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Is our air quality (cough, cough) getting any better?

EarthTalk

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, Calif.

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Is there a friendly way to get rid of spreading phragmites?

EarthTalk

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

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Why is it necessary to declare clean water a ‘human right’?

EarthTalk

Dear EarthTalk: Recently the U.N. 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, Mass.
In July 2010 the United Nations (U.N.) 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.

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Wilderness a cool resource

EarthTalk

Dear EarthTalk: I understand that Congress passed legislation not too long ago that protected a few million acres of wilderness areas, parks and wild rivers, in part to help offset climate change. How does conserving land prevent global warming?
M. Oakes
Charlottesville, N.C.
The legislation in question is called the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. It was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Obama in the spring of 2009.

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Why do we buy water when it’s free out of the tap?

EarthTalk

Dear EarthTalk: Isn’t it a waste that we buy water in plastic bottles when it is basically free out of our taps? Even health food stores, which should know better, sell it like crazy. When did Earth’s most abundant and free natural resource become a commercial beverage?
A. Jacobs
via e-mail
Bottled water has been a big-selling commercial beverage around the world since the late 1980s. According to the Worldwatch Institute, global bottled water consumption has more than quadrupled since 1990.

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Are we on track to get high-speed rail service soon?

EarthTalk

Dear EarthTalk: Vice president Joe Biden just announced a commitment by the Obama administration of $53 billion to high speed rail. Isn’t it about time? Why is the United States so far behind other nations in developing environmentally friendly public transportation?
Diane A.
Boston, Mass.

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So is it cancer-causing to continually use cell phones?

EarthTalk

Dear EarthTalk: What’s the latest research on the question of whether cell phone use causes cancer?
William Thigpen
via e-mail
 
Cell phones have only been in widespread use for a couple of decades, which is far too short a time for us to know conclusively whether or not using them could cause cancer. Research thus far appears to indicate that most of us have little if anything to worry about.

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Are electronic toll systems environmentally efficient?

EarthTalk

Dear EarthTalk: Has the use of E-ZPass and similar programs to facilitate faster highway toll-paying cut down on traffic jams and therefore tailpipe pollution? Why do we need tolls at all?
Dianne Comstock
New York, N.Y.
 

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