Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Sarah Laskow and Melinda Tracy Boyce's Posts


Dead heat: Climate change brings killer heat waves

This comic was produced by Years of Living Dangerously and Symbolia Magazine. You can read more of their comics exploring the impacts of climate change here.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Organic eggs are so expensive because the chickens eat fancy imported food

organic eggs

There are lots of reasons to pony up a few extra dollars for organic eggs -- they have those rich, deep yellow yolks, for instance, and you get the satisfaction of knowing the chickens who laid them lived better lives than the chickens who laid the sad non-organic eggs. But man, they are spendy.

One reason, Dan Charles reports at NPR, that organic eggs are expensive is that the chickens eat fancy imported food. American farmers aren't growing enough organic feed to feed the chickens that produce organic eggs:

Most chickens eat feed made from ground-up corn and soybeans, but America's farmers are not growing enough organic corn and soybeans — especially soybeans — to feed the country's organic animals. ...

Read more: Food, Living


Get an up-close, face-to-face view of a rescued pelican learning to fly

pelican copy

Bigbird the Pelican was a foundling. He swam in off Tanzania's Lake Tanganyika one day, alone and unable to fly, and he was adopted by a safari company, Greystoke Mahale, that makes its camp on the lake's banks.

And he grew up, and he learned how to fly, and his rescuers strapped a GoPro camera to his beak while he did it so you could get a bird’s-nose view of the whole thing. This video of Bigbird winging over the lake may essentially be a commercial for GoPro, but it's also pretty awesome. Look how big Bigbird's wings are!

Read more: Living


New Google Street View project lets you hang out with polar bears

Google Street View published a project today that lets you hang out with polar bears. I mean, not in real life, but there is this nice video:

If you want to get a sense of how much more fun it is to actually travel to Canada and see polar bears IRL than to look at Google Street View photos of polar bears, we recommend this PopSci feature that has a lot of reporting about polar bears and not all that much about the Google project. But there is this helpful bit about what Google is hoping to accomplish:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Whole Foods doesn’t want organic food and regular food to touch (but this may not be totally crazy)

Jeff Cutler

The Daily Beast has an article that takes a lot of words to criticize Whole Foods, and people who believe in traditional medicine in general, by making them out to be a lot of anti-science crackpots. We're not really interested in ragging on probiotics and herbal medicine -- we're open to the possibility that big pharmaceutical companies don't have all the answers to health, and, as long as no one's trying to force school nurses to give kids ginger tea in place of Tylenol or, more seriously, reduce our herd immunity by rejecting vaccines, we're happy to let people eat all the immunity-boosting goji berries they want.

But you have to admit that this part is a little bit funny:

There’s a sign in the Durham store suggesting that shoppers bag their organic and conventional fruit separately—lest one rub off on the other—and grind their organic coffees at home—because the Whole Foods grinders process conventional coffee, too, and so might transfer some non-organic dust. “This slicer used for cutting both CONVENTIONAL and ORGANIC breads” warns a sign above the Durham location’s bread slicer.

I mean, we get the idea: You're spending money for pesticide-free organic food and you don't want it contaminated with pesticides. It does seems a little silly, right?

But, actually, there might be a reasonable explanation.

Read more: Living


New Jersey wants to dump toxic waste on a site that was just cleaned up

Bobby Hidy

Oh COME ON, New Jersey! I want to be able to defend you against haters -- really, I do. But you gotta help me out here. For starters, maybe you could NOT do the thing where you clean up a toxic waste site and then decide to dump more toxic waste in the same place, because it'll be profitable for people with political connections.

Would that be so hard?

Apparently so. As Michael Powell reports in the New York Times, Jersey is allowing a company called Soil Safe to build 29-foot mound of petroleum-contaminated dirt on a site that was once a dumping ground for cyanide-contaminated sludge. This is happening against the advice of environmental experts, who are worried that this mound could wash away into the Rahway River.

Read more: Cities, Living


Recycled plastic doodads make instant divided bike lanes


We were going to like the Armadillo even if it didn't have a very practical purpose. C'mon, it's a recycled bit of bike infrastructure named after an animal -- basically the Grist List trifecta. But those little plastic bumps have a real purpose, too: They're an easy way for commitment-phobic cities to create semi-separated bike lanes.

FastCoExist writes:

It’s a gentler reminder to drivers than a concrete curb, says Anthony Lau, managing director at Cyclehoop, the company that makes the product. “They’re not very high, so if a driver strays in the road they’ll just feel a bump and move away from the edge. It’s not like driving over concrete, which would just destroy your wheel.” Ambulances and other emergency vehicles could drive over the separator if necessary.

Read more: Cities, Living


Volcanoes are giving us a breather from climate change

Cessna 206

Someone, at some point, must have made the right sacrifice to the right volcano god. Because according to new research, eruptions from 17 volcanoes are helping to give humanity a tiny bit of breathing room on climate change.

Time reports:

Research shows that large volcanic eruptions inject sulfur dioxide gas into the stratosphere. The gas forms tiny droplets of sulfuric acid, also known as “volcanic aerosols,” that can block sunlight. That cooling effect has been largely ignored by climate scientists until now, but it seems to partly offset the warming from human-caused changes in greenhouse gases. ...

But unfortunately for us, the cooling effect is expected to be temporary -- if we keep emitting greenhouse gases, the climate will keep warming.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Moss can power a radio, and could eventually charge your phone

Tony Frates

A team of scientists over in Europe have decided to take the idea of “green” power very, very literally: They have developed a system to harness the energy generated by moss.

Modern Farmer:

Along with two scientists from the University of Cambridge, Felder developed a way to use moss as a “biological solar panel.” Put simply, moss creates surplus electrons during photosynthesis. Felder’s collaborators have tapped into this electricity on a small scale -- they’ve built a functional, moss-powered radio. ...

The radio only runs for a couple minutes at a time. ... But it’s early yet -- the scientists have only figured how to harness about 0.1% of moss’s energy.

So maybe a future where all our gadgets run on moss is still kind of pie in the sky. But hey, as long as we’re dreaming, we’d like a pony and moss-powered phone chargers that could save scads of energy:

Read more: Living


These baby elephants need moms, and we volunteer

Steve Begin

There are only about 1,500 pygmy elephants left in the world, and two of them are babies who have lost their moms. Tun Tan, who's about a year old, was found loitering around an estate and had to be lured in with a tractor -- as the Wall Street Journal explains, "baby elephants often mistake the large vehicles for their moms." The other baby, Jimbo, is maybe a month old -- "his navel was still moist," the WSJ says, which is maybe the least appealing sentence you could put in a story about baby elephants -- and he was found dehydrated and in danger of being of eaten by crocodiles.

No one's really sure what happened to their families:

“In a group [of elephants], there is not only the mum but also aunties and sisters who look after baby elephants . So why were this babies abandoned?” said Dr. Sen. ...

It is extremely rare for a mother elephant to abandon her offspring. He said if the mother had been killed, for example by poisoning, then the baby would normally be cared for by the extended female elephant family. A baby might be abandoned if it is sick and can’t keep up with the group. But Jimbo and Tun Tan appear to be healthy.

Read more: Living