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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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Feral camels are coming to eat your air conditioner

... if you live in Australia, that is. Perhaps as a punishment for making me think about giant snakes, Australia is suffering yet another attempted takeover by non-native species, which periodically come in and disrupt the continent's carefully balanced ecosystem of massively deadly freaks of nature. This time, it’s feral camels. And they eat air conditioners and plumbing. It’s probably a fair bet that the Australian Department of Tourism is wetting its pants right about now. Camels have actually been in the country since the late 19th century (the British imported them, just like they did with human Australians), but …

Read more: Animals

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What to do about ‘plastic soup’ in the ocean

Is there a less appetizing phrase than “plastic soup”? (Don’t answer that.) The New York Times Green blog reports on what happens to plastic in the oceans -- it turns into a soup of seawater and plastic particles -- and what we can do about it. The answer, basically: Try to stop putting so much plastic in the ocean, jackholes. The canonical image of ocean debris involves bags clogging waterways, fish trapped in six-pack holders, and other visible trash. But in fact, even a major trash nexus like the Atlantic garbage patch looks mostly like clear water until you trawl …

Read more: Pollution

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Watch a train run over a market (Everyone’s fine! They do this every day!)

Talk about dense living! At the Maeklong vegetable market in Thailand, retail and transportation are closely connected -- like, really closely. The vendors lay out their wares so close to the train tracks that when the train comes through, it's literally sitting on top of the produce. Everyone just sort of puts up their awnings and steps aside for a second, and then once the train has passed through they go back to normal. It's awesome until you think too hard about eating those vegetables. Let's just imagine that the train's underbelly is coated with delicious rosemary.

Read more: Cities, Transportation

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Jon Stewart caused global warming

The Daily Show - Lisa P. Jackson Tags: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook   EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson was on the Daily Show last night, where she promised she would not regulate Jon Stewart's breathing, even though he admitted that he emits carbon dioxide. UPDATE: EVIDENTLY I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO WORK THE INTERNET. This is an old (but still awesome) interview. New and awesome interview here. (I probably should have been tipped off when he called her the "new" EPA administrator.) 

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Why environmentalists will survive Armageddon

Hate to break it to you, but if it's really the end of the world tomorrow (or tonight), as Harold Camping and his followers attest, you're almost certainly screwed. So what will ease your suffering in the post-Rapture world? A lot of the same things you're already doing to save the environment. Dense living. Apparently the end of the world is going to come as a giant earthquake, which means that the Left Behind who live in walkable communities will have an easier time accessing resources, just like in any other natural disaster. Bike transport. You are not going to …

Read more: Living

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Making power lines beautiful with the help of a giant reindeer

Here's the down side of increased renewables: It means an increase in unsightly overhead power lines. And if you can't put them underground (which isn't always feasible), the answer might lie in turning an eyesore into a triumph of design. Germany is abandoning nuclear and embarking on a big renewables push, but to make it work they'll need "energy autobahns" to transmit power -- large networks of overhead lines that are just crying out to be blocked by NIMBYism. Power masts that focus as much on aesthetics as on functionality might be the answer. I'm fond of the striking "Mirror …

Read more: Cities, Infrastructure

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It’s official: Massey’s negligence killed 29 miners

A year after the deadly blast at the Massey-owned Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, it's official: The disaster was Massey's fault. I'm not sure what the team of independent investigators thought they were going to find -- vengeful sprites? A cursed sarcophagus? Workers deliberately blowing themselves up for funsies? -- but they found what we all expected: The company's negligence was responsible for the deaths of 29 miners. The report calls Massey's safety practices "profoundly reckless," and says that "The story of Upper Big Branch is a cautionary tale of hubris." That's pretty damning, especially for an investigative …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Coal

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A violent climate is the new normal, say scientists

"Extreme weather" may soon just be called "weather." Thanks to climate change, floods and storms and droughts and Snowpocalypses and the like will soon be standard office procedure, according to scientists and civic planners brought together by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Nobody was willing to say that any specific recent instances of severe weather were caused by climate change, probably because people tend to freak out when you say things like that. (Also, it's really hard to prove.) But everyone seemed to be in agreement that similar stuff will happen with increasing frequency in the future. Now is a …

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Learn about oil prices through the magic of rap

Kids these days, with their "emo" and their "MySpace" and their "sexting"! How do you "get down" verbally to show you're "hep"? How about a rap music song! Actually, while the apparent vogue of rap-based explainers is a little weird, we can't complain too much about this one, since it brought us the line "oil's fungible, fool!" It brings up and dispenses with a lot of the main fallacies about oil prices, with only a little bit of oversimplification and a solid helping of hideously tortured cadence. If you have a friend who likes to wave around Atlas Shrugged while …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Oil

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Senate refuses to sign ‘We Heart Offshore Drilling’ petition

Well, here's one piece of good news coming out of D.C.: The Senate -- including five Republicans -- voted to reject a bill that would have expanded offshore drilling. Of course, that might be because there are already plenty of new drilling permits being issued (53 shallow-water permits under the new post-Gulf spill regulations), so it's not like we're halting the practice here. Still, we like anything that makes Mitch McConnell go red in the face, and this bill was one of his babies. The rejected bill would have made it easier to push permits through hastily, according to the …