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Stuff that matters


dakota access

Standing Rock is burning.

About 150 people voluntarily left the last occupied resistance camp by Wednesday at 2:00 p.m., the state-issued deadline to clear camps built to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. The remaining water protectors joined members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in setting fire to tents according to tribal tradition — one last blaze of defiance against the pipeline.

Police likely arrested around 50 people, and around 25 to 50 water protectors still remained in the evacuation zone after the 2:00 p.m. deadline. North Dakota law enforcement entered the camps again this morning to clear out anyone who still remained. Ruth Hopkins, a journalist with Indian Country Media Network, reported law enforcement pointing rifles at people and knifing tipis.

On Feb. 20, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe asked all water protectors to peacefully vacate the camps by yesterday, maintaining that the battle is now in court and on the streets. On Feb. 15, the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes asked a court to reverse a final easement that would allow the disputed portion of the pipeline to be built. And on March 10, the tribes will rally for the Rise With Standing Rock Native Nations March on Washington.

When the 150 water protectors left camp on Wednesday, they marched out holding an American flag hung upside down.


Grist 50

Meet the fixer: This storyteller puts people first.

For all their glittering charisma, solar cells and wind turbines don’t make for the best story subjects. But the people who benefit from cleantech — whether they’re landing jobs in the industry, breathing cleaner air, or just saving a few bucks on utilities — have the real tale to tell.

With 100%, a media campaign from The Solutions Project, Sean Watkins and his team seek out diverse climate leaders across the country and tell their success stories over Facebook, Instagram, and sometimes even physical billboards. The purpose is to build inspiration and momentum for others to push for 100 percent clean energy in their communities and create campaigns that outlive our gone-in-a-minute attention spans.

For the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, Watkins enlisted Avengers star Mark Ruffalo to host eight short videos that profile tribal members and supporters at Standing Rock. Watkins also shines a light on communities that might otherwise fall under the radar. Case in point: a social media and YouTube campaign to recognize PUSH Buffalo, a local group that’s turning the shuttered houses and storefronts on the city’s West Side into a sustainable neighborhood. (Check out the story of PUSH Buffalo’s deputy director, Rahwa Ghirmatzion, another Grist 50 member.) “We know and believe that there are success stories everywhere,” says Watkins.


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.


white greens

Environmental organizations still have a diversity problem.

A report on the employment practices of green groups finds that the sector, despite its socially progressive reputation, is still overwhelmingly the bastion of white men.

According to the study, released by Green 2.0, roughly 3 out of 10 people at environmental organizations are people of color, but at the senior staff level, the figure drops closer to 1 out of 10. And at all levels, from full-time employees to board members, men make up three-quarters or more of NGO staffs.

Click to embiggen.Green 2.0

The new report, titled “Beyond Diversity: A Roadmap to Building an Inclusive Organization,” relied on more than 85 interviews of executives and HR reps and recruiters at environmental organizations.

Representatives of NGOs and foundations largely agreed on the benefits of having a more diverse workforce, from the added perspectives in addressing environmental problems to a deeper focus on environmental justice to allowing the movement to engage a wider audience.

The most worrisome finding is that fewer than 40 percent of environmental groups even had diversity plans in place to ensure they’re more inclusive. According to the report, “Research shows that diversity plans increases the odds of black men in management positions significantly.”


over the hill

OPEC still just tryin’ to OPEC, but not doing so well at it.

The cartel confirmed at a Thursday meeting in Vienna that it would extend the production cuts announced in December through March 2018 to try to forestall further collapse of oil prices.

However, they’re just fighting the inevitable. Here’s everything working against OPEC:

  1. American-produced shale gas and oil (the kind you get from fracking) continues to be cheap and abundant.
  2. In recent years, investors have poured money into fracking companies, because they’re seen as more reliable than traditional drilling operations — in turn making the former less susceptible to shifts in price and production than the latter. (But bad news, frackers — that funding bubble isn’t expected to last forever.)
  3. Global demand for oil was lower than expected this year, and a recent analysis from consultancy Roland Berger predicts that industrialized nations’ appetite for oil has peaked, The Economist reports.
  4. The growth of the electric car market and increasingly computerized transportation means a push away from oil and gas, according to the New York Times.

To close, a brief list of metaphors used to describe OPEC’s ongoing struggles: relying on “Band-Aids to get through crises,” bringing “a knife to a gunfight,” and, our personal favorite, “U.S. shale’s the wild horse that OPEC just can’t tame.”


study up

Scott Pruitt just got debunked by climate scientists.

They came after EPA Administrator Pruitt in a very sciencey way: by publishing a study that takes down a claim Pruitt made during confirmation questions.

When asked whether he believes there is uncertainty about global warming, Pruitt responded that “over the past two decades, satellite data indicates there has been a leveling off of warming, which some scientists refer to as the ‘hiatus.’”

OK — so it’s been about three months since Pruitt’s confirmation. But science takes time, people!

The study directly refutes Pruitt’s response, calling him out by name. It analyzes satellite data sets and debunks that there has been any sort of pause in warming — a common conservative talking point.

The science is unlikely to bring an about-face from Pruitt, who recently said carbon dioxide is not a main driver of climate change. But scientists are trying.

“When incorrect science is elevated to the level of formal congressional testimony and makes its way into the official congressional record, climate scientists have some responsibility to test specific claims that were made, determine whether those claims are correct or not, and publish their results,” study coauthor Benjamin Santer told the Washington Post.


Grist 50

Meet the fixer: This entrepreneur is making a better burger.

A lot of startups want to make animal flesh obsolete with tastier, more environmentally friendly products: Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, and Mosa Meats, to name a few. If one of these companies can convince Americans that its new product is better than meat, it could put a dent in the livestock industry, which is responsible for roughly 4.2 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the most audacious of those companies is Memphis Meats. Instead of engineering a meat replacement, Uma Valeti’s startup is growing actual meat in a lab. “The products we’re producing are the delicious meat we’ve enjoyed for thousands of years — we’re just changing the process by which it’s produced,” he says.

Valeti isn’t your average Silicon Valley founder — he’s a doctor, a cardiologist to be precise. He previously worked on experiments that used stem cells to regrow damaged heart tissue. If we can grow heart muscle with stem cells, he thought, why can’t we grow meat? With a team of foodies and scientists, he’s doing just that. Last year they fried up and ate their first no-death meatball — the video went viral. Now, they’re working to take their cultured meat to the masses.


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.


pumping iron down the drain

The new American dream is being woefully anemic WHILE throwing away all your nutrients!

Americans waste between 1,200 and 1,400 calories of food per person everyday, which we can all agree to feel bad about: all that energy- and water- and money-intensive nourishment going straight to the landfill! But in spite of a national love for counting nutrients, we didn’t know how many macros we’ve been chucking out.

A new study courtesy of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future is the first to measure just how much nutrient value is ending up in the bin. The most jarring example: Those 1,400 calories of wasted food per person per day include 48 percent of an average adult’s daily iron intake. Also wasted: 43 percent of the recommended levels of Vitamin C and 29 percent of the calcium.

This is significant, the researchers note, because so many American adults suffer from crucial nutrient deficiencies.

We asked Kevin Klatt, a PhD candidate at the Cornell Division of Nutritional Sciences, if these numbers — they’re so big! — seemed normal. If anything, Klatt said, the percentages seemed slightly conservative, because recommended daily values tend to be higher than what most people need.