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Jess Zimmerman's Posts


from the town of bedrock

Check out Helsinki’s underground shadow city

Itakeskus underground swimming complexPhoto: Lewis Martin From the country that brought you the world's spookiest children's series, please meet the underground city. Helsinki, Finland's capital, has decided to defeat sprawl by building down instead of out. Incised into the city's bedrock are a swimming pool, a shopping area, a church, a hockey rink, and a data center, not to mention "parking caverns" and a bunch of the city's necessary municipal doodads. An underground shadow city! Seriously, you guys, how is it possible for Finland to be so creepy and cool? Some of the benefits here are obvious -- it reduces …

Read more: Cities, Urbanism


tear gas

New tool calculates your nitrogen footprint and explains why you should be ashamed of it

Are you looking for something to flagellate yourself over? Carbon footprints are last week's news: The new hot subject for self-recrimination is your nitrogen footprint. According to the International Nitrogen Initiative, your nitrogen consumption is contributing to a host of environmental ills: Today, reactive nitrogen has dramatically increased in our air and water. It comes primarily from agricultural activities such as fertilizer use and manure runoff, and the burning of fossil fuels. This "nitrogen pollution" causes profound environmental impacts, including smog, acid rain, forest dieback, coastal ‘dead zones', biodiversity loss, stratospheric ozone depletion and increased greenhouse gases. It also affects …


citizen chain

You’ll want to be BFFs with the Bicycle Film Festival

Do you have sick tricks, some kind of awesome human-powered art vehicle, or just a great story to tell about a bike? Then you should submit a short film to the 2011 Bicycle Film Festival, an international, multi-city push to showcase the cultural significance of biking. To get inspired, watch BFF's compilation video of films from the past 10 years of the festival: Put together your own 10-minute Bike of Frankenstein, The Bike-Fast Club, or A Street Bike Named Desire, and submit it by April 1, 2011 for a chance to get screened in some of the festival's 27 cities.

Read more: Biking, Living


Rush to judgment

Rush Limbaugh opens his fat mouth about Michelle Obama’s fat butt

Photo: Stefan KlooIf you look under "irony" in the dictionary, there's a picture of Rush Limbaugh calling Michelle Obama fat. But that's just what he did on Monday on his colonic irrigation of a radio show. Let's take this piece by piece, because there is too much stupid to swallow without chewing. "The problem is, and dare I say this, it doesn't look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice," Limbaugh said Monday on his radio program. "And then we hear that she's out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat per serving." …

Read more: Politics


The village green

Are the British building the perfect town?

The U.K.'s greenest, cutest town. Image: Red Tree (2004) LLPCharles, the prince of Wales, is building the U.K.'s greenest town. We know what you're thinking, because we've seen Hot Fuzz too: It's important to be suspicious of British villages that look too good to be true. But Sherford, a planned eco-town that was just approved for construction in southwestern England, has a lot going for it. It won't be finished until 2020, so we don't know yet if it'll be secretly full of armed grannies, but on paper at least it's pretty cool. The activist formerly known as Prince: You'd …


soda gives you gas

Why it’s a good idea to put sugar water in your gas tank

Photo: Alexander KaiserWouldn't it be awesome if we could solve our waste problem and our fuel problem simultaneously, by turning one into the other? Okay, we're nowhere near the stage where you can just scrape your plate into your car, but there are an increasing number of procedures for turning useless crap into fuel. Most recently, students at Oklahoma State University devised a way to turn waste soda into ethanol. The basic operation is pretty simple. The students used samples of Pepsi, Coke, Sprite and Mountain Dew, to which they added a standard distiller's yeast along with extra nutrients. With …


scorched earth policy

GOP would rather shut down the government than protect your air and water

Photo: Nathan ColquhounHouse Republicans, who have been spending much of the term so far creating jobs via strict regulation of women's uteruses, are now doing their damnedest to create jobs via destroying the EPA. The plan is basically "1) thwart progressive ideals; 2) step 2; 3) jobs for everyone!" What if you don't want a job on the Fallopian Patrol or the Pro-Pollution Brigade? Well, screw you, buddy, this is the only idea they have. Tricky dicks: Rather than propose their environment-killing provisions individually, Republicans are sticking them in as amendments on spending legislation. It's basically 10 pounds of sh*t …


the power and the beauty

Alternative energy plants aren’t just smart, they’re good-looking

Why is our country so enamored of coal and oil? Well, it sure ain't for their looks. Unless you're a near-pathological industrial-porn enthusiast, there's nothing attractive about an oil refinery or a coal-fired power plant. But alternative energy plants are being designed to be not only better for the environment, but less of an eyesore as well. These are buildings people might not mind living near, or even making a special trip out to see. For starters, check out this solar power tower in Seville, Spain: Don't be fooled by the radiant beams of light, the gleaming white structures, or …


rain of error

Yes, we caused Snowpocalypse, says new study

Photo: Bruna CostaWe're gonna need a bigger boat, preferably one with two of each animal. Studies published in this month's Nature look at the link between CO2 levels and heavy rains and floods, and find that the increase in intense precipitation over the last 50 years can't be explained by natural variability. The question of whether any single event -- Snowpocalypse, the Queensland floods, etc. -- is due to climate change is historically a thorny one, but these studies show that it's possible to analyze the human contribution to extreme weather. Extreme precipitation can only be fully explained by our …


oil can what?

Chevron to Ecuador: What’s ‘apologize’?

A judge in Ecuador has delivered the world's biggest environmental spanking to pollution giant Chevron, as a judgment for faulty drilling gunking up the country's rain forests: An Ecuadorian judge on Monday ordered Chevron Corp. to pay $8.6 billion to clean up oil pollution in the country's rain forest in what is believed to be the largest-ever judgment in an environmental case. And if the U.S. oil giant doesn't publicly apologize in the next 15 days, the judge ordered the company to pay twice that amount. Jesus, $8.6 billion is one thing, but an apology? What is this, the Spanish …