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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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How much should Japan worry about nuclear food?

Japan has discovered potentially harmful levels of radiation in Tokyo tap water, and contamination levels in some foodstuffs have been high enough for the U.S. to halt imports.  Even if you live in Japan, you're unlikely to encounter these potentially dangerous eats -- contaminated food is being kept out of grocery stores. But just in case you're the type who's already taking a Geiger counter to Food Lion, here are the most susceptible edibles. Leafy vegetables Why they're susceptible: The broad leaves of plants like spinach and cabbage have a lot of surface area for radioactive particles to fall on. …

Read more: Food, Scary Food

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More Fukushima workers hospitalized — what’s next?

Two more Fukushima workers were hospitalized today after being exposed to radioactive material -- it seeped into their boots while they were working. Thirty-two are already in the hospital. And with 300 workers still at the site, there's potential for a lot more injuries. What's the worst-case scenario? Well, the situation at Fukushima is not nearly as bad as Chernobyl, but what if it were? Estimates for Chernobyl-related deaths range from 56 (including workers at the plant and children who later died of cancer) to 50,000 (a figure that includes suicides). Maybe Three Mile Island is a better analogy? Nobody …

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Oil company ‘fesses up, feigns surprise about spill

Well, now we know the source of the renewed oil assault on Louisiana's shores. Oil company Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners has admitted that it had a "minor leak" while plugging a disused oil well. In some kind of Chanukah miracle, the five gallons of crude they admit to spilling turned into a 30-mile-long wash of oil covering Louisiana's coastline. Turns out that when you report a pollution event, it's all on the honor system -- nobody checks up to find out whether your five gallon leak was really 50. The company apparently underreported to avoid fines, and they would have gotten …

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A well-fed world is a vegetarian world

Samuel Fromartz doesn't like genetically modified food, but not for the reasons you think. We don't need more food, he argues in the Atlantic, but better access to food -- there's actually plenty of food in the world for everyone to have enough, but most people can't get at it. GMOs don't do anything to improve that situation, they just make more of things -- and what they make more of, specifically, is meat, since most GMO crops go to animal feed. That's the least efficient way to feed the world, says Fromartz: Meat is an inefficient source of calories, …

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Friends help you move; real friends help you dispose of dead bodies in an eco-friendly manner

Think you get to stop being green just because you kicked the compost bucket? With land space for burial at a premium and crematoriums pumping potentially dubious people-smuts into the sky, you have got to be kidding. Stop slacking off, corpses: If you can't live green, it's time to start dying green. Short of a Shaun of the Dead-style zombie-fueled economy, what's the most efficient way to dispose of remains? Here are a couple snazzy new approaches to keeping dead bodies green (without, you know, mold): Shatter them. Freezing bodies with liquid nitrogen, then vibrating them into pieces and evaporating …

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For sheer deadliness, nuclear can’t hold a candle to coal

Chart: Seth Godin Relative to watts produced, coal kills 4,000 times more people than nuclear power. Our pervasive sense that nuclear is more dangerous, when the opposite is so clearly true, comes at least in part from a cognitive bias called the "availability heuristic" -- memorable events that are easier to think of, like nuclear disasters, tend to seem more common. Counterweight your availability heuristic by reading up on Alexis Madrigal's list of 25 energy-related disasters from the last year. Most are coal mine accidents and refinery explosions, and the vast majority of the deaths should be filed in that …

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Police apologize to cyclist for all the wrong reasons

Well, this is a first: On Tuesday, New York City-dwelling cyclists who were ticketed for speeding in Central Park got their tickets retracted and personal apology visits from the police. But the police were only apologizing because of a trivial breach of protocol, when in fact the tickets were apparently unfair from start to finish. The New York Times profiles one cyclist who received an apology. He was going 25 miles per hour down a hill -- which is the speed limit for cars, but supposedly above the unposted limit for bicycles. “[P]arks department regulations dating from 1991 limit bike …

Read more: Biking, Cities

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Jerks™ trademark the idea of ‘urban homesteading’

The Dervaes family of Pasadena are urban homesteaders, and by god they want to be the ONLY urban homesteaders. You can grow your own food, or raise your own animals, or practice a sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle, I GUESS, if that sort of thing butters your muffin. But if you go around using the phrase that rhymes with “shmurban shmomestead” in your book or blog or free event for the public, they will be on you with cease and desist letters faster than a vegan on a rice cake. The Dervaeses have trademarked the phrase, which has been used since …

Read more: Food, Urban Agriculture

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New eco-friendly fertilizer: Plant farts

While those lousy cows are pooting out greenhouse gases, some hardworking plants – anaerobic digestors, which are crucial to the production of biogas – are making waste that can be used as cheap, natural fertilizer. Digestate, the byproduct of anaerobic digestion, could replace manufactured nitrogen fertilizers that are energy-intensive and expensive to produce.

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Afghan-produced biofuels could be one good thing to come out of the war

In a larger sense, nobody wins in the war in Afghanistan. But Marine sergeant Brian Nelson is hoping that in one particular instance -- encouraging Afghans to convert some of their crops to biofuel -- everyone can win. Marines win because they can help meet their alternative energy goals. They want to cut fuel usage by half in the next 14 years, because fuel runs are unusually vulnerable to attack. (Perhaps preferable: Not f*cking being at war in 14 years. But I digress.) Afghans win because instead of opium poppies -- which have put money in the hands of insurgents …