The Whole Food site in Gowanus, Brooklyn, doesn't look like much yet. Actually, in general, Gowanus doesn't look like much these days -- it's a once-industrial neighborhood that's increasingly being taken over by pickling factories and music studios. You can walk whole blocks without passing by much except maybe a coffin wholesaler, and then hit upon a corner where there's a pie place, a barbecue joint, and a home-brew shop.
It also smells bad, fairly often. Because this is where the Gowanus Canal is, and that’s still a Superfund site. The city's sewage system still dumps overflow into it during storms. It is actually possible, if you're lucky, to see poop float by.
So, here comes Whole Foods, a company that likes to talk about being local and green, and on top of its new, big store here, it's going to build a rooftop farm. A 20,000-square-foot rooftop farm.
11 11 is a "premium parking garage" in Miami Beach, Fla. It's also the only parking garage we've ever heard of that's seriously dedicated to being mixed-use. People do yoga here. They get married here.
As a species, we may be logging the fastest marathon times we'll ever make right now. For years, marathon times have been ticking downward. But climate change may ruin that trend, as it will ruin everything else humanity has built. The problem: We don't run so well in the heat.
This trend isn't kicking in a noticeable way quite yet. But in a new study published in PLoS ONE, Boston University researchers found that by 2100, they'll have a 95 percent chance of detecting a "consistent slowing of winning marathon times,” according to BU.
It might be hard to imagine how James Hansen could do more to help the climate cause than he's already done. A well-respected climate scientist, he's been more outspoken than virtually all of his peers on the need for climate action. He first warned Congress about the threat of global warming way back in 1988, and he's been sounding the alarm with increasing urgency ever since. During the George W. Bush administration, his outspokenness irritated his superiors, so they tried to muzzle him -- an effort that backfired when Hansen went to The New York Times with the story. In 2009, he started getting arrested at climate protests, including protests against the Keystone XL pipeline.
But Hansen wants to do even more. And to do it, he's quitting his high-profile, influential day job. He will step down tomorrow as the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies after 46 years spent working there.
[R]etirement will allow Dr. Hansen to press his cause in court. He plans to take a more active role in lawsuits challenging the federal and state governments over their failure to limit emissions, for instance, as well as in fighting the development in Canada of a particularly dirty form of oil extracted from tar sands.
Once upon a time there was an adorable little 4-year-old sea lion named Ronan. She was found in on the highway in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and taken to the Pinniped Cognition and Sensory Systems Lab at UC Santa Cruz. A graduate student began training her to bob her head with a metronome. Over time -- with steady rewards of fish -- she began to be able to bob her head to songs that she'd never even heard before.
Not only is she amazing, she is making scientists question previously held beliefs about animals' ability to keep a beat -- she's the first nonhuman mammal to be proven to have a sense of rhythm. The results of this have recently been published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology. If, however, you don't feel like reading some boring article by a bunch of boring people that you probably won't understand anyway, you should just watch this:
Mark Kitchell didn't want to make your standard here's-a-really-important-issue, be-the-change-you-want-to-see-in-the-world, bleeding-heart environmental documentary. Kitchell, best known for his award-winning documentary Berkeley in the Sixties, doesn't even consider himself an environmentalist. But the story of the environmental movement was too much for him to resist.
"It doesn't get any bigger than this, in terms of a social movement," he says. "Especially when you think about what's at stake and the kind of transformation of society that needs to take place."
What Kitchell ended up producing was a kind of greatest hits of the environmental movement from its early days fighting over the building of dams in the West, to Love Canal, the first Earth Day, and the birth of Greenpeace, to the mother of all environmental issues -- and maybe all issues, period -- climate change. A Fierce Green Fire is now rolling out at a series of film festivals and theaters across the country.
I sat down with Kitchell recently to discuss his struggles telling the story of the environmental movement. Here are excerpts, edited for brevity and clarity.
Q. What was the most difficult part of this story to tell?
A. Telling the story of climate change is the greatest challenge, creatively, I have ever faced. At its essence, it's the impossible issue, impossible to deal with, impossible to ignore. On top of that, for a long time there weren't any events that gave evidence of a movement. No big protests like Love Canal or the first Earth Day. It is a creeping, slow, ineffable, and often intangible issue. I grew up in the era of the bomb and it was all going to end with a bang. This is the opposite. It's going to end with a whimper, and we aren't going to be able to tell when it has gone too far, when it's already too late. They say we have to really do something in the next two or three years to avoid catastrophe, but they've been saying that since the early '90s. So you see, it's a hard story to tell, hard to know which way we're moving, where the turning point is, whether or not we are actually building momentum, where this is all going, and even what we wish would happen.
Q. For each act in the film, there are images that summarize the movement: the famous cartoon advertisements of the Sierra Club against the building of dams in the West, the photo of a Greenpeace activist on a tiny boat in front of a whaling ship. What is the image for climate change?
If I were to tell you this is a story about a tornado in Kansas, it would probably bring to mind a certain doe-eyed girl and her little dog. Well, sometimes tornadoes transport girls and their adorable pets to magical lands. Other times they level entire towns.
That is what happened the night of May 4, 2007, when an EF-5 tornado (for non-Kansans, that’s a really freaking big -- the biggest, in fact) nearly two miles wide hit the town of Greensburg, a farming community in south-central Kansas. Almost all of the 1,383 residents lost their homes, nine died, and the town was left looking like this:
The destruction was sudden and the rebuilding process was daunting. However, as thoughts on how to rebuild swirled, a number of people thought, “Hey, what if we rebuilt Greensburg with ‘green’ principles? Ha, guys, see what I did there? Do you get it? ... Guys?”
To which many of their neighbors responded with a “yes, we do get it” and a “yeah, we thought of that idea, too.” Even before the tornado hit, the community was shrinking and its population getting older. Greensburg residents knew they needed a new strategy. The tornado, awful as it was, provided a clean slate.
Controversial geoengineering projects that may be used to cool the planet must be approved by world governments to reduce the danger of catastrophic accidents, British scientists said.
Met Office researchers have called for global oversight of the radical schemes after studies showed they could have huge and unintended impacts on some of the world's most vulnerable people.
The dangers arose in projects that cooled the planet unevenly. In some cases these caused devastating droughts across Africa; in others they increased rainfall in the region but left huge areas of Brazil parched.
"The massive complexities associated with geoengineering, and the potential for winners and losers, means that some form of global governance is essential," said Jim Haywood at the Met Office's Hadley Center in Exeter.
The warning builds on work by scientists and engineers to agree to a regulatory framework that would ban full-scale geoengineering projects, at least temporarily, but allow smaller research projects to go ahead.
Coming up on the six-month anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, New York City is ready to move on. But more than 2,000 Sandy refugees still living in the city's hotels are not -- since they're, you know, homeless.
According to the city's Department of Homeless Services, upwards of 900 displaced families are living in more than 45 different hotels throughout the five boroughs. Since last October, more than 3,000 storm-swept families have spent one or more nights in a hotel through a city program, which is slated to end on April 30. A separate FEMA program does not yet have an end date.
"We're trying to get people focused on the future," Homeless Services commissioner Seth Diamond told The Wall Street Journal. That would be a future in which they might not have anywhere to live, apparently. Diamond said the city would be placing some people in public housing units, while others might receive federal Section 8 vouchers. Everyone else would apparently be on their own, with some potentially having to leave the city altogether.
Some housing experts and elected officials said the city’s reliance on hotels underscored how federal and local disaster planning had to be revised to include more emergency rental assistance.
“Why are we spending money on hotels instead of helping families pay the rent?” asked Rosanne Haggerty, president of Community Solutions, a nonprofit organization in New York that works to end homelessness. She added, “For a fraction of the cost, families could be in a stable situation and getting a running start in putting their lives together.”
The damage from Hurricane Sandy revealed how many residents of coastal areas in New York, especially in Brooklyn and Queens, were renters with low incomes.