When this seal pup arrived at the New England Aquarium, he was orphaned, underweight, and blind in one eye, and his unusual mottled coat wasn't thick enough to keep him warm. Now he's getting healthy and adorable (you can see him playing with a toy and kicking himself in the head like an itchy dog in the video below). But he still doesn't have a name to go with his goofy little face, and the aquarium is soliciting suggestions.
How do you make fruits and vegetables fun, instead of just good for you and better for the planet than meat? Well, probably not by doing elaborate tattoo designs on a banana. But it's easy, so why not?
Forty years ago, in 1970, little Lisa Brown was riding her totally rad banana-seat bike through the woods of Cape Cod. She approached the Herring River, but the only way to cross it was a rickety plank board bridge. When Brown started out on the bridge it was two feet wide, but halfway across it narrowed to 12 inches, and she had to turn just a little bit to stay on track.
Well, it’s not the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but it’s a start.
A coalition of U.S. environmental and social justice groups has asked President Obama to step up and attend the Earth Summit, a gathering of international bigwigs next month in Rio. It'll be an important opportunity to meet influentialpeople from other countries, attend criticalmeetings, and lead high-level negotiations. Oh, and figure out how to build a green economy, Van Jones-style, around the globe.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of our Ask Umbra advice column, and to celebrate, we’re pulling a favorite gem of eco-advice out of the archives each week. With Memorial Day weekend approaching, we thought it was time to revisit how to be properly patriotic. From Seattle reader Anne B.:
"Like any proud American, I want to fly our flag 24 hours a day to show my reverence for this awesome country. I am torn, though, because section 6a of the Flag Code requires the flag to be lit up during hours of darkness and this conflicts with my desire to cut back on my energy use. Can this rule be ignored in the name of the environment?"
Umbra reads Anne's flag its rights, wonders if Seattle's gloomy weather rains on Anne's parade more than the night sky, and ceremoniously suggests a solution that will keep her flag basking in glory as long anyone is looking. Read on for the full Umbra answer.
2011 saw a record high in carbon dioxide emissions, with China’s contribution growing the most.
Climate change is a boon for one species, at least: The brown argus butterfly, previously rare, has been staking out more turf for itself as the areas north of its range become warmer and more hospitable.
With the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on his way out, the president nominated Allison Macfarlane to take his place.
Negotiations for the Rio+20 summit are "painfully slow," says U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
It’s a dreamy combination of hipster clichés: an urban farming-themed pop-up store made of salvaged materials. In Brooklyn. Maybe that’s why, when Hayseed’s Big City Farm Supply opened at the beginning of April, founder Meg Paska thought, “We're going to get mocked.” But mockery did not ensue; instead, an enthusiastic community response showed that Paska was on to something with this small, seasonal shop catering to the needs of people growing food and raising animals in the city.
Paska, who blogs about her own backyard garden, chicken coop, and beehive at Brooklyn Homesteader, started Hayseed’s with the folks who run Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm in Queens. The store will be around until early July in a space Paska rented from the design studio Domestic Construction. We chatted with Paska recently about the project.
Q.How did Hayseed’s Big City Farm Supply come together?
A. My business partners and I both kind of have our own urban farm things going on. We were talking one night over beers, and we both admitted that we had thought about opening a farm store. But we were concerned about retail spaces being really expensive. We kept our ears to the ground and hoped that something would present itself, and it did. A bunch of friends of mine had posted a Kickstarter campaign for a design studio a few blocks from my house. They were going to try and save the lot next to their studio and turn it into an urban farm. I asked them how they would feel about hosting a pop-up store, and they were really into the idea. Their studio is in a big mechanic’s garage. They rented out the front space to us and then actually built out a storefront with pallets and old wood. We didn’t spend a single cent on materials; they built it all with salvaged objects.
“I don’t appreciate being called a terrorist,” the woman said firmly.
I was standing outside the Hilton Chicago hotel talking to Jim Lakely, the director of communications for the Heartland Institute, when an elderly woman approached us on the street. Dressed in a business suit, she was loading her luggage into a taxi when she noticed Lakely’s Heartland name badge and interrupted our conversation.
“We can have a civil discussion. But I really don’t like being labeled a terrorist,” she said, referencing a billboard posted by Heartland equating people who believe in global warming to the Unabomber. “That’s all I wanted to say.”
“Well, I appreciate you telling me that,” said Lakely, who was taking a break from managing Heartland’s conference to watch the 60 or so people protesting the event outside the hotel.
The woman, who was wearing a badge for a different conference, got into her taxi and drove away. There was a brief moment of awkward silence between Lakely and me.
The exchange perfectly encapsulated the public-relations disaster the Heartland Institute has created for itself over the last few weeks. The downfall started with an offensive billboard campaign on May 3, and ended with 11 companies pulling support for the organization -- stripping 35 percent its of corporate funds overnight and leaving its financial future uncertain.
The U.S. military's "going green" is not a singular phenomenon. There are several different things going on under that rubric, with different rationales and different effects. Some of them make such obvious strategic, economic, and environmental sense that no one really can, or does, oppose them. But one in particular -- the biofuels initiative -- is much less clear-cut. Before discussing that, though, let's try to pick apart and categorize the green initiatives underway at the Department of Defense.
First off, there are attempts to reduce fossil-fuel use in the theater of war, mainly Iraq and Afghanistan, through more efficiency (insulated tents, LED lights) and the use of distributed renewables. These efforts directly enhance battlefield effectiveness. They make fighting units lighter and faster. They reduce the need for fuel convoys, saving lives and money. They are unimpeachable -- even Republicans in Congress will hesitate to second-guess the military's tactical logistics decisions.
Second, there are attempts to make U.S. military bases more independent of civilian power grids, which are vulnerable to accidents, blackouts, or attacks. In part this is being done by generating power on-site. Solar power for bases has become far more affordable, thanks to plummeting solar-panel prices, but there are also experiments underway with wind, geothermal, and biomass. Bases are also increasing energy and waste efficiency and experimenting with smart microgrids. These efforts seem somewhat more vulnerable to political attack, but I've not yet heard of any.
Third, there are efforts to find new liquid fuels for the military's vast land, air, and water fleets. This one is the biggie, from the standpoint of sheer quantities of energy and money. It's the most difficult. And it's also the most controversial, in terms of Republican opposition and environmental risk.
Denialist think tank the Heartland Institute likes to have all its besties over once a year to watch movies, braid each other's hair, and talk about how they don't believe in science or, when it comes down to it, really know what it is. Well, I have bad news for journalists looking for telling quotes, and for people like Lord Monckton who don't get invited to any other parties: This year's shindig was the last one for the foreseeable future.