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Gnamesakes

Newly discovered gnat species named after Bill McKibben

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Background photo: Axel Hartmann. Photo illustration: Eve Andrews

If you had the power to name a living creature, would you use that power wisely? Would you name it after one of your heroes? Let’s be real: Beyoncemus knowlesi does have a pretty nice ring to it!

Peter Kerr, a scientist with the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s State Collection of Arthropods, recently discovered a species of gnat. Through a great feat of willpower, he was able to avoid the temptation of christening it Gnat King Cole, Jr. (There’s a reason that Grist staff members aren’t scientists.) Instead, he decided to name it after foremost green activist, author, and Grist board member Bill McKibben, honoring McKibben’s commitment to protecting the health of the planet and all of its forms of life.

The Megophthalmidia mckibbeni makes its home in California. It enjoys fungi, forests, and following 350.org on Twitter. Just kidding about the last one – gnats can’t use smartphones, guys!

We reached out to McKibben to find out how he felt when he learned about his new spirit animal. He was predictably modest:

Read more: Living

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NFL player tackles sustainable beef off the field

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Deanna Hurley

From September to December, Will Witherspoon spends his time chasing down quarterbacks and grappling with 300-pound linemen. During the off-season, the St. Louis Rams linebacker spends his free time in the company of heavyweights of a different breed: sustainably raised cattle. Witherspoon owns and operates Shire Gate Farm in Owensville, Mo., and has a passion for meat that’s produced in environmentally conscious and humane ways.

So how did Witherspoon end up on a different kind of field? He's a bonafide foodie, and got into the agriculture game to produce his own line of antibiotic-free, organically raised beef. We chatted with Witherspoon about his love for animals, holistic land management, and how he’s spreading the message of sustainable meat to athletes and congressmembers alike.

Read more: Food, Living

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Walmarts and all

Why you should be skeptical of Walmart’s cheap organic food

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Walmart

Out on the mean streets of the U.S. organic foods industry, Walmart has stepped onto the corner with both guns drawn. On Thursday, the superstore behemoth announced its plan to partner with Wild Oats (which you may recognize as a former subsidiary of Whole Foods) to offer a line of organic goods at unprecedentedly low prices in 2,000 of its U.S. stores. To start, the line will offer primarily canned goods and other pantry staples that will cost up to 25 percent less than those of other organic brands.

At first blush, this appears to be great news. Cheaper, more accessible organic food -- isn’t that one of the prerequisites for the kind of healthy food system we’ve all been waiting for? The New York Times notes that Walmart’s big move could ultimately create a larger supply of organic goods, pushing down organic prices in the long run.

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FDA tells livestock and dairy farmers: We’re cutting you off — no more beer!

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Shutterstock

The United States is about to have a slew of hungry and sober cows on our hands, which, for the record, is not a good combination for any mammal.

The FDA’s proposed Food Safety Modernization Act guidelines would prohibit breweries from sharing their fermented grains with livestock farmers. Farmers have long been using this boozy mash as free feed for their cows, and this relationship has provided an efficient way for the beer industry to repurpose its waste.*

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Eat your heart out, Rome: This 3D-printed village was built in a day

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3Ders.org

To review: In the world of sustainable real estate, they’re making hobbit houses out of straw bales, outfitting old shipping containers with green roofs and compostable toilets, and now, using 3D printers to build cottages. It can be hard to keep up, we know.

In Shanghai, the WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co created a tiny village using little more than an enormous 3D printer. The printer produced the houses’ walls, roof, and floors, which were then manually assembled. The layers of concrete used to create each component were partially made from recycled construction and industrial waste.

WinSun claims to have constructed the entire village, which includes 10 houses, in less than a day.

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Pennsylvania officials have no idea how to assess health threats of fracking

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WCN 24/7

Could it be that frackers are die-hard Ravens fans? That might explain their cavalier attitude about the health of citizens in Steeler Country.

Kidding! Money is the motive, yinz -- and if Pennsylvanians are exposed to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in the making of it, who cares?

An alarming new study by the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, published in the journal Reviews on Environmental Health, finds that current methods and tools used to measure harmful emissions from fracking wells don’t accurately assess health threats -- not even close, in fact.

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Grandparents Just Don't Understand

You can pry my grandkids’ sheet cake from my cold, dead hands

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Shutterstock

In a last-ditch effort to dissuade millions of American children from a diet of Funyuns and unadulterated corn syrup, the U.S. Department of Agriculture appears to have given up on trying to reach them through their parents. (Cut to rush-hour scene of a bus full of adults gnawing on McRib sandwiches, in unison.)

“Grandparents Help Kids Develop Good Eating Habits,” a blog post by USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion nutritionist Trish Britten, dares to make the suggestion that The Greatest Generation take responsibility for introducing children to fresh fruits and vegetables:

Take your grandchildren shopping at a farmer’s market and the grocery store. Talk about the choices you are making -- choosing the juicier oranges or the fresher vegetables. Help them learn cooking skills, which will benefit them throughout their lives.

While recent CDC data showed a marked drop in obesity rates for very young children*, there are still a number of health-related red flags indicating that American kids might be in need of some guidance in the dietary department. Just this weekend, the Texas Children's Pediatrics Associates clinics presented a study at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session that showed more than a third of its subjects between the ages of 9 and 11 have borderline or high cholesterol levels.

Read more: Food, Living, Politics

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We found love in a tiny place

Tiny house for two? Yes, this dating site is real

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Tammy Strobel and Shutterstock

Every Friday night across the country, a familiar scenario plays out: Someone listens to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” for the 14th time in a row, consumes Nutella by the fistful, and dons old sweatpants with paw prints on the butt, all while thinking, "It might be time to try to get a date." Why shouldn’t this be happening in a 120-square-foot cottage on wheels? Tiny house people have needs, too. And slowly, a few enterprising souls are popping out of the reclaimed woodwork to fulfill them. Enter Tiny House Dating. At long last, someone thought to outdo FarmersOnly, Purrsonals, and SaladMatch by creating a niche dating …

Read more: Cities, Living

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The Villages People

Oil workers and Jewish grandmas driving American metropolitan growth

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Shutterstock

Looking for the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States? Follow the fracking -- or, alternatively, search for the top-rated golf club brunches on Yelp. The most recent U.S. census data, measuring urban growth between July 1, 2012 and July 1, 2013, showed that oil boomtowns and Southern retirement communities now get to sit at the popular table. The irony here, of course, is that there were never more unlikely candidates for said table than The Villages, Fla., or Fargo, N.D. This list paints a pretty bizarre picture of America's future, but at least it's interesting.

A couple of cities on this list -- Austin, for example -- actually seem like fun places to live for young people, but what’s most striking is that with the exception of The Villages, all of the top spots are filled by oil towns. That’s no coincidence. Last July, the New York Times published a study examining social mobility in metro areas across the United States. The places of greatest economic opportunity, according to the results, were concentrated in oil-rich regions: North Dakota, eastern Montana, western Texas.

Here’s a list of the top 10 fastest-growing metro areas, with the most likely reasons for their growth:

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Grocery cartel

Mexican gangs learn that lime pays (also crime)

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Shutterstock

“I could just kill for a margarita right now,” you sigh, apparently ignorant of the fact that it is March, and the consumption of an iced beverage is nothing short of an act of insanity. It’s also probably the middle of the workday, so that in itself should be cause for concern in most circles.

You’re also probably unaware that someone may have actually killed -- as in, committed murder -- for the limes that go in your hypothetical margarita. Cartels are invading the Mexican citrus trade, hijacking trucks, and forcibly taking over farms to sell the now-valuable fruit. Another day, another ring of organized criminals making the transition from eight balls to tasty treats!