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EarthTalk®

by The Editors of E - The Environmental Magazine


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: What’s the nutritional difference between the carrot I ate in 1970 and one I eat today? I’ve heard that that there’s very little nutrition left. Is that true? -- Esther G., Newark, NJ

It would be overkill to say that the carrot you eat today has very little nutrition in it—especially compared to some of the other less healthy foods you likely also eat—but it is true that fruits and vegetables grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today. The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion: Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows. Sadly, each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant carrot is truly less good for you than the one before.

A landmark study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at
Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century. Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition.

“Efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly,” reported Davis, “but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.” There have likely been declines in other nutrients, too, he said, such as magnesium, zinc and vitamins B-6 and E, but they were not studied in 1950 and more research is needed to find out how much less we are getting of these key vitamins and minerals.

The Organic Consumers Association cites several other studies with similar findings: A Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 found that average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent. A similar study of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal, found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19 percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent. Yet another study concluded that one would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one.

What can be done? The key to healthier produce is healthier soil. Alternating fields between growing seasons to give land time to restore would be one important step. Also, foregoing pesticides and fertilizers in favor of organic growing methods is good for the soil, the produce and its consumers. Those who want to get the most nutritious fruits and vegetables should buy regularly from local organic farmers.


UT’s
Davis warns that just because fruits and vegetables aren’t as healthy as they used to be doesn’t mean we should avoid them. “Vegetables are extraordinarily rich in nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals,” he reported. “They are still there, and vegetables and fruits are our best sources for these.”

CONTACTS: Journal of the
American College of Nutrition, www.jacn.org; Kushi Institute, www.kushiinstitute.org; Organic Consumers Association, www.organicconsumers.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine ( www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I read a heart-wrenching story of a polar bear that swam 400 miles with its cub on its back in search of an ice floe to rest on. It survived but its cub did not. What can be done to save these magnificent creatures? Is it too late? -- Jerry Bresnehan, Des Moines, IA

It’s sad but true that life is getting harder for polar bears due to global warming. Polar bears live within the Arctic Circle and feed primarily on ringed seals. The bears’ feeding strategy involves swimming from the mainland to and between offshore ice floes, poaching seals as they come up to breathe at holes in the ice.

But climate change is heating up the atmosphere and substantial amounts of offshore sea ice are melting. The result is that bears must swim further and further out to sea in search of ice floes; some expend all of their energy in doing so and end up drowning. Scientists first noticed this deadly phenomenon in 2004 when they noticed four drowned polar bears in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s North Slope.

More recently, researchers from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) fitted several Alaskan polar bears with tracking collars to find out the extent of their travels and document how much trouble they are having hunting in a warmer Arctic. One of the bears, a mother with a yearling cub on her back, made what researchers are calling an “epic journey in search of food” during September-October 2008. “This bear swam continuously for 232 hours and 687 km and through waters that were 2-6 degrees C,” reports USGS research zoologist George M. Durner. “We are in awe that an animal that spends most of its time on the surface of sea ice could swim constantly for so long in water so cold." During the rest of the two-month tracking period, the bear intermittently swam and walked on ice floes for another 1,200 miles.

But while the mama bear survived the ordeal, she lost 22 percent of her body fat during a crucial time of year for fattening up before a long winter’s hibernation. And her cub was not so fortunate. “It was simply more energetically costly for the yearling than the adult to make this long distance swim,” said Durner, whose findings were published in the January 2011 edition of Polar Biology. The case of this one polar bear and the failure of her offspring to survive in the new environmental conditions of the
Arctic doesn’t bode well for the future of the species, especially as Arctic sea ice continues to retreat at a record pace.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which maintains the international “Red List” of threatened species, considers the polar bear “vulnerable” due to climate change-induced retreating sea ice. For its part, the
U.S. government listed polar bears as “threatened” in 2008 under the Endangered Species Act. The IUCN website also points out that, while the polar bear has come to symbolize the impact of global warming on wildlife, many other species are similarly affected, including the ringed seal and well-known species like the beluga whale, arctic fox, koala and emperor penguin.

Some argue that, since it is illegal to engage in activities that could harm or kill threatened or endangered species, Americans should be forced to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to preserve polar bear habitat. While such a notion hasn’t forced many of us to voluntarily drive fewer miles or turn down our heat, it might be just what it will take the world’s largest land carnivore from going the way of the dodo.

CONTACT: IUCN, www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/our_work/climate_change_and_species.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: Is air quality in the
United States improving or getting worse? Is it cleaner in some parts of the country than in others? -- K. Gould, Sherman Oaks, CA

Air quality across the
United States has improved dramatically since 1970 when Congress passed the Clean Air Act in response to growing pollution problems and fouled air from coast to coast. According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), levels of all major air pollution contaminants (ozone, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and lead) are down significantly since 1970; carbon monoxide levels alone dropped by more than 70 percent.

And that’s good news for everyone. A 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that efforts to reduce fine particle pollution from automobiles, diesel engines, steel mills and coal-fired power plants have added between four and eight months to the average American’s life expectancy in recent years. Overall, Americans are living some two and three-quarter years longer than during the 1980s. Changes in smoking habits and improved socioeconomic conditions are the biggest reasons why, but cleaner air is also a big factor. “It’s stunning that the air pollution effect seems to be as robust as it is,” Arden Pope, the
Brigham Young University epidemiologist who led the study, told reporters.

Pope and his team analyzed life expectancy, economic, demographic and pollution data from 51 metropolitan areas, and found that when fine-particle air pollution dropped by 10 micrograms per cubic meter, life expectancy rose by 31 weeks—such as in Akron, Ohio and Philadelphia. Where fine particle counts dropped even more—by 13 to 14 micrograms, such as in
New York City, Buffalo and Pittsburgh—people lived some 43 weeks longer on average.

But according to the American Lung Association (ALA), even though air quality around the country is improving overall, some 175 million Americans—58 percent of the population—still live in places where pollution levels can cause breathing difficulties or worse. The group’s “State of the Air: 2010” report looks at levels of ozone and particle pollution found in monitoring sites across the United States in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and compares them to previous periods.

The biggest improvement was found in year-round (annual) particulate levels, which the
ALA attributes to recent efforts to clean up major industrial air pollution sources. “However, the continuing problem demonstrates that more remains to be done, especially in cleaning up coal-fired power plants and existing diesel engines.” the group reports. ALA also found, by overlaying census data with pollution maps, that Americans with the lowest incomes face higher risks of harm from air pollution, underscoring what environmental justice advocates have been saying for years.

As for how to protect ourselves from still problematic air pollution,
ALA recommends checking air quality forecasts and avoiding exercising or working outdoors when unhealthy air is present. The federal government’s AirNow website provides daily air quality updates for more than 300 cities across the U.S., as well as links to more detailed state and local air quality web sites. And if air quality problems in your area continue to be bothersome, consider picking up and moving. Fargo, North Dakota or Lincoln, Nebraska, anyone? According to ALA’s “State of the Air: 2010” report, these two cities rank among the cleanest in all of the air pollution categories studied.

CONTACTS:
ALA’s State of the Air: 2010, www.stateoftheair.org; AirNow, www.airnow.gov.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: My daughter loves those press-on tattoos, and they’re frequently given out at birthday parties and other events. But I’ve noticed the labels say they’re only for ages three and up. Are they safe? If not, are there alternatives? -- Debra Jones, Lansing, MI

For the most part, so-called temporary tattoos are safe for kids and grown-ups alike, even if they do contain a long list of scary sounding ingredients including resins, polymers, varnishes and dyes. But if they are sold legitimately in the
U.S., their ingredients have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FSA) as cosmetics, meaning the agency has found them to be safe for “direct dermal contact.” The FDA has received reports of minor skin irritation including redness and swelling, but such cases have been deemed “child specific” and were not widespread enough to warrant general warnings to the public.

Those who are concerned anyway but still want a temporary tattoo might consider an airbrush tattoo—they are sprayed on over a stencil using FDA-approved cosmetic inks. The rub on these in the past was that they didn’t last very long, but new varieties are reported to last two weeks, and can be easily removed prior to that with isopropyl alcohol, just like their “press-on” cousins.

Another alternative way to go is henna-based tattoos, which typically do not contain any additives whatsoever. Henna is a flowering plant used since the days of our earliest civilizations to dye skin, fingernails, hair, leather, and wool—and it makes for a relatively natural—although monotone—temporary tattoo.

But the FDA warns consumers to steer clear of any temporary tattoos labeled as “black henna” or “pre-mixed henna,” as these have been known to contain potentially harmful adulterants including silver nitrate, carmine, pyrogallol, disperse orange dye and chromium. Researchers have linked such ingredients to a range of health problems including allergic reactions, chronic inflammatory reactions, and late-onset allergic reactions to related clothing and hairdressing dyes. Neither black henna nor pre-mixed henna are approved for cosmetic use by the FDA and should be avoided even if they are for sale in a reputable store.

Something else to watch out for are the micro-injection machines used by some professional temporary tattoo artists such as might be hired for a corporate event or a festival While getting a microinjection-based temporary tattoo may not hurt, it does puncture the skin. The
United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive recently issued a warning that improperly cleaned machines could facilitate the spread of infectious diseases including HIV and hepatitis. As a result, several types of micro-injection machines with internal parts that could carry contamination from one customer to another have been banned there. Such machines aren’t as popular in the U.S., but if you aren’t sure, it’s best to avoid it. The more familiar press-on temporary tattoos are a safer bet regardless.

Just in case you’re worried that the FDA isn’t checking, the agency has in the recent past issued import blocks on temporary tattoos that do not comply with federal labeling regulations; buyers beware that the ones you get should clearly list their ingredients on the packaging per FDA requirements.

CONTACTS: FDA, www.fda.gov;
United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive, www.hse.gov.uk.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Why don’t cleaning products have to list their ingredients, and are these products tested for what they might do to your health? -- Patricia Greenville, Bethel, CT


Since cleaning products aren’t food, beverages or drugs meant to be ingested, they aren’t regulated, per se, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, makers are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to list ingredients that are active disinfectants or potentially harmful. Otherwise, they usually keep their other ingredients secret, presumably so competitors can’t copy their formulas.

But consumer advocate Sloan Barnett, author of Green Goes with Everything, doesn’t give manufacturers the benefit of that doubt. “Call me suspicious, but I honestly don’t think it’s because the recipe is top secret,” she says. “If it was, there wouldn’t be so many competing products with identical ingredients.” Barnett thinks manufacturers don’t want to scare off consumers by disclosing how many potentially harmful chemicals are flying under the EPA’s radar in their products.

“The government only requires companies to list ‘chemicals of known concern’ on their labels. The key word here is ‘known’,” she says. “The fact is that the government has no idea whether most of the chemicals used in everyday cleaning products are safe because it doesn’t test them, and it doesn’t require manufacturers to test them either.”

She adds that the EPA, under the terms of 1976’s Toxic Substances Control Act, “can’t require chemical companies to prove the safety of their products unless the agency itself can show that the product poses a health risk—which the EPA does not have the resources to do since, according to one estimate, it receives some two thousand new applications for approval every year.” She cites a recent study by the non-profit Environmental Working Group, which found that the EPA approved most applications within three weeks even though more than half provided no information on toxicity whatsoever.

Regardless, consumers should be familiar with what warning labels are on cleaning products. “All household cleaners that contain known hazardous chemicals must carry a warning label that spells out potential risks, along with precautionary steps and first-aid instructions,” reports Consumer Reports’ Greener Choices website.

Some manufacturers are beginning to be more transparent about their ingredients. The Clorox Company, for example, one of the largest manufacturers of cleaning products, now publishes full lists of the ingredients for all of its brands on its corporate responsibility website, CloroxCSR.com. Many praise Clorox for doing so; others argue that, whether or not ingredients are disclosed, the company—like many others—is still in the business of making products that pose health and environmental hazards.

Generally speaking, if you’re looking for safer alternatives, browse the cleaning products sections of natural foods markets such as Whole Foods, which are populated with lesser-known but more green-friendly brands. For do-it-yourselfers, the Greener Choices website also lists recipes for eco- and health-friendly homemade household cleaners using ingredients like baking soda, borax, lemon juice and vinegar.

CONTACTS: Greener Choices, www.greenerchoices.org; Clorox, www.cloroxcsr.com.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine ( www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: We have an invasion of phragmites in the wetlands bordering our neighborhood. I understand they are a non-native plant that, if left unchecked, will overrun the whole ecosystem. How does one remedy this situation in an eco-friendly way? -- Jeff Willets, via e-mail

Fast-growing, fast-spreading phragmites (Phragmites australis), which most of us know as common reeds, can present a major problem in freshwater and tidal wetland habitats. This is especially so in eastern U.S. states along the Atlantic coast, but also increasingly across much of the Midwest and parts of the Pacific Northwest and southern Canada. While some sub-species of the plant may actually be native to our continent, it is non-native varieties that run rampant across North American wetlands today, presenting a formidable threat to biodiversity, crowding out other plants that wildlife depend upon for food and shelter.

“In the ecosystem it invades, its dense underground rhizome system actually raises the topography, eliminating the puddles and small pools of water so essential to fish, amphibians, turtles and waterfowl,” reports Mike McGrath of Gardens Alive, a leading purveyor of natural garden and agricultural products. Phragmites are also allelopathic, he says, meaning that they secrete a compound which interferes with the growth of many other plants. Phragmites are also the bane of many a waterfront homeowner whose views are blocked by fast spreading, tough-to-eradicate reed communities growing between 12 and 15 feet high.

Plant biologists believe that non-native phragmites have gotten out of control in the U.S. because of their opportunistic nature coupled with the steady stream of freshly disturbed formerly natural terrain being made available to colonize. “When areas are drained for building, dredging takes place to save a beach, or other things are done to previously natural areas, it becomes more dominant than the non-aggressive native sub-species and other coastal plants,” says McGrath. And that’s why they call them weeds.

According to Washington State’s Noxious Weed Control Board, getting rid of phragmites without resorting to hazardous chemicals (that will kill other plants and poison the surrounding environment instead of helping it) takes persistence, patience and proper timing: “If cut just before the end of July, most of the food reserves produced that season are removed with the aerial portion of the plant, reducing the plant’s vigor.” The board stresses that such a regime “may eliminate a colony if carried out annually for several years” and that “care must be taken to remove cut shoots to prevent re-growth.”

“Repeated cutting of the green growth above ground will eventually exhaust the root system,” McGrath chimes in. “If the plant is growing in water and you can cut it below the water line and keep the cut area submerged, the root system will suffocate within days...as the plant relies on its stems, living or dead, to convey oxygen down to the roots.”

Yet another option is to graze it out. The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife used sheep, goats and even cattle to control phragmites there, although to be successful the animals needed to graze over affected areas repeatedly, and others have not had as much success with eradication via grazing. Whatever method you choose, hunker down for the long haul and keep up the good fight. You are doing the right thing.

CONTACTS: Gardens Alive, www.gardensalive.com; Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, www.nwcb.wa.gov; New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine ( www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: Recently the UN voted to declare access to safe and clean water a “human right.” Isn’t that a no-brainer? What are the ramifications of this declaration? -- P. James,
Boston, MA

In July 2010 the United Nations (UN) agreed to a new resolution declaring the human right to “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.” One hundred twenty-two nations voted in favor of the resolution; 41 (primarily developed) countries abstained; and there were zero “no” votes. The agreement comes on the heels of a protracted effort on the part of Bolivia and 30 other (mostly developing) nations determined to improve access to clean water and proper sanitation systems for the poorer human residents of the planet.

Bolivia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Pablo Solon, cheered passage of the resolution that he had campaigned hard for, and stressed the need to recognize access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right as global supplies of fresh water get fewer and farther between. “Approximately one out of every eight people does not have drinking water,” Solon told reporters. “In just one day, more than 200 million hours of the time used by women is spent collecting and transporting water for their homes.” According to the declaration, approximately 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

“The lack of sanitation is even worse, because it affects 2.6 billion people [or] 40 percent of the global population,” Solon said, citing a 2009 World Health Organization and UNICEF study which found some 24,000 children in developing countries were dying each day from preventable causes like diarrhea resulting from polluted water. “This means that a child dies every three-and-a-half seconds,” added Solon.

The resolution itself carries no regulatory weight, but backers view it as important to raising awareness of the problem and engendering support for solutions. “We are calling for actions…in communities around the world to ensure that the rights to water and sanitation are implemented,” said Anil Naidoo of the Council of Canadians, a group that has been crucial in the international struggle for the right to clean water. “Governments, aid agencies and the UN must take their responsibilities seriously,” he added.

Some developed countries—including the
U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several European nations—tried to block passage of the resolution in hopes of minimizing their future obligations. As one official from the United Kingdom put it, these countries “don’t want to pay for the toilets in Africa.” Also, six African countries (Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Tanzania and Zambia) and two in the Caribbean (Guyana and Trinidad/Tobago)—all former European colonies—joined efforts to try to kill the declaration. But when it was time to vote, these nations abstained so as not to go on record as opposing it.

“This matters because we are a planet running out of water,” said Maude Barlow, an expert affiliated with the Council of Canadians as well as the Blue Planet Project and Food and Water Watch. Indeed, a still-growing human population, global warming and other factors combine to make fresh water supplies scarcer around the world. A recent World Bank study predicted that demand for fresh water will exceed supply by some 40 percent within just two decades. While the UN resolution may not move any mountains, it is a step in the right direction for the world’s increasing number of have-nots.

CONTACTS: United Nations, www.un.org; Council of Canadians, www.canadians.org; Blue Planet Project, www.blueplanetproject.net; Food and Water Watch, www.foodandwaterwatch.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine ( www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Were
Japan to close all its nuclear plants following the recent damage and radiation leaks from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, what could its energy mix look like? Would it be able to provide all of its power in other ways? -- Richard Miller, New York, NY

Most experts agree that Japan would be hard pressed to close all of its 54 nuclear reactors anytime soon, especially given that these plants provide over a third of the nation’s electricity supply and 11 percent of its total energy needs. Japan relies so much on nuclear power because it has so few other domestic sources of energy to draw upon. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Japan is only 16 percent energy self-sufficient, and much of this comes from its now-wounded nuclear power program.

Despite producing only trifling amounts of oil domestically from fields off its west coast,
Japan is the third largest oil consumer in the world behind the U.S. and China, as well as the third largest net importer of crude oil. Imported oil accounts for some 45 percent of Japan’s energy needs. Besides bringing in a lot of oil, Japan is the world’s largest importer of both coal and liquefied natural gas. Against this backdrop of imported fossil fuels, it’s no surprise that Japan has embraced nuclear power; worldwide, only the U.S. and France produce more nuclear energy.

Factoring in that it would take decades to ramp up capacity on alternative renewable energy sources—right now hydropower accounts for three percent of Japanese energy usage and other renewable sources like solar and wind only one percent—and that Japan must import just about all its fossil fuels, it becomes obvious that the country will need to rely on nuclear power for some time to come, despite the risks.

“Supplying the same amount of electricity by oil, for example, would increase oil imports by about 62 million metric tons per year, or about 1.25 million barrels per day,” says Toufiq Siddiqi, a researcher with the nonprofit East-West Institute. He adds that at the current price of oil per barrel (roughly $100), switching out nuclear for oil would cost
Japan upwards of $46 billion per year. “Further, it would take almost a decade to build enough new oil, coal or natural gas-fired power plants to provide the equivalent amount of electricity, and tens of billions of dollars per year would be required to do so,” he concludes.

In the short term, the easiest way for
Japan to make up for its reduced nuclear output is by importing more natural gas and other fossil fuels, sending its carbon footprint in the wrong direction. What’s less clear is whether Japanese policymakers’ pre-existing plans to increase the country’s nuclear capacity—the stated goal is to generate half of Japan’s electricity via nuclear power within two decades as part of a larger effort to trim carbon dioxide emissions—will still be followed following the Fukushima accidents.

The
Fukushima plant failures are likely to impact the always evolving energy mix worldwide as well, not just within Japan. Many analysts expect the nuclear disaster in Japan to cause a shift toward the increased use of natural gas worldwide. Of course, the downside for the environment is that natural gas is a fossil fuel and its use contributes significantly to global warming. While solar and wind power can take up some of the slack, these and other renewables are at least decades away from the scalability needed to power a significant share of a modern industrial society’s energy requirements.

CONTACTS:
U.S. Department of Energy, www.doe.gov; East-West Institute, www.ewi.info.


EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


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