The New Yorker writer and acclaimed author Elizabeth Kolbert has a penchant for depressing topics. Her 2006 book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, helped push climate change into the mainstream (with bonus points for not mincing words in the title).
Now that climate change is safely keeping most of us up at night, Kolbert turned her pen to another big bummer: the sixth extinction. We're currently losing species at a rate of 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than unassisted nature wiping out the occasional newt. While humans weren't responsible for the last five mass extinctions, our fingerprints are all over this one. Yep: We collectively have the force of an asteroid when it comes to erasing species (high five, guys!) and for the most part, our response has been classic Urkel.
Earlier this month, a pair of senators introduced the Safe Streets Act. The bill would bring "complete streets" principles to federal road funding. Complete streets accommodate all users, regardless of whether they're in cars, regardless of age or disability -- pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users, stroller pushers. In practice, this often means streets with sidewalks and bike lanes -- two features that are often missing from roads built in the last half-century.
For too long, traffic engineers simply asked how to move cars as quickly as possible, rather than how to make streets safe to walk along or cross on foot. But now complete-streets policies have been adopted in more than 610 jurisdictions across the U.S., requiring local transportation departments to take the interests of non-drivers into account. The Senate complete-streets bill would require all federally funded road construction or repair to do the same.
So where are these two senators from? Presumably bastions of liberal, coastal urbanism like California or Massachusetts? Try Alaska and Hawaii. The sponsors are Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). Complete streets, it turns out, are appealing in lower-density areas too.
“This is not just an urban priority,” Schatz tells Grist. “It’s important for people to be able to move within their community safely.”
Whenever there’s a giant meat recall, the first and often only reaction is disgust. It’s entirely justified self-interest: People want to be sure that their ground chuck hasn’t ever shared a vat with pathogens. But these recalls also have an effect on the other end of the food chain, which we rarely consider.
Rancho won’t reopen; at least not in its current form. The abattoir lost its right of inspection, meaning it will have to start from scratch, rebuilding and replacing equipment to bring the facility up to modern standards.
Meanwhile, the ranchers that rely on the plant are struggling to survive. Having a local slaughterhouse is vital to maintaining local agriculture. Much of the land around Petaluma is ideally suited for raising seasonal, grass-fed cattle. But without a means to kill those cattle, those ranches won’t be viable. The next nearest slaughterhouse is a three to four hour drive away. As my colleague Heather Smith has pointed out, if omnivores want to eat local, we have to kill local.
CUMBERLAND—A local Unitarian minister and three western Maryland residents were arrested just before noon today outside the Allegany County Courthouse in Cumberland for peacefully protesting Virginia-based Dominion Resources’ plan to build a liquefied natural gas export facility at Cove Point in southern Maryland. The protesters blocked the courthouse entrance to demand justice in the controversial federal handling of the massive $3.8 billion project, which would take nearly a billion cubic feet of gas per day from fracking wells across the Appalachian region, liquefy it on the Chesapeake Bay, and export it to Asia. “I am here today as both a …
It’s no secret that Americans love salt. But our uses for it extend well beyond the kitchen: It turns out we dump so much of the stuff on our roads that a lot of it ends up in our freshwater rivers and streams. Thanks again polar vortex.
See, sodium chloride's not only our favorite rock to eat, it's still the best way to deal with slick sidewalks and streets in the face of the dreaded wintry mix. Salt is cheaper and just works better at unsealing the bond between road and pavement than alternatives like calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, or potassium chloride. After getting pounded with storm after storm this winter, municipalities in the Northeast and Midwest had little freak-outs when they thought they wouldn’t be getting enough of the stuff (you know things are getting desperate when towns turn to cheese brine, beet juice, or, heaven forfend, pickle juice for alternatives, not to mention when 80 tons of salt crystals mysteriously “disappear”).
Back in October, we told you we were looking for a few good fellows. Well, we found ‘em. And we couldn’t be more jazzed.
Please welcome Amber Cortes, Eve Andrews, and Samantha Larson, the first class of the Grist Fellowship Program. Starting this month, our trio of budding journalists will dive deeply into timely topics, interview the green movement’s emerging innovators and provocateurs, and experiment with different storytelling techniques. In general, we expect the new fellows to add a little spark to what we do.
A writer and multimedia strategist, Amber previously brought her bright ideas to public radio stations including WNYC in New York and KUOW in Seattle. Eve is fresh off of her gig as research director at Food Tank, where she wrote about our food system from all angles. And Samantha reported on the inexact science of storm ratings, among other hot topics, for National Geographic.
If you’re interested in becoming a future fellow, stay tuned. The application process for fall 2014 fellowships will begin this March. Check the program page or follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.
For several years now, the rideshare revoluton has promised a day when we could throw our car keys away for good. Companies like Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber have succeeded in connecting available drivers and hip urbanites via sleek mobile apps, offering an alternative to car ownership and the potential for reduced gridlock. But some city and state governments have sought to put the brakes on ridesharing's rapid expansion -- resulting in regulation battles across the country. Until they get onboard, it remains to be seen whether the mustachioed car is here to stay or if it'll fade away like last year's waxed handlebar mustache.
In one corner: companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, often called Transportation Network Companies, or TNCs. The TNCs provide prearranged, app-based pickup services and continue to grow in popularity with the plugged-in, smartphone-using, it's-1-a.m.-and-I-need-to-get-home-from-the-bar crowd.
In the other corner: the highly regulated taxi and cab companies that are deeply invested in protecting their industry. These past few weeks, cities and states have been scrambling to strike a balance between the growing need for flexible urban transportation solutions and protecting the interests of the taxi and cab drivers. In Grist’s backyard of Seattle, the city council votes on a new ordinance today. Heck, even Macklemore has chimed in. [Update: A modified ordinance has passed, which seems to make no one happy.]
So far regulation has been stop-and-go for rideshare companies. California set the tone as the first state to approve a set of regulations in September, giving Uber et al much-needed legitimization and the impetus to face other regulatory challenges in New York City and Washington, D.C. But a recent wrongful death lawsuit in San Francisco has drawn attention to public safety concerns.
Below is a map featuring some of the most heated legal battles in cities and states across the country. Depending on your vantage point, some measures may seem more progressive than others. Click on the purple cars to get more information:
The U.S. government estimates that honeybees provide $15 billion worth of pollination services to America's farms every year. So it's throwing $3 million at them in the Midwest, announcing a new effort to help farmers and ranchers grow plants that furnish bees with healthier diets.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it will use the funds "to promote conservation practices that will provide honey bees with nutritious pollen and nectar while providing benefits to the environment." The pollen and nectar will come from such sources as cover crops and high-quality pastures.
It's another little step by the government to boost hives' chances of survival. Forcing bees to subsist on the pollen and nectar of crops alone can leave them sickly.
"It's a win for the livestock guys, and it's a win for the managed honeybee population," USDA official Jason Weller told Al Jazeera. "And it's a win then for orchardists and other specialty crop producers across the nation because then you're going to have a healthier, more robust bee population that then goes out and helps pollinate important crops."
Some time around 1986, Vernice Miller-Travis was in her home in West Harlem watching her favorite movie, Claudine, when she noticed something familiar. In the movie, James Earl Jones’ character, Roop, a New York City sanitation worker, is at the end of his daily garbage run and his truck is headed to the transfer station. That station -- the Marine Transfer Station on the Hudson River -- was right near Miller-Travis’ house on 135th St. Along with the North River Sewage Treatment Center, also near her home, it was the reason she and her neighbors smelled an unmistakable funk all …
Development of natural gas and wind resources in the Marcellus shale region could cover up nearly 1.3 million acres of land, an area bigger than the state of Delaware, with cement, asphalt, and other impervious surfaces, according to a paper published this month in the scientific journal PLOS One.