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Animal House

The untold story of deforestation: Slothageddon

three-toed-sloth-flickr
Brian Gratwicke

When a stretch of forest in Suriname was slatted to be cleared in October 2012, Monique Pool, a known sloth caretaker, was asked if she could take in the 14 displaced sloths. Of course she said yes (or she would have faced the wrath of a jealous internet). A machine operator slowly pushed over trees as Pool and a team of volunteers rushed about picking up the sloths that fell out of the canopy. As 14 quickly turned to 200, the sloth lover’s dream come true became the ultimate nightmare: slothageddon (Pool’s word, not mine). From BBC News: Sloths were hanging everywhere -- from the trees in her …

Read more: Living

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FDA tells livestock and dairy farmers: We’re cutting you off — no more beer!

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Shutterstock

The United States is about to have a slew of hungry and sober cows on our hands, which, for the record, is not a good combination for any mammal.

The FDA’s proposed Food Safety Modernization Act guidelines would prohibit breweries from sharing their fermented grains with livestock farmers. Farmers have long been using this boozy mash as free feed for their cows, and this relationship has provided an efficient way for the beer industry to repurpose its waste.*

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These little hacks make cities more sustainable and fun

Sometimes all it takes is imagination, some stealth, and a little elbow grease to turn the mundane into something playful. Rotten Apple, an anonymous art project based in New York City, turns ordinary and forgotten city objects into usable, sustainable mini-hacks. Here's how they describe where they land:

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Rotten Apple

So, how does that look on the ground? They added a seat on a hinge to a bicycle rack for a pop-down chair:

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Rotten Apple

They turned a forgotten newspaper kiosk into a cold weather clothing bank:

Read more: Cities, Living

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The Onion manages to make even extinction funny

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Sam Howzit

Shit’s disappearing, and it’s a bummer. We try to stay upbeat, but sometimes all the news of vanishing ecosystem this and endangered that gets us down. Thankfully, the irrepressible Onion has made even biodiversity loss funny with “EPA Announces New Initiative To Conserve Whatever’s Left.”

In the Onion's alternate reality, the EPA has newly devoted $70 million for halfheartedly saving the few remaining trees, animals, or whatever else happens to be lying around:

“By working together with scientists, lawmakers, and various conservation groups, we hope to preserve those ecosystems and forms of wildlife that have actually managed to hang in there for this long,” said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy ...

“Basically, whichever organisms are living right now, we’re going try to keep them alive,” she continued. “If that’s still a possibility.”

Additionally, the agency affirmed its commitment to deploying its personnel nationwide to do “whatever can be done at this point” to safeguard areas that may still contain clean air, clean water, and land that’s not completely covered in refuse and filth ...

“Of course, that’s only until our funding is cut even further,” McCarthy added. “Then, you know, the environment’s pretty much on its own.”

It’s funny (slash sad) because it’s true! The EPA’s been making some questionable choices lately, from lifting BP’s drilling ban to running a fake clean energy scam. And in light of McCarthy’s comment in September that “Climate change is not about polar bears,” the Onion’s piece doesn’t seem THAT far off.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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This vegan bakery could be the next Cinnabon

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Cinnaholic

What is it about Cinnabon? THAT SMELL. The doughy simple sugars spiking straight into your system. The extra little container of frosting you can get. Be right back, we have to run to the mall.

Anyway, vegan cinnamon roll shop Cinnaholic just started accepting franchise applications, so your town could get a dairy-free version of our favorite unhealthy treat (no offense, gelato and Pirate’s Booty!). Maybe you’ll even be behind the counter?

Founders Shannon and Florian Radke opened the first Cinnaholic in 2010 in Berkeley (of course). Today, you can pick from almost 30 flavors of frosting and 25 toppings, so if you’ve always wanted a vegan cinnamon roll with pina colada-flavored frosting and cookie dough on top, that clanging you hear is St. Peter throwing open the pearly gates.

Read more: Food, Living

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It helps to like your neighbor during a natural disaster

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Shutterstock

"When a storm hits, there are no strangers -- only neighbors helping neighbors, communities rallying to rebuild," says President Obama in a YouTube video, looking out at Americans on the internet. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the White House has gone to some lengths to communicate its long-term strategy on disaster preparedness. You might expect the president to start a speech like this by talking about improving infrastructure, facilitating fast responses from FEMA, or even addressing environmental concerns, but instead, he led with the idea of strong communities. Which raises a question: What does neighborliness have to do with storm preparedness?

Quite a bit, apparently. A June study from the Associated Press and National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that towns and neighborhoods with a strong sense of social connection recovered faster after Hurricane Sandy. People living in the areas that recovered from the storm the fastest were more likely to say that others can be trusted (44 vs. 33 percent) and that the disaster brought out the best in their neighbors (81 vs. 63 percent). In areas that have had a harder time bouncing back, more people reported seeing looting (31 vs. 7 percent), vandalism (21 vs. 5 percent), and hoarding of food and water (47 vs. 25 percent).

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

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Can you go a day without trash? Try it on April 9

adaywithoutwaste

Two-thirds of our waste doesn’t get recycled or composted. Youth activism nonprofit Global Citizen wants to see if you can get that down to zero on Wednesday, which it’s christened #ADayWithoutWaste.

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Can you go one day without creating any garbage -- or at least using a travel mug instead of a paper coffee cup? How about a reusable shopping bag instead of a plastic one? (Say it with us now: “No straw in my maw!”)

Because if not, no pressure, but your relationship is totally doomed. Case in point: This guy trying to celebrate the most important of anniversaries -- SEVEN MONTHS! -- and being totally foiled by that old supervillain, trash:

Read more: Living

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Europe wimps out again on airlines’ carbon pollution

China Airlines
Shutterstock / Lukas Rebec

European efforts to force international airlines to pay for their carbon pollution will stay parked on the runway for at least several more years.

Airlines are covered by the European Union's Emissions Trading System. Airfares for flights within Europe have included a carbon fee under that system since the beginning of 2012. The plan has been to expand the program to include international flights that begin or end in Europe, but that proposal has been vigorously opposed by China, the U.S., and other countries. China had put a large order for aircraft from Europe-based Airbus on hold over the dispute.

On Thursday, amid promises that the climate-unfriendly airline industry will soon launch its own climate program, the U.S. and China prevailed, again, clinching a years-long delay. Members of the European Parliament voted 458 to 120 to exempt flights in and out of Europe from the emissions trading program until early 2017. A bid to delay the program until 2020 was rejected by the lawmakers.

"We have the next International Civil Aviation Organization assembly in 2016," parliamentarian Peter Liese said. "If it fails to deliver a global [climate] agreement, then nobody could justify our maintaining such an exemption." But so far the aviation industry's efforts to develop its own climate plan have been feeble.

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Republicans join Democrats in trying to revive wind energy incentives

Wind energy
Shutterstock

The political winds in the nation's capitol shifted on Thursday in favor of wind energy.

A Senate committee passed a bill that would restore two key tax credits for the wind industry. Both credits have helped spur the sector's rapid growth in recent years, but Congress allowed them to expire at the end of last year. Uncertainty over whether the incentives would be extended into 2014 was blamed for a startling decline in wind farm construction last year, when just 1 gigawatt of capacity was installed -- down from 13 gigawatts the year before.

Thursday's move by the Senate Finance Committee doesn't guarantee that the full Senate will support resurrection of the credits, much less the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But encouraging signs emerged after Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) tried to kill the credits. He argued that restoring them would amount to picking energy-industry winners and losers and forcing taxpayers to "subsidize inefficient, uncompetitive forms of energy." (Meanwhile, taxpayers continue a century-long tradition of subsidizing fossil fuels.) CleanTechnica reports on the encouraging bipartisan response to Toomey's effort:

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The week in GIFs: Genies, junk, and Mary Jane

There was plenty of odd news this week, even not counting April Fools' Day. (Last week: all of your favorite vices.)

Now you can find love on a tiny house dating site:

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The U.N. climate report was pretty depressing, but it had a few bright spots:

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Read more: Living