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Miami vise: Rising seas put the squeeze on a sun-drenched beach town

south beach flood

It's a balmy, mid-November morning in Miami Beach, Fla., and I’m sitting at one of the cafe tables in front of the local Whole Foods, sipping a cup of coffee, and watching the tide come up. Oh, you can’t see the ocean from here. The tide is gurgling up through the storm drains along the street.

It starts at about 8:00. A trickle of water from a nearby grate quickly becomes a stream which becomes a lake, spreading across the intersection of Alton Road and 10th Street. By 8:20, water pours off of the cars rolling into the parking lot. At 8:40, it reaches the axles of the Jeep parked on the corner. Pedestrians abandon the submerged sidewalks for high ground in the middle of the Alton Road, dodging rooster tails kicked up by passing vehicles. To get back across town, I'll have to wade through murk that comes almost to my knees.

One of my sources here, a scientist studying the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise, tells me that if I stick my finger in that water and taste it, it will be salty. I look at the gunk burbling out of the gutters, swirling with oily rainbows and cigarette butts, and decide to take her word for it.

The water is coming from Biscayne Bay, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that lies between Miami Beach and the city of Miami. Steadily rising high tides in recent years have driven the stuff backwards through the storm drains, underneath protective seawalls, spilling into the streets and spawning a multimillion dollar retrofit to the city's drainage system. In the process, Crockett and Tubbs’ seaside haunt has become a bellwether for coastal communities everywhere that are only just beginning to grok the implications of a problem that will dog us for generations.


Factory farms fed cows the mess from the bottom of chicken cages

Steven Mileham

However bad you think factory farming is, however often you think you've heard about the worst and grossest practice yet, there's always one more additional, disgusting detail that you've overlooked. At OnEarth, Brad Jacobson brings us one of those. It turns out that some farms feed cows the mess from the bottom of chicken cages:

Poultry litter is the agriculture industry’s term for the detritus that gets scooped off the floors of chicken cages and broiler houses. It’s mainly a combination of feces, feathers, and uneaten chicken feed, but in addition, a typical sample of poultry litter might also contain antibiotics, heavy metals, disease-causing bacteria, and even bits of dead rodents, according to Consumers Union …

Read more: Food, Living


This sexy cyclist calendar features a slightly unsettling human-bike romance

Is bike porn not quite, well, PORNY enough for you? Then you need the 2014 Bike Date Calendar, the equivalent of a cycling-themed Harlequin novel. Why content yourself with ogling bikes when you can ogle a bike that's about to GET SOME?

Corie Spruill

Colorado photographer Corie Spruill wanted to make an alternative to male-gazey calendars like Cyclepassion, which features nearly nude female cyclists straddling bike parts. So she photographed her female friends on “dates” with their wheels. As Spruill told the Atlantic:

We need men because we need romance in life. But if a bike could provide romance, we might not need a man.

Interesting theory. Can someone tell her about lesbianism?

Corie Spruill


Read more: Living


Secondhand smoke: Why East Coast cities are still choking on Midwest pollution


When pollution drifts by wind into other states, landing in people’s lungs and endangering their lives, it seems sensible to require the state where the pollution originated to put in controls so its industry stops harming its neighbors. It’s like a family of smokers in which a child has asthma: The onus is on the adults to limit their smoking so it doesn’t reach the crib or the playroom.

But what if the pollution is coming from several different states, and mixing in ways that it’s difficult to ascertain where each plume originates? Who determines how much pollution each state is responsible for? And who decides how best to control it? The states, the federal government, the courts?

The U.S. Supreme Court attempted to unravel this Gordian knot on Tuesday, hearing 90 minutes of oral argument for a case that will likely impact how hundreds of power plants and factories do business throughout the Midwest while helping clear the air in dozens of East Coast cities.


Dallas — yes, Dallas — bans fracking in most of the city


The growing wave of local fracking bans is sweeping into Texas, where the state's third largest city has put a near-total kibosh on the practice.

The Dallas City Council adopted new rules on Wednesday that bar hydraulic fracturing within 1,500 feet of a home, school, church, or well. Dallas is now the largest of five Texan cities and towns that have imposed local restrictions on fracking. The city, which sits at the edge of the gas-rich Barnett Shale area, had previously imposed a safety buffer of 300 feet and banned fracking in parks and flood plains.

Because Dallas contains more than a half million homes, the new rule effectively outlaws fracking through most of the city. “[W]e might as well save a lot of paper and write a one-line ordinance that says there will be no gas drilling in the city of Dallas,” quipped a council member who voted against the new rules. “That would be a much easier ordinance to have.”


Check the climate forecast in your county


The average maximum temperature in L.A. is forecast to increase to between 77 and 83 degrees by the end of this century, up from 73 degrees in the 1980s. Summertime average maximums in Boulder, Colo., have already increased to 75 degrees, up from the low 70s in the 1960s. Residents of Vermont can look forward to temperature rises of as much as 10 degrees this century.

That's according to a new U.S. Geological Survey tool that lets you focus in on climate trends and forecasts for counties throughout the U.S.

The online tool draws on data being produced through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's efforts to produce its fifth assessment report. "The maps and summaries at the county level condense a huge volume of data," said Matthew Larsen of the USGS Climate and Land Use Program.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Ice Cube, Conan O’Brien, and Kevin Hart have the best Lyft trip ever

Ridesharing (in theory, at least) gets cars off the road by letting you request a carpool only if you need it. But if you're still not sold on ridesharing apps like Lyft (and maybe you shouldn't be), consider this: If you offer to share your car, there's a slim chance that your next pickup could be Conan O'Brien, Ice Cube, and Kevin Hart.

Read more: Cities, Living


Donald Trump hates wind energy, has no ability to recognize satire

Ketan Joshi

It's probably no surprise that Donald Trump's ability to recognize smart, subtle satire is not in top form. But we're still laughing at him for retweeting this (frankly hilarious) graphic illustrating the flimsy anecdotal evidence for "wind turbine syndrome."

Read more: Climate & Energy


Journalist for China’s state TV station says that smog makes you funnier and smarter

McMaster Institute for Sustainable Development

Everybody is so mean to smog, but I think you’d really like it. I mean, I know you, and I know smog, and you’re a great match. You’d just hit it off, I’m sure. Just because you’ve “heard” “bad things” about smog doesn’t mean they’re true. Smog’s probably wary of YOU after seeing those old Facebook pics of you from college! Just give smog a chance, OK? Pleeease? (I may owe smog’s roommate a favor.)

Look, even a writer for a Chinese state TV station CCTV likes smog! And he’s probably around it ALL the TIME. Someone who hangs out with smog THAT much couldn’t be wrong. Writes the Telegraph:

Smog was making Chinese people equal since it affected the lungs of both rich and poor, the article argued ... It was also a boon for Chinese humor, since residents of mainland China were turning to comedy in order to keep “light hearts” in the face of what has been dubbed the “airpocalypse.”

See? Smog is funny! You two are gonna crack each other up. But don’t worry -- smog’s an intellectual too, just like you:

Read more: Cities, Living


Is global warming stoking an Arctic cold war?

A reenactment of a battle involving the USSR
Shutterstock / Sergey Kamshylin

Militarization and geopolitical maneuvering is heating up in the Arctic as once-frozen tundras melt into the sea, unearthing a bonanza of oil fields and shipping routes.

Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin this week ordered his military brass to pay "particular attention to the deployment of infrastructure and military units in the Arctic." He said Russia would open two new Arctic airbases and noted that a long-deserted Russian airbase on the Novosibirsk Islands was recently reopened.

That followed the November announcement by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of the Pentagon’s first-ever Arctic military strategy.