Studying, writing about, thinking about, even talking about climate change, you quickly run into the weather vs. climate discussion. The most important thing to remember is that weather is not climate. Just because it was 50-something degrees in New York City on Memorial Day weekend, doesn't mean that we can declare victory on global warming.
There's a reason why this discussion comes up so often, though: Weather and climate are complicated, connected systems. The animation above is the weather patterns twirling, shifting, making us hot or cold, our hair frizzy or limp, on just one day -- May 22, 2013 -- over the entire planet.
Samuel Orr has been filming cicadas since 2007, and he gets up close and personal with these buggies. Really personal. (Nice cloaca!) This short excerpt of the footage he's collected runs for seven minutes, but stick with it. It starts out kind of poignant, with cicadas emerging from years of lonely existence, gets a little creepy when they start swarming, and, by the end, starts to feel almost like a preview for a magical fairy-tale epic designed to get kids to drag their parents to the theaters.
As glaciers melt and slowly recede from the land they once covered, we don't really know what we're going to find there. Scientists have already found plants that have been chilling out under glaciers for about four centuries -- plants that, now that they're out from under the ice, have decided to start growing again.
These plants are of a specific type, called bryophytes. Plants like this (moss is one example) don't have vascular tissue to shuttle water and nutrients around, which means they deal better with harsh Arctic winters. When a team of scientists from the University of Alberta was poking around the receding Teardrop Glacier, they happened upon a patches of bryophytes sneaking out from under the ice -- "these huge populations coming out from underneath the glacier that seemed to have a greenish tint," the lead researcher, Catherine La Farge, told the BBC.
"When we looked at them in detail and brought them to the lab, I could see some of the stems actually had new growth of green lateral branches, and that said to me that these guys are regenerating in the field, and that blew my mind," she told BBC News.
Up close to the Canadian border, on the New York side of Lake Champlain, Pedal Power Engineering is building "dynapods" -- off-the-grid, pedal-powered machines that can power just about any gadget you might want to use around the house or farm. It can run a computer (via an electric generator), a grain mill, a water pump, a blade sharpener, a blender, or a log splitter.
Of course, you have to do the work of pedaling. PPE writes:
An average adult can pedal it to generate 100 watts of electricity, pump 5 gallons of water per minute, grind a variety of grains, operate an air compressor, a hydraulic pump, most any hand-cranked machine, and a variety of small shop tools.
Americans have a long tradition of dreaming up radical ideas for uber-healthy diets and trying to convince other people that their lives and bodies will be transformed if they just change what they're putting in their mouth. The country's first raw food restaurant opened in Los Angeles in 1917 and stayed open for 25 years. There were certainly some people who promoted these ideas potential profit, like Julian P. Thomas, M.D.:
The Christians make a lot of the same arguments for healthy living and raw food that you hear today. Only they make them in turn-of-the-century style. Raw food, for instance, is good because God made it that way:
They have been finished by nature, by some supreme intelligence, and sown with prodigal hand over the face of the earth, and man has become the beneficiary thereof. And none of his work and puny efforts can possibly improve them.
Or, here's their argument against coffee, tea, and tobacco:
A being who subsists upon clean, elementary foods would have no more desire for stimulants and narcotics than a horse or a dog would have for a Manhattan cocktail.
Here, would you like 1,142 calories for about $5, plus the price of a ticket to Japan? For the next little while, in Japan only, McDonald's is selling an item called the Mega Potato that is "double the size of an order of large fries." MSN writes:
At 350 grams, it's more than three-quarters of a pound of fries poured into a Golden Arches-stamped cardboard trough that McDonald's has advertised as "perfect for sharing."
This is actually the second coming of the Mega Potato. Back in 2010, McD's offered it in a slightly smaller iteration -- it was the equivalent of two orders of medium fries. But, as Zimmerman's law of fast food states, gross food can only get grosser and weirder.
The Night Heron was an invitation-only bar built illegally inside a Chelsea water tower in New York City that was open for just a few weekends this spring. Despite the arcane, timepiece-based invite process, Atlantic Cities and The New York Times both made it there. Here's how a guest would find her way to this spot, according to Atlantic Cities:
The entrance tickets ... are in the form of a pocket watch -- which can only be obtained as a gift -- with a reservation number and instructions inside advising against high heels and to be ready for a bit of climbing … After squeezing through a trap door, you are welcomed into a candlelit wooden cylinder outfitted with a bar, drink tables, and chandelier, all made from upright piano parts. You sip an aromatic amber concoction made by a dapper proprietor and survey this cedar jewel box, seemingly constructed by a pauper of exquisite taste.
Here's what that felt like:
All this was possible because, even in a city of gentrifying neighborhoods and investment, there are still building owners who don't pay much attention to their property.
Whatever oil and gas true believers want to think, the world is doing this solar power thing. It's getting cheaper and cheaper to make solar panels, and the panels are getting more and more effective. For example: A team in Australia just built a gigantic printer that spits out solar cells at a rate, Gizmodo reports, of about 33 feet every minute.
It's not even particularly complicated technology, according to the researchers. Gizmodo writes:
[The printer system] utilizes only existing printer technology to embed polymer solar cells (also known as organic or plastic solar cells) in thin sheets of plastic or steel at a rate of ten meters per minute. "We're using the same techniques that you would use if you were screen printing an image on to a T-Shirt," project coordinator and University of Melbourne researcher Dr David Jones said in a press release.
Bad news, Fage fans and Chobani lovers (we're gonna call you "Chobuccaneers"). All that Greek yogurt you're eating is creating a toxic byproduct: gallons upon gallons upon gallons of acid whey.
This is the same whey that Miss Muffett so enjoyed. Apparently she was a fish-hating sociopath in addition to being an arachnophobe. Modern Farmer reports:
It’s a thin, runny waste product that can’t simply be dumped. Not only would that be illegal, but whey decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers. That could turn a waterway into what one expert calls a "dead sea," destroying aquatic life over potentially large areas. Spills of cheese whey, a cousin of Greek yogurt whey, have killed tens of thousands of fish around the country in recent years.
Often, when we write about urban vertical farming, we post pictures of towers of happy-looking green plants. But the reality of vertical farming could be a little bit weirder and a little bit less natural-looking. It could be a little more pink.
Light is a major problem with vertical farming. When you stack plants on top of each other, the ones at the top shade the ones at the bottom. The only way to get around it is to add artificial light -- which is expensive both financially and environmentally.
Vertical farmers can lower the energy bill, Mitchell says, by giving plants only the wavelengths of light they need the most: the blue and red.
Which, together, create a purplish-pinkish color that makes the whole farm kind of look like a Matrix-style energy harvesting station for My Little Ponies.
This isn’t just good for sci-fi lighting effects -- it’s also practical.