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Susie Cagle's Posts


Little coyotes are moving to the big cities

Adorable pet-snatching coyotes are flocking to North American cities, and new research shows that they're pretty well-adapated to urban life.

Chicago Man

Biologist Stan Gehrt has been studying Chicago's near-secret coyote population for 12 years. About 2,000 coyotes live in the city, and "the majority of people have no idea," says Gehrt.

From The Ottawa Citizen:

He thought at first there wouldn’t be enough to study, but when he trapped them and attached radio collars it became clear the animals were common, and multiplying.

Gehrt and others have found the coyotes are not just moving to the city from the wilds -- they're making their homes in the city and raising urban pups, establishing coyote communities that sometimes stay within only a couple of city blocks. In Massachusetts alone, the population has grown from zero to about 10,000 in 60 years, with many animals making their homes in "very urban" sections of cities.

From On Earth:

Read more: Cities, Living


Could hemp make a resurgence thanks to marijuana legalization?

Yesterday, we ran through some of the consequences of newly legal weed in Colorado and Washington for local ecosystems and power grids. But those new marijuana laws also specifically allow for the cultivation and processing of super eco-friendly hemp, which could -- at least in theory -- be an environmental game changer.


Hemp completely dominated the U.S. textile market before the invention of the cotton gin. Some believe cannabis was originally made illegal by William Randolph Hearst and Dupont looking to knock hemp out of the market to protect their investments in timberlands and petrochemicals.

Hemp and marijuana are genetically distinct but are both regulated as Schedule I narcotics, even though if you smoked a bowl of hemp you'd end up with lungs full of smoke and no THC high. Textiles, biofuels, foods -- that's where hemp really shines. (Vanilla Tempt hemp milk is kind of amazing, you guys, I swear.)

Here Slate's eco-advice columnist half-heartedly makes a case for polyester as the best textile (um, ew), but ultimately admits: "Overall, hemp appears to be slightly easier on the environment than cotton, superior on water and land requirements, and only slightly worse for energy use."

Read more: Living, Politics


Growing urban electorate is bad news for Republicans

We kind of already knew this, but it's always nice to have your presumptions shored up with maths.

It's not red states and blue states, folks -- it's red suburbs and blue cities. See The Washington Post’s map of county returns, which shows that Obama carried urban areas all around the country:

The Washington Post
Click to embiggen.

The Atlantic Cities offers this:

Read more: Cities, Living, Politics


Marijuana may be more law-friendly, but it’s not more eco-friendly

It's boom times for American weed. Yesterday, both Washington and Colorado voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Both ballot measures passed by comfortable margins.


From Time:

The initiatives represent an increased public push for legalization; a 2011 Gallup poll found that 50% of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization, up from just 12% in 1969.

This likely means increased production to meet newly legal needs, which likely means more impact on the environment.

Marijuana advocates point to the fact that it's "just a plant." They're not wrong! But it’s a plant that’s often shipped hundreds of miles from production to consumer, and either grown indoors at tremendous energy costs, or cultivated outdoors to the detriment of the local landscape.

Read more: Living, Politics


GMO labeling fight is out of the polls and into the stores

As we'd come to expect, California's Proposition 37, which would have provided for mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods, failed yesterday 45 to 55 percent. The county map is pretty telling: The state's progressive cities all voted for the measure, while the Central Valley and its strong farming industry voted against.

The slaughter could have been worse -- the latest polling leading in to the election showed only 39 percent support. But as Grist's Twilight Greenaway points out, this doesn't mean an end to the food-labeling movement -- on the contrary, things are just getting started.

Label It Yourself

Where electoral politics and California's crazy proposition system have failed, direct citizen action is picking up the campaign. For some months, "Label It Yourself" has promoted self-regulation at your local grocery store. A "decentralized, autonomous grassroots campaign born out of our broken food system," its efforts have intensified after Prop 37's defeat.

Read more: Food


Election Day in drawings

Our image of California's East Bay area tends to be one of idyllic eco-hippie-gluten-free-crunchy-urban-farm magic. But that wasn't the scene at polling sites in Berkeley and Oakland today, where I talked to voters about how much environmental concerns are impacting their electoral choices today.

Read more: Politics


Solar: The best of times, the worst of times

Lauren Sommer at KQED reports on the state of solar power in the U.S.:

Talk to anyone in the solar industry and they’ll tell you: it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. Solar installations are booming, but there’s also a looming trade war with China.

Let's look the booming: Employment in the U.S. solar industry is up more than 13 percent over last year, as we reported last week. And Danny Kennedy, president of Sungevity, makes the point that the solar industry is a much more robust job generator than its fossil-fueled competitors: "The coal industry has been around for over a century and provides more than a third of our power supply but employs just some 1.5 times as many people as solar companies. The solar industry currently provides about 0.5% of our power supply and already employs 119,000 Americans."


Over the coming year, growth in the U.S. solar sector is expected to continue, though not as rapidly. As Shayle Kann, vice president for research at GTM Research, told KQED, "We're looking at what we expect to be about 71 percent growth in solar installations in 2012 over 2011. So that's a strong growth rate, but it is slower than we've seen. In 2010 and 2011, the market more than doubled. So it's slowing down a bit, but solar is still growing fast throughout the US."

Solar production is also up in Germany, by about 50 percent over last year. But the U.S. and Germany seem to be bucking worldwide trends. Says Kann:

Globally, it's a tough year in solar. We have massive oversupply of solar panels, so it's been a really hard time for solar manufacturers. And demand on a global level is growing, but relatively slowly this year as compared to the past couple of years, where we've seen really massive growth. The big reason for that is that Europe has slowed down as incentives have been pulled back from European governments.

And that brings us to the looming trade war.


As support for California GMO labeling wanes, campaign grows desperate

I know you mean well, Proposition 37 campaign. I know things have been hard lately. I know some days you don't even want to get out of bed in the morning because god it's just so hard out there. I get it.

But what the hell is this?

This is, in fact, a Prop 37 campaign image that's currently circulating on Facebook and in advertising to push for a yes vote on the GMO labeling measure tomorrow. From the caption:

Does your ham contain human genes? You wouldn’t know unless it’s labeled ... Pigs with human growth genes are among the creatures that food scientists have invented. Experimental life forms are sold today as “all natural” food. Does that sound natural to you?

Read more: Food, Politics


What could the presidential race mean for cities?

We know Mitt Romney is itching to roll back environmental regulations, but what would he do about cities? You know, where the rich people live in the tall shiny buildings and the rest of the rabble live in the tall not-shiny ones.

Holly Bailey
Mitt Romney's preferred form of transportation: not so public.

The Atlantic Cities brings us an only slightly scaremongering roundup of Romney's positions on cities and transportation.

The issue pages on Romney's website make no mention of transportation, public transit, poverty programs, smart growth or climate change ...

Romney has left literally no trail -- in opposition or support -- on the individual federal programs, such as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants, that have been designed over the last four years to help local communities creatively tackle the intertwined challenges of housing, transportation and the environment. Mitt Romney the Management Consultant could very well find something to love in such silo-busting, locally nimble initiatives. Sprawl is, after all, the very definition of inefficiency.

Read more: Cities, Politics


Remember to vote — the environment, and this baby walrus, need you

Are you ready to vote? Have you voted already? There's a lot at stake, so listen to this wise baby walrus and make sure you get your asses to the polls.

Looking for info about the candidates and initiatives on your ballot? Search the Grist site. Check out endorsements from the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club and ConservAmerica (formerly Republicans for Environmental Protection). Read up on the positions of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and Jill Stein.  And get more election enlightenment from the nonpartisan Project Vote Smart.

Don't disappoint the walrus.

Read more: Politics