning supplies, especially now that I have young children. Where can I find safer alternatives?             -- Betsy E., Hartford, CT

It is true that many household cleaners contain potentially toxic substances, so parents especially should make an effort to keep them out of the reach of children or, better yet, replace them with safer alternatives.

EARTHTALK®: GLOBAL WARMING SOLUTIONS

April 14, 2013 (San Diego) – Dear EarthTalk: What would you say are the most important steps we need to take as a nation to counter the impacts of climate change?

- Ned Parkinson, Chino, CA

Americans care more about the environment than ever before and the overwhelming majority of us acknowledges that climate change is real and human-induced. But still we continue to consume many more resources per capita than any other nation and refuse to take strong policy action to stave off global warming—even though we have the power to do so.

EARTHTALK®: AVOIDING ENVIRONMENTAL CANCER TRIGGERS

April 14, 2013 (San Diego) -- Dear EarthTalk: I know that some of us are genetically predisposed to get cancer, but what are some ways we can avoid known environmental triggers for it?

- B. Northrup, Westport, MA

Cancer remains the scourge of the American health care system, given that four out of every 10 of us will be diagnosed with one form or another during out lifetime. Some of us are genetically predisposed toward certain types of cancers, but there is much we can do to avoid exposure to carcinogens in our environment.

EARTHTALK®: FOOD SCARCITY

March 17, 2013 (San Diego) – Dear EarthTalk: What are the main drivers of food scarcity that lead to so much starvation around the world, and how can they be addressed?                          

-- Marjorie Millerton, Provo, UT

Food scarcity is a bigger problem than ever as human population numbers continue to swell, putting additional stress on already fragile food production and distribution systems. And it’s not just happening in far away places: A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the number of U.S. homes “lacking food security” rose from 4.7 million to 6.7 million in just the last five years.

EARTHTALK®: ATTRACTING BEES AND BUTTERFLIES TO YOUR GARDEN

March 16, 2013 (San Diego) -- Dear EarthTalk: I’d like to have a garden that encourages bees and butterflies. What’s the best approach?                                                              

-- Robert Miller, Bakersfield, CA

Attracting bees and butterflies to a garden is a noble pursuit indeed, given that we all depend on these species and others (beetles, wasps, flies, hummingbirds, etc.) to pollinate the plants that provide us with so much of our food, shelter and other necessities of life. In fact, increased awareness of the essential role pollinators play in ecosystem maintenance—along with news about rapid declines in bee populations—have led to a proliferation of backyard “pollinator gardens” across the U.S. and beyond.

EARTHTALK®: ALLERGIES AND UNHEALTHY INDOOR AIR

January 31, 2013 (San Diego) -- Dear EarthTalk: My family has bad allergies and I’d like to improve our indoor air quality. What are some steps I should take?

-- Marcia Lane, Scranton, PA

Even for those of us without allergies, poor indoor air quality is an often overlooked health issue. Recent research has shown that the air inside some buildings can be more polluted than the outdoor air in the most industrialized of cities. And since many of us spend some 90 percent of our time indoors, cleaning the air where we live and work might be one of the most important things we can do for our health.

EARTHTALK®: WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF NATIONAL WILDLIFE WEEK?

January 31, 2013 (San Diego) -- Dear EarthTalk: What is the purpose of National Wildlife Week, which I understand will take place in March 2013?

-- Melissa P., Burlington, NJ

National Wildlife Week is a program of the non-profit National Wildlife Federation (NWF) that is designed around teaching and connecting kids to the wonders of wildlife. Each year, the group picks a theme and provides fun and informative educational materials, curriculum and activities for educators and caregivers to use with their kids.

EARTHTALK®: WHAT IS THE LIVING BUILDING CHALLENGE?

E - The Environmental Magazine

Written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

January 12, 2013 (San Diego)--Dear EarthTalk: What is the Living Building Challenge and how does it differ from the LEED certification program?                                                 -- Jason Marshall, Richmond, VA

Both Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the Living Building Challenge (LBC) were created with the same goal in mind: to encourage more sustainability and resource conservation in architecture, design, construction and building operations. LEED, a program of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is well known in architecture, building and design circles as the standard for certifying the green attributes of new and retrofitted structures (and even entire neighborhoods).

EARTHTALK®: IS CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECTING THE HEALTH OF RIVERS

E - The Environmental Magazine

Written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

January 7, 2013 (San Diego)--Dear EarthTalk: How is it that climate change is negatively affecting the health of rivers and, by extension, the quality and availability of fresh water?                  -- Robert Elman, St. Louis, MO

Global warming is no doubt going to cause many kinds of problems (and, indeed, already is), and rivers may well be some of the hardest hit geographical features, given the likelihood of increased droughts, floods and the associated spread of waterborne diseases.

EARTHTALK®: LINK BETWEEN CHILDHOOD ILLNESSES AND PESTICIDES

E - The Environmental Magazine

Written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

December 27, 2012 (San Diego)--Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that children are sicker today than they were a generation ago and that pesticides have played a major role?                                             -- Maria Jenkins, Clewiston, FL

EARTHTALK®: BENEFITS OF PUBLIC TRANSIT

E - The Environmental Magazine

Written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

December 24, 2012 (San Diego)--Dear EarthTalk: It might seem obvious, but what would be the primary benefits of public transit as an alternative to the private automobile if our country were to make a major commitment to it?                                                        -- James Millerton, Armstrong, PA

The benefits of making a major commitment to building up and efficiently managing a larger and more comprehensive public transit network are many.

EARTHTALK®: NUTRITION STANDARDS FOR SCHOOL LUNCHES

E - The Environmental Magazine

December 4, 2012 (San Diego) – Dear EarthTalk: What are the new nutrition standards for school lunches that have some students boycotting their cafeterias and discarding the food?                

-- Melissa Makowsky, Trenton, NJ

Indeed, some 31 million American kids participating in the federally supported National School Lunch Program have been getting more whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables in their diets—whether they like it or not. The change is due to new school meal standards unveiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last January, per the order of 2010’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The new standards are based on the Institute of Medicine’s science-based recommendations, and are the first upgrade to nutritional standards for school meals since 1995 when low- and no-fat foods were all the rage.

EARTHTALK® BURROWING OWL CONSERVATION NETWORK

E - The Environmental Magazine

Written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Dear EarthTalk: What is the Burrowing Owl Conservation Network and why is it so important to put so much effort into saving one species?                               -- Ginny Bateman, Portland, OR

November 9, 2012 (California) --  Western burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) are tiny, long-legged members of the owl family, native to the Americas and preferring open landscapes where they can dig new holes or use existing ones (such as abandoned prairie dog, skunk or armadillo homes) to nest and rear their young. Unlike most other owl species, these small but charismatic birds are more often seen out and about during daylight hours, but they are most active and do their primary feeding at night, preferring a diet of small rodents and large insects.

EARTHTALK®: GROUNDWATER QUALITY

E - The Environmental Magazine

Written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Dear EarthTalk: What is currently being done in the U.S. to ensure the wise use and safety of our nation’s groundwater?    --Kevin Orr, Baton Rouge, LA

November 5, 2012 (San Diego) -- Keeping fresh water safe and abundant is a challenge for all societies. In the U.S., about half of the country’s drinking water comes from groundwater sources. Many rural areas derive all of their drinking water from groundwater, which also provides 40 percent of the irrigation needs of American farmers. 

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