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This amazing footage of whales and dolphins will change the way you look at drones

Drones get a bad rap, what with the killing people. Even offering to deliver our Amazon packages hasn't really endeared them to most of us (although taco delivery did a lot to salvage drones' reputation). But there's nothing inherently evil about unmanned flying vehicles, and this video footage proves it.

A drone took this video, which shows an astonishing dolphin stampede followed by heartwarming footage of a mother whale with her baby. It took a human -- Captain Dave Anderson of Capt. Dave's Dolphin and Whale Safari in Dana Point, Calif. -- to edit it together, but he's giving the drones a lot of credit:

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Some BPA-free plastic is actually worse for you than normal plastic

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scot2342

Today in “time to move into my underground bunker,” BPA-free plastic -- touted as the safer, gentler, less cancer-y plastic -- is less benign than we were promised.

The Center for Environmental Health studied 18 BPA-free plastic sippy cups and found that more than a quarter had estrogen-like chemicals. Too much estrogen has been tied to breast cancer, and a childhood imbalance can mess up the brain and other organs. And studies have indicated correlation between BPA and ailments from ADHD to heart disease to cancer. (A recent FDA study suggests BPA is safe in low doses, but there are some concerns about its validity.)

Mother Jones reports that Texas lab CertiChem found some similarly creepy results:

Read more: Living

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Louisiana’s coastline is disappearing too quickly for mappers to keep up

Twenty-five years ago, miles of marshy land and grasses separated the small fishing outpost of Buras, La., from the Gulf of Mexico. But years of erosion -- along with the one-two punch of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- have washed away much of that barrier. Today, the islands, inlets, and bays that once defined the coastline of Plaquemines Parish have begun to melt together. Like all coasts, the land around the Mississippi River is constantly evolving. In past centuries, that process was slowed by the annual flooding of the river's vast delta, which brought new sediment to replace what was …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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California’s drought is so bad people are turning to witchcraft

farmer-divining-rod-flickr
Ken Harper

Did you know that witches help make Two-Buck Chuck? Sadly no one from The Craft is involved, but water witches are increasingly in demand in California as the state’s epic drought continues. John Franzia of the Bronco Wine Company, which makes Two-Buck Chuck and a slew of other wines, regularly uses diviners to find water underneath his California vineyards. As he told the AP:

I've used witchers for probably the last 15 to 20 years. Seems like the witchers do the better job than the guys with all the electrical equipment. I believe in them.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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This rapping polar bear wants Obama to reject the Keystone pipeline

polar-bear-rap-obama

Well, this is a new one: “Frostpaw the Polar Bear” has a message for Obama, and it rhymes. The Center for Biological Diversity’s furry spokesanimal is in a new video that gives a quick rundown of Keystone’s potential ills, with a plea for the president to reject the pipeline once and for all. Did we mention that it’s a rap? Watch:

The rap praises solar, wind, and mass transit as alternatives to oil, and it actually isn't that bad. Here are some sample lyrics:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Fairer fare: How to turn food system kinks into win-wins for growers and eaters

beets
Fair Food Network

This is part of a series in which we're asking what pragmatic steps we can take to make regional food systems more sustainable. We previously spoke with organic farmer Tom Willey, the people at Veritable Vegetable,  a Slow Money guy, and the folks trying to improve school lunches.

As I read Oran Hesterman's book, Fair Food, I realized he may be one of the people alive today who is most experienced at trying to figure out how to make food more sustainable.

00_FairFood-Cover_web_0He grew up, in part, on a cattle ranch in Northern California, then helped develop a farm at U.C. Santa Cruz that would become the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. In the early 1970s, he founded a successful company growing alfalfa sprouts and studied plant science, eventually earning a PhD in agronomy and plant genetics. Then he taught at Michigan State before moving to the nonprofit side to promote sustainable food systems, first with the Kellogg Foundation, and then with the Fair Food Network. He seems to know everyone, and every initiative that's been tried to improve the state of food in the U.S. in the last 20 years. We spoke by phone.

Q. A lot of the work involved in making food systems more sustainable has to do with getting people to see and pay for costs that are typically hidden from them. One group that’s achieved that is the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. And I think that, though many of us have heard of them, we may not exactly understand what they are doing. What was the innovation that the CIW figured out?

A. The innovation that I saw Lucas Benitez and his group come up with pretty early on, was that rather than fighting the growers to get more money for the farmworkers, he started looking at the problem from a more systemic perspective, and looking for a multiple-win solution. In their case the multiple-win solution was saying, hey, rather than having the growers as our enemy, what if we had the growers as our allies? If the workers are paid better and have better conditions it’s going to make the growers more productive. But the growers are in as much of a financial pinch as anyone, so they followed the trail of money up.

A generation ago, you can think of farmworkers having a boycott -- I think of Cesar Chavez and the grapes. What Lucas Benitez and his coalition are doing now is a buycott instead of a boycott. A penny more a pound for tomato going on a burger, or on a taco at Taco Bell, doesn’t relate to very much increase to the end consumer. But it’s a huge boost to the farmworkers picking that tomato, if that penny actually gets to them.

So first they looked beyond the obvious problem, at the bigger system, and then they did it in a very transparent way, so that you could see the penny was actually getting back to the farmworkers.

Q. So, if this works, why don’t we see it replicated everywhere?

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These customizable sandals help Ugandan women go to college

Is tying your shoes the best part of your day? Then this news will make your LIFETIME! When you buy a customizable pair of Sseko sandals, not only are you helping Ugandan women go to college, but you have a bazillion possible ways to tie your shoes. I mean, look at this:

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Sseko

Basically, you cough up $55-60 for a pair of ethically sourced leather soles and organic cotton ribbons in your choice of colors. The footbeds have five different loops, so you could theoretically spend the rest of your natural life tying the ribbons in different ways. (Gladiator! T-strap! Flip-flop!) Not only does this hopefully quell some of your thirst for new shoes, smashing mindless consumption, but the fair-trade sandals give East African women better access to higher education.

Read more: Living

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Wanna get West Nile virus? Climate change will help

Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.

Contracting the West Nile virus is too damn hard. You have to go somewhere hot like Texas and practically BEG an infected mosquito to suck on you. Save your airline miles, friends, because climate change will raise temperatures so residents of California and even southern Canada will have a better shot at the virus.

Time reports that a warming world will see higher rates of West Nile, because the virus is tied to higher temperatures and lower precipitation. A new study in Global Change Biology projects just where the virus will spread:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Get off my lawn! Organic farmers just can’t get along with GMO-growing neighbors

grumpy farmer
Shutterstock

Another day, another bunch of old, white guys complaining about their neighbors screwing up their property – except this time, it’s quite warranted.

A new survey from Food & Water Watch has found that over 80 percent of organic farmers across the country are worried about how genetically modified crops in nearby fields are affecting their own. These farmers have incurred significant financial losses due to GMO contamination and the measures taken in attempts to prevent it.

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It’s official: People around the world really are eating more and more alike

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Shutterstock

You've probably heard that the food people eat worldwide is getting more and more homogeneous. As the Western diet spreads, we are relying on just a few staple grains and meats. This is a commonly held belief -- yet it's never been authoritatively studied.

Now it has. The results were just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (one of the more prestigious journals) -- and it turns out that this commonly held belief is ... totally right, and actually more dramatic than some expected.

See? Sometimes conventional wisdom really is wise.

Read more: Food