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Primal Screen

“Snowpiercer” is cli-fi with no science in it. We need more films like it.

Tilda Swinton in 'Snowpiercer.'
Radius/The Weinstein Company

First of all, you’ll have to get past the title. Yes, Snowpiercer sounds like temperature-play porn or badly translated anime. Moving on.

The movie is actually a wildly bizarre sci-fi action flick from celebrated Korean director Bong Joon Ho (The Host), based on a French graphic novel. It enjoys an 83-percent rating on Metacritic. Not bad for a movie where all the action is confined to a single train, and soot-dusted extras from Oliver get into bloody axe battles with masked, bondagey bros with night vision. Also, Captain America has a beard in it and he never smiles. (It opened in a few select cities a few weeks ago and expands to 354 theaters  and video-on-demand today.)

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Wild Mannered

Should wilderness get the axe?

Redwoods
Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

This year, the Wilderness Act turns 50. As is the custom, please join me in celebrating by watching some dewy timelapses set to heart-swelling ambient tunes (above). Let us now bow our heads to Gaia and call on our spirit animal (mine's a tuatara). At Grist, we tend to check redwoods and capital-C Conservation at the door and focus on climate action and culture with a modern, urban spin. But over on The New York Times opinion pages, writer Chris Solomon put pixels and ink behind something I (and plenty of others) have been thinking about for a long time: Carbon emissions …

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Special Olympics

Watch this scientist fight climate change on the gorgeous Olympic Coast

The Olympic Coast isn't clear of climate impacts.
Shutterstock

If you're anything like me, the thought of a National Park Service-commissioned film called Tides Of Change makes you wanna take a nap. But you'll be pleasantly surprised: It's actually a beautifully shot, info-stuffed little production that follows park ecologist Steve Fradkin as he monitors climate change impacts up and down Olympic National Park's wild-as-wind coast.

It even has a rad soundtrack courtesy of Junip, acousti-star Jose Gonzalez's full-band side project. You can watch the whole not-quite-14-minute film here:

The film does a great job of  capturing the park's signature coastal features: tidepools choked with Skittle-colored invertebrates, giant trees wreathed in fog, seastacks crumbling into the sea -- y'know, grade-A nature porn. But it does a rarer thing in humanizing climate scientist Fradkin. Sure, we see him dipping mechanical doo-dads into waves and measuring out biodiversity plotting grids -- but we also spend time at his house where he hosts an intertidal research crew party thick with grilled salmon, cocktails, and plenty of kids and dogs running around. (If you haven't ever wanted to be a medium-chill ecologist before: 1) What is wrong with you? 2) Now you will.)

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Vice, Vice Baby

VICE chases melting ice in Greenland

greenland-ice.png
Shutterstock

VICE Magazine started in 1994 by meticulously documenting hip for the young and tattooed, but in recent years, its founders have transformed it into a sort of National Geographic for the young and tattooed. Shane Smith, founder and CEO of VICE Media and host of VICE on HBO, insists dominating the news cycle will be next on the menu, and that includes expanded coverage of climate change -- what he calls the biggest story of our age.

He makes good on his promise in the newest episode of VICE, which airs on HBO tonight at 11 p.m. EST. In it, Smith travels to Greenland with climate scientist Jason Box to document Greenland's rapid melt in real time. Watch a clip:

We caught up with Smith to chat about climate storytelling, denier trolls, and how to make people understand how melting ice in Greenland will end up flooding their basements.

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Iron Maiden singer will fly around the world in a giant hybrid airship

Giant metal balloon -- the only way to fly.
airlander.co.uk

Bruce Dickinson -- yes, the Bruce Dickinson -- plans to pilot a hybrid airship called The Airlander across the world. At 302 feet, it's the longest aircraft in the world, and it's 70 percent greener than a cargo plane. It lands on water, ice, or any reasonably flat surface. It can fly for days without refueling, promising more efficiency and carbon savings for freight and shipping industries while also being a boon to disaster recovery efforts.

Wait. Stop. What do you mean "who's Bruce Dickinson?"

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Water & oil: One battle to save the Sacred Headwaters ends, another begins

A rainbow of hope for the Sacred Headwaters. Also, brooding clouds. Damn.
Brian Huntington

Editor's note: This is part 3 of Grist's series on the Sacred Headwaters. Read part 1 here and part 2 here. If one image could inflame the sense memories of almost everyone involved in the Sacred Headwaters battle, it’d be a familiar ketchup-red and mustard-yellow scallop -- the logo of Dutch Royal Shell. It’s an innocuous mollusk on which to paint feelings of despair, hope, pride, frustration, desire, and anger. But tarring Shell as purely a slavering Big Bad undercuts the fact that the Sacred Headwaters owes its temporary safety, in part, to what some might call the villain of the story. …

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Water & oil: Under threat, Sacred Headwaters’ immune system kicks in

Block party: A Tahltan blockade stops Shell drilling operations.
Klabona Keepers

Editor's note: This is part 2 of Grist's series on the Sacred Headwaters. Read part 1 here and part 3 here.  


Our gruff Kiwi pilot lands the chopper at one of the three decommissioned Shell test wells set for removal, just a few ridges over from the headwaters. I’m taken a bit aback at first: Somehow, I thought they’d be taller. Instead, it resembles a fire hydrant propped up a few extra feet, circled by a metal bar fence that reminds me of a city bike rack. A Shell Canada sign is plastered with “Get the Shell Out” and “Save Our Salmon” stickers. Electric pink fireweed creeps down from the snowcapped peaks in the background, intruding on the flattened dirt pad left over from installation. It’s August 2013, and the wells won’t be removed for another two months, but the vegetation seems impatient.

This is a guarded, cautiously optimistic thumps up, mind you.
Join Grist for an exploration of recent climate wins. This is a guarded, cautiously optimistic thumbs up, mind you.

I'm along for the ride with Karen Tam Wu and Melyssa Desilles-Rubino, representatives from ForestEthics, a Vancouver-based NGO that threw its weight behind the Sacred Headwaters in 2007 when they learned of Tahltan and SWCC’s stand against the second largest company in the world. Over five years, they engineered a plan to get the word out and draw international support, mostly with stunts by turns audacious and zany: Buying full-page protest ads in the Financial Times; hounding Royal Dutch Shell CEO Peter Voser across the globe to present him with a dead salmon trophy; hiring Santa to deliver coal to Shell headquarters; stringing 50-foot-long banner of 60,000 signatures (rendered in 10-point font) in opposition at Shell Canada headquarters in Calgary.

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Water & oil: How natives & neighbors of the Sacred Headwaters battled drillers and won

Something does not belong here: Shell's original test well in the Sacred Headwaters.
Karen Tam Wu

Editor's note: This is part 1 of Grist's series on the Sacred Headwaters. Read part 2 here and part 3 here.  


I’m helicoptering over a thousand-mile mess of dirt-dusted glaciers, spongy tundra, and bristling forest in the far north of British Columbia. My gut wobbles as we drop past mountain ridges toward our destination: a soupy, pea-green bog dotted with a handful of black ponds. Fed by whitewater trickles draining the peaks around us, it’s a sucking, primordial muck reminiscent of an antiquated dinosaur mural, or a day-glo panel from Swamp Thing’s origin issue. And sure enough, it’s the birthplace of something big, ancient, and slippery: the Skeena, Nass, and Stikine -- three of the largest salmon rivers on the West Coast, all born here or near here in the Sacred Headwaters.

But the Sacred Headwaters doesn’t owe its growing fame to the chinook, coho, and silver salmon races that have been flapping up these rivers since before the Bering Strait opened to pedestrians. For that, we ultimately must thank what lies buried directly 2,000 feet below: 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas trapped inside vast beds of coal.


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Legalize pot, save a lot of energy

marijuana plant
Shutterstock

[COUGH! COUGH!] What were we talking about? Oh right, right, right. Marijuana's continued prohibition in 48 mellow-harshing states has an unintended side effect (besides making Phish unlistenable): It narfs $6 billion in energy costs and pumps out as much greenhouse gas as 3 million cars. Scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that the marijuana industry is responsible for about 1 percent of all U.S. electricity usage.

The reason is simple. To evade detection, growers work indoors -- where lights, ventilation, temperature controls, and presumably industrial-grade lava lamps suck up a lot of juice. From ThinkProgress:

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Harrison Ford crusades against climate change, illegal logging in Indonesia

"Snakes -- I hate snakes. But not as much as illegal logging and climate change."
"Snakes -- I hate snakes. But not as much as illegal logging and climate change."

Indy, the nuke-the-fridge incident is all but forgiven: International film star, astonishingly spry geriatric badass (71!), and environmental crusader Harrison Ford allegedly just got all up in the Indonesian government's face about climate change and illegal logging. He was in the country filming an episode for Years of Living Dangerously, a Showtime doc about climate change planned for release in April 2014 (the flick also features Matt Damon and Arnold Schwarzenegger). From The Guardian:

The Hollywood actor Harrison Ford has been accused of "harassing state institutions" in Indonesia and threatened with deportation after allegedly confronting a minister during an interview about illegal logging and climate change.

The forestry minister, Zulkifi Hasan, said he was left shocked by Ford's emotionally charged interview techniques and complained there was no time to go over the questions before filming began, local media reported.

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