Obviously riding a bike is better than driving a car because, among other things, bikes don't emit greenhouse gases or other poisons. But what if bikes could actually reverse pollution, by sucking in smog and pumping out clean air?
It's theoretically possible, according to the group of Thai engineers and designers responsible for this concept bike.
I grew up around the North American Free Trade Agreement. It was all grownups talked about in Detroit: the Sound of NAFTA. Although not much rhymed with that phrase, the hills were indeed alive with the sounds of grouchy tool and die workers, complaining that all of our jobs were going to Mexico.
As a kid, I found it hard to see what was so exciting about jobs. My dad worked in a tool and die shop with bad ventilation and no heat, and every winter he would come down with a case of bronchitis that was one order of magnitude worse than the last. But it didn't matter what we thought, anyway. George Bush Sr. was for NAFTA, and Bill Clinton was for NAFTA, and the only guy who wasn't was Ross Perot -- which is always a sign your cause is in trouble.
Now, at nearly 20 years of age, NAFTA is almost old enough to drink responsibly. The number of people I knew who worked in tool and die shops went from everybody to nobody, and while on the whole the consensus has been this is Not Great, it's also been years since my dad has had trouble breathing.
What I didn't realize at the time was that NAFTA was not just about jobs. Chapter 11 of the agreement contained a provision that has had, and has continued to have, major effects on the environment and environmental regulations.
To understand why, look to the province of Quebec, which, two years ago, put a stop to fracking. At first the move didn't seem like much. Quebec's environment minister, Pierre Arcand, said that the province was just going to conduct an environmental review, and that "informative demonstrations" of hydraulic fracturing would still be allowed. But by April, 2012, there was a complete moratorium, the environmental review showed no signs of finishing, and there was talk of extending the ban five years into the future.
Attitudes in Canada seemed to be shifting. "Why does my kid come home from Alberta junior high school social studies saying the oil and gas industry is evil?" Michael Binnion, the CEO of Questerre Energy Corp., complained to Alberta Oil magazine. "I hardly know a senior oil and gas executive who hasn’t had a similar experience."
But Quebec's fracking ban wasn't simply a political move fueled by a cultural shift; it also carried a financial risk. This September, an energy company named Lone Pine Resources sued Canada for allowing the province to tighten its environmental policies, and asked for $250 million. The suit read:
The dispute is in relation to the Government of Quebec’s arbitrary, capricious, and illegal revocation of the Enterprise’s valuable right to mine for oil and gas under the St. Lawrence River, in violation of Chapter Eleven of the NAFTA.
Welcome to NAFTA's unexpected environmental legacy. Chapter 11 is not well known in the U.S. -- its tribunals are secret, and Canada and Mexico are the countries that get sued the most under it. But NAFTA was always meant to be a template for other trade agreements, and since its mid-'90s enactment it has become one. As NAFTA's offspring have multiplied around the world, so have lawsuits like Lone Pine's, where corporations seek damages from countries whose environmental regulations affect their ability to do business.
As snow and ice encrust wintertime roads in New York state, local and state transportation officials are turning to a questionable new source of salt to help them melt away the hazards of slippery roads: waste produced by the oil and gas industry.
That's a dirty habit that environmentalists and some lawmakers hope to break.
New York-based environmental group Riverkeeper discovered that officials were receiving state approval to use salty waste from drilling wells and gas storage facilities as a de-icer.
The discovery came after the nonprofit made a public-records request to the state's Department of Environmental Conservation. Riverkeeper's Kate Hudson said the documents handed over after that request revealed that the agency had approved 30 requests to use tainted brine from the oil and gas industry as a de-icer -- and that was prior to the recent return of Old Man Winter. Two of those permitting requests came from state transportation offices that manage roads in multiple counties.
It's a balmy, mid-November morning in Miami Beach, Fla., and I’m sitting at one of the cafe tables in front of the local Whole Foods, sipping a cup of coffee, and watching the tide come up. Oh, you can’t see the ocean from here. The tide is gurgling up through the storm drains along the street.
It starts at about 8:00. A trickle of water from a nearby grate quickly becomes a stream which becomes a lake, spreading across the intersection of Alton Road and 10th Street. By 8:20, water pours off of the cars rolling into the parking lot. At 8:40, it reaches the axles of the Jeep parked on the corner. Pedestrians abandon the submerged sidewalks for high ground in the middle of the Alton Road, dodging rooster tails kicked up by passing vehicles. To get back across town, I'll have to wade through murk that comes almost to my knees.
One of my sources here, a scientist studying the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise, tells me that if I stick my finger in that water and taste it, it will be salty. I look at the gunk burbling out of the gutters, swirling with oily rainbows and cigarette butts, and decide to take her word for it.
The water is coming from Biscayne Bay, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that lies between Miami Beach and the city of Miami. Steadily rising high tides in recent years have driven the stuff backwards through the storm drains, underneath protective seawalls, spilling into the streets and spawning a multimillion dollar retrofit to the city's drainage system. In the process, Crockett and Tubbs’ seaside haunt has become a bellwether for coastal communities everywhere that are only just beginning to grok the implications of a problem that will dog us for generations.
However bad you think factory farming is, however often you think you've heard about the worst and grossest practice yet, there's always one more additional, disgusting detail that you've overlooked. At OnEarth, Brad Jacobson brings us one of those. It turns out that some farms feed cows the mess from the bottom of chicken cages:
Poultry litter is the agriculture industry’s term for the detritus that gets scooped off the floors of chicken cages and broiler houses. It’s mainly a combination of feces, feathers, and uneaten chicken feed, but in addition, a typical sample of poultry litter might also contain antibiotics, heavy metals, disease-causing bacteria, and even bits of dead rodents, according to Consumers Union …
Is bike porn not quite, well, PORNY enough for you? Then you need the 2014 Bike Date Calendar, the equivalent of a cycling-themed Harlequin novel. Why content yourself with ogling bikes when you can ogle a bike that's about to GET SOME?
Colorado photographer Corie Spruill wanted to make an alternative to male-gazey calendars like Cyclepassion, which features nearly nude female cyclists straddling bike parts. So she photographed her female friends on “dates” with their wheels. As Spruill told the Atlantic:
We need men because we need romance in life. But if a bike could provide romance, we might not need a man.
Interesting theory. Can someone tell her about lesbianism?
When pollution drifts by wind into other states, landing in people’s lungs and endangering their lives, it seems sensible to require the state where the pollution originated to put in controls so its industry stops harming its neighbors. It’s like a family of smokers in which a child has asthma: The onus is on the adults to limit their smoking so it doesn’t reach the crib or the playroom.
But what if the pollution is coming from several different states, and mixing in ways that it’s difficult to ascertain where each plume originates? Who determines how much pollution each state is responsible for? And who decides how best to control it? The states, the federal government, the courts?
The U.S. Supreme Court attempted to unravel this Gordian knot on Tuesday, hearing 90 minutes of oral argument for a case that will likely impact how hundreds of power plants and factories do business throughout the Midwest while helping clear the air in dozens of East Coast cities.
The growing wave of local fracking bans is sweeping into Texas, where the state's third largest city has put a near-total kibosh on the practice.
The Dallas City Council adopted new rules on Wednesday that bar hydraulic fracturing within 1,500 feet of a home,school, church, or well. Dallas is now the largest of five Texan cities and towns that have imposed local restrictions on fracking. The city, which sits at the edge of the gas-rich Barnett Shale area, had previously imposed a safety buffer of 300 feet and banned fracking in parks and flood plains.
Because Dallas contains more than a half million homes, the new rule effectively outlaws fracking through most of the city. “[W]e might as well save a lot of paper and write a one-line ordinance that says there will be no gas drilling in the city of Dallas,” quipped a council member who voted against the new rules. “That would be a much easier ordinance to have.”