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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.


These workshops will teach you to salvage and build an upcycled tiny house

Tiny Texas Houses

What’s better than a tiny house? (After frozen custard, sex, and memory foam.) Bingo: a tiny house built out of salvaged materials! But if you’re leery of just stapling some rotting doors together and calling it good, Brad Kittel of Tiny Texas Houses wants to help.

This spring, Kittel is leading two hands-on workshops in Luling, Texas: one on how to find salvageable wood and other items for a tiny house, and then a bootcamp from March 3 to 9 in which participants will build a tiny house from repurposed materials. The salvaging workshop is sadly already booked up, but Treehugger says the second one will teach you some critical skills:

This tiny house bootcamp will work on building a 15' by 12' home with two floors (which is said to be "big enough to live in full time but small enough to get around building code in urban areas"), from start to finish, and give attendees the skills and the confidence to go back home and start building their very own mini house using salvaged building materials.

Read more: Living


Monster wind farm planned in South Dakota

Wind turbines in South Dakota
Travis S.

Well blow us over, Mount Rushmore State! Scores of landowners in South Dakota are banding together in an attempt to build a one-gigawatt wind farm, which would be spread over thousands of acres of farmland.

South Dakota is already a leader when it comes to harnessing wind energy. Nearly 500 large turbines spin over the state's windswept landscapes, with a collective capacity of 784 megawatts of power. The Watertown Public Opinion reports on an attempt to more than double that capacity:


Confiscated Mafia property gets new life as organic farmland

Eneas De Troya

Cooperativa Placido Rizzotto, a Sicilian co-op that opened in 2001, sells red and white wines. It sounds pretty unremarkable until you learn that it’s on land that used to belong to the Mafia, and it happens to be just a few miles from infamous village of Corleone -- you know, the one that was so thick with mafiosos that Mario Puzo named the Godfather family after it.

The co-op is part of a program created by the Italian government that gives away confiscated Mafia farmland, with members united under the label Libera Terra (“free land”). Farmers were understandably afraid of Mafia retaliation at first, and not without reason; there were a few cases of theft and arson. But cops guarded the harvest, and now things are going pretty well -- Libera Terra is now an $8 million group selling 70 products!

Read more: Living


EPA is finally taking at least a small step to protect water supplies from fracking

Noel Byrne

Obviously, diesel should not be pumped into the ground. It is a filthy fossil fuel that can cause cancer. But about 2 percent of frack jobs include the ingredient in their cocktail of drilling poisons -- and that will be allowed to continue, albeit with some weak new oversight from the EPA.

The L.A. Times reports on the EPA's overdue foray into regulating the use of diesel in fracking:


Designer Vivienne Westwood thinks climate change is more important than the fashion industry

Vivienne Westwood, fashion badass.
UK in France
Vivienne Westwood, fashion badass.

At first blush, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood’s “Save the Arctic” T-shirt -- which retails for $315 -- seems like a pretentious nod to green issues, unconcerned with actually changing the wasteful realities of fashion. Turns out Westwood’s got her money where her microfiber is.

Sure, she’s basically told people not to buy her clothing line in the past, but now she’s taking things to a new level by restricting her company’s growth. As she told reporters:

I have decided not to expand any more. In fact I want to do the opposite. I am now more interested in quality rather than quantity.

Damn! How do we get more fashion giants on board?

The world needs more Westwood, because she’s not only informed about climate change; she’s prioritizing it:


Olympians to world: Please get serious about climate action, thanks

Andrew Newell

What happens at the Winter Olympics without winter? Imagine Sage Kotsenburg trying to pull off the Holy Crail over a course made of concrete, or cross-country skiers running to a dusty finish line. Triple axels on rollerblades? Make the pain stop! Vanishing snow is no joke to Olympic athletes, and they're calling on world leaders to do something to stop the climate catastrophe that could spell doom for winter sports.

More than 100 Olympians have signed on to a statement, released Tuesday, asking leaders to "recognize climate change by reducing emissions, embracing clean energy, and preparing a commitment to a global agreement at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris 2015."

The statement, called "An Olympian's Call for Climate Action," was spearheaded by cross-country skier and three-time Olympian Andy Newell, who placed 18th in the Men's Sprint in Sochi, top among the Americans. Its backers come from every winter discipline, and while 85 members of the U.S. team make up the bulk of signees, representatives of Australia, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K. make a stand, too.

These athletes have had a front-row seat to the fallout from a warming climate:


How a pesticide company went after a frog-loving scientist

Wikipedia Commons

Tyrone Hayes doesn’t sound like a swashbuckling agitator as he walks slowly across the broad stage of a UC Berkeley lecture hall. There’s no outrage in his voice. In fact, he’s cracking jokes, often at his own expense. His movements are contained, measured.

“I often like to describe myself as a little boy that likes frogs,” he says.

And that’s really what he sounds like: some delighted, preternaturally intelligent kid who insists on using the Latin name for every slimy thing in your backyard.

This is notable because Hayes, who was recently the subject of a profile in the New Yorker, has been portrayed as a tendentious and unhinged brawler. We now know that these portrayals were part of a campaign to -- as a Syngenta communications manager wrote -- “discredit Hayes,” and thereby protect the continued use of atrazine, the herbicide he studies.

But even so, I was a bit surprised when I saw him in person. I was expecting at least a little self-righteous demagoguery; instead I got self-mocking modesty.