With year-round high temperatures and less than two inches of rain on average a month, the desert town of Lancaster, Calif., just north of Los Angeles, seems like a great place for solar. But Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris isn't taking any chances (which is exactly what you would expect from a mayor named R. Rex Parris).
Parris, a Republican, is "hell-bent on branding his sprawling Antelope Valley community not just as the solar capital of California but as the 'solar energy capital of the world,'" according to Mother Nature Network.
The mayor is proposing a zoning change that would require houses built after Jan. 1, 2014, to include solar-power systems. Lancaster has long been a solar leader, but Parris is trying to take it to a whole 'nother level, pending the city council's vote.
On Tuesday, the U.S. EPA hosted a bee summit to talk about the problem. "The EPA has been working aggressively to protect honey bees and other pollinators," the agency says. "The 2013 Pollinator Summit is part of the agency’s ongoing collaboration with beekeepers, growers, pesticide manufacturers and federal and state agencies to manage potential pesticide risks to bees."
The summit highlighted some sobering details on the scope of the problem, but it also gave a platform to Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont, and Monsanto -- companies that make the very kinds of pesticides that have been linked to bee deaths. This week, Bayer also announced a "bee care tour" and new efforts to "minimize the impact" of neonicotinoid pesticides that mess with bee brains.
Yesterday's #EPA#beesummit was a farce. What gives? All about efficient new technologies, not about protecting pollinators.
I would probably be bitter, too, if I were Beef Products, Inc. Those are the folks behind uber-gross "lean finely textured beef," aka "pink slime," the ammonia-soaked cow trimmings added as filler to ground beef. During pink slime's heyday, it ended up in more than two-thirds of American hamburgers, at a ratio of up to 15 percent slime to 85 percent burger. That slime was cheap, and so chemical-packed that it sterilized the rest of the meat. Mmm, food!
According to TIME, only about 5 percent of ground beef contains the "lean finely textured" stuff now. Following an 11-part ABC News series that ran last March and April, BPI says its revenues have dropped from more than $650 million a year to $130 million. The company filed a lawsuit last September against ABC, anchor Diane Sawyer, and other named defendants seeking $1.2 billion in damages. ABC didn't coin "pink slime" -- a USDA scientist named Gerald Zirnstein did, in 2002 -- but ABC and its parent company Disney sure do have deep pockets.
BPI has hired "a high-powered Chicago trial lawyer," according to Reuters, which reports the case "is shaping up to be one of the most high-stakes defamation court battles in U.S. history." The company's founders say they plan to fight 'til the bitter, slimy end, regardless of the cost. "We have to do this," one told Reuters. "We have no other choice."
Those outside-the-car airbags are pretty sweet, but what if we could make cars automatically stop before they, you know, hit people?
That's what Volvo's up to, with a newly updated auto-brake system that recognizes slow-moving pedestrians and now also fast-swerving bicyclists. "When bicyclists swerve in front of an automobile heading in the same direction, the setup immediately alerts the driver and applies full brake power -- a world's first Volvo says," reports Engadget.
Volvo's promotional video of the technology in action presents the cyclist as a kind of clueless headphone-wearing dolt, while the car driver appears empathetic. Still, you can at least see how it works:
Quorn, the UK's biggest vegetarian ready meal brand, said it had seen sales growth more than double in the second half of February as shoppers snapped up its burgers, mince and sausages made from a form of fungus. The company is having to increase the number of shifts at its fermenting plant to cope with demand.
Other specialist brands have also enjoyed a surge in sales since January when regulators found horsemeat in ready-made burgers sold in supermarkets. [British supermarket chain] Asda said sales of meat-free foods had been booming in recent weeks as the scandal has widened to include well known brands including Findus and Birds Eye.
Fry's, a South African brand which sells frozen vegetarian sausages and pies mainly to health foods shops such as Holland & Barrett, said sales had risen 30% since the beginning of February, three times the pace of its growth over the last few years.
Ed Orcutt is a Republican state representative in Washington, and he appears to be confused. As a member of the House Transportation Committee, Orcutt had a somewhat testy email exchange recently with a bike shop owner about a proposed bike fee. Reuters reports:
"You claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike," Orcutt wrote to Dale Carlson, the owner of three bicycle shops in the Tacoma and Olympia areas who voiced concern that a proposed $25 fee on bicycle sales of $500 or more could hurt his business.
"But if I am not mistaken, a cyclists has an increased heart rate and respiration ... Since CO2 is deemed a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclist [sic] are actually polluting when they ride," Orcutt wrote late last month.
Carlson thought Orcutt "was being sarcastic or something." That wasn't the case, but Orcutt soon felt compelled to apologize.
Busted streets + incompetent city employees + you + bike = potential lawsuit! At least for now.
In most cities, if you injure yourself because of a neglected or damaged sidewalk or street, you can file a "trip and fall" lawsuit and claim damages. But California may soon change that for bicycle riders.
Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, (R-Dana Point) has proposed a law that would provide total immunity for governments and their employees in the event of a bike accident caused by faulty city infrastructure. Public agencies already have "design immunity" under state law (i.e. you can't sue because of the poor layout of a road or bike lane), but this bill would broadly extend that immunity:
Subsidize green veggies, slaughter big sodas, and steal candy from babies? These kinds of government policies intended to promote healthy eating are A-OK with most of the American public, it turns out. A new poll from Harvard's School of Public Health found that people "were surprisingly positive about these new public health laws," as NPR reports, with big percentages in favor of encouraging exercise, making fruits and veg affordable, pushing for healthier restaurant choices, and banning use of food stamps to buy unhealthy foods.
"We clearly saw that the more coercion was involved, the more people you lost," says Michelle Mello, a professor of law and public health at the Harvard School of Public Health, who was a co-author of the study. It was published in the March Health Affairs.
The researchers were surprised to find that people with health problems like obesity and diabetes didn't object to new laws targeting them.
"We thought that people who felt like targets would be much less likely to support them," says Stephanie Morain, a graduate student in ethics who co-authored the study. "That wasn't true." ...
Over the past few years, McDonald's has grown its subsidiary coffeehouse brand McCafe like a juiced-up Starbucks -- there are now 1,300 Mc-coffee shops worldwide. That's a lot of coffee! And now the company says it wants that coffee to be greener.
Over the next five years, McDonald's plans to invest $6.5 million to help about 13,000 Guatamalan coffee growers produce fancier, more sustainable beans, to be used in a proprietary arabica blend. The company says it aims "to promote the environmental, ethical and economic long-term sustainability of coffee supplies." From Bloomberg:
“Investing in both certification and sustainable agriculture training addresses the immediate need to assist farmers today, expands capacity for greater sustainable coffee production in the future and helps assure our customers we will continue to provide the taste profile they have grown to love and expect from McDonald’s,” Susan Forsell, the vice president of sustainability, said in the statement.