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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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Snowstorm took it to the trees

Up and down the East Coast, millions of people are without power after the weekend's snowstorm. But the most severe damage the storm wreaked was on trees. Snow is particularly harsh on trees that still have green leaves on them: It's as if a person were caught out in a snow storm wearing a light sweater, fall skirt, and cute ballet flats instead of bundled up in a coat, scarf, and boots. Since this snow was so heavy and wet, it weighed down branches, which started cracking or bringing whole trees down. (That's why so many people lost power -- …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Critical List: 7 billionth baby born; OWS to use green generators

The world's 7 billionth baby has been born in the Philippines. (How do U.N. arbiters know she's the seven billionth? They don't: it’s just symbolic.) It snowed on the East Coast, and "virtually every site north of Maryland to Maine … recorded their greatest October snowfall on record." An energy storage company that received a loan from the government filed for bankruptcy; fingers crossed that we can all talk about Herman Cain's (real, problematic) sex scandal instead of this. Occupy Wall Street could switch over to bike-powered generators. One's already running. Wind power wants its production tax credit extended. The …

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The Obama admin opens up the best lands in the west for solar development

The Obama administration is putting forward 285,000 acres of public land in the West as prime territory for solar development. About half of the land is in California; the rest is spread over five states, including Nevada and Utah. These sites, the administration says, have no looming environmental or cultural conflicts, and they're close to transmission lines. Deserts are great candidates for solar energy projects, but there are environmental concerns about the fragile ecosystems. However, the administration is under pressure from both liberal and conservative interests to open up some public lands for renewable energy.

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Critical List: EPA comments on Keystone XL coming soon; Moscow catches the green bug

The EPA is going to release its comments on Keystone XL soon. Also, John Kerry's on the case. America at last launched a NASA satellite to observe the weather and climate of all the earth. And Al Gore rejoiced. No pesto for you! Pine nuts are the latest food to carry salmonella. Environmental laws aren't only killing jobs, they're giving criminals free rein over borderlands, says Congress. Moscow catches the green bug.

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Flooding hits Italian countryside; climate change will bring more torrential rains

Americans may not care about weather-related disasters in places like Tuvalu, but it's possible that mudslides and flooding devastating some of Italy's most beautiful tourist ares will make a blip on the country's collective radar screen. (How will we prove we're cultured if Italy's one big mud pile?) Six people have died and hundreds more have been evacuated from Tuscany and Liguria. Hard-hit towns include Cinque Terre, the terraced city that makes you look automatically sexy and European in your tourist pictures. Italy's president, Giorgio Napolitano, did something totally crazy in response to this disaster: He went on television and …

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Critical List: Senators call for Keystone XL investigation; orangutans to take over islands

A group of senators asked the State Department inspector general to investigate improper influence on the Keystone XL decision. After Keystone XL protesters pushed Obama on the issue during a Colorado speech, the president said, "We're looking at it right now, all right? No decision has been made." Getting to Amsterdam-style bike nirvana requires more than just bike lanes. Laws, regulations, and enforcement all contribute. The Department of Interior is still investigating polar bear scientists and wants one to take a polygraph. We won't give the planet to the apes, but we're willing to hand over a few Indonesian islands.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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All of the internet uses less than 2 percent of the world’s energy

Humanity spends a lot of time on the internet. Too much, probably. And every little Google search, Facebook message, and tweet uses some energy. All that Hulu uses a lot more. It's been clear that energy going to internet use is growing, but how does it compare to total energy use? If we really want to become sustainable, are we going to have to stop playing so much Words With Friends? Well, maybe. But at least now we know that the internet accounts for less than 2 percent of the world's total energy use. That's still a pretty big amount. …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Patagonia asks customers to overthrow capitalism’s basic tenets

Patagonia, the official apparel of green-minded outdoorsy people and all of San Francisco, wants its customers to buy fewer of its products. Instead, the company is asking that Patagonia lovers reuse and repair their clothes. The company will mend its products for cheap, and help customers sell them on eBay or through their website. It will give money from new sales to environmental groups. The key here, perhaps: The company's owners claim they "aren't looking to get wealthy." Instead, they're just looking to do well by themselves and the planet.

Read more: Living

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Critical List: Rina heads to Cancun; French wildflowers are disappearing

Hurricane Rina is heading towards Cancun. The U.S. wants to start trade wars all over the place. First, the solar industry goes toe to toe with China, and now the House of Representatives is mixing it up by trying to exempt U.S. airlines from the EU emissions scheme. Multinational energy companies who want to exploit Indonesia's geothermal resources are annoyed that Indonesia's government wants to regulate the process, and citizens have some concerns about the whole thing. Environmentalists in Bellingham, Wash., are fighting against a new terminal that would ship coal to China. Venture capitalists are shying away from investing …

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High BPA levels in pregnant moms may change their daughters’ behavior

It's not just hippie paranoia that should keep pregnant women from eating too much BPA-laced canned food. A new study found that 3-year-old girls were more likely to show symptoms of depression and anxiety if their mothers had tested higher for BPA levels during pregnancy. (There didn’t seem to be a correlation for boys.) The symptoms are still within the normal range, but as one researcher says, "subtle shifts" can have "very dramatic implications" for these girls’ lives. In other words, your daughters won't be totally crazy but they might be worse off than they'd be otherwise. Naysayers say that …

Read more: Food