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There’s a new island in Japan

New Japan island
Japan Coast Guard

Last month, this newborn island emerged from the sea like Venus rising from the waves, if Venus had been produced by volcanic activity. Sometimes these baby volcanic islands just disappear again as the ocean washes loose material away, but this one is growing -- it's up to 13.8 acres, about the same footprint as the Great Pyramid of Giza. 

Read more: Living


Maine city gives tar-sands oil the finger

No tar sands oil
Rainforest Action Network

Remember how voters in South Portland, Maine, narrowly rejected a ballot measure last month that would have prevented the city's port from piping in tar-sands oil? Here's the thing about that election result: It's looking like it might not matter. The city council is now taking up the anti-tar-sands campaign anyway.

With a 6-1 vote Monday night, the council put in place a six-month moratorium on shipping tar-sands oil through its port. From the Portland Press Herald:


A glitter-covered banner got these protesters arrested for staging a bioterrorism hoax

A bold act of ecoterrorism?
Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance
A bold act of ecoterrorism?

It's not uncommon for environmental protesters to face arrest, but here's an apparent first: On Friday, Oklahoma City police charged a pair of environmental activists with staging a "terrorism hoax" after they unfurled a pair of banners covered in glitter -- a substance local cops considered evidence of a faux biochemical assault.

Stefan Warner and Moriah Stephenson, members of the environmental group Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, were part of a group of about a dozen activists demonstrating at Devon Tower, the headquarters of fossil fuel giant Devon Energy. They activists were protesting the company's use of fracking, its role in mining of Canada's tar sands, and its ties to TransCanada, the energy company planning to construct the Keystone XL pipeline. As other activists blocked the building's revolving door, Warner and Stephenson hung two banners -- one a cranberry-colored sheet emblazoned with The Hunger Games "mockingjay" symbol and the words "The odds are never in our favor" in gold letters -- from the second floor of the Devon Tower's atrium.

Police who responded to the scene arrested Warner and Stephenson along with two other protesters. But while their fellow activists were arrested for trespassing, Warner and Stephenson were hit with additional charges of staging a fake bioterrorism attack. It's an unusually harsh charge to levy against nuisance protestors. In Oklahoma, a conviction for a "terrorist hoax" carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Oklahoma City police spokesperson Captain Dexter Nelson tells Mother Jones that Devon Tower security officers worried that the "unknown substance" falling from the two banners might be toxic because of "the covert way [the protesters] presented themselves … A lot were dressed as somewhat transient-looking individuals. Some were wearing all black," he says. "Inside the banners was a lot of black powder substance, later determined to be glitter." In their report, Nelson says, police who responded to the scene described it as a "biochemical assault." "Even the FBI responded," he adds. A spokesman for Devon Energy declined to comment.


NOAA: November was “record warm”

Global warming

It may be difficult to grasp as holiday chills and snowy weather set in across North America, but last month was the globe's hottest November on record. It was the 37th consecutive November of above-average temperatures.

Which is remarkable, not only because records date back to 1880, but because previous record-breaking Novembers came during El Niño years, when the Pacific Ocean heats up. There currently is no El Niño.

Earth's combined average land and ocean temperature in November was 1.4 degrees warmer than the 20th century average of 55.2 degrees.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Here’s what we’ll do with your gift


Thanks for helping Grist end the year with a bang. Donations poured in from over 2,000 people in 26 countries for a grand total of over $66,000 -- and we intend to put your dollars to good use.

Over the last year, reader contributions helped boost Grist to new heights: We added some great new voices to our site; we influenced discussions among politicians, cultural icons, and major media; and more than 65 percent of our readers reported taking action based on our content, from the classroom to the boardroom.

So just how will your donation help? We've already got some big plans for 2014: We’re launching a fellowship program; improving our mobile experience; and looking at new ways to build Grist's green community online and off.

We have a lofty vision: to make green second nature. And we know that's only possible by keeping readers like you informed and invested in these issues. As one of our first-time donors put it, "your writers approach the sobering subject of climate change with enough sport to keep us reading even when the news is painful."

We're honored to have won your hard-earned bucks and we'll use it to keep you and your fellow readers informed on the green stories that matter most -- without making you want to cry yourself to sleep every night.

So thanks again, readers, from all of us on the Grist team. 

Read more: Uncategorized


San Francisco could ban bottled water at big events

water fountain

San Francisco is looking at legislation that would ban the sale of plastic water bottles for big events on public property and push the city to provide permanent sources of water, using innovative technology like water fountains.

The San Francisco Examiner reports:

Beginning October 2014, new leases, including renewals, and permits, such as those for mobile food vendors and vendors in public parks, would prohibit the sale of plastic water bottles. The provision would eventually impact Giants games at AT&T Park, but not for decades, since the team’s lease expires in about 50 years. But other city venue leases are up sooner such as Pier 39, a large collection of restaurants on the Port of San Francisco and the Bill Graham Auditorium, which hosts concerts and other events in the Civic Center.

Unhappy people include the American Beverage Association, whose spokeswoman points out that San Francisco is really good at recycling so … that's basically the same as if the bottles were never made, right? Right. [Ed. Not really right.] Happy people include manufacturers of reusable water bottles that can be filled up at water fountains, and also the Earth.

Read more: Cities, Living


Cyclist takes a London bikeshare bike to France and rides it up a mountain, all before the rental period expires

London's Bixi bikeshare bikes are, it turns out, becoming quite the world travelers. One has made its home in the Gambia. And another one got taken on a whirlwind tour of France for a jaunt up Mont Ventoux, one of country's more challenging climbs.

The lucky bike met Matthew Winstone, Ian Laurie, and Robert Holden just before 4 a.m. one fall morning, when they checked the bike out, threw it in their car and headed across the English Channel towards the mountain. Atlantic Cities:

Setting out nearly 12 hours after they left London, Holden cycled for almost three grueling hours to make it up the 22 kilometer route, gaining more than 1,600 meters of altitude in the process.

Read more: Living


Greenpeace 30, Pussy Riot get Russian amnesty

Sini Saarela
Dmitri Sharomov / Greenpeace
Greenpeace activist Sini Saarela, soon to be free.

They're not pirates. They're not hooligans. The Arctic 30, an international group of Greenpeace activists and journalists arrested in September at an offshore oil platform in Russia's Arctic waters, are no longer accused criminals.

Charges against all members of the group are being dropped by Russia, and the 26 non-Russians among them will be free to return to their homelands.

Russia's parliament on Wednesday approved by a 446-0 vote an amnesty that's expected to affect thousands of prisoners and accused criminals, also including the two jailed members of Pussy Riot. The amnesty coincides with the 20th anniversary of Russia's constitution and with the lead-up to the Winter Olympics Games, which Russia is hosting in February. Al Jazeera explains:


Sand-mine-happy Wisconsin mayor survives recall attempt

Frac sand mine
Carol Mitchell
A hill being excavated by frac-sand miners in Wisconsin. Watch out, horsie!

Sand, ho! Things are looking up for Vista Sand, a Texan sand-mining company that wants to excavate frac sand from hundreds of acres of farming land just outside the Wisconsin town of Glenwood City. And things are looking down for residents who don't want their town turned into a mining mess to help out the fracking industry.

Mayor John Larson on Tuesday survived a recall attempt by opponents of the silica mine, with the latest unofficial results showing he secured 183 votes compared with the 140 votes garnered by his opponent. Once results are finalized, we expect he will waste no time in moving forward with efforts to annex the silica-rich land into town limits and allow the project to move forward. From Wisconsin Watch:


The LambCam lets you literally count sheep


Modern Farmer is living up to its name with a fluffy technological advancement: the LambCam. Think Shiba Inu puppy cam meets farm. And if that sounds boring, well, it’s not -- a llama walked by and I almost pissed myself. (Although maybe that says more about my low-key Festivus than about the LambCam itself.)

The LambCam streams live from Juniper Moon Farms in Palmyra, Va., which is home to not only 23 adult sheep and 12 lambs (squee!) but also five dogs, four sheep dogs, and the aforementioned llama. (If goats are more your speed, of COURSE there’s a GoatCam for you.) Explains Modern Farmer:

Half the sheep are Cormos (white) and half are Border Leicesters (multicolored). They’re bred for wool, not meat, and they love their owners with a fierceness. Of course, they show their affection as only sheep can -- head-butting stomachs and nosing through pockets for loose change.

Read more: Living