Earthtalk Q&A

  • ParkingThe Perils of Parking: Round & Round We Go
    We waste lots of time and fuel and emit lots of greenhouse gases when we are behind the wheel circling around and around the block looking for parking...
  • Green CollegeGreen Colleges Encourage Sustainability On Campus & Beyond
    Green colleges are encouraging sustainability with waste reduction & recycling programs, renewable energy installations and shared vehicles & bikes...
  • Green ThanksgivingGreen Thanksgiving: Eat Less Meat, Buy in Bulk
    Just because you don’t have to buy & wrap gifts doesn’t mean Thanksgiving is green, but there are lots of ways to make it more that way...
  • Donald Trump. Credit: Gage Skidmore, FlickrCCWhat Will Donald Trump Do About Climate & Environment?
    Dear EarthTalk: What kinds of changes to federal environmental policies can we expect to see from Donald Trump when he assumes the presidency? —D. Shelley, Bounder, CO Like many Americans, environmentalists are alarmed at the results of the 2016 election. What worries them most is Trump’s call for reneging on the landmark Paris climate accord […]
  • ChernobylChernobyl Wildlife Thriving 30 Years Later
    These days, wildlife is thriving around the site of the nuclear reactor meltdown at Chernobyl in the Ukraine three decades ago. Biologists say the lack of people in the "Exclusion Zone" thirty kilometers around reactor has made it easier for the animals that did survive — and their progeny — to now flourish.
  • Polyester FleeceIs Polyester Fleece Trashing Our Oceans?
    Polyester fleece clothing sure is cozy and comfy, but it just may be trashing our oceans by shedding microfibers in our washing machines that are too small for wastewater treatment facilities to filter out.
  • Wave Power Could Meet 1/4 of U.S. Electricity NeedsWave Power Could Meet 1/4 of U.S. Electricity Needs
    Wave power could account for a quarter or more of U.S. electricity needs if we work to develop its potential around our coastlines, and could also provide other countries with a readily available renewable and free energy source.
  • beesWhat’s Killing All the Bees?
    Activists would like the U.S. government to ban a class of insecticides called neonics that they blame for wiping out the bees that pollinate a majority of our food crops.
  • Green HalloweenGreening Halloween with Costume Swaps, Healthy Snacks
    Green Halloween encourages parents to organize costume swaps & give out healthy snacks or treasures instead of candy this year at Halloween...
  • solar meltdownSolar Meltdown or Boom?
    Just because Americans are warming up to solar doesn’t mean that every company looking to lead this power revolution has been able to manage the growth and navigate the tricky world of shifting subsidies and incentives...
  • Home Water Quality Testing: Peace of Mind Has Never Been So EasyHome Water Quality Testing: Peace of Mind Has Never Been So Easy
    Coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids and unhealthy pH levels, oh my! If you are worried that your water might contain these or other contaminants, at-home water quality testing is easy and relatively inexpensive...
  • ANWRWhazzup with ANWR?
    Senate Democrats Michael Bennet and Ed Markey introduced legislation last December calling for permanently designating the most sensitive sections of ANWR as wilderness off limits to development.
  • artificial cloningArtificial Cloning: Unnatural & Inhumane, or the Savior of Endangered Species?
    Some environmentalists consider artificial cloning unnatural & inhumane, but others see it as an essential tool to help save growing numbers of endangered species during the sixth great extinction crisis in the history of the planet....
  • Smoke Waves Credit: Dave Thomas, FlickrCCSmoke Waves: Wildfires’ Dirty Little Secret
    Smoke waves can radiate out for hundreds of miles from wildfires, spreading particulate matter and causing health problems for millions of Americans who think they are safe and far from the fire lines...
  • ExxonMobil climate denialHow long have we known about human-caused global warming?
    ExxonMobil knew as early as 1977 that our enthusiastic burning of fossil fuels was leading to global warming — and since then has spent upwards of $30 million to promote so-called climate denial...
  • Vice PresidentWhere Do Vice President Candidates Pence & Kaine Stand on Environment?
    Not surprisingly given the current political climate, the respective Vice Presidential candidates, Republican Mike Pence & Democrat Tim Kaine, differ on most of the issues, including their policies on conservation, environment, energy & what we should do about climate change.
  • solar schoolsSolar Schools: Opportunities Abound to Help Schools Go Solar
    There's never been a better time for schools to add solar panels to their energy mix, given lots of public and private grants that can help foot the bill for the conversion....
  • ITER nuclear fusionFusion Energy: Nuclear Gone Good?
    Nuclear fusion may be the most promising energy source that most of us have never heard of. Scientists first discovered fusion as a potential energy source in the 1930’s and have been quietly working on it ever since. Only recently, given societal pressure to find alternatives to fossil fuels, has fusion started to capture the attention of the media and policymakers—and now researchers are hoping the process can become a key source of safe, clean, reliable energy in the near future.
  • MarsIf humans ruin or outgrow Earth, are there other planets we can hope to colonize?
    As the human population swells and global warming compounds other environmental problems here on Earth, the notion of colonizing other planets is more appealing than ever. While we are far from being able to support human communities elsewhere in the solar system and beyond, environmentalists are increasingly interested in space exploration as one potential solution to our own earthly woes.
  • Hawaii GMOWhy is Hawaii “ground zero” in the fight against genetically engineered crops?
    Hawaii has become ground zero for testing and trials of genetically engineered crops, and environmentalists worry about the implications for ecosystems throughout the islands and beyond...
  • waterBeyond Flint: Water Woes Affect 18 Million Americans
    According to a new report from NRDC, 5,300 different water systems across the country either shirked responsibilities to treat their water supplies to reduce lead levels, failed to monitor water supplies for lead, or neglected to report unsafe lead levels to the public or regulators.
  • virtual realityCan Virtual Reality (VR) help save reality?
    While virtual reality is hardly a replacement for experiencing life itself, environmentalists are starting to use it as a tool to help everyday people appreciate the natural world around them and the environmental challenges we face as global citizens.
  • Coal-free: is it possible in the U.S.?Is a coal-free future really possible in the United States?
    Given the influx of cheap natural gas and the ascendance of renewable energy sources, coal might not be able to mount a comeback.is down and out...
  • underwater noise pollutionUnderwater Noise Pollution Threatens Marine Wildlife, Ecosystems
    Underwater noise pollution from military sonar, industrial activity & seismic testing is an increasing threat to marine wildlife & ecosystems...
  • extinctionExtinction: Global Warming Hits Home for Wildlife
    Extinction is yet another effect of global warming, with the Golden Toad, Bramble Cay Melomy already suffering the ultimate fate...
  • musiciansMusicians & Music Festivals Go Green
    Musicians & music festivals are going green by reducing plastic waste at concerts and venues, riding in biodiesel tour buses and eating locally...
  • penguinsPenguins on the Brink
    Five of the world's 18 penguin species are considered endangered and 10 other species are at risk according to IUCN.
  • circus elephantsCircus Elephants: A Thing of the Past for Ringling?
    Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has transitioned its remaining circus elephants to a Florida-based facility focused on conservation, care and research...
  • Donald TrumpCould Donald Trump Renege on Paris Climate Deal?
    The U.S. can't back out of the Paris climate accord for another four years, but that won't stop Donald Trump, if elected President, from trying to undermine the nation's ability to make good on its COP21 commitments.
  • Zika Virus environmentalZika Virus: An Environmental Problem?
    Zika virus has spread far and wide as a result of human mismanagement of the environment. Trash build-up, dam building, deforestation and global warming each contribute to the spread of Zika and other insect-borne diseases around the world.
  • electric carsElectric Cars for the Masses, Finally!
    Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are finally getting inexpensive enough that everyday drivers can afford them...
  • The Next Inconvenient Truth? New Eco Docs Still Focus on ClimateThe Next Inconvenient Truth? New Eco Docs Still Focus on Climate
    While potent in its day as the film that put climate change on the public radar, An Inconvenient Truth, now a decade old, is hardly the last word in green documentaries anymore. New Must-Sees Eco Documentaries Include Disobedience, The Cross of the Moment and Revolution...
  • Volkswagen, Roddy Scheer, www.roddyscheer.comVolkswagen Emissions Scandal: The Environmental Impact
    Volkswagen is ponying up $18.2 billion to deal with its emissions cheating scandal, but environmentalists wonder if all the money in the world will be able to repair the wound to consumer confidence...
  • GreenwashingGreen Label Confusion: Legit or Greenwashing?
    As sustainability becomes more mainstream, more and more products today advertise their green credentials—with many displaying third-party certifications on their labels. But how can consumers know which certifications are legit?
  • medianCarbon Sequestration: Are Roadsides the Answer?
    Planting trees & shrubs on otherwise unused roadsides could help meet Paris climate goals, but not everyone thinks it's a good idea...
  • Sea Shepherd Conservation SocietyActivist Redux: Carrying the Earth First! Torch
    What ever happened to the radical environmental group Earth First!? Are they still out there and are there other radical environmental groups now doing similar work?
  • peanutsPeanut Allergy Rise Worries Environmentalists
    Do scientists think there's a big environmental component to the huge rise in peanut allergy cases in the U.S. and beyond in recent years?
  • SugarArtificial Sweeteners: Can They Help Reduce Obesity?
    Americans consume as much sugar in a day as our ancestors consumed in a year — and our health is suffering as a result. But artificial sweeteners may not be a healthier substitute...
  • Rooftop Solar in New York StateRooftop Solar: Which States Are Friendliest?
    Northeastern and southwestern states among the best for residential solar, while some sunny southeastern states lag behind...
  • Cecil the lionTrophy Hunting: Good for Wildlife, Conservation?
    Big game hunters insist that their hobby does a lot to spur conservation given the huge fees they pay to the countries that host them, but environmentalists aren't so sure...
  • Cast iron & non-stick pansNon-Stick Cookware: Safest Options?
    Non-stick cookware cleans very easily and some health-conscious cooks appreciate that it requires less cooking oil than uncoated varieties. But the convenient cooking surface comes with potential risks when it is used with high heat.
  • Are 3D Printers Safe to Use?Are 3D Printers Safe to Use?
    Are 3d printers safe to use? High-tech gizmos could revolutionize manufacturing, but let's work out the health & environmental kinks first...
  • Is Genetically Modified Food Really Safe For Us To Eat?Is Genetically Modified Food Really Safe For Us To Eat?
    Many environmentalists still question whether all the genetically modified organisms in our food supply is good for us or the environment...
  • borderlandsTrump’s Wall: Bad Idea for Border Ecosystems?
    The Sierra Club thinks Donald Trump's wall would be a terrible idea for the already compromised ecosystems around the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Al GoreWhatever happened to Al Gore?
    Al Gore is still busy saving the planet through his Climate Reality Project, but is also revolutionizing capitalism with Generation Investment Management.
  • Protesting Apple working conditions in ChinaChinese Worker Exploitation Claims Persist for Apple
    Is Apple really doing everything it can about claims of Chinese worker exploitation at its suppliers like Foxconn and Pegatron in China?
  • Organic red peppersEndocrine Disruptors: Why So Bad?
    We can reduce the amount of endocrine disruptors we ingest by buying organic produce, avoiding processed foods & drinking filtered water...
  • polar bear in melting ArcticArctic Warming: Keeping Ice = Saving Climate
    The Arctic is an “indicator region” for the rest of the planet: small changes there can have profound ecosystem impacts elsewhere in the world...
  • Save ElephantsHow Can We Save Elephants Around the World?
    Environmentalists are scurrying to save elephants and other iconic African wildlife from extinction in the face of increasing poaching across Africa.
  • Activists in Leesburg, Virginia want Congress to just say no to the TPP given the potential social justice and environmental implications of the trade agreement.Trans-Pacific Partnership Bad Deal For Environment
    The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an international agreement seeking to unite the economic interests of 12 countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, but at what cost environmentally?
  • Alysson Muotri at the University of California San Diego Department of Pediatrics is using teeth analysis to identify gene abnormalities in children with autism, even in cases with no previous known genetic cause. Credit: Kris Krüg for PopTech (FlickrCC)What environmental factors are contributing to the autism epidemic?
    Dear EarthTalk: What is the latest thinking on the environmental causes (if any) of autism? I hear so much conflicting information I don’t know what to believe.    —Bill Stribling, Austin, TX                         In the 1980s, about one in 2,000 American kids was diagnosed with autism. […]
  • Eiffel Tower - COP 21What do green groups think about the outcome of the recent Paris climate talks?
    Dear EarthTalk: What do green groups think about the outcome of the recent Paris climate talks? —Jackie Lupinacci, Pittsburgh, PA                         On December 12, 2015, 195 countries assembled at the COP21 Climate Conference in Paris produced a 32-page agreement outlining goals to phase out industrial carbon […]
  • The World Parrot Trust is raising money to support its work getting captive birds back into the wild using the non-profit crowdfunding platform RazooHow are environmentalists using crowdfunding to get their projects off the ground?
    Dear EarthTalk: How are environmentalists and environmental groups using crowdfunding to get their projects off the ground?  —Sean Jackson, Baltimore, MD                         Crowdfunding relies on the collective effort of a large amount of individuals making online contributions to allow a project or venture to happen. ArtistShare, […]
  • holiday lightsHow can we green our holiday celebrations this year?
    Dear EarthTalk: The holidays can be so wasteful. What are some ways we can green our celebrations this year?       —Belinda McHugh, Los Angeles, CA                         Sipping eggnog, listening to carols by the fire and enjoying the beauty of colorfully decorated homes are all warm memories the […]
  • Transparent solar cellsWhat’s on the horizon in terms of new solar power technologies?
    Dear EarthTalk: What’s the latest in cutting-edge, hyper-efficient solar cells? Are we really moving beyond huge photovoltaic panels anytime soon?    —Michael Williams, Hartford, CT                         Many people still consider environmentalists’ favorite black panels as the cutting edge of renewable energy. However, the burgeoning solar industry has […]
  • Tom SteyerAre there any green PACs working to influence elections?
    Dear EarthTalk: Are there any green PACs working to influence elections?   —Wilson McClave, Washington, DC                         As a matter of fact, green Political Action Committees (PACs) emerged as major funders last fall in the run-up to the 2014 Congressional elections, and look to play an even […]
  • Recycling binsIs recycling still worthwhile given the expense and emissions associated with it?
    Dear EarthTalk: Is recycling still worthwhile given the expense and emissions associated with it? —Michael Vitti, Norwalk, OH                         Americans generate about 254 million tons of trash and recycle and compost about 87 million tons of this material, which adds up to a 34.3 percent national […]
  • Republican frontrunner Donald Trump calls global warming a "hoax."Where do the Republican Presidential hopefuls stand on environmental issues?
    The Republican presidential candidates strike fear into the hearts of environmentalists given their disregard for reducing carbon emissions and other plans to roll back progress on conservation.
  • Bernie SandersWhere do the leading Democratic candidates for President stand on environmental issues?
    Dear EarthTalk: Where do the leading Democratic candidates for president stand on environmental issues?    —Leslie Mazur, Hauppauge, NY                         President Obama, with his recent push to join the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, will be a tough act to follow on the environment. But each […]
  • Protest Against RoundupDoes Monsanto’s Roundup cause cancer or not?
    Dear EarthTalk: My neighbor uses Roundup in her yard routinely and tells me it’s harmless to people and pets, but I’ve heard that it is carcinogenic. Can you set the record straight? —Maise Alexander, New Hope, PA                         Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides contain three key components: the […]
  • ConcreteWhat’s being done to clean up the concrete industry?
    Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that making and installing concrete takes a big toll on the environment. What’s being done to clean up this industry?   —Jenn Chadwick, Washington, DC                         The 20 billion tons of concrete produced around the world annually account for an estimated five to […]
  • Carbon emissionsWhat’s the difference between a carbon tax and “cap-and-trade” system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
    Dear EarthTalk: What’s the difference between a carbon tax and “cap-and-trade” system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions? —Marina Brown, New York, NY                         Most of us can agree that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a must given the rapid warming of the planet; just how to […]
  • humpback whaleWhat’s behind so many whales dying in the Gulf of Alaska?
    Dear EarthTalk: Do scientists have any idea why so many whales are dying in the Gulf of Alaska lately?   —Michelle DiCostanzo, New York, NY                         Over the past four months, 33 large whales have been reported dead in the Western Gulf of Alaska, which encompasses the […]
  • Solar Desalination Plant, TuvaluCan solar desalination help an increasingly thirsty world?
    Dear EarthTalk: What exactly is solar desalination and how can it help an increasingly thirsty world?   —Maryann Dell’Amore, Howard, MN                         Solar desalination is a technique used to remove salt from water via a specially designed still that uses solar energy to boil seawater and capture […]
  • Paperless officeHow can my company start to scale back its paper use?
    Dear EarthTalk: My company talks the talk when it comes to the environment but could do so much more to reduce paper use. Do you have any tips to help get the higher-ups on board to reduce paper use company-wide? —Elena Sepulveda, White Plains, NY                      […]
  • Cook+Fox Architects' OfficeWhat is biophilic design in architecture?
    Biophilic design incorporates natural materials, natural light, vegetation, nature views & other experiences of nature into the modern built environment...
  • Are the California redwoods in danger because of the drought?Are the California redwoods in danger because of the drought?
    Dear EarthTalk: Are the California redwoods in danger because of the drought? — Jesse Pollman, Seattle, WA                         California is home to two of the three redwood tree species: coast redwoods and giant sequoias. The coast redwood is the Earth’s tallest tree, growing more than 360 […]
  • What advantages do vertical farms have over traditional gardens and farms?What advantages do vertical farms have over traditional gardens and farms?
    Dear EarthTalk: What advantages do so-called “vertical farms” have over traditional gardens and farms? Sylvia Pleasant, Washington, DC                         When Dickson Despommier’s book The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century was first published, there were no vertical farms. Now, it’s an exciting movement […]
  • drone and moonHow can drones help environmentalists?
    Dear EarthTalk: How are environmentalists putting drones to use to help further their causes?   — Joe Martin, Baltimore, MD                         Conservationists are utilizing drone or “unmanned aerial systems” (UAS) technology to gather highly detailed imagery and other environmental data that is traditionally challenging to obtain. Wildlife biologist John Takekawa and […]
  • Boundary DamCould carbon capture & sequestration be the savior of coal and our bridge to the energy future?
    Carbon capture & sequestration (CCS) for coal-fired power plants may be key to a greener energy future, if only we can convince utilities to adopt it...
  • Greenpeace protestorsIs off-shore oil drilling actually safer now than ever?
    Dear EarthTalk: Is off-shore drilling any safer for the environment today given lessons learned from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico?    —Leslie Jackson, Bern, NC                         The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in 2010 resulted in 11 lost lives and hundreds of […]
  • Tilikum the orca whaleDo orcas really live as long in captivity as in the wild?
    Dear EarthTalk: I’ve been seeing this ad on TV a lot by SeaWorld claiming they don’t take orcas from the wild and that orcas live just as long in captivity as they do in the wild. Are these claims true? —Mary Cleveland, Coral Gables, FL                         […]
  • How is that being around trees & other plants can help us feel good?How is that being around trees & other plants can help us feel good?
    Dear EarthTalk: How is that being around trees and other plants can help us feel good? — Amy Mola, Greenville, SC                         Trees are known to improve air quality by capturing six common air pollutants and toxic gases: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur […]
  • Polar BearAre Polar Bears Faring Better Given Endangered Species Protection?
    Dear EarthTalk: How have polar bear populations in the Arctic been faring since the U.S. put them on its endangered species list in 2008, and what efforts are underway to protect them? —Melissa Underhill, Bangor, MER                         Biologists estimate that as many as 25,000 polar bears […]
  • old paintWhat is the best way to recycle old paint, primer and stains?
    Dear EarthTalk: What is the best way to recycle my old and/or unwanted paint, primer and stains? —Kim Beeler, Lake Oswego, OR                         Has one of the many popular shows on HGTV inspired you to renovate your own home? If so, you’re not alone! Home […]
  • California droughtIs California’s drought the result of too much meddling by enviros?
    Dear EarthTalk: Is California’s epic drought really the result of too much meddling by environmentalists like some conservatives have suggested? —Betsy Martin, Butte, MT                         While no one questions that California is in the midst of one of the worst droughts in recent history, the […]
  • Soccket kinetic soccer ballCan kinetic energy help replace fossil fuels?
    Dear EarthTalk: I recently heard about a cafe in the Netherlands that harvests so-called “kinetic” energy from its revolving door to power its interior lights. Is there potential for kinetic energy to provide significant amounts of electricity to help replace fossil fuels? —Doug Mola, Boise, ID                      […]
  • Mail TruckHow is the USPS Greening Snail Mail?
    Dear EarthTalk: What’s the latest with the U.S. Postal Service trying to reduce its environmental footprint? Starting delivery of some mail on Sundays doesn’t seem like a step in the right direction. —Kerry Rawlings, Albany, NY                         As recent TV ads have been telling us, the […]
  • Nonhuman Rights ProjectDo animals have legal rights?
    Dear EarthTalk: What are so-called non-human rights?   —Richard Montcalm, Jenkintown, PA                         Non-human rights is a term coined by animal welfare activist and lawyer Steven Wise, who has campaigned for three decades to achieve actual legal rights for members of species other than our own. His […]
  • overheated carHow can I get my car ready for summer driving?
    Dear EarthTalk: Summer is near and I am planning a big road trip. Do you have any tips for boosting my car’s fuel efficiency on long, hot drives?   —Esther McCoy, Burlington, VT                         Ah, the summer road trip, that classic American experience. But long drives through […]
  • No Junk MailHow can I stop the deluge of junk mail the mail man drops off?
    Dear EarthTalk: It seems like I’m getting more junk mail than ever these days. How can I stop the deluge?  —Grace Dixon, Houston, TX                         First of all, you’re probably right! Junk mail has increased to a massive scale in recent years, with the average American […]
  • SeattleClimate Refuge: Where Will You Go?
    If temperatures around the globe continue to rise in the face of human-induced climate change as climatologists expect, some of the world’s most populous areas could become uninhabitable. Rising sea levels will flood out coastal areas, while increasing drought will make survival in already arid areas difficult at best. While we may have at least a few decades of runway to prepare ourselves for the worst, advance planners might want to think carefully about where to put down roots now. Where will be your climate refuge?
  • Gobi desert dust stormWhat is the Great Green Wall of China?
    Dear EarthTalk: What is the Great Green Wall of China? —Jacob Williston, Tempe, AZ   Unlike the Great Wall of China, a 5,000-mile fortification dating back to the 7th century BC that separates northern China from the Mongolian steppe, the Great Green Wall of China — otherwise known as the Three-North Shelter Forest Program — […]
  • school gardenHow Can Teachers Integrate Sustainability Into Their Curricula?
    Dear EarthTalk: What resources are out there for helping teachers integrate sustainability topics into their curricula?    — Melinda Zullo, Toronto, ON   Teaching our kids about sustainability and green living is one of the most important things we can do to safeguard the future of humanity and the planet we inhabit. The North American Association for […]
  • battery recyclingShould I Recycle My Old Disposable Batteries?
    Dear EarthTalk: Can I throw my old disposable batteries in the trash or is there a way to recycle them?    — Jennifer Brandstrom, Chicago, IL   Truth be told, those old used up disposable alkaline batteries (AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt, etc.) aren’t the environmental menace they used to be before the federal government mandated taking out […]
  • Permafrost terracesIs Our Tundra In Trouble?
    Dear EarthTalk: How much of a threat does climate change pose to the tundra ecosystems of the far north? — Seamus Hall, via EarthTalk.org   The tundra biome is among the coldest of the planet’s ecosystems. Its harsh climate means that plant life is unable to grow more than a few centimeters above the ground. The name […]
  • Polar bearAre We Past the Point of No Return on Climate Change?
    Dear EarthTalk: What is the best way to measure how close we are to the dreaded “point of no return” with climate change? In other words, when do we think we will have gone too far? — David Johnston, via EarthTalk.org   While we may not yet have reached the “point of no return” — when no […]
  • Lincoln DriveEnvironmental Justice Anyone?
    Dear EarthTalk: What can communities do to keep polluters out of their neighborhoods? — Wendell Bovey, Los Angeles, CA   It’s unfair that communities which are less organized and less wealthy often shoulder the burden of hosting polluters like landfills, incinerators and power plants. “Frequently, these facilities end up in the places that put up the least […]
  • Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain InstituteCan we really get off coal by 2050?
    Dear EarthTalk: How does the Rocky Mountain Institute think we can get off of oil and coal by 2050 and save money in the process? — James Greenville, Redding, CT Colorado-based sustainability think-tank Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) was founded in 1982 by American physicist and environmentalist Amory Lovins to research and promote market-based solutions to our energy […]
  • men's health Arnold SchwarzeneggerShould men be worried about environmental exposures too?
    Dear EarthTalk: We often see and read reports about environmental threats to women’s health, but aren’t there also concerns about which men should be especially vigilant? — Jay Walsh, Boston, MA   Indeed, women aren’t the only ones who should be worried about environmental threats. A recently released report (“Men’s Health: What You Don’t Know Might Hurt […]
  • backyard firepitBackyard Firepit Smoke: A Health Hazard?
    Backyard firepits provide a nice ambience but neighbors wonder whether the wood smoke is compromising their air quality especially as they leave windows open during the warmer months.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals collectively known as “obesogens” may be contributing to the growing obesity epidemic, because exposure has been shown to interfere with the way we metabolize fat. Culprits include some pharmaceuticals, including antidepressants, as well as nicotine, many household cleaning products and air fresheners.Can common chemicals cause obesity?
    Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that, above and beyond our bad eating and lifestyle habits, some chemicals in everyday products are contributing to the obesity problem. Can you explain? — Concerned in CT   Obesity is a huge problem in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates […]
  • Wildfire burns through the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. Credit: US Forest Service.What can I do to stop wildfires?
    Dear EarthTalk: Why are wildfires on the increase and what can be done to stop them from happening? —  Sandy Heffran, Albuquerque, NM There’s no question that wildfires are on the increase across the American West and other fire-prone regions of the world, and most environmental leaders agree that global warming is largely to blame. In a […]
  • Rolling Huts, Mazama, WAWhere are some good eco-travel destinations here in the Lower 48?
    Dear EarthTalk: Where are some good “eco-travel” destinations right here in the continental U.S. that I can consider for a family vacation?  — Janet Devino, Brooklyn, NY   Many of us are looking to green our lifestyles today and this commitment to Mother Earth can also include how and where we travel. And those of us looking […]
  • Deforestation in the Amazon is something you can help preventWhat can I do to help prevent deforestation in the Amazon?
    Dear EarthTalk: What can I do to help prevent deforestation in the Amazon even if I don’t live in the region?   — Janine Greco, Nutley, NJ The fact that our climate, our air and our water know no national borders means that the forests are our mutual responsibility. We all depend on their services and we […]
  • fuel cell carAre hydrogen fuel cell cars still a viable option?
    Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that fuel cell cars aren’t really any greener than conventional gas-powered internal combustion cars? —  Michelle Adamo, Portland, OR   A decade ago cars powered by fuel cells seemed like the future of green automotive travel, but many analysts now think otherwise. These futuristic cars run on hydrogen fuel and emit only […]
  • Corn being unloaded from a truck will begin the process of converting to ethanol at the Lincoln Energy Plant in Iowa. Credit: Todd Post.What’s wrong with ethanol?
    Dear EarthTalk: I thought that putting ethanol in our gas tanks was going help fight climate change, but lately I’ve heard reports to the contrary. Can you enlighten?  — Bill B., Hershey, PA   Ethanol and similar “biofuels” made from corn and other crops seem like a good idea given their potential for reducing our carbon outputs […]
  • Antarctic Ice LossHow will Antarctic melting affect coastlines?
    Dear EarthTalk: To what extent is Antarctica really melting and what impact might it have on coastlines around the world? — Andrea Hutchinson, Cary, NC   The Antarctic continent, roughly the size of the United States and Mexico combined, is composed of rock covered by glaciers some 16,000 feet thick. The glaciers form from fallen snow compacting […]
  • Particulate Matter and Ground-Level Ozone Continue to Plague American Skies Despite Progress. Credit: Papadont, FlickrCCWhat are the most dangerous threats to our air quality?
    Dear EarthTalk: What are some of the more dangerous threats to our air quality and what can be done to eliminate them so we can all breathe more easily? — Melanie Smith, Pomfret, CT   The main threats to local air quality across the United States (as well as most everywhere else) remain smog and particulate pollution, […]
  • According to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly half of American kids aged eight and under consume potentially harmful amounts of vitamin A, zinc and niacin because of excessive food fortification. EWG's report focused on two frequently fortified food categories: breakfast cereals and snack bars. Credit: Beketchai, FlickrCCAre over-fortified processed foods too much of a good thing?
    Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that much of our food—including cereals and snacks eaten by children—is actually over-fortified with excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals that can be dangerous to our health?   — Diane Summerton, Waukesha, WI   Added nutrients in the processed foods we eat could indeed be too much of a good thing, especially […]
  • Synthetic compounds called parabens are added to toothpastes, deodorants, shampoos and other products to stop the growth of fungus, bacteria and other potentially damaging microbes. Individual products contain limited amounts within safe limits, but cumulative exposure could be overloading our bodies and contributing to a wide range of health problems, including breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. Credit: Joe ShlabotnikParaben Paranoia?
    Dear EarthTalk: A friend of mine recently stopped using skin and beauty products with parabens in them. What are parabens and should we all be avoiding them? — Betsy Johnson, Port Chester, NY   First commercialized in the 1950s, parabens are a group of synthetic compounds commonly used as preservatives in a wide range of health, beauty […]
  • Rainforest Action Network is working to expose undisclosed palm oil plantations on former tropical rainforest lands. Credit: Ryan Woo, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).How is ditching trans fats linked to tropical rainforest destruction?
    Dear EarthTalk: How is it that some food purveyors are contributing to the destruction of tropical rainforests by ditching unhealthy “trans fats?” — Billy S., Salem, OR   Most public health advocates applaud efforts by processed food producers, restaurants and fast food chains to get rid of so-called “trans fats”—partially hydrogenated oils added to foods to improve […]
  • Plastic Bag Ban Rally in LA. Credit: Heal the BayWhere did the plastic bags go?
    Dear EarthTalk: What’s the latest on efforts to ban plastic bags? How many U.S. locales have instituted some kind of ban, and have these initiatives made a dent in the amount of plastic litter? — Melinda Clarke, New York, NY   California made big news recently when it announced the first statewide ban on plastic shopping bags […]
  • Eiffel Tower in ParisCould Paris climate talks produce a real agreement?
    Dear EarthTalk: What are the prospects for reaching an international agreement to rein in carbon emissions significantly at the upcoming Paris climate talks at the end of the 2015? — Jason Cervantes, Los Angeles, CA   All eyes will be on Paris this coming December when climate delegates from around the world gather there for the 21st annual session […]
  • Artificial turf may be greener than real grass in some ways, but environmentalists worry it may be poisoning our kids with toxic chemical exposures. Credit: Francois W. NelArtificial Turf Issues
    Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that playing on artificial turf fields can cause cancer? If so, how can I minimize exposure for my sports-loving kids? — Melanie Witmer, Syracuse, NY   Just when you thought it was safe to play soccer on that brand new synthetic turf field, it may be time to think again. Those little […]
  • Studies have concluded that American kids consume very few fruits and vegetables in their school cafeterias and that they are eating many refined grains and too much saturated fat and sodium. In addition, a 2009 USA Today study found that meat used by McDonald’s and Burger King was tested for bacteria and unsafe pathogens up to 10 times as much as meat bound for U.S. school cafeterias. Credit: USDAImproving School Lunches
    Dear EarthTalk: I hear that many school cafeterias have nutrition standards no better—even worse—than those of fast food chains. What can be done about this? — Betsy Edison, Nashville, TN   Americans have done a great job making sure that our kids have something to eat at school regardless of socioeconomic status, with the National School Lunch […]
  • Developing Crops Resistant to Climate Change EffectsIs global warming making our crops less nutritious?
    Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that global warming is causing our crops to be less nutritious? — William Persson, Glendale, OH   It’s difficult to say whether or not the climate change we are now experiencing is negatively impacting the nutritional quality of our food, but researchers warn that it may be only a matter of […]
  • Protestors from the Canadian activist group Defend Our Climate rally against the Energy East PipelineEnergy East: Worse Than Keystone XL?
    Dear EarthTalk: The proposed KeystoneXL oil pipeline from Canada into the U.S. seems to get all the headlines, but shouldn’t we also be worried about the Energy East pipeline? — Art Shea, Troy, NY   The Energy East Pipeline is a $12 billion project proposed by TransCanada Corp. that will combine existing, converted natural gas pipelines […]
  • Phytoplankton Bloom in Barents Sea.Seeding Our Seas
    Dear EarthTalk: How do environmentalists feel about the concept of ocean fertilization as a form of carbon sequestration?   — Jeffrey Edwards, Pomfret, CT   Ocean fertilization is a technique whereby swaths of ocean are “seeded” with iron to promote the growth of phytoplankton (microscopic plants that form the base of the marine food chain), and is one […]
  • USDA MyPlate LogoA National Food Policy?
    Dear EarthTalk: What is the “National Food Policy” that environmentalists and foodies are asking President Obama to enact by Executive Order, and how would it affect American diets? — Justin Brockway, Los Angeles, CA   A November 2014 op-ed piece in The Washington Post entitled “How a National Food Policy Could Save Millions of American Lives” makes the case for President Obama to sign into […]
  • Siemens Offshore Wind TurbinesCape Wind Dead in the Water?
    Dear EarthTalk: What’s the latest on the controversial Cape Wind project off Cape Cod in Massachusetts? — Mitchell Barstow, Bern, NC   First proposed in 2001, the Cape Wind Project aims to put 130 wind turbines across 24 square miles of Horseshoe Shoal almost five miles offshore of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod to generate some 1,500 gigawatt hours of electricity per year from clean, renewable wind […]
  • E-Waste BlizzardE-Waste Blizzard
    We are drowning in a sea of e-waste as a result of all the electronics we buy and then discard. Choosing products wisely and recycling old ones properly are ways to be part of the solution...
  • Health Impacts of CoalHealth Impacts of Coal
    Dear EarthTalk: I saw a chart that quantified the negative impacts on our health of our reliance on coal as an energy source. It was pretty shocking as I recall. Can you summarize what we’re dealing with here? – Mitchell Baldwin, Boise, ID Coal combustion plants account for some 40 percent of Americans’ electric power generation. According […]
  • How are activists using divestment to fight climate change?How are activists using divestment to fight climate change?
    Dear EarthTalk: What is Global Divestment Day and how does it relate to protecting the environment? – Michel LaPlante, New Orleans, LA With crucial international climate negotiations coming up in Paris in the Fall of 2015, the first ever Global Divestment Day took place on February 13-14, with activists and everyday people across six continents and […]
  • What are the environmental risks of synthetic biology?What are the environmental risks of synthetic biology?
    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. […]
  • Sunscreens Get SaferSunscreens Get Safer
    Dear EarthTalk: I’ve been hearing a lot about the dangers of sunscreens. What is the latest on efforts to make them safer and more effective? — Phyllis Lothran, Tallahassee, FL Greater awareness about what’s in everyday products and increased interest in healthy living means there has never been a better time to re-evaluate which sunscreens you […]
  • Moms Clean Air ForceNaptime Activists Unite
    Dear EarthTalk: What is “Moms Clean Air Force” and how can I get involved? — Betsy Edgewater, Salem, OR Moms Clean Air Force (MCAF) is a community of 400,000+ parents working to combat air pollution and respond to the climate change crisis. The fast-growing non-profit leverages the power of citizen activism and social media to […]
  • Green TelevisionTelevisions Bigger & Greener Than Ever
    Dear EarthTalk: I am in the market for a new flat screen TV. Are some models greener than others? — Michael Kavanaugh, Rome, NY  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Americans’ 275 million TV sets burn through some 65 billion kilowatt hours of energy each year, representing four to five percent of U.S. household electricity […]
  • MicrobeadsMicrobeads & Marine Pollution in the Great Lakes & Beyond
    Plastic microbeads are a concern because sewage treatment facilities are not designed to capture them, and during rainy days sewage can overflow into waterways. Once they enter waterways, microbeads move into fish, which confuse them for food, then into those who eat the fish, including wildlife and humans.
  • Genetic Engineering in Our Food SupplyGenetic Engineering in Our Food Supply
    Dear EarthTalk: What are the potential health and environmental impacts of so many genetically engineered organisms in our food supply? — Frank C., Charlottesville, VA Proponents of genetic engineering (GE)—whereby DNA from unrelated species is combined to produce improved or novel organisms—insist that the benefits of increased crop yields and less agricultural waste outweigh the potential […]
  • Greywater Reuse Around the HouseGreywater Reuse Around the House
    Dear EarthTalk: I know that some large buildings filter some of their wastewater to irrigate exterior landscaping. Is there an affordable way to do this at home? — Bill P., Salem, OR  Now that solar panels are so commonplace on rooftops across the country, reusing so-called greywater—that is, the waste water from sinks, showers, tubs and […]
  • Is solar power cost-competitive with the grid yet?Is solar power cost-competitive with the grid yet?
    Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that the price of getting solar panels installed on a home is lower than ever, but has it gotten to the point anywhere in the U.S. where it’s actually cheaper than traditional grid power yet? — Lester Milstein, Boston, MA   Rooftop solar panels on have always been the province of well-to-do, […]
  • How can kids get involved in environmental advocacy?How can kids get involved in environmental advocacy?
    Dear EarthTalk: Do you have any tips for helping me get my kids involved in environmental protection advocacy? — Jeanine Black, Charlotte, NC   There’s no time like the present to teach kids to respect their environment and be willing to stand up to protect it. Of course, any good environmental education starts at home: parents should […]
  • Conservation Genetics to the RescueConservation Genetics to the Rescue
    Dear EarthTalk: How are scientists using DNA to conserve wildlife? — Jake Summerlin, Newark, NJ  Traditionally, conservation biologists have relied on field observation and sample and statistical analysis to help them understand the dynamics behind species loss, but today genetics is taking on an increasingly important role in helping quantify the biodiversity around us and even […]
  • Compare wild and farmed salmon, Credit Anne Barker, FlickrCCWhat Fish Can We Eat?
    Dear EarthTalk: What are some basic guidelines about seafood consumption, especially for women and in light of all the pollution threats to our oceans and waterways? — Betsy Draper, Boston, MA Between mercury poisoning, overfishing and the environmental impacts of fish farms or “aquaculture,” some might expect to see a “Proceed with Caution” sign above seafood […]
  • Is bringing back extinct species possible nowadays?Is bringing back extinct species possible nowadays?
    Dear EarthTalk: What is the “de-extinction” movement all about? —Bill Mitchell, New York, NY De-extinction—bringing back extinct animal and plant species—is a term that conservation biologists and environmentalists have been bandying about for a decade or so. But only recently have advances in genetic sequencing and molecular biology transformed de-extinction from theory into something that we […]
  • Grizzlies on the RopesGrizzlies on the Ropes
    Dear EarthTalk: What is being done to safeguard grizzly bears now? I heard that their numbers are dwindling and they could vanish from the Lower 48 if we don’t protect them. – Jim Meth, Akron, OH Before European colonization of North America, upwards of 50,000 grizzly bears—also known as brown bears—roamed free across what is […]
  • Beyond Flame Retardant ChemicalsBeyond Flame Retardant Chemicals
    Dear EarthTalk: What is being done to get toxic flame retardants out of children’s furniture and other products?                                                                                — Mary Sweetland, Seminole, FL Putting flame retardant chemicals in furniture seemed like a good idea back in the 1970s to help protect against the risk of fire, but our insistence on safety has come […]
  • Revenge of the BacteriaRevenge of the Bacteria
    Dear EarthTalk: How is it that antibiotics are being “overused,” as I’ve read, and what are the potential consequences?                                                                           — Mitchell Chase, Hartford, CT The development and widespread adoption of so-called “antibiotics”—drugs that kill bacteria and thereby reduce infection—has helped billions of people live longer, healthier lives. But all this tinkering with nature […]
  • SeafoodCould Seafood Be The Solution to Hunger Woes?
    Dear EarthTalk: How is it that our more effectively managing ocean resources could help us better feed the world? — Missy Jenkins, Boone, IA   Hunger is a growing problem around the world, in both developing and developed countries. As our population continues to rise, the amount of arable land per capita is declining and climate change […]
  • The New Skinny on Dietary FatThe New Skinny on Dietary Fat
    Dear EarthTalk: What’s the skinny on fat these days? I saw a major magazine cover image recently that was suggesting fat wasn’t so bad for us after all?                         — Marcy Bellwether, Taos, NM Going “fat-free” might seem like an effective, safe way to lose weight when considering that fat contains nine calories per gram, […]
  • Avoiding Harmful Food AdditivesAvoiding Harmful Food Additives
    Dear EarthTalk: What is the “Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives?” — Meredith LaGarde, New Orleans, LA The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit dedicated to protecting human health and the environment through research, education and advocacy, launched its “Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives” in November 2014 to educate consumers about which food additives […]
  • Still in Denial About ClimateStill in Denial About Climate
    Dear EarthTalk: Are there still outspoken global warming deniers in Congress or the mainstream media? If so, what do they say when presented with scientific facts and anecdotal evidence pointing to an increasingly warming atmosphere?                                                                 — Ben Charles, Cary, NC Given the preponderance of data showing rising temperatures around the globe in recent […]
  • Environmentalists hail biochar, a form of charcoal derived from baking biomass, as a savior of soils damaged by agricultural overuse and pollution that can sequester significant amounts of carbon dioxide in the process. Courtesy: Marcia OConnor, Flickr CCSaving Our Soils and Climate with Biochar
    Dear EarthTalk: What is biochar and how can it help reduce my carbon footprint? — William Jarvis, Bethlehem, PA Biochar is a naturally occurring, fine-grained, highly porous form of charcoal derived from the process of baking biomass and it’s been associated with fertile soils for some two thousand years. “Biochar is found in soils around the […]
  • Using Reusing Greywater At Home
    Dear EarthTalk: I know that some large buildings filter some of their wastewater to irrigate exterior landscaping. Is there an affordable way to do this at home?  — Bill P., Salem, OR Now that solar panels are so commonplace on rooftops across the country, reusing so-called greywater — that is, the waste water from sinks, showers, […]
  • Climate Change and Food’s Nutritional ValueClimate Change and Food’s Nutritional Value
    Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that global warming is causing our crops to be less nutritious? – William Persson, Glendale, OH It is difficult to say whether or not the climate change we are now experiencing is negatively impacting the nutritional quality of our food, researchers warn that it may be only a matter of […]