Sarah Laskow

Sarah Laskow is a reporter based in New York City who covers environment, energy, and sustainability issues, among other things.

Cities

Bereaved husband sues NYPD for failing to investigate pedestrian death

Last summer, 28-year-old Clara Heyworth died while crossing the street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn — she was hit by a car piloted by an intoxicated driver who only had a learner’s permit. The NYPD never conducted an investigation, and the driver received only a violation for driving without a license. Today, Heyworth’s husband, Jacob Stevens, is suing the New York Police Department and the driver in civil court. Heyworth’s case received basically no police attention. The NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad, with its staff of just 19 people (who we assume are extremely overworked), called off the investigation after an hour …

Oil

A report from inside the Shell ‘oil spill’ party prank

It took Grist a hot second to figure out that this too-ironic-to-be-true video of a Shell party gone wrong was a prank. The concept, though, is brilliant — an “oil derrick” on a cake started “spilling” liquid all over the assembled guests. Pulling it off wasn’t easy, or cheap. Salon has dishy details from a volunteer, who reveals even more layers of clever strategy: The woman sprayed in the face by the supposed booze (it’s soda) was Dorli Rainey, who was sprayed in the face with pepper spray at Occupy Seattle. The guy who presses the button on the soda-fountain-gone-wrong …

Living

New York kids need a doctor’s note to use sunscreen in school or at camp

Once upon an innocent American summer, sun-kissed cheeks were all the rage for lithe, beautiful children freckling in the clean air. But now we know that evil sun rays will kill you — not now, but later, with skin cancer — and that kids should wear sunscreen pretty much any time they go outside for more than five minutes. New York state, though, apparently still has one foot in the 1950s. State law requires that a kid bring in a doctor’s note in order to use sunscreen at school or at summer camps, the Democrat and Chronicle reports. Steve Hendrickson, …

Pollution

Tsunami debris on the West Coast could be ‘far worse than any oil spill’

Last year’s tsunami in Japan threw 1.5 million tons of debris into the ocean. It’s starting to show up on the West Coast — a soccer ball here, a motorcycle there, a 66-foot, 165-ton dock. According to the Associated Press, more might be coming. Or it might not. But when the debris arrives, if enough arrives, it could be dangerous enough to be a national emergency. No one knows for sure what’s going to happen next. The AP talked to “some experts” who thought most of that debris would chill out in the ocean, far from American shores. But they …

Business & Technology

Honda Fit, most efficient car EVER, gets 118 MPG equivalent

In England, when you want to say that a guy or a gal is h-o-t-t HOT, you say “He/she is FIT!” And that is what we want to say about the 2013 Honda Fit EV. The Fit is FIT. F-i-t-t FIT! This car — this car! — according to the EPA, gets the fuel efficiency equivalent if 118 miles per gallon. Wow. As an electric vehicle (EV), the car does not use fuel, so one might also say that it gets 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles. That’s better than the Ford Focus Electric, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and the Nissan Leaf, …

Cities

First-graders protest Starbucks to save local coffee shop

Back in 2011, a tragedy of epic proportions struck the East Village: Starbucks moved in. And not only did it move in, it kicked a beloved local coffee shop, The Bean, out of its flagship location. Even non-coffee drinking elementary school students were outraged, as Majorie Ingall discovered: Here we have a piece of paper recovered from the recesses of the backpack of an East Village, NYC elementary school student. Translation from first-grader-ese: Starbucks: The Bean Instead. These budding activists handed out their hand-drawn flyers to their schoolmates, plus some for the Bean staff. According to other local kids, they …

Animals

Horseshoe crabs have weird, bright blue blood

Horseshoe crabs have bright blue blood. They are like aliens. (Does this one not look like a dead alien?) Nature, you are weird. Robert Krulwich explains why the crabs’ blood is so beautifully blue: Their blood kind of sloshes around in their bodies carrying oxygen to various organs, as our blood does. Our blood is red because we use hemoglobin to move oxygen around. Hemoglobin has iron in it, which gives off a reddish hue. (Think of rust.) Horseshoe crabs use a copper-based molecule called hemocyanin to distribute oxygen. In nature, copper turns things blue or blue-green. So that’s why …

Living

GZA and Neil deGrasse Tyson team up on a hip-hop record about science

I do not know much about writing rap lyrics, but I’m guessing that most rappers do not meet with physicists and cosmologists from MIT and Cornell before sitting down to write. But that’s exactly what Wu-Tang Clan founding member GZA did during the creation of his new album, Dark Matter — a project the rapper hopes will turn his audience on to science. GZA’s partner in this endeavor: Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is the fusion of astronomy and awesome in the shape of a man. Oh yes. Pretty sure this is going to be amaaaaaazing.

Business & Technology

A cell phone charger made out of viruses

Except for the whole “make you sick and can’t be killed” thing, viruses are basically the ultimate renewable resource. They’re natural. They’re numerous. They replicate themselves. And, after some tinkering by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, they can generate electricity. A project at the lab has incorporated genetically modified viruses into a piezoelectric system — a way of generating electricity based on touch. Piezoelectric systems exist already: They’re behind the shoe- and pavement-generated electricity projects. But the current generation are made from ceramics, which create toxic byproducts. Viruses, by contrast, are environmentally friendly. The virus-based generator is five or 10 …