Roddy Scheer

Recent Articles

Some chemicals in everyday products may contribute to obesity

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers

 

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 have doubled for American adults and tripled for kids and teenagers aged six through 19 since 1980. Today, 31 percent of American adults and 15 percent of youngsters are classified as overweight. The rise in obesity and related health problems like diabetes is usually attributed to an abundance of high-calorie food coupled with the trend toward a more sedentary lifestyle, but there is more to the story. A growing number of researchers believe that certain chemicals collectively known as “obesogens” may be a contributing factor to the growing obesity epidemic. Continue Reading →

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Organic agriculture: Is it sustainable?

By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers

Dr. Henry I. Miller’s May 15, 2014 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal has indeed made waves in the organic farming community. Miller, former director of the Office of Biotechnology at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, argues that conventional farming — which uses synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers and often genetically modified (GM) seed stock to maximize yields — is actually better for the environment, producing more food and using less water compared to organic farming. “Organic farming might work well for certain local environments on a small scale, but its farms produce far less food per unit of land and water than conventional ones,” says Miller. “The low yields of organic agriculture — typically 20 percent to 50 percent less than conventional agriculture — impose various stresses on farmland and especially on water consumption.”

Miller adds that organic methods can cause significant leaking of nitrates from composted manure — the fertilizer of choice for most organic farms — into groundwater, polluting drinking water. He also cites research showing that large-scale composting generates significant amounts of greenhouse gases and “may also deposit pathogenic bacteria on or in food crops, which has led to more frequent occurrences of food poisoning in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

“If the scale of organic production were significantly increased, says Miller, the lower yields would increase the pressure for the conversion of more land to farming and more water for irrigation, both of which are serious environmental issues.” He adds that conventional farming’s embrace of GM crops — a no-no to organic farmers — is yet another way we can boost yields and feed more people with less land. Continue Reading →

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What’s happening on Earth Day?

This year, a focus on Green cities
By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss
Contributing Writers

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 change becomes increasingly clear, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever,” reports Earth Day Network, the Seattle-based non-profit that helps coordinate Earth Day celebrations and serves as a clearinghouse for related information and resources. The group hopes to galvanize the support of more than a billion people across 192 countries this Earth Day for increasing the sustainability and reducing the carbon footprints of urban areas everywhere. By focusing on buildings, energy and transportation issues in cities this year, Earth Day Network hopes to raise awareness about the importance of making improvements in efficiency, investments in renewable technology and regulation reform in the urban areas where half the world’s population lives today. By 2050, three quarters of us will live in cities, making it more important than ever to adapt and adopt policies that take into account how to support larger numbers of people with less environmental impact. Continue Reading →

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Mobile phone apps that keep users connected to their impact on the environment

By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers

 

Not surprisingly, there are thousands of “green” apps out there that make it easier for people to find and share information to help us all become better stewards of the natural environment. The American Lung Association’s State of the Air app (www.lung.org/healthy-air/outdoor/state-of-the-air/app.html) shows live color-coded air quality maps for any U.S. location and includes both ozone and particulate pollution counts. The app also provides air quality alerts, short-term forecasts, opportunities to learn more about air quality risks and how to contact lawmakers to push for more stringent pollution regulations. Another way to find out who’s emitting what nearby is via A Mobile Future’s (www.amobilefuture.com), a free app that compiles information from various pollution databases around the world and then shows users which big polluters are emitting what near them. Coverage includes 1,380 cities, mostly in Europe and the U.S.

Ethical shoppers will appreciate the GoodGuide (www.goodguide.com), a free app that shows how any of 120,000 food, personal care and household products stack up in terms of sustainability, fair wages and even health risks. Continue Reading →

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Can a high-tech thermostat save money and energy?

By Roddy Scheer 

and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers

 

 

Spending $200 or more to replace that older, still functioning thermostat with a new whiz-bang “smart” variety might seem like a waste of money, but it can be one of the best small investments a homeowner can make, given the potential for energy and cost savings down the line. The coolest of the bunch of new smart thermostats, the Nest, was created by former Apple employees who had been instrumental in designing the original iPod and iPhone years earlier. This simple looking round thermostat is reminiscent of old-school thermostats that one would manually adjust by turning the temperature dial. But the auto-awake feature that turns on the bright blue digital display when someone walks nearby gives the Nest away as an ultra-modern piece of high-tech gadgetry. The Nest’s software “learns” the habits in a given space by logging when inhabitants tend to be home and awake and noting when they tend to turn up or down the heat — and then sets a heating/cooling schedule accordingly. Continue Reading →

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Wind energy commands a larger piece of the renewable energy pie

By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers

 

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 Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), global cumulative installed wind capacity — the total amount of wind power available — has grown fifty-fold in less than two decades, from just 6,100 megawatts (MW) in 1996 to 318,137 MW in 2013. And the future looks brighter still. Analysts from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) predict that wind will account for the largest share — 30 percent — of new renewables added to the global power grid by 2030. That new renewables are expected to account for as much as 70 percent of all new power sources over the next 20 years means that wind is poised to become a major player on the global energy scene. Continue Reading →

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Does bitter cold and heavy snowfall mean no global warming?

By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers

 

 

It’s tempting to think that the cold air and snow outside augur the end of global warming, but don’t rejoice yet. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), weather and climate are two very different beasts: “Weather is what’s happening outside the door right now; today a snowstorm or a thunderstorm is approaching. Climate, on the other hand, is the pattern of weather measured over decades.”

Isolated weather events and even seasonal trends are not an indication of global warming’s existence one way or another, and most climatologists agree that the car born pollution we have been spewing into the atmosphere for the past century is leading to more frequent and intense storms of every kind and causing greater temperature swings all around the planet. In short, the harsh winter we are having shouldn’t be viewed as a refutation of global warming, but rather as further evidence of a growing problem. “There is a clear long-term global warming trend, while each individual year does not always show a temperature increase relative to the previous year, and some years show greater changes than others,” reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Continue Reading →

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America’s Great Outdoors initiative connects kids and vets to environmental jobs

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers

 

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. The memorandum calls for collaboration among the Departments of Interior and Agriculture as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House’s own Council on Environmental Quality in leading the initiative. Eight other federal agencies play a supporting role, and literally thousands of other partners from state, local and tribal governments, nonprofits and the private sector are involved as well. Getting young people, especially city kids, into the outdoors to experience our country’s unique natural heritage is a top priority of America’s Great Outdoors. Before pursuing any specific strategies, initiative leaders solicited feedback from everyday Americans as to what mattered most to them regarding conservation and access to the outdoors. Continue Reading →

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Resources that help kids understand environmental problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers

 

Kids today may be more eco-savvy than we were at their age, but complex topics like global warming may still mystify them. Luckily there are many resources available to help parents teach their kids how to understand the issues and become better stewards for the planet. A great place to start is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) “A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change” website. The site is divided into sections (Learn the Basics, See the Impacts, Think like a Scientist and Be Part of the Solution) so kids can get just the right amount of detail without feeling overwhelmed. One feature of the site is a virtual trip around the world to see the effects of climate change in different regions. Continue Reading →

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Is earlier puberty in today’s American kids linked to environmental issues?

By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers 

 

Research indicates that indeed Americans girls and boys are going through puberty earlier than ever, though the reasons are unclear. Many believe our widespread exposure to synthetic chemicals is at least partly to blame, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why our bodies react in certain ways to various environmental stimuli. Researchers first noticed the earlier onset of puberty in the late 1990s, and recent studies confirm the mysterious public health trend. A 2012 analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that American girls exposed to high levels of common household chemicals had their first periods seven months earlier than those with lower exposures. “This study adds to the growing body of scientific research that exposure to environmental chemicals may be associated with early puberty,” says Danielle Buttke, a researcher at CDC and lead author on the study. Continue Reading →

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