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Sarah Laskow's Posts


Critical List: Interior to expedite oil and gas permit review; pandas trying to mate

The Interior Department is going to expedite its review of applications for oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

Town governments want the ability to regulate fracking, but they’re having to fight against state governments to get it.

An Australian company is planning to extract copper, gold, and other metals from the sea floor.

Pandas at the Edinburgh Zoo are attempting to mate. (Report: “They coupled more than once, but failed to reach the sexual summit.”)

Read more: Uncategorized


Williams-Sonoma wants to sell you a chicken coop

Sure, it’s green to raise chickens in your backyard, but it’s a tragedy that they have to live in rough-hewn, generic coops. What about your chickens’ sense of style and feng shui? Luckily, Williams-Sonoma takes this problem seriously. The company is launching a new “Agrarian” line of products, so that your chickens can live in as classy as house as you do.

As of this month, when the new line debuts, Williams-Sonoma -- best known for outfitting yuppie kitchens everywhere with high-end cookware -- has now got you covered for all your heirloom seed, backyard beehive, and kombucha-making needs. There's also an oh-so-attractive shiitake-mushroom log, so you can grow your own mushrooms while also contributing to your home’s rustic-chic charm.

Read more: Locavore


Anti-coal campaign is ‘the most significant achievement of American environmentalists’ since the 1970s

In Mother Jones, Mark Hertsgaard makes the case for the Sierra Club's anti-coal campaign as "the most significant achievement of American environmentalists since the passage of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act," as one source puts it. The group has shut down proposals for 166 coal-fired power plants (check out the map above or here). The key? The group was working outside of Washington, with the grassroots:

The movement's center of gravity was in the South and Midwest, "places like Oklahoma and South Dakota, not the usual liberal bastions where you'd expect environmental victories," [Mary Anne Hitt, the director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign] recalls ...

[E]conomic trends only made coal somewhat vulnerable, argues Tom Sanzillo, a former New York state deputy comptroller who has worked with the Beyond Coal campaign; it was grassroots activism that leveraged vulnerability into outright defeat. The movement's strength was grounded in retail politics—people talking with friends and neighbors, pestering local media, packing regulatory hearings, protesting before state legislatures, filing legal challenges, and more. The movement had no official membership rolls; it was populated by clean energy advocates, public health professionals, community organizers, faith leaders, farmers, attorneys, [and] students …

Ironically, as the Sierra Club was galvanizing the grassroots against coal, it was catching backlash from anti-fracking activists for being overly friendly with the natural gas industry.


Critical List: Warmest March on record for 25 states; LEGO hermit crab shell

Half of the United States just lived through the warmest March on record.

The EPA gave 20 companies approval to make E15, a biofuel containing more ethanol than blends available now in the U.S.

President Obama's campaign released a new video about his love-hate relationship with Big Oil.

Commercial-scale production of algae biofuel is starting in Brazil.

The Maryland state legislature is working on clearing the way for offshore wind.

Read more: Uncategorized


Biodegradable slippers are the new creepy toe shoes (we hope)

I'm pretty sure this is the ultimate eco-product: a biodegradable shoe modeled after the Amazonian practice of painting resin onto one's feet to protect them.

Should you invest in these lovelies? Let us examine the advantages and disadvantages. Advantages:

  • You can dispose of them in a compost bin. (Pre-shredding required.)
  • You can get rid of the weird foot smell by washing them.
  • They roll up really tiny!
  • They are less weird-looking than those creepy shoes that look like gloves for feet.
Read more: Living


Indian man single-handedly plants hundreds of acres of forest

In the northern Indian province of Assam, there's a forest named after one man — not a politician, or a historical hero, but a guy who lives there today. It's named after him because he planted most of its 1,360 acres.

Jadav Payeng, known as Molai, has been living in the area for more than 30 years, planting trees. Once this area was a desolate sandbar; now it's a jungle that's home to tigers and rhinoceroses and elephants.

Payeng told the Times of India that he first started working on the forest in 1979, when he saw flood-stranded snakes die from heat on the barren sandbar, with no trees to protect them. He told the paper:

I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me. Nobody was interested.

Later, he says, he started planting real trees and transported red ants from his village area to help improve the sandbar's soil quality.

Read more: Living


Critical List: Earth Hour around the world; GM cuts funding to Heartland Institute

Did you fall for Grist's April Fools' joke? Or the other one?

America sucks at Earth Hour. (Unfortunately not an April Fools' joke.)

Outside of America, Earth Hour meant lights out for famous landmarks from the Acropolis to the Eiffel Tower to the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Check out the video (or pictures).

Total, the French oil company responsible for the gas leak in the North Sea, is figuring out how to cap the offending well.

Small forage fish like anchovies and sardines have more value when left in the ocean as food for bigger fish than when caught and turned into fish oil.

Read more: Uncategorized


Starbucks strawberry Frappuccino dyed with crushed insects

Photo by Ben Adams.

Here's a Starbucks order to try out: a Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino with soy milk and a shot of crushed parasitic insects.

Actually, you don't need to order the bugs -- they come standard with the drink, in the form of the red dye used to give the frap that special strawberry color.

Yes, the insects are crushed, and yes, they are a commonly used natural food dye. Enjoyed a strawberry PopTart lately? Yeah, those use crushed critters for coloring, too.

So you may have already eaten your peck of bugs, and besides, insects are nutritious. Still, there's obviously a bit of an "ew" factor here. It's one thing to eat bugs knowingly, but when a gigantic corporation sticks them into a sugar bomb without asking, I think one is entitled to feel at least as miffed as when one's parents snuck broccoli into a perfectly good Kraft macaroni-and-cheese dinner. There are some health impacts, too, for the factory workers who produce the dye.

Read more: Scary Food


Critical List: Pesticides are killing bees; North Sea gas leak only sort of dangerous

Pesticides are killing honeybees and bumblebees, two new studies show.

A chemist who reviewed the results of the EPA’s water testing in Dimock, Pa., says the levels of methane they found were dangerously high, despite the EPA’s statements that the water was safe.

The FDA has to decide by this weekend whether BPA is safe.

The North Sea gas leak might not be as dangerous as it could have been.

The Obama administration cut a deal on approving offshore windfarms for the Great Lakes.

Read more: Uncategorized


Forest scientists pit trees against each other in fight for survival

In Europe, forest scientists are setting up a kind of Hunger Games for trees. The goal, the BBC reports, is to find out which trees will survive in the harsh world to come:

Read more: Climate Change