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E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Lead was long ago phased out of automobile gasoline, but it is still in aviation fuel and is now the largest source of lead emissions in the U.S. What’s being done?    -- L. Eber, Rye, NY



E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I understand there is an effort underway to allow all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, motorbikes, motorboats and other motorized vehicles into wilderness areas, which would overturn a long-standing ban. What’s behind this?              -- Harry Schilling, Tempe, AZ


E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How do green groups feel about the new 2012 Farm Bill draft recently released by the Senate? -- Roger Wheeler, Miami, FL


Like so much of the legislation coming out of Washington, D.C., green groups are mixed on the new Farm Bill now making its way toward a floor vote. No doubt there are some conservation bright spots in the bill, but the question is: Are there enough and do they go far enough?

 A decade ago, few people were talking about sustainability, especially in the South Bronx. It was there that Majora Carter founded programs for green-collar jobs, spearheaded policy changes, and helped transform a toxic dump into a riverside park. From a local movement to “green the ghetto,” she has inspired people across the nation to secure the environmental, educational and economic futures of their own communities.

Recently, several communities have voted to ban bottled water in their towns,  citing concerns over plastic waste and environmental impact.  But a backlash is also emerging from those who say singling out water is silly,  given the many other sources of packaging that are just as harmful and that these efforts are “all wet”.


International Fairtrade Certification Mark

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What is the “Fair Trade Your Supermarket” campaign? -- Brian Howley, Washington, DC

Tom MacKensie, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: The oil industry is planning what some call a dangerous strategy of drilling for oil on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Arctic Ocean. What’s going on?   -- Vera Bailey, New Hope, PA


Wichary, Flickr/CC

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Why is Greenpeace upset with some leading tech companies for so-called “dirty cloud computing?” Can you explain?                                                          -- Jeremy Wilkins, Waco, TX


Artyom Sharbatyan

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I understand there is to be another Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, 20 years since the last one was held in the same city. What’s on the agenda this time?

                                                                                                -- Janet Grayson, Albuquerque, NM


Apr 23, 2012
(Photo by Stinkenroboter via Flickr Creative Commons)

You may have heard that Americans throw away more than any other nation, but any idea of just how much? Each of us is on track to toss 102 tons of garbage in our lifetime. More than 7 pounds a day, and twice what we chucked out in 1960. Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Humes believes we are living in a state of garbage denial. His new book is called Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash. In it, he looks at the science, politics, and economics of waste.  


E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that many air fresheners contain toxic chemicals. Are there any green-friendly, non-toxic air fresheners out there, or how can I make my own?      -- Jenny Rae, Bolton, MA



E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What are “catch shares” as a strategy for rescuing fish populations that are on the brink?                                                                                              -- Peter Parmalee, New Orleans, LA


It's been two years since the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 rig workers and unleashing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The oil has long stopped flowing and BP spent billions of dollars to clean up oiled beaches and waterways, but the disaster isn't necessarily over.

Oil fouled some 1,100 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline, but today, in most spots, you can't see obvious signs of the spill. In Orange Beach, Ala., the clear emerald waters of the Gulf roll onto sugar-white sand beaches.

The Environmental Protection Agency's new air pollution rules for the oil and gas industry may seem like odd timing, as President Obama has been trying to deflect Republican criticism that he overregulates energy industries. But the rules weren't the Obama administration's idea.

Several years ago, communities in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming complained about air pollution from natural gas booms in their local areas.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules Wednesday to control the problem of air pollution coming from wells being drilled by the booming oil and natural gas drilling industry.

Currently, waste products from the drilling operations, which include a mix of chemicals, sand and water, can be pumped into open enclosures or pits, where toxic substances can make their way into the air. The new rules will require this fluid to be captured by 2015, and flared — or burned off — in the meantime.

Gaming the Forest

Apr 18, 2012
(Photo by Kevin Poh via Flickr Creative Commons)

A new app transforms tree leaves into currency…kind of changes your mind about raking season, eh?

The game, called Forest, will be demonstrated at the Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) conference in Austin, Texas, in May. It was designed by Jason Linder and Wendy Ju of the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.  



E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Are there health or environmental concerns with LED lightbulbs, which may soon replace compact fluorescents as the green-friendly light bulb of choice?     -- Mari-Louise, via e-mail

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What is “pesticide drift” and should I be worried about it?

                                                                                                 -- Nicole Kehoe, Burlington, VT


Courtesy NOAA

It’s believed that the population of North Atlantic right whales off the New England coast is down to just 300-400.

The whales have been classified as endangered for decades, yet the remaining whales still face threats – including the often large threat of collisions with ships.

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping have developed an early warning system of sorts – through a smartphone app called WhaleAlert.


E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How is it that dams actually hurt rivers?-- Missy Davenport, Boulder, CO

Dams are a symbol of human ingenuity and engineering prowess—controlling the flow of a wild rushing river is no small feat. But in this day and age of environmental awareness, more and more people are questioning whether generating a little hydroelectric power is worth destroying riparian ecosystems from their headwaters in the mountains to their mouths at the ocean and beyond.

The last big ice age ended about 11,000 years ago, and not a moment too soon — it made a lot more of the world livable, at least for humans.

But exactly what caused the big thaw isn't clear, and new research suggests that a wobble in the Earth kicked off a complicated process that changed the whole planet.

Ice tells the history of the Earth's climate: Air bubbles in ice reveal what the atmosphere was like and what the temperature was. And scientists can read this ice, even if it's been buried for thousands of years.

The Atlantic Ocean, especially the North Atlantic, is peculiar: Every few decades, the average temperature of surface water there changes dramatically.

Scientists want to know why that is, especially because these temperature shifts affect the weather. New research suggests that human activity is part of the cause.

Scientists originally thought that maybe some mysterious pattern in deep-ocean currents, such as an invisible hand stirring a giant bathtub, created this temperature see-saw.

Filmmaker James Cameron recently reminded us of the wonders of the sea by diving solo in a submarine to the deepest spot in the ocean. Next year, if all goes as planned, a rather different expedition will take place 1,000 miles south of that dive: An Australian company will start mining for copper, gold, silver and zinc on the seafloor off the shore of Papua New Guinea.

A wildfire in the foothills southwest of Denver continues to burn out of control. It's destroyed dozens of homes and buildings, and with two people confirmed dead and another missing, it looks to be Colorado's deadliest wildfire in decades.

A day and a half after the fire started, the weather at the command post is so beautiful it's hard to imagine the nearby blaze is raging almost out of control. Mark Techmeyer of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department calls the Lower North Fork Wildfire a monster.

The Lorax

Mar 28, 2012
Reuters/San Diego Police Department/Handout

The box office success of the new Universal Pictures animated feature film “The Lorax” - based on a classic Dr. Seuss tale – creates a window of opportunity to consider environmental messaging to a new generation of future leaders. The original Seuss tale is beloved. I can still recite it from memory. “Tell us ‘The Lorax’ Dad!” my kids would beg. Like all Seuss books, The Lorax features rhymes, nuances and a moral.

Pipe Down! That Noise Might Affect Your Plants

Mar 26, 2012

Researchers haven't given much thought to the effect of noise and noise pollution on plants. After all, plants don't have ears — at least, not the kind you hear with — so there doesn't seem to be much point. But thanks to ecologist Clinton Francis, that could be about to change.

Francis is a postdoctoral researcher at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina. But he has spent the past few years in northwestern New Mexico, studying noise pollution in Rattlesnake Canyon.

Photo by Dovak, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

In Wisconsin, a bill that would authorize a hunting and trapping season for wolves sits on Governor Scott Walker’s desk.  The bill pits republican and democratic supporters against environmental and conservation groups who say the proposal has no basis is the science of wildlife management.

Shell Oil plans to explore for petroleum off Alaska's north coast this summer. The native people of Alaska have a big stake in both oil revenue and environmental protection. That conflict has played out in recent trips by Inupiats to Washington, D.C., to argue their case.

Photo by Karen Johnson for Creative Commons via Wordpress

Rising gas prices have again shifted the political debate between those calling for more drilling to meet America's fossil fuel dependency and those advocating for investment in alternative energy sources. Many environmentalists are convinced that we are nearing the day when fossil fuels are tapped out, or too expensive or too harmful to extract.


E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: American farmers are an aging population. Is anyone doing anything to make sure younger people are taking up this profession in large enough numbers to keep at least some of our food production domestic?-- Beverly Smith, Milwaukee, WI