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February 2012

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Heartland ‘expert’ taught climate denialism at a Canadian university

Hey, remember yesterday, when we told you about a video that imagines a world in which climate skepticism is taught in schools? It turns out that that world is not imaginary -- not at all. It exists today, and it is named … Canada.

For two years, Tom Harris, a man who according to the Heartland Institute is an "expert" on climate change, taught a course on the subject at Ottawa's Carleton University. Harris' course was meant for non-science majors, so, as the Guardian notes, it "may for many students be the only academic exposure they have to climate change while earning their undergraduate degree." When a group of scientists reviewed Harris' taped lectures they found 142 "erroneous" claims.

Read more: Climate Skeptics

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How to turn one piece of recycled cloth into 14 outfits and a bag

Image by {r}evolution apparel.

So the Lorax movie may be effing up left and right, but take heart, nostalgia-trippers: you can still own a real-life Thneed! The Versalette is a cylinder of domestically sourced, domestically made, recycled, organic fabric, whose ingenious construction allows it to turn into a dress, skirt, top, poncho, scarf, or bag. You can also almost certainly use it for curtains, or covers for bicycle seats.

Read more: Living

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Critical List: Olympia Snow retires; more people believe in global warming

Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican who believed in global warming and even tried to do something about it, is retiring from the Senate.

Since it's getting warmer, more Americans believe in global warming, because of "personal observations of the weather." Sigh. That's not the correct reason to believe global warming is happening, but we'll take it. At least until next winter.

New York could double the speeding fines for electric bike riders to $1,000.

Wind farms that fly or float can help maximize production.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Why your iThings don’t have to be weCruel

Free marketeers and green-minded people tend to converge on a single belief -- that electronic goods such as Apple iPhones and iPads are inherently unsustainable. Making such goods is only possible, the story goes, because of the unbearable mistreatment of workers who make those products, and the extraction of raw materials under environmentally destructive conditions. Treat workers fairly, and extract rare earths and such in ways that don't degrade the ecology, and costs would explode -- your iPad would carry the price tag of a small car.

This argument is sometimes made by those who don't want to see anything done about the horrible treatment of workers in places like Foxconn in China, where nets have been placed to catch workers driven to attempting suicide by jumping from building windows and roofs. Sometimes it is made by those who think this whole technological civilization thing is a mistake. In both cases it is wrong.

Here is the truth: The single greatest cost component of both the iPhone and the iPad is neither labor nor materials, but profits.

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slideshow

Hot tram! Old trolleys are the new classic cars [SLIDESHOW]

After nearly going extinct in the ’60s, vintage streetcars are returning to the rails in downtowns from Philly to San Francisco. These electric-powered trams are so painstakingly restored, they make classic T-Bird owners look like chumps. Here's what it looks like when mass transit goes retro.

Read more: Transportation

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Soup & Bread: Inspiring a community of giving [Recipes]

Soup & Bread is a way to bring community together in the dead of winter, and raise money for those who don't have access to healthy food.

Who doesn’t love soup? It’s nutritious, inexpensive, and there are so many kinds! Soup can be an earthy meal in a chipped pottery bowl or an elegant palate cleanser frothed into a porcelain cup. It can showcase the explosive flavor of fresh spring peas or provide refuge for tired celery and stale bread. Soup soothes the sick, it nourishes the poor -- and it tricks children into eating their veggies. And perhaps more than any other food, soup can be a powerful tool for building community.

I learned all this and more when I launched Soup & Bread, a free weekly gathering in Chicago, during the bleak winter of 2009. Back then I was broke, bored, and bartending at a music club called the Hideout. The recession was hitting hard; my friends and neighbors were losing their jobs. At times, when I looked around, it seemed the whole city could use a nice bowl of soup. So I thrifted a bunch of Crock-Pots and invited a handful of people to come by the bar to eat.

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Myhrvold finds we need clean energy yesterday (and no natural gas) to avoid being cooked

Nathan Myhrvold. (Photo by Sifu Renka.)

Several years ago, Nathan Myhrvold -- former Microsoft exec, kajillionaire, inventor, founder of Intellectual Ventures, author of the world's most high-tech cookbook, and all-around polymath genius type -- was quoted in the book SuperFreakonomics saying dismissive things about climate activists. He was worried they might get "a real head of steam" behind their "immediate and precipitous anti-carbon initiatives." (In retrospect, he needn't have worried.) Instead, Myhrvold said, we should be ... researching geoengineering.

He took some heat for it at the time and the experience apparently convinced him that he needs to get a better handle on things climate- and energy-related. For a guy like Myhrvold, that doesn't just mean reading Wikipedia articles. Instead, he built a specialized set of models to capture the global temperature effects of transitions to low-carbon energy of varying speeds, using varying technologies. You know, like people do.

Flash forward a few years: Myhrvold is out with a paper on his results, co-authored with respected climate scientist Ken Caldeira, published in Environmental Research Letters.

The results are ... grim.

Read more: Climate Change

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Terrifying video envisions a world where education is anti-science

Step for a moment into this chilling alternative reality, in which fine young men and women believe "gravity is just a theory" and "cigarettes aren't addictive":

The video is from the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore's current climate-change fighting outfit. What do y'all find the most terrifying moment? I lose it around "Scientists are, like, altering their data just to get paid." That girl is really convincing! But the clincher is when they say, "Of course it's true. I learned it in school."

Read more: Climate Skeptics

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Liquid battery electric vehicle could charge in three minutes

“Flow” batteries, i.e. batteries filled with a liquid electrolyte that can be pumped out and replenished, have the potential to transform the process of charging an electric vehicle into something that more closely resembles filling it up with gas. This research is still at its earliest stages, but a battery from startup Eos Energy Storage could be drained and refilled with charged electrolyte in three minutes, the company's CEO told Katie Fehrenbacher of GigaOm.

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New revelations about how Fukushima almost forced the evacuation of Tokyo

During the most dire period in the Fukushima meltdown, the president of Japanese utility company Tepco tried to evacuate all workers at the stricken reactor. If that order went through, it would have precipitated a worst-case scenario and ultimately the evacuation of Tokyo.