The jury is still out as to whether human overpopulation will become a footnote in history or the dominant ill that stands in the way of all other efforts to achieve sustainability and a kinder, gentler world. Pictured: A crowded street in Kathmandu, Nepal  PHOTO: Pavel Novak

EARTHTALK: Human overpopulation: Still an issue of concern?

Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that human overpopulation isn’t such a big issue any more as numbers are expected to– Melinda Mason, Boone, IA Ever since Thomas Malthus published “An Essay on the Principle of Population” in 1798, positing incorrectly that humans’ proclivity for procreation would exhaust the global food supply within a matter of 

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Cyanide fishing began in the 1960s in the Philippines as a way to capture live reef fish for sale primarily to aquarium owners, but is today also done to supply specialty restaurants in Hong Kong and other large Asian cities. Pictured: The ocellaris clownfish, a popular aquarium fish often captured after first being stunned by bursts of cyanide-laced seawater squirted from a plastic bottle.
PHOTO: Metatron

EARTHTALK: Cyanide fishing

Dear EarthTalk: I heard of a practice called cyanide fishing, which is used mostly to collect aquarium specimens, but I understand it is also used to catch fish we eat. Isn’t this very unhealthy?- Phil Seymour, Albany, NY Cyanide fishing, whereby divers crush cyanide tablets into plastic squirt bottles of sea water and puff the 

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William Rees of the University of British Columbia reports that human society is in a “global overshoot,” consuming 30 percent more material than is sustainable from the world’s resources. Pictured: A “Buy Nothing Day” activist leaflets in San Francisco.
PHOTO: Steve Rhodes

EARTHTALK: Our destructive consumer culture

Dear EarthTalk: I don’t hear much about the environmental impacts of our consumer culture any more, but it seems to me that our “buy, buy, buy” mentality is a major contributor to our overuse of energy and resources. Are any organizations addressing this issue today?-– M. Oakes, Miami, FL There is no doubt true that 

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EARTHTALK: Green Home Renovation

Dear EarthTalk: I’m planning a major home renovation and want to include as many green-friendly features as possible. Where do I begin to look? –Matthew Glaser, Queens, NY There has never been a better time to renovate green, given the abundance of Earth-friendly building material choices as well as contractors well-versed in energy- and resource-efficiency. 

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Unsafe levels of lead contaminate soil in hundreds of neighborhoods around the U.S. where lead smelting facilities operated between the 1930s and 1960s. Children under the age of six are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. Pictured: Rusty remains at an old lead smelting mill.
PHOTO: Simon Bowen

EARTHTALK: Ghost Factories

Dear EarthTalk: What are “ghost factories?”– Philip Walker, Hartford, CT In April 2012, USA TODAY published a series entitled “Ghost Factories,” a report on an investigation into lead contaminated soil in hundreds of neighborhoods around the U.S. where lead factories once operated. The investigation addressed the lack of action taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection 

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Most Earth scientists agree that future sea levels will rise at a greater pace than during the last 50 years. Coastal communities will suffer the most, as flooding from rising water levels will force millions of people out of their homes. Pictured: flooding in Marblehead, Massachusetts caused by Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012.
PHOTO: The Berkes

EARTHTALK: Sea level rises not letting up anytime soon

EarthTalk® Dear EarthTalk: Hurricane Sandy brought more sea water onto shorelines than I’d ever witnessed before and many communities near where I live are now being required to raise their homes up. What is the prognosis for sea level rise in the years immediately ahead? –Scott P., Fairfield, CT Since sea level measurements were first 

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Contrary to 
popular myth that most ocean 
pollution is oil spilled from ships, most of it is 
land-based litter. Pictured: Plastic litter on a beach, before clean-up.
PHOTO: Bo Eide, 
courtesy Flickr

EARTHTALK: The All One Ocean campaign

EarthTalk® Dear EarthTalk: What is the “All One Ocean” campaign?–Bill O’Neill, Los Angeles, CA All One Ocean is a non-profit campaign launched in 2010 by long-time author, activist and organizer Hallie Austen Iglehart with the goal of reducing the amount of plastic and other trash that ends up in the ocean where it compromises the 

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According to Maria Diuk-Wasser at the Yale School of 
Public Health, 
the onset of human-induced global warming is likely to increase the infection rates of mosquito-borne diseases like 
malaria, dengue fever and West Nile virus by creating more mosquito-friendly habitats.
PHOTO: U.S. Department of Agriculture

EARTHTALK: Mosquito-borne diseases on the uptick — thanks to global warming

EarthTalk® Dear EarthTalk: Is there a link between the recent spread of mosquito-borne diseases around the world and environmental pollution?–Meg Ross, Lantana, FL If by pollution you mean greenhouse gas emissions, then definitely yes. According to Maria Diuk-Wasser at the Yale School of Public Health, the onset of human-induced global warming is likely to increase 

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Organic: Still a small slice of the pie

Dear EarthTalk: I understand that, despite the popularity of organic foods, clothing and other products, organic agriculture is still only practiced on a tiny percentage of land worldwide. What’s getting in the way?–Larry McFarlane, Boston, MA Organic production may still represent only a small fraction of agricultural sales in the U.S. and worldwide, but it 

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Household cleaning products are responsible for almost 10 percent of all toxic exposures reported to U.S. poison control centers. Fortunately,  there are plenty of safer alternatives available, from brands like Ecover, Seventh Generation, Green Shield and Earth Friendly Products, pictured here.                                                                                                 PHOTO: Earth Friendly Products

EARTHTALK: Alternatives to toxic cleaning supplies

Dear EarthTalk: I’m concerned about toxic ingredients in my cleaning supplies, especially now that I have young children. Where can I find safer alternatives?–Betsy E., Hartford, CT It is true that many household cleaners contain potentially toxic substances, so parents especially should make an effort to keep them out of the reach of children or, 

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