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Let's get ready to not rumble!

Ohio blames frackers for earthquakes

seismometer
Shutterstock

Ohio officials have linked fracking in the state to an unprecedented swarm of earthquakes that struck last month. Following its investigation, the state is imposing new rules to help reduce frackquake hazards.

It's well-known that frackers can cause earthquakes when they shoot their polluted wastewater into so-called injection wells. But a swarm of earthquakes that hit Mahoning County, Ohio, last month was different -- it occurred not near an injection well, but near a site where fracking had recently begun. State officials investigated the temblors and concluded that there was a "probable connection" between them and hydraulic fracturing near "a previously unknown microfault."

On Friday, following the discovery, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced that frackers will need to comply with new permit regulations. Under the tougher rules, frackers operating within three miles of a known fault or seismically active area will need to deploy sensitive seismic monitors. And if those monitors detect an earthquake, even if the magnitude is as small as 1.0 on the Richter scale, fracking will be suspended while the state investigates.

Meanwhile, the fracking operation linked to the recent quakes will remain suspended until a plan is developed that could see drilling resumed safely, an official told Reuters.

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Smog is linked with higher risk of suicide

poison-skull-sign-flicker
Broken Clouds

Research is piling up that air pollution is correlated with higher suicide rates. (Yet another reason to treat the cause, not just ship in bags of fresh air!)

John Upton (who also writes for Gristreports in Pacific Standard that smog in Salt Lake County is associated with higher risk of killing yourself, according to a study that looked at 1,500 suicides in the area:

[Researcher Amanda] Bakian and her colleagues found that the odds of committing suicide in the county spiked 20 percent following three days of high nitrogen dioxide pollution -- which is produced when fossil fuels are burned and after fertilizer is applied to fields.

They also found that Utahans were five percent more likely to kill themselves following three days of breathing in air laced with high levels of fine particulate matter, also known as soot.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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This could be the future of Chicago public transportation

In olden times, back when people wore pocketwatches and used the word “gallimaufry,” Chicago’s transit system was simple. People from the city outskirts took the train downtown for work, then they hopped back on the L and schlepped home.

Nowadays, shit’s different. People live even farther out than before (sprawl!). New business hubs have sprung up -- downtown isn’t the only game in town, you might say. All of this forces people into their cars. (Well, that and the fact that when you're in a car it’s harder for strangers to judge you while you eat Doritos Locos.)

So the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Active Transportation Alliance just proposed a new, expanded transit map to serve the Chicago of today and tomorrow. Here it is, juxtaposed with the existing rail system:

chicago-transit-map-before-after
TransitFuture
Read more: Cities, Living

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Over-pup-ulation?

Americans are choosing chihuahuas over children

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Michael Bennett

Since 2007, women haven’t been popping out as many babies (maybe it’s that pesky recession?). But they’ve been enjoying the company of something ELSE cute and tiny and full of shit: small dogs. And that's better for the population and for resource use overall.

Roberto A. Ferdman points out the trends on Quartz:

Birth rates in the US have fallen from nearly 70 per 1,000 women in 2007, to under 63 last year -- a 10% tumble. American women birthed almost 400,000 fewer little humans in 2013 than they did six years before. The drop-off has come exclusively among 15- to 29-year-olds.

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Meanwhile, dogs under 20 pounds have doubled in popularity since 1999. They’re now Americans’ most common type of pup. Euromonitor research analyst Damian Shore says it’s not just an interesting correlation; women are totally choosing tail-wagging friends over someone whose college you have to pay for. As he told Quartz:

There’s definitely some replacement happening there ... There are more single and unmarried women in their late 20s and early 30s, which also happens to be the demographic that buys the most small dogs.

Read more: Cities, Living

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NFL player tackles sustainable beef off the field

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Deanna Hurley

From September to December, Will Witherspoon spends his time chasing down quarterbacks and grappling with 300-pound linemen. During the off-season, the St. Louis Rams linebacker spends his free time in the company of heavyweights of a different breed: sustainably raised cattle. Witherspoon owns and operates Shire Gate Farm in Owensville, Mo., and has a passion for meat that’s produced in environmentally conscious and humane ways.

So how did Witherspoon end up on a different kind of field? He's a bonafide foodie, and got into the agriculture game to produce his own line of antibiotic-free, organically raised beef. We chatted with Witherspoon about his love for animals, holistic land management, and how he’s spreading the message of sustainable meat to athletes and congressmembers alike.

Read more: Food, Living

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Ask Umbra: Is it OK to lather up in the lake with biodegradable soap?

bathing-in-lake
Esp2k | spwidoff

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. I live on a small lake. I have a dock, and a kayak, and a pedal boat for my niece, and hands that get dirty. I'd like to have the safest possible soap to use on the dock to wash hands and boats and furniture, and so on. Based on my own research, it seems to me that Seventh Generation dish soap may actually meet my needs without harming the lake or the critters therein? Do you concur?

Dennis K.
Sumter, S.C.

A. Dearest Dennis,

I do not. I don’t mean to sound harsh -- lots of people mistakenly think that biodegradable soaps are OK to use in the water -- but I’ll need to ask you to put down that bottle and back away from the dock.

“Biodegradable” and “nontoxic” sure sound appealing on a soap label, don’t they? Terms like this may lead us to believe that the contents will break down immediately and harmlessly, causing no damage to the complex ecosystem of plants, fish, bugs, and other tiny aquatic creatures in the lake. Unfortunately, this is not true.

Read more: Living

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Climate clicktivism for the rich, famous, and connected

Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.

What do the NBA, Mark Ruffalo, Al Gore, and Guns 'N Roses have in common?

They’ve all signed on to #climate, a new "invite-only" app that connects influencers to climate causes so they can mobilize their large social media followings to sign petitions and organize actions. #climate positions itself as the middle man between the general public and changemaking nonprofits like the Sierra Club, Mosaic, and 350.org.

Here's a video that explains how it works:

Read more: Climate & Energy

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More GIFs, please

U.S. urges IPCC to be less boring, try this whole “online” thing

IPCC makes you yawn
Shutterstock

Thousands of scientists volunteer to review research published by thousands of other scientists -- part of an effort to pack all of the latest and best climate science into assessment reports from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But anybody who takes the time to read these reports is in danger of being bored to tears -- even before they break down in tears over the scale of the damage that we're inflicting on humanity and our planet.

After publishing five mammoth reports during its quarter-century of existence, the IPCC is facing an existential crisis. How can it reinvent its aging self -- and its dry scientific reports -- to better serve the warming world?

The U.S. is clear on what the IPCC needs to do: It needs to get with the times.

Despite the exhaustive amount of work that goes into producing each of the IPCC's assessment reports, relatively little effort goes into making the information in those reports easily accessible to the public. The IPCC's main website is ugly and static, mirroring the dry assessment reports to which it links. The IPCC's online presence seems designed to meet day-to-day demands for climate information by bureaucrats -- and nobody else.

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Mission not-quite-impossible

U.N. report spells out super-hard things we must do to curb warming

man pushing Earth up a hill
Shutterstock

Hooboy, it's gonna get hot. A U.N. climate panel on Sunday painted a sizzling picture of the staggering volume of greenhouse gases we've been pumping into the atmosphere -- and what will happen to the planet if we keep this shit up.

By 2100, surface temperatures will be 3.7 to 4.8 degrees C (6.7 to 8.7 F) warmer than prior to the Industrial Revolution. That's far worse than the goal the international community is aiming for -- to keep warming under 2 C (3.7 F). The U.N.'s terrifying projection assumes that we keep on burning fossil fuels as if nothing mattered, like we do now, leading to carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere of between 750 and 1,300 parts per million by 2100. A few centuries ago, CO2 levels were a lovely 280 ppm, and many scientists say we should aim to keep them at 350 ppm, but we're already above 400.

These warnings come from the third installment of the latest big report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, compiled by hundreds of climate scientists and experts. (WTF is this IPCC? See our explainer. Feel like you've heard this story before? Perhaps you're thinking of the first installment of the report, which came out last fall, or the second installment, which came out last month. Maybe the IPCC believes that breaking its report into three parts makes it more fun, like the Hobbit movies.)

Here's a paragraph and a chart from the 33-page summary of the latest installment that help explain how we reached this precarious point in human history.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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I don't think you're ready for this jellyfish

Diapers and tampons could soon be made from jellyfish

jellyfish_sprengben1
Spreng Ben

First there was the Diva Cup. Then came the sea pearl. So what’s next for sustainable menstrual solutions? Jellyfish! Uncross your legs, ladies, and get this: Scientists broke down jellyfish flesh and used nanoparticles (for antibacterial purposes) to create a highly absorbent, biodegradable material called "Hydromash."

According to Capital Nano, a company raising funds for the product:

The Hydromash absorbs more than several times its volume and biodegrades in less than 30 days (faster than any other bio-degradable products such as bio-degradable diapers made out of pulp.)

Take that, Playtex! Hydromash has the potential to be used for almost anything that you use absorbent paper products for -- sponges, paper towels, and even diapers.

Here are two reasons why we hope Hydromash makes it to the mass market.

Read more: Living