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Ted Alvarez's Posts


Caboose? More Like Kaboom, video

This doc about ‘bomb trains’ filled with crude oil will make your head explode

oil train

VICE News just released Bomb Trains: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Raila 23-minute-long documentary investigating the explosive oil trains that regularly run from the Bakken shale to the Pacific Northwest. That might seem a bit long for web video, but you should watch it anyway — mostly because Thomas the Terror Engine is headed to your town, but also because Jerry Bruckheimer has nothing on the terrifying explosions at the 5:09 and 6:00 mark.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Suburban Warfare

Out-of-touch dads still want gas-guzzling SUVs, apparently

Father's Day is just around the corner!
Scott Robbin

Watching the cultural backlash against all the mongo SUVs that ran us off roads, CO2'd our cities, and ruined Hype Williams videos for something like two decades remains one of the unexpected pleasures of the recession. Soccer moms now want Priuses instead of Escalades; carmakers embraced fuel efficiency as a selling point; the Tesla S seems poised to own poster space on the bedrooms of car-obsessed teenagers. But like brachiosaurs in Jurassic Park, Suburbans aren't dead yet. Today, the New York Times reports that SUV sales have very nearly singlehandedly kept GM afloat with almost $1 billion in profits this year, and the company commands 70 percent of …


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.)

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Wild Mannered

Should wilderness get the axe?

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 …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Special Olympics

Watch this scientist fight climate change on the gorgeous Olympic Coast

The Olympic Coast isn't clear of climate impacts.

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.)

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Vice, Vice Baby

VICE chases melting ice in Greenland


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.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


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

Giant metal balloon -- the only way to fly.

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?"

Read more: Uncategorized


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. …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


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.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


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.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living