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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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Critical List: Sierra Club took natural gas money; solar panels made from grass clippings

The Sierra Club's executive director, Michael Brune, revealed that from 2007 to 2010 the environmental group took more than $26 million of donations from people and companies connected to the natural gas industry.

The Obama administration is moving forward with offshore wind development.

Warming oceans are encouraging the growth of coral … for now.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Compost gets you high

"I'm holding a bowl of dirt up to my nose, in hopes of getting high on the fumes of my backyard compost pile."

That's Pagan Kennedy's lede for an Atlantic story on the mind-bending properties of M. vaccae, a compost-dwelling bacteria. We couldn't really improve on it. But we can condense the dirty details of how to "huff the soil," as she puts it.

The Science: M. vaccae increases serotonin and other happiness-making chemicals — it works like an anti-depressant.

Read more: Living

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Critical List: Groundhog says six more winter weeks; zoos need more elephants

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, which means six more weeks of winter. But that dude has since his shadow more than 100 times; he's only not seen it 16 times. Honestly, getting your weather forecast from a giant rodent is like getting your climate science from a weather forecaster.

Locusts thrive on overgrazed lands.

Accredited zoos will need to have three elephants, if they have any elephants at all.

Spain probably shouldn't have killed its subsidies for renewable energy.

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Chicken farm crates are basically never cleaned

If a bite of food falls on the ground, often we pick it up and eat it. Five second rule, right? But if it falls in something gross or we haven't cleaned the floor in awhile, we don't eat it. Because that's gross. Especially if your floor is covered in chicken shit.

It's unclear, then, why we are okay with eating chickens that have been transported in crates that are never, ever cleaned. Never. By 80 percent of poultry growers, at least. Which means that there's a 4 in 5 chance that your chicken dinner was rolling around in something far nastier than a little floor dust.

Read more: Factory Farms

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Did NYPD falsify account of cyclist’s death?

In October of 2011, a truck hit and killed artist Mathieu Lefevre while he was biking in Brooklyn. Since then, Lefevre's family and their lawyers have been trying to find out what exactly happened that night. The NYPD's investigation includes descriptions of surveillance footage showing Lefevre trying to pass a truck on the right. But now Lefevre's family and lawyers have seen the tapes the NYPD used to draw these conclusions, and the footage doesn't quite match up with the NYPD's interpretation of it.

Read more: Biking, Cities

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Critical List: Connecting climate change to the Texas heat wave; ditching plastic straws

Climate scientist James Hansen says he can prove that climate change caused the Texas heat wave.

Maine fishermen caught more lobster last year than ever before.

Wave and tidal energy could provide enough electricity to meet 15 percent of current demand in the United States.

In London, plastic straws are the new plastic bags. No one wants 'em.

An Alaska congressman created a (joke! it was a joke!) resolution urging the federal government to take control of Central Park, analogizing that action to the federal government's relationship to the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Because Central Park is so pristine, and also has oil underneath it. They are exactly the same! Environmentalists now say, "Oh, we totally get it! Yah, let's drill in ANWR. And in Central Park, too, why not."

Read more: Uncategorized

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House Republicans’ transportation bill contains zero good policy

House Republicans are going to unveil their transportation bill today, and it is expected to have a ton of backwards ideas in it. These include:

  • Spending more money on highways than anything else
  • Encouraging private companies to expand highways and charge for the use of those lanes
  • Funding highway work through oil and gas drilling revenues
Read more: Politics

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Cacti can clean up poisonous soils

Here are a few things you do with a prickly pear cactus: Get poked. Turn its fruit into jam. Use it to clean up dangerous concentrations of selenium in arid California lands.

In California's San Joaquin Valley, a long history of artificial irrigation has impregnated the soil with selenium. In small quantities, selenium is beneficial to humans and animals -- essential, even. In larger quantities, it’s toxic.

Prickly pear cacti, though, can thrive in these soils, even though irrigation has also made the soil and water dangerously salty.

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Critical List: Illinois installed the most wind turbines in 2011; Weathercasters aren’t climate scientists

Illinois installed the most new wind turbines in 2011.

In five years, there could be 39 million "micro-hybrids" -- cars that have a battery to increase cars' efficiency, but that aren’t quite as awesome as Priuses or other full hybrids.

Weather forecasters don't understand climate science. Don't believe them when they say climate change doesn't exist!

Read more: Uncategorized

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This app may help you save gas by driving more efficiently

Most people know that it's possible to save tons of gas and money by driving more efficiently, and most people completely ignore this and just tear-ass around at whatever speed won’t get them maximally arrested. But EcoSpeed, an app forthcoming on iPhone, Android, and so forth, translates energy-saving theory into action you can take in the real world. And it can save you up to 30 percent on fill-ups.

The app creates routes which privilege the best fuel mileage (as opposed to something like Google Maps, which will only give you the shortest or quickest routes). Then it monitors your driving while you're on the road, in order to provide you with the optimal speed to drive and other energy-saving feedback.

EcoSpeed is meant to balance sometimes-competing desires like spending less money on fuel, helping the environment, and getting to a destination on time.