Jess Zimmerman

Jess Zimmerman was the editor of Grist List.

Monorails suddenly a thing again

Futuristic as they look, monorails never really got a toehold outside of airports, Disney World, and I Can Haz Cheezburger. Now elevated single-track trains might be getting a second chance to become the transportation of the future. Part of the problem with monorails is that they’re slow, and part of it is that they’re really really visible. Monorail track is probably less ugly, in an absolute sense, than elevated train track, but for NIMBYists it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. But for transportation-starved areas like Osaka, Japan (which has the longest monorail line in the world) …

Two percent of U.S. energy goes to wasted food

The U.S. wastes a stunning amount of food — 40 percent of what we produce, according to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland. That’s way above the already-staggering global average of one third. That means that 40 percent of the energy, water, and fuel we put into farming goes straight into the trash. All in all, Bloom says, “2 percent of all U.S. energy goes to food we’re throwing away.” And this waste is built into the system. Farmers are forced to toss crops that aren’t up to aesthetic standards, and often have to plow under whole fields if the …

Get ready for solar airplanes

There’s nothing that exciting about a plane that uses no fuel and emits no CO2 — I’ve been folding those since the fourth grade. A plane that uses no fuel, emits no CO2, has the same wingspan as an Airbus A340, and can transport people on international flights, though: That’s a big deal. And that’s Solar Impulse, the solar-powered plane that this month completed a successful flight from Switzerland to Belgium. Right now, the plane is something like a superpowered hang-glider; it can only transport the pilot, and its average speed is about 43 miles per hour. (The inaugural international …

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 …

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 …

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.

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.) 

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 …

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 …

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