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This start-up wants to track the movement of all NYC’s pedestrians

Jonathan McIntosh

Real-time pedestrian data, FastCoExist notes, is quite valuable to all sorts of people: "city planners, business owners, police interested in crowd control." Also, we would note, normal people trying to dodge pre-storm grocery lines.

So, a startup called Placemeter is working on getting access to data from cameras all over New York City to watch you while you walk, FastCoExist says. They think they need about 3,000 feeds -- right now they've only got 500.

How creepy is the creep factor here?

Read more: Cities, Living


U.S. wants poor and rich countries alike to cut emissions under next climate treaty

world flags

If the U.S. gets its way, developing countries will need to roll up their sleeves and do more to slow down global warming.

The Obama administration is taking the position that poor and rich countries alike should be legally obligated to reduce the amount of climate-changing pollution that they produce after 2020, when a new climate treaty is expected to take effect. The Kytoto Protocol approach, which saw rich countries but not poor ones compelled to rein in greenhouse gas pollution, is "clearly not rational or workable" any more, U.S. officials argue in a new submission to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The next big U.N. climate meeting will be held in Lima, Peru, this December, and then Paris will host a bigger one in December 2015, at which world leaders hope to finalize the new climate treaty.

"[T]he United States supports a Paris agreement that reflects the seriousness and magnitude of what science demands," Obama administration officials wrote in their 11-page U.N. submission, which was published on Wednesday. "As such, it should be designed to promote ambitious efforts by a broad range of Parties."


Earth is taking its revenge on cars by eating expensive Corvettes

The National Corvette Museum, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is "hallowed ground," writes Thom Patterson, at CNN. "The room feels like a cathedral. And for many enthusiasts, it is kind of the Church of the Corvette. It is home to more than 70 unique Corvettes, including several prototypes and a unique 1983 model -- the only one in existence."

But the forces of nature don't care about that. They just do what they do, which in this case means creating a 40-foot-wide, 20-foot-deep sinkhole beneath eight Corvettes worth, altogether, millions of dollars. Watch:

Read more: Living


Get your Valentine’s Day kink on with these sex toys made of upcycled bike tires

Fifty Shades of Green, anyone? Feminist environmentalists Ashley and Zoe can help you take your love for cycling into the bedroom ... or dungeon. The pair turn upcycled rubber inner tubes from bike tires into floggers, whips, riding crops, and other kinky toys. This classy bronze-toned flogger, for instance, doesn’t look like anything you’d peel off the side of the road:


Or there’s the fleur de lis riding crop, to show your New Orleans or St. Louis love:

Read more: Living


The secret ingredient to slow food: Slow cash


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, and the people at Veritable Vegetable.

When I spoke with Tim Crosby, director of Slow Money Northwest, he was working on a deal at the Finn River Cidery.

“I’m in my outside office,” he said. “I’m standing here looking out over this: It’s just idyllic, there’s hoop houses, there’s chickens. They make apple cider, there’s an orchard, and a field, and there's trumpeter swans on the field.”

I’d wanted talk to Crosby because he’s interested in growing regional food systems. In this series, I’m looking for pragmatic steps that can make regional agriculture more sustainable. Crosby does much the same thing: He searches for farmers who could grow or improve their businesses if they just had the financing; then he connects them with foundations, banks, or investors.

Q. I wrote recently about a project to improve rangeland with compost, which seems to help, both environmentally and financially. But it costs a lot of money initially to bring the compost in. Do you find that there are farmers who could be better stewards of the land if they were able to invest with an eye to the next 100 years, rather than just scraping by for the next year?

A. The embedded notion is that farmers are not good stewards of the land. I would say that farmers are the closest to the stewards of the land we have -- they just can’t make money doing it in our economic system. But if they lose their soil, they lose their livelihood, and they know that better than anyone.

Our market-driven, capitalistic structure insures that the lowest price wins. When the market says you have to lower the price per unit -- as happened in the 1970s, the terminology was “get big or get out” -- guess what, you’re going to have to grow. You’re going to have problems if you try to internalize the environmental costs and take care of the soil. It’s going to be more expensive, and you can’t sell your products as easily.

But it’s the right thing to do, and farmers will do it. It’s becoming more attractive as the cost of fossil fuels goes up. And farmers are coming to me saying, we need to try something else. Now they see a chance to make money doing the right thing, where they couldn’t before. And they would like to be able to do that. The question is, in the end, can they pay their bills?


Dems and GOP have competing visions for making oil trains safer in Washington state

A train derailment
Public Herald
The polluted aftermath of an oil-train derailment in Alabama last year.

A recent string of oil-train disasters across North America has Washington state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle feeling nervous. Oil-by-rail traffic in the state is poised to soar as crude from the Bakken formation in North Dakota heads to refineries and ports on the coast.

Republicans who control the state Senate and Democrats who control the House have both drafted legislation to try to reduce the risk of accidents and explosions. The Republican bill calls for a variety of studies and would help local agencies develop emergency plans. The Democratic one would go further, requiring greater public notification about the movement of oil through the state and increasing penalties for oil spills.


Here is what you would see if you were being eaten by a pig


We may never know what twist of fate caused this GoPro video camera to fall out of a plane, down towards the earth, and into a pig sty. But here, via Digg, is the result: an amazing video of what it looks like to fall from the sky and be eaten by a pig:

This could be a marketing stunt of some sort ... we're less inclined to trust the veracity of the viral internet every day. But it seems possible that Mia Munselle, who says she found the camera, is a real person. (She has a pretty active Pinterest account, at least.)

But no matter the origins of the video, a pig did try to eat the camera filming it. To be fair, the pig did not succeed at eating the camera.

Read more: Living


This boat hull was left rusting in a bay until it turned into a forest

The SS Ayrfield was built in 1911. It transported supplies to American troops in World War II, and after that it transported coal for decades, until, in 1972, it was sent to Homebush Bay, in Australia, not far from Sydney.

The bay was a dumping ground, and at this time, a "ship breaking" yard. For years the bay was polluted (although Australia cleaned it up around the time of the Sydney Olympics). The hull of the SS Ayrfield, along with a few other ships, was left there to rust. And over the years, the Ayrfield grew into a forested island:

Jason Baker
Read more: Living


BP found another shady way to cheat public, get richer

Shady dealings

It's hard to imagine a company as filthy rich as BP running a scam that would cheat a state out of tens of millions of dollars. Wait, no it's not.

Minnesota is claiming in a lawsuit that BP did exactly that.

The alleged scam took advantage the nationwide problem of old, leaky underground storage tanks (the EPA calls them LUSTs, because occasionally the EPA is hot). The EPA estimates there are 78,000 such tanks buried nationwide, each of them containing funky old oil and the like, even after some 436,000 were removed in recent decades. To help rid Minnesota of the tanks' hidden pollution dangers, the state levies a fee on petroleum products that goes into its Petrofund. BP has received money from this fund to help it meet the costs of cleaning up its LUST sites. According to Minnesota's lawsuit, however, more than $25 million of BP's LUST cleanup costs were already being met by the company's insurers.


Ted Cruz is right: Everyone is too fixated on Keystone XL

Ted Cruz
Gage Skidmore

For Republicans, the Obama administration’s slow decision making on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline has been the talking point that never stops giving. Since the 2012 campaign cycle, Republican politicians have constantly harped on how approving Keystone would supposedly create thousands of jobs and ensure domestic energy security. Mitt Romney promised that if elected, “I will build that pipeline if I have to do it myself.” Congressional Republicans, such as House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (Wis.), have suggested tying Keystone approval to unrelated measures such as debt-ceiling increases. Last month, all 45 Senate Republicans signed a letter to President Obama demanding an immediate decision on Keystone.

The Republican ardor for Keystone has always been irrational. The State Department found that the pipeline would only support 35 permanent jobs. And it would actually make gasoline more expensive in the U.S. because it would enable more exports.

It is tempting to see the right’s obsession with Keystone as the mirror image of the environmental movement’s arguably excessive focus on the project. But they are actually quite different. The activists getting arrested in front of the White House over Keystone may be placing too much emphasis on a pipeline instead of, say, EPA regulation of power plant emissions. But their concern for the detrimental impact of extracting tar-sands oil is sincere and well-founded.

Republican elites do not have serious, substantive reasons to fixate on Keystone. They do so because the average conservative voter likes energy exploration and the pipeline is a convenient symbol.