Like deer in the American Northeast, reindeer in Finland are prone to walking onto the road and causing accidents. But, unlike wild American deer, Finnish reindeer actually belong to reindeer herders, who'd like to keep them alive. So the herders are painting their deer's antlers with a coating that makes them glow in the dark. Bonus: Now ANYONE can guide the sleigh!
The idea of outfitting reindeer with reflective devices has been around in Scandinavia for years. There, reindeer are bred and kept on farms much like cows are in the United States. So the reflectors aren't just helping keep the reindeer safe, they also help herders keep track of their animals. However, as car accidents involving reindeer have been on the rise, the Finnish herders are taking it to the next level with this new coating idea.
We're sure that Williston, N.D., used to be a lovely little town, perched as it is near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. But you wouldn't want to live there anymore. It's at the epicenter of a fracking boom that's tapping the Bakken shale formation for its incendiary crude. That means the streets are choked with trucks and the water and air are polluted. "I have to wash my dishes after taking them from the cupboard, they’re so coated in dust," one rancher in the area told OnEarth last year.
But here's what's really crazy: You probably couldn't afford to live there, even if for some strange reason you actually wanted to.
It’s a little counterintuitive, but turning isn’t as dangerous for cyclists as going straight. In nearly 80 percent of car-bike accidents, the cyclist was simply traveling straight ahead when a driver turned into the cyclist’s path or crossed the bike lane when pulling out of a side street.
British student Emily Brooke didn’t merely stop at the “Oh shit” part of learning this factoid -- she actually created a bike light to fix things. (That's more than we can say.) The Blaze Laserlight is a front LED headlight that also shines a neon green bike symbol onto the ground 16 feet in front of the bicyclist. That way, drivers know someone’s in their blind spot and hopefully won’t turn into a cyclist’s path.
Here’s some news to make you happy: Pharrell Williams not only makes catchy, sunny jams, but he’s trying to do something good with all the plastic junk in the Pacific. The musician and fashion designer announced at New York Fashion Week that he’s partnering with designer denim label G-Star RAW to create jeans out of ocean waste.
And it's not just gloriously tacky back-pocket bedazzling; the plastic is incorporated into the jeans as part of the core of each denim strand. It's covered in an outer layer of cotton to create “bionic yarn.” (But can it lift cars with a single hand?)
Check out Williams’ promo video, which is light on the details but heavy on cute octopuses:
Urbanist policies are often thought of in the positive: building bike lanes, light-rail lines, pedestrian plazas, and mixed-use developments. But the suburban sprawl that swept across our landscape left a lot of detritus, so urbanists also have to focus on getting rid of the negative -- in many cases, this means highways.
It’s no coincidence that the watershed moment in American urbanism wasn’t the initiation of a new urbanist project. Rather, Jane Jacobs rallied her Greenwich Village neighbors to stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway from ever being built. Other cities that abandoned their most ill-conceived highway plans in the face of community resistance, like Vancouver and San Francisco, are noted today for their high quality of life and low carbon footprint.
But in much of North America, limited-access highways tore through downtowns and surrounding urban neighborhoods. Designed to bring suburban drivers into and through inner cities, these elevated behemoths consumed everything in their paths and cast shadows over what was left. They separated residents from their communities, waterfronts, and public amenities. Now, as they age, it has come time for cities to determine what to do with them: rebuild, replace, or tear down.
Every year, the Congress for a New Urbanism issues a report, “Freeways Without Futures,” that lists highways deserving of demolition. In its recently released 2014 edition, the group writes: “CNU advocates for replacing urban freeways with surface streets, boulevards and avenues as the most cost-effective, sustainable option for cities grappling with aging grade separated roads. This has the added benefit of providing significant opportunities to heal local street networks and improve regional traffic dispersion.”
The 10 freeways on the list, and an additional five that have been targeted by campaigns for removal, have much in common: Built in the two decades after World War II, and thus nearing the end of their design life, they degrade their environs. Several were conceived by New York’s infamous master builder Robert Moses. One, in Buffalo, actually split in half a park designed by the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. Another, which bears Moses’ name, separates the city of Niagara Falls from its famous attraction. Here's the full list:
Since 1928, the Hampton Avenue Truss Bridge in Greenville, S.C., helped connect the predominantly African American, low-income residents of the Southernside community with the grocery stores, pharmacies, and public buses on the other side. But the state demolished the bridge, which was in poor condition, in 2012 -- a severance that means Southernside is now “likely to die,” says civil rights attorney Allison Riggs, because “quite frankly, there are just no economic generators on that side to keep it alive.”
Southernside residents, who were never consulted on the bridge removal, now have two options for reaching the rest of the city: Walk across the active Norfolk Southern Railway tracks (which the truss bridge once spanned), or take the Pete Hollis Blvd highway -- a dangerous option for those without cars. Meanwhile, the more affluent, white Greenville denizens can get back and forth across the city without the same burdens.
The community has literally been left on the wrong side of the tracks.
The women known as the Enbridge Three are in jail, which itself is unusual. Most people in their situation -- convicted of a non-violent crime, but not yet sentenced -- are out on bail, unless they're deemed a flight risk. But nothing about this case is usual.
The three women face two to three years in prison for locking themselves down to construction equipment owned by Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company. They are neither callow college kids nor protest addicts; one is a grandmother, another a great-grandmother. “The older I get, the less I have to say and the more I am free to do," said Vicci Hamlin, the great-grandmother of the trio, after the verdict. "I am proud and yet humbled to do my small part.”
Enbridge is unusual, too: It's considered one of the world's 100 most sustainable companies (this year it was No. 75). It is the largest solar energy generator and the second-largest wind-power generator in Canada. "We recognize," the company's website reads, "that our relationship with hydrocarbons comes with great responsibility."
Enbridge is also the company that in 2010 caused the largest inland oil spill in American history, when it dumped over a million gallons of heavy crude into Michigan's freshwater supply and then failed to clean it up properly. The spill sparked a wave of protests, one of which led to the arrest and trial of the Enbridge Three. Their story illuminates the ways in which environmental activism, both in Michigan and across the country, has broadened -- and how local governments are fumbling their reaction.
OK, we get it: The climate deniers in Congress don't want the country to do anything to rein in greenhouse gas pollution from their favorite filthy industries.
But are they willing, at the very least, to help Americans adapt as the weather turns deadly around them? We will soon know the answer to that question.
President Barack Obama visited California's Central Valley farming region on Friday to announce disaster relief for the drought-ravagedstate. And, while he was there, he announced his vision for $1 billion in climate-adaptation spending.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is so progressive on climate change that it is currently responsible for the entirety of U.S. climate policy. The agency is moving forward with regulations on new and existing coal-fired power plants, by far the largest source of CO2 emissions in the country, and has already locked in historic vehicle mileage standards. The current EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, is both a climate warrior and a down-to-earth person, who fully understands the climate challenge and intends to use EPA authority to fix it. In short, the EPA is amazing, and may even save civilization through its …