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Naples is cleaning up its streets by DNA-testing dog poop and tracking down the perpetrators

no-dog-poop-flickr
Chris Conroy

Dog shit doesn’t do(o) much for green space. Sidewalks, public parks -- pretty much everywhere is better off without it. And yet some people insist on pulling a Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and leaving their pup’s poop for the rest of us to step in.

Naples, for one, has stinky shoes, and the Italian city isn’t taking any more of your canine irresponsibility. The city plans to DNA-test abandoned dog doo-doo, find the guilty party, and slap you with a $685 fee for being a shitty pet owner/human being. Explains the New York Times:

The idea is that every dog in the city will be given a blood test for DNA profiling in order to create a database of dogs and owners. When an offending pile is discovered, it will be scraped up and subjected to DNA testing. If a match is made in the database, the owner will face a fine of up to 500 euros, or about $685.

Apparently it’s pretty effective so far:

Read more: Cities, Living

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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?"

Read more: Uncategorized

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South Korea wants to put endangered species in gigantic bubbles

Yeongyang County is a remote, mountainous, and relatively untouched area that’ll soon be home to South Korea’s National Research Center for Endangered Species. And if designs by Seoul firm Samoo Architects & Engineers (SAMOO) are implemented, bubbly biodomes will play a major role.

south-korea-endangered-species-bubble
SAMOO

As part of the 172,000-square-foot center, the biodomes will house research areas and indoor/outdoor breeding facilities. We all know what that’s code for: plenty of romantic, candle-lit spots for endangered animals to bone and make adorable babies. (Hands off the slow lorises, Lady Gaga.)

Read more: Cities, Living

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Drought-plagued California tries to drink the ocean (hold the salt)

Just remember, keep supporting major beverage companies!

Despite the pugnacious storms that had California on the ropes this past weekend, the state is still in the middle of a record-making drought. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is well under half its usual level for this time of year, and there’s almost certainly no way to catch up this late in the season. Enter the ongoing construction of 17 desalination plants across the state. A $1 billion plant being built in Carlsbad, Calif., expected to be ready by 2016, will pump 50 million gallons of drinkable water out of the ocean daily -- making it the …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Cabin fever: Are tiny houses the new American dream?

Priyan Nithya and Ally Muller built their 120 square foot house over the course of 10 months, with no construction experience.

Tiny houses have seemingly taken over the landscape of aspirational real estate, and not just for the green-minded. When it comes to choosing a compact cottage of one’s own, tiny house fetishists need only adopt the guiding principle of sage philosopher Ludacris: What’s your fantasy?

Ranging from impossibly twee to space-age minimalist, with rustic cabins in snow-covered woods lying somewhere in between, there’s seemingly no limit of miniature dwellings to fill the Pinterests of a growing audience. The prolific Tiny House Swoon website, for example, offers pages upon pages of shelter porn for those who dream of downsizing: a fairy-tale treehouse in Germany; a stark West Virginia cabin built entirely of recycled materials; and a transparent cube unit in Switzerland that may as well have been abandoned by an extremely adorable Martian.

What's the appeal of a home the size of a toolshed? You can’t scroll through a page of design sites such as Inhabitat and Dwell without hitting at least one. Graham Hill, founder of TreeHugger, launched LifeEdited, an online publication about downsized living inspired by his own 420 square-foot apartment, in 2010. Outside of niche publications, tiny houses been featured in The New York Times, The Independent, and even Fox News -- and that’s just in the past two months. Is all this hype a real push toward more sustainable lifestyles, or is it just a manifestation of widespread preoccupation with cuteness?

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Feedlot frenzy: Should we shun grass-fed beef for the sake of the climate?

Photo by istock.

We eat too much meat in the United States, and eating less of it is one of the most effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint. But in certain parts of the world where people are malnourished, meat can be the most efficient way to get people nutrients like iron. So what do you do about that?

Recently a group of researchers, many from the International Institute for Applied Systems in Austria, concluded that we probably shouldn’t be raising the price of meat to discourage people from eating it. Instead, we should be raising animals in more efficient ways so as to make meat available to the poor without pumping out as much greenhouse gas.

On the face of it, this seems to be saying that feedlots are environmentally correct. I have no doubt that some will wield this study as a bludgeon against anyone arguing for grass-fed beef. (“If you don’t like CAFOs, you want the Earth to cook and the poor to starve!”) Before that starts, let’s look at what this analysis actually shows.

Read more: Food

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Round up the usual suspicious studies (but don’t link to them)

monsanto-roundup-flickr
Vilseskogen

Earlier today, we posted a brief item in Grist List about a new study reporting that the herbicide glyphosate has come to permeate air and rainfall in the Mississippi Delta.

That study is alarming in itself, assuming you don't relish having a weed-killer atmosphere. Glyphosate, a.k.a. Roundup, has become a massively used chemical in Big Ag farming, in good part because it's the cornerstone of Monsanto's GMO business. The company's "Roundup ready" crops are designed to take a glyphosate dousing and keep on growing. That works fine for a while -- until glyphosate-resistant weeds start sprouting, at least; but it can also lock farmers into a cycle of dependence, which is why the whole program has been dubbed "agricultural heroin" by some.

Unfortunately, in seeking to explain why we might not welcome our new glyphosate overlords, we went looking for information about glyphosate's toxicity and health risks, and we fell for a bit of junk science that we should have steered clear of. We linked to a paper -- "Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases" -- that has been widely debunked, for instance here. (As that post points out, any paper that uses a phrase like "exogenous semiotic entropy" ought to set off alarm bells.) We should have known better -- particularly since we've recently run some in-depth coverage of glyphosate as part of our Panic-Free GMO series.

We're sorry. The post was up for only a few hours before we corrected it and removed it from our homepage and other listings. We're not taking it down completely; rather than "disappear" the evidence of our goof, we're laying it all out for you. Because that's, you know, the right thing to do.

Read more: Food

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Apple CEO says he doesn’t want stockholders who don’t believe in climate change

apple-ceo-tim-cook
Mike Deerkoski

In Tim Cook’s three-year reign as Apple CEO, the company has roughly tripled its reliance on clean energy, and Cook snagged former EPA head Lisa Jackson to steer Apple’s green initiatives. But on Friday, at Apple’s annual shareholders meeting, shit got real.

That was when the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a right-wing think tank and Apple shareholder, told Cook to ditch sustainability efforts unless they make the company money. Here’s the statement from NCPPR General Counsel Justin Danhof:

We object to increased government control over company products and operations, and likewise mandatory environmental standards. This is something [Apple] should be actively fighting, not preparing surrender.

Right. Fight against green regulations, because when we don’t have a planet to live on, at least our Martian grandchildren will have shiny goo-gaws. Or as Cook fired back:

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Everything that’s wrong with the suburbs, in one image

Suburbia sucks for a lot of reasons: Public transit usually isn’t as timely or extensive; commuting takes longer; amenities like fresh food aren’t as accessible. (This guy even says they’re worse for our health.)

Now two maps from Sightline Institute illustrate what you probably knew all along: It’s just plain harder to get places. (Or as former Grist writer Sarah Goodyear put it, “A mile in an American suburb is a lot longer than a mile in Rome.”) Sightline compares Seattle with one of its suburbs, Bellevue, to show that walking or biking a mile in the latter doesn’t get you as far as the former:

seattle-bellevue-maps-sightline
Copyright Sightline Institute; used with permission.
Read more: Cities, Living

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Your car will soon be less polluting, thanks to EPA’s new gasoline rule

hand pumping gas
Shutterstock

On Monday morning, the EPA announced the adoption of new rules that will require oil refiners to reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline.

As The New York Times explains, “When burned in gasoline, sulfur blocks pollution-control equipment in vehicle engines, which increases tailpipe emissions linked to lung disease, asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, aggravated heart disease and premature births and deaths. Proponents of the rule say it will be President Obama’s most significant public health achievement in his second term, but opponents, chiefly oil refiners, say it is unnecessarily costly and an unfair burden on them.”

If oil refiners say it's costly and unfair, that's a good sign. If they were not complaining, it would probably mean the rules were too weak. Transferring the public health cost of pollution to the companies that produce it is exactly what EPA rules should do.