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April 2012

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8-year-old environmentalist raises $250 in 12 hours after friends’ parents call her ‘stupid’ for caring

Reddit is the internet in microcosm -- it showcases a lot of gross boneheaded stuff, gives space and succor to every flavor of perversion and bigotry, and is simultaneously full of interesting information, funny quips, and the occasional moment of grace. This story is one of those.

Last night, Redditor nervousbreakdown19 wrote that her conscientious daughter Winter had asked for Nature Conservancy donations in lieu of gifts for her eighth birthday, and been mocked to her face by her friends' jerkhole parents. Instead of crumbling under not-even-peer-pressure, though, Winter decided to set up a fundraising page with the kid-friendly site Earth Rangers, collecting donations for the endangered pine marten. (Earth Rangers gives half the raised money to the Nature Conservancy, and uses half for teaching about conservation in schools.) She's already made it more than halfway to her $500 goal.

Read more: Animals, Living

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Let’s replace Earth Day with Destroy the Earth Day

Solar flare. (Image by NASA/GSFC/SDO.)

If you're like us, you're totally burned out on all the absurd, disingenuous ways that marketers are trying to connect their wares to Earth Day. Perhaps part of the problem is that no one really knows what they're talking about when they say they want to “save the Earth.” Save the Earth from what?

We’d have a better sense of our mission if we spent some time contemplating the threats. So in order to breathe some life back into the most worn-out secular holiday since Something on a Stick Day, we’ve decided to expand on Eric Roston's list of ways the Earth could actually be destroyed. Know thine enemy!

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Surreal, weirdly beautiful photo of planetary destruction seen from space

Some things that look awful up close can look kind of beautiful from space. Like this enormous open-pit copper mine in northern Chile.

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Apple and Greenpeace trade blows in data-center grudge match

Apple's Maiden data center. (Photo by Garrett Fisher/Wired.)

Call it the battle of Maiden. This week, Apple and Greenpeace traded very public barbs over how much clean power is used by Apple’s $1 billion state-of-the-art data center in Maiden, N.C.

But it appears that much of the arguing stems from their inability to agree on what they’re arguing about.

On Monday, Greenpeace released a report calling Apple’s data center a power-hungry threat to the environment, but Apple responded by saying Greenpeace got its facts wrong. The key sticking point is a simple question: How much energy is Apple’s data center burning? Greenpeace says 100 megawatts, while Apple says it’s only 20 megawatts.

The truth may be somewhere in-between.

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Obama may blow off the Earth Summit

Photo by porchlife.

When the leaders of more than 100 countries meet this June to discuss the small matter of the Future of Life on Earth, President Obama might be there. Then again, maybe he’s got a golf match scheduled that day. He’s not saying.

Yes, it’s true, the guy who just picked up an early endorsement from Big Green groups like the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters, the man who announced in his last State of the Union Address that “America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs,” may be a no-show at the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

When asked about the president’s plans on Tuesday, U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern told The Washington Post, “I don’t have any understanding that the president has any intention of going.” A White House spokesperson was noncommittal: “I don’t have any scheduling announcements at this time.”

Ouch. What ever happened to “Love Your Mother”?

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287 coastal energy facilities at risk from sea-level rise

Sea levels are rising, which means that there's a greater risk of floods that reach well over the high tide mark. By 2030, the risk that coastal floods will go four feet or more over high tide will have doubled, Climate Central reports. And in that zone lie 287 energy facilities -- power plants, natural gas facilities, and oil and gas refineries -- that now stand a greater chance of getting an unexpected bath.

The state most likely to be screwed by this state of affairs is, of course, Louisiana. Not only is it full of oil and gas infrastructure, that infrastructure has been built on low-lying ground (which they have a lot of down there). More than half of the at-risk facilities that Climate Central identified are in Louisiana.

Read more: Infrastructure

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Critical List: Climate bill passes Mexico’s senate; Bill Clinton tells enviros to ‘chill out’

The Mexican Senate passed a climate change bill that's all set to become law. Reuters reports it was "non-controversial." No wonder Republicans are so set on keeping Mexican immigrants out of the country -- they might bring in science.

Bill Clinton has a message for sustainability advocates: “Chill out – sometimes this stuff takes years." (Unless you're in Mexico, apparently.)

Two years after the BP oil spill, offshore drilling for oil is still a risky business.

And BP is still fighting with the government over how much it will have to pay for damages.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Poop dreams: A farmer on why we should care about manure

This shit matters. (Photo by David Jones.)

From time to time a book merits its title. Published in 2010, Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind may just be the No. 1 book on the No. 2 business. In it, Gene Logsdon manages to be both funny and educational as he advocates for overcoming our aversion to excrement for the sake of healthy soil.

According to Logsdon, we need manure and lots of it. He contends we should follow our nose for practical and elegant solutions to improving soil fertility, and turn waste into compost fit for crops and gardens.

We spoke to Logsdon recently to get the straight poop.

Q. You've had a long career in journalism. What inspired you to write a book on manure?

Gene Logsdon. (Photo by Ben Barnes.)

A. I was hearing from lots of readers who were getting into backyard farm animals, especially chickens. They did not seem to have any appreciation for the rude fact that animals defecate and urinate and no realization that they would have to deal with that manure. Since I really hoped that small-scale animal husbandry would become a fact of American life, and having memories of when it was, even in towns, I knew that without proper manure handling, the new movement was going to get into trouble with neighbors. And lead to all the silly rules that previous generations used to keep farm animals far from their noses.

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Happy Earth Day, Mitt!

Mitt RomneyMitt Romney, brownwasher in chief. (Photo by Gage Skidmore.)

Mitt Romney might be the country's No. 1 brownwasher. While corporate America tries to paint itself as greener than it really is, corporate America's presumptive candidate tries to paint himself as browner than he really is -- or at least was.

We aren't fooled. Sure, he mocks efficient cars, extols the virtues of coal, and argues that we should be drill-baby-drilling our way to lower gas prices. Yes, he bashes the EPA and has packed his staff with EPA haters. OK, he wants to keep handing out billions to Big Oil and rubber-stamp the Keystone XL pipeline.

But if you chip away at that brown paint, there's a layer of green underneath. (As for what's beneath that layer, and then the one below that, who knows?) When he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney was about as green as Republicans get (if you don't count the now-disgraced Governator, and many Republicans don't). Check out these eco-friendly stances from Romney's past:

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Paper asks: Does high-fructose corn syrup contribute to a rise in autism?

Photo by Robert Bradley.

I know what you’re thinking: “Tom, it’s been ages since you wrote about high-fructose corn syrup.” And you’re right! It has. But as I’m feeling petulantly defiant, I think it’s time to take another look at America’s favorite sweetener. You see, while the HFCS industry still claims there’s no difference between how the body handles HFCS and sugar, a new study has come out suggesting just the opposite. And in a very big way.

The blaring headline version of the new study’s conclusion would read: “High-Fructose Corn Syrup Causes Autism.”

And while that may be a bit of an overstatement, it’s not off by much. In a provocative new peer-reviewed study published in Clinical Epigenetics, researchers led by a former FDA toxicologist purport to have found a very real link between HFCS consumption and autism.