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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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Going solar doesn’t mean you’re some weird pickler guy, say new ads

Why do you support solar power? Is it because you love dolphin babies? It’s because you love dolphin babies, isn’t it?

SunRun, the company behind this ad and a couple of other equally funny ones, is a solar leasing company. They'll install panels on your house for no money; you just have to commit to buying your electricity from them for a few years. Customers save money (although ultimately not as much as they would if they bought their own solar panels) with no hassle -- and literally everybody likes saving money with no hassle.

That means that, as the ads point out, you don't have to be a treehugging weirdo hippie pickler guy or gal to want solar panels (although that's fine, too). You just have to be a cheap-ass, like the rest of us.

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Critical List: Antarctic ice sheets’ soft underbellies; monkey sets traps

The undersides of Antarctic ice sheets, thought to be fairly safe for now, are melting.

Robert Abbey, the head of the Bureau of Land Management, is planning to retire at the end of the month.

Bill McKibben said yesterday that climate campaigners need to be "willfully naive and demand that our system work the way that it is supposed to work" instead of the way it does work, with big money driving decisions.

This new LED lightbulb has a cooling system that "breathes."

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Climate change could help untreatable viral disease spread in New York City

Climate change could help bring a viral disease called chikungunya to New York City. And if you live there, you miiiight want to get a little freaked out about this, because as LiveScience reports, chikungunya makes swine flu look like piglet sniffles.

Chikungunya causes severe joint pain, fever, rash and other symptoms that can last for months, even years, and in unusual cases, death. There is no vaccine and no treatment.

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Cows cause as much smog in L.A. as cars do

Photo by Daniel.

L.A. gets a bad rap for its car culture. But it turns out that Americans' addiction to milk, cheese, and other delicious dairy products plays just as big a role in the city's smog problem these days. Scientific American reports that there are 300,000 cattle in the L.A. area, and the bacteria feasting on their waste create the same tiny particles of pollution that make smog particularly nasty.

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Critical List: Head of ARPA-E resigns; Tim DeChristopher appeals his conviction

Arun Majumdar, the head of ARPA-E, the energy equivalent of DARPA, is stepping down next month.

Today, Tim DeChristopher is appealing his conviction for disrupting a federal drilling auction.

Europeans installed more solar power than any other kind of power last year.

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Jane addiction: Can one humble city-lover be all things to all people?

Jane Jacobs.

In two hours of wandering slowly down Broadway last Sunday, I heard about a solar installation over on FDR drive, the number of bird species that can be seen in New York City (roughly half of all that appear in North America), and an Astor Place riot sparked by two rival productions of Macbeth, one marketed to New York’s upper echelons, the other to its less savory elements. Along with a group of other sightseers, I gazed up at former tenements and butter and egg factories now converted into condos and office buildings. We talked about other neighborhoods we’d visited.

But one thing we did not do was talk very much about Jane Jacobs, her work, or her ideas. Funny, Jacobs was the reason we were all there.

This past weekend, in 85 cities around the world, there were at least 580 different ways to honor the legacy of Jacobs -- writer, grassroots organizer, patron saint of city lovers everywhere. All of them involved walking -- many of them took place under the umbrella of the Toronto-based organization Jane’s Walk -- but the similarities pretty much ended there.

Read more: Cities

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New interactive book could explain everything anyone needs to know about energy

The Kickstarter video for The WATT? An Energy 101 Primer does a good job of explaining why, exactly, people should care about energy:

Energy is everything. It's a part of pretty much every aspect of modern life. wherever you live, whatever you do, however you do it.

Unfortunately, most people know next to nothing about how this stuff actually works. The makers of the The WATT? -- Focus the Nation, a clean energy youth organization, and Friend of Grist List Ben Jervey -- aim to change that by publishing an "users' manual for energy in the 21st century." They're going to publish it as a PDF whether you fund their Kickstarter project or not, but if they raise enough money, they are going to make it a much, much more awesome interactive e-book with charts, graphics and videos.

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Dutch ‘Repair Cafes’ keep stuff out of the trash by fixing it for free

In the Netherlands, there are more than 30 "Repair Cafes" -- groups that meet once or twice a month to repair (for free!) clothes and gizmos and tools that might otherwise be discarded. The New York Times visited the original Repair Cafe, which began two and a half years ago, and found that people want to keep their stuff -- even cheap stuff, like H&M skirts. They just don't know how to mend it themselves:

“This cost 5 or 10 euros,” about $6.50 to $13, [Sigrid Deters] said, adding that she had not mended it herself because she was too clumsy. “It’s a piece of nothing, you could throw it out and buy a new one. But if it were repaired, I would wear it.”

The group repairs electronics, too -- everything from big-ticket items like vacuums and washing machines to the little gadgets that go haywire, like irons, toaster ovens, and coffee pots.

Read more: Cities, Urbanism

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Critical List: Canada will fall short of emissions goal; people hate smart meters

Props to Canada for setting an actual carbon emissions goal. Too bad there's almost no way they're going to meet it.

The World Bank is pushing countries to put a monetary value on the resources their ecosystems provide.

A new study shows that monkeys who were exposed to BPA in utero developed unusually dense mammary tissue -- in humans, a risk for breast cancer.

Those dead pelicans that washed up on the shores of Peru likely starved to death.

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City-dwellers’ allergies are so bad because they don’t have enough bacteria

This allergy season has been terrible. It seems like everyone I know has been running around with leaky eyes, even those of us who aren't typically pollen-sensitive. Granted, there was an unusual amount of tree sperm in the air this year, but it seemed strange that everybody -- really, everybody! -- was afflicted. But a new study by Finnish researchers explains everything: The reason we’re all so sick is that we live in the city.

According to this study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and based on research done in Finland, people who live in cities are more prone to developing allergies and asthma because their environments lack biodiversity. That’s not biodiversity as in “not enough kinds of cuddly wildlife” (although that too!) -- it's about the diversity of bacteria that live on your skin. If you live in the city, these freeloaders are less varied, and that spells trouble.

Read more: Cities, Clean Air