Category Archives: Earth Talk

Palm Oil Production and 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 Continue Reading »

Ethanol’s Unrealized Promise

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 Continue Reading »

Antarctica’s Melting and its Impact on Coastlines

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 into Continue Reading »

Safer and More Effective Sunscreens

With summer officially here now, what can you tell us about which sunscreens are safe and which are not? – Clara Rosen, New York, NY Skin cancer is by far the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more new cases each year than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. And Continue Reading »

Keeping Polluters out of our Neighborhoods

What can communities do to keep polluters out of the 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 resistance, Continue Reading »

Apple Computer’s Green Initiatives

Apple just put out a big PR campaign about its sustainability initiatives. Has the company made real progress in this regard or is this just more corporate “greenwashing?” And how are the other big tech companies addressing their carbon footprints? – Billy A., Oakland, CA Long criticized for its lack of commitment to sustainability—from supporting Continue Reading »

Earth Day 2014: Greening our Cities

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 Continue Reading »

Global Warming and Our Health

How is it that global warming could cause an increase in health problems and disease epidemics? Do we have any evidence that it is already happening? – Jim Merrill, Provo, UT Global warming isn’t just bad for the environment. There are several ways that it is expected to take a toll on human health. For Continue Reading »

Synthetic Biology

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 Continue Reading »

Wind Power’s Bright Future

What is the latest prognosis for wind energy to command a larger piece of the renewable energy pie? – Peter M., Akron, OH Hydroelectric sources of power dwarf other forms of renewable energy, but wind power has been a dominant second for years, and continues to show “hockey stick” growth moving forward. According to the Continue Reading »

A Nuclear Power Resurgence?

I thought Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown would have sealed nuclear power’s fate, but I keep hearing otherwise. Can you enlighten? – Jacob Allen, New York, NY The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster did cause many nations to reconsider their nuclear committments, though many European countries—Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden—had already begun Continue Reading »

America’s Great Outdoors Initiative

What is the Obama administration’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative and what does it hope to accomplish? – Doug St. James, New York, NY President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum in April 2010 establishing the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to promote and support innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and reconnect Americans to the outdoors. Continue Reading »

Ocean Sprawl

I recently heard the term “ocean sprawl,” which was a new one on me. We all know “sprawl” as it manifests itself above sea level. But in the oceans? Can you enlighten? – Bill Chadwick, Nantucket, MA We are all familiar by now with “urban sprawl”—the uncontrolled spread of urban development into areas beyond the Continue Reading »

Cheaper Natural Gas Lowering Carbon Dioxide Emissions

How can it be that carbon dioxide emissions are the lowest they have been in the United States in 20 years despite the fact that we have no binding federal legislation limiting them? – Jason Johnson, Port Chester, NY Carbon dioxide emissions are indeed lower than at any time since 1994, according to data recently Continue Reading »

Greener Holidays

What are some ideas for being greener this holiday season? – Beth Livingston, Camden, NJ While the holidays are festive and fun, they can take a toll on the environment. All that shopping, decoration, food preparation and travel adds up to more carbon emissions and more waste. But there are ways to minimize our impact Continue Reading »

Navy Sonar Testing in Oceans Impacting Marine Mammals

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 Continue Reading »

Protecting Private Lands

While working to protect public land from resource extraction and development seems to be the focus of many environmental groups, what is being done to preserve and protect private property—the majority of our land—across the country? – Jim Friedland, Bath, ME Indeed, private property makes up about 60 percent of the total land base across Continue Reading »

Pollution Inside Cars

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 The interior of your car may seem like a safe haven from air pollution, but it may actually be quite the opposite. Chemicals emanating from the steering wheel, Continue Reading »