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Jess Zimmerman's Posts


Climate denier says solving global warming could cause Black Plague

James Taylor (the Heartland Institute guy, not the folk singer, alas) has discovered humoral medicine. See, the Black Plague was caused by too much cold, after the Medieval Warm Period petered out. (God, why didn't those medieval physicians think to treat it with hot poultices and baths to reduce black bile? SO OBVIOUS.) Anyway, if we manage to stem the global warming tide, according to Taylor, we'll be setting the stage for a new outbreak of plague. By the year 1300, however, the climatic good times were coming to an end. Successive cold years drove the Vikings out of Greenland, …


Beware the pollution-dumping space tube

It has a way of really hamstringing environmental activism. (Image via the always-hilarious Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.)

Read more: Pollution


Detroit farm school for teen moms has been saved

Catherine Ferguson Academy, the awesome urban farm high school for pregnant and parenting teens, has risen from the ashes. Michigan's emergency financial manager decided last week to shutter the school, which has a 90 percent graduation rate. But it's been rescued by a company called Evans Solutions and will continue as a charter school, which will be open to all Detroit public school students. This is awesome, because seriously, if you read a young adult novel about this school you would roll your eyes about how unrealistically idyllic and successful it was: Only half of teen mothers have a high …


New map of NYC shows how much you could save with solar

Solar power in New York could meet half of the city's peak energy demands. The city's been fully assessed for solar capability, using a plane-mounted radar system called Lidar that checks out whether rooftops are suitable for solar panels. Turns out a full 66 percent of them are, and the city and its inhabitants could be saving a buttload of money and energy by making use of that fact. If New York could harness all its rooftop potential, it would triple the amount of solar energy currently installed nationwide. City University of New York -- which partnered with the city …


Cardboard bike helmets are safer than plastic

Yeah, it sounds a little Calvin & Hobbes, but riding around with corrugated cardboard on your head can actually be safer than the plastic and Styrofoam concoctions you get at the bike store. The Kranium cardboard bike helmet absorbs four times more impact energy than equivalent polystyrene. One helmet was smashed five times in a row and still had enough muscle to pass a standard safety test. And yeah, it's waterproof. Kranium helmets can easily be cut to a custom fit by scanning your head measurements, but the helmet's designer, Anirudha Surabhi, also envisions a world in which you can buy …

Read more: Biking, Cities


This clean air ad was deemed too hot for Boston public transit

Man, is this ad from ever edgy! First, it has a big picture of Scott Brown -- granted, just his face, not even his pecs or anything, but you know what's implied by a picture of a congressman. Rowr! And just look at those naked facts, parading themselves around so shamelessly. No wonder the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority refuses to post it on trains. The company that handles advertising for MBTA told that the agency "did not approve of this creative due to its political stance," and therefore would not be running it. Which is a funny thing …


How close are you to the country's dirtiest coal plants?

If you live west of D.C. and east of Omaha, there's a good chance you're pretty close to one of the 25 dirtiest coal plants in the U.S. Twenty of them are 50 to 100 miles away from major urban areas, according to Climate Progress. What does "dirtiest" mean? Well, these 25 plants represent 4 percent of the country's coal plants, and provide about 8 percent of the country's electricity generation, but account for 30 percent of mercury emissions from the U.S. electricity sector.  Here's Climate Progress' list of the worst offenders in terms of overall mercury emissions:


Introducing the booze-fueled power plant

Bourbon's birthday was yesterday, but if you're anything like me, you're still celebrating. So you'll be glad to know that whisky -- we'll go with the Scottish spelling, because this is happening in Scotland -- is the newest addition to the Unlikely Biofuels Club. Helius Energy is building a 7.2-megawatt plant in Scotland that will run off of waste from whisky distilling. Isn't that so much classier than powering your car with Four Loko? There's more to the story that's not quite as delightful: The plant will get a lot of its energy from burning the whisky byproducts with wood …


Pop-up book brings kids' ideal green cities to life

Spanish design firm Play Studios asked kids to describe what they thought cities would look like in the future, then animated the kid-rendered cities in pop-up book form. There's plenty of fantasy here, but these budding urbanists also have an eye for connected, sustainable, eco-friendly living. Check out the monorails running between buildings in Boscopolis, or the cars in Bright City that run on fallen leaves. In the making-of video, one girl says of her city, "I just wanted Alicante to have in the future more electric cars, as well as more solar panels to decrease pollution." Hey, the kids really …

Read more: Cities


Houses made of bacteria could save 800 million tons of CO2

What would the world be like if we could build houses out of bacteria? For starters, the story of the Three Little Pigs might have ended very differently. But biomanufactured bricks, made of a mixture of sand and non-pathogenic bacteria, could also help house people in developing countries while saving almost 800 million tons of CO2 every year. The bricks' big innovation is that they don't have to be fired. The bacteria harden the sand by inducing calcite precipitation, which basically turns the sand into sandstone. There's no heat required, and once you've made the bacterial activate, every other part …