Insight News

Mar 30th


China's carbon emissions

China's carbon emissionsDear EarthTalk: I understand that China is about to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest global warming polluter. What is China doing to address this issue as well as its other environmental impacts as such a populous nation? -- Sophie N., Andover, MA

Actually, China passed the U.S. as the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter back in 2006 and today produces some 17 percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide output. According to the China Daily news service, air and water pollution, combined with widespread use of food additives and pesticides, make cancer the top killer in China. Meanwhile, World Bank data show that, based on the European Union’s air quality standards, only one percent of the country’s 560 million urban inhabitants breathe air deemed safe. But many Chinese insist that all this environmental trouble is part of the cost of developing into a world superpower, and government leaders there are hesitant to impose restrictions on economic development.

Organic beers

Organic beersDear EarthTalk: I see more and more organic wines on store shelves these days, but what options are out there today for organic beer? -- Ken Strong, Wichita, KS

Some 80 million Americans drink beer, yet organic beer represents still only a sliver of the $7 billion U.S. craft beer market. But this sliver is quickly turning into a slice: Between 2003 and 2009, according to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. organic beer sales more than quadrupled from $9 million to $41 million.

According to Seven Bridges Cooperative, which has been selling organic brewing ingredients for a decade already, organic beers tend to feature exceptional clarity and a clean, flavorful taste. “On a more technical side, organic malts on average have a lower protein content which produces a clear mash and less haze problems in the finished beer,” reports Seven Bridges. “Organic malts and hops have no chemical residues to interfere with fermentation to give the organic brewer a clean, unadulterated beer.”

Clock is ticking for Medicare sign-up

Minnesota seniors sifting through their options for the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans have until the end of the month to make their choices. Open enrollment ends December 31, and free counseling and resources are available to help with these decisions.

Jean Wood, executive director of the Minnesota Board on Aging, says it’s important to carefully weigh the options, because different plans offer different coverage. The first question to ask is whether your physician or clinic is covered, she says.

“The other thing to know is what prescription drugs you’re taking, because they will only cover drugs that are part of a formulary. And then, if you have a special, chronic disease—and I’ll use Alzheimer’s as an example—there are some specialized plans that will help you cover that.”

"Trayless Tuesdays" in the school cafeteria

Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that New York City schools are trying out “Trayless Tuesdays” in their cafeterias in order to reduce waste. Why are trays such a big issue? And how can cutting them out on one day a week really make a difference? -- Mark, Brooklyn, NY

Unlike the old days when many school cafeterias offered reusable trays that could go into big industrial dishwashers after lunchtime, the trend since the early 1990s in New York City and elsewhere across the country has been to provide students with disposable polystyrene (tradename: Styrofoam) trays that are used once—typically for less than 30 minutes—and then thrown out. From there, most of the trays end up clogging already overburdened landfills or posing a litter problem. Polystyrene, impossible to compost and difficult to recycle, is one of the predominant features of litter-filled beaches, not to mention trash-based ocean gyres hundreds of miles from shore.

Greener electronics

Greener electronicsDear EarthTalk: Where can I find information on which electronics and their manufacturers are greener than others, with regard to components, manufacturing processes and end use efficiency? -- John Franken, New York, NY

Now that many consumers are beginning to care about their own environmental footprints, manufacturers are responding with loads of greener offerings. One good place to find them is the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, which ranks the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, televisions and game consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change. Greenpeace hopes that by publishing and regularly updating the guide they can both educate consumers about their choices and influence manufacturers to eliminate hazardous substances, take back and recycle their products responsibly, and reduce the climate impacts of their operations and products.

Health reform seminars target artists, entertainers

The Actors Fund’s Artists Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC) will offer two free health care seminars, hosted by Springboard for The Arts, to Minneapolis/St. Paul area visual and performing artists, arts administrators and entertainment professionals on Thursday, December 16, 5:30 - 8 pm and Saturday, December 18, 1–3:30 pm. The seminars will be held at Doctor Sam, 1300 Quincy Street NE, Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55413.

AHIRC promotes full access to quality, affordable health care and health care coverage for artists and entertainers. The information is comprehensive and unbiased, with no commercial or political sponsors. 

Depression: More than “just the blues”

Clinical depression can affect anyone, regardless of race, gender, age, creed or income. Every year more than 19 million Americans suffer from some type of depressive illness. According to a Surgeon General’s report, African Americans are over-represented in populations that are particularly at risk for mental illness. Consider the following:
•    African Americans are 30 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.
•    Non-Hispanic Whites are more than twice as likely to receive antidepressant prescription treatments as are Non-Hispanic Blacks.
Depression robs people of the enjoyment found in daily life and can even lead to suicide. The truth is that depression is not a normal part of life for any African American, regardless of age or life situation. Unfortunately, depression has often been misdiagnosed in the African American community. However, help is available.

What is clinical depression?
Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Doctors use the term "clinical depression" to describe the more severe, persistent form of depression also known as "major depression" or "major depressive disorder."
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