Skip to content Skip to site navigation

More Articles


Bigmouth strikes again: Morrissey compares meat-eaters to pedophiles


Stop us if you think you’ve heard this one before: Morrissey, sad-sack rock god, recently blasted meat-eaters as no different than pedophiles. (In 1985, he said eating meat is “like biting into your grandmother,” which we find funnier and less confusing.) Not only did he write on his website that meat eaters would’ve been Nazi sympathizers during World War II, but he also refuses to talk to people who eat meat, full stop.

Here are the juicy bits:

I see no difference between eating animals and paedophilia. They are both rape, violence, murder. If I'm introduced to anyone who eats beings, I walk away. Imagine, for example, if you were in a nightclub and someone said to you "Hello, I enjoy bloodshed, throat-slitting and the destruction of life," well, I doubt if you'd want to exchange phone numbers.

Read more: Food, Living


Ask Umbra: Why must we “store” renewable energy? Can’t we just use it?

solar sun power plug

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. I’m confused about renewable energy storage. Last I checked, renewable energy was but a small fraction of total electricity generation on our grid. I don't think we have ever generated SO much renewable energy at one time that it became necessary to choose between storing it or grounding it. Shouldn't we be using absolutely every kilowatt-hour of renewable energy right when it's generated? And am I incorrect in assuming that the necessity for storage won't even arise for decades in the future?

Christian B.
Los Alamitos, Calif.

A. Dearest Christian,

If only understanding the vast, high-voltage web of infrastructure we call the grid was as simple as flicking a switch. What seems so straightforward on our end -- turn on the lights and bam, electricity! -- is truly a complex system designed to move huge amounts of power staggering distances, all so that we can exercise our right to run the washing machine, dishwasher, and power drill all at the same time.

You’re not alone in your confusion about the country’s power grid, or how renewable energy sources like solar and wind power plug into it. Allow me to shed some light on the subject.


Dumb cuts and dumber riders: The green take on the new federal budget

U.S. Capitol

In this highly polarized Congress, it counts as a major achievement merely to pass a bill that funds the government’s activities. So pop the champagne, because we have a budget. It even passed the House Tuesday afternoon with wide bipartisan support, a feat usually only achieved these days by symbolic feel-good resolutions. Senate passage and Obama's signature are expected to follow soon.

But don’t get too excited. When it comes to the environment, the omnibus spending bill marks only marginal progress over the incredibly low standards that have been set in recent years. And it includes multiple riders inserted by House Republicans to undermine environmental regulation.


Leaked Pacific trade treaty draft suggests the planet will pay

Why are these leaders of Pacific trade group nations (gathered in 2010) all smiling?
Wikimedia Commons
Why are these leaders of Pacific trade group nations (gathered in 2010) all smiling?

Back in December, I wrote about the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (a.k.a. the TPP), a trade agreement whose passage is both a firmly stated goal of the Obama administration, and a great nightmare of environmentalists and civil liberties types, for a whole smorgasbord of reasons. Now there's a new development: A leaked draft of the environmental chapter of the TPP appeared Wednesday on Wikileaks.

The main environmental critique of the TPP up until this point was that it would open up the U.S. to lawsuits from companies that had investments in American companies. Under the terms of a draft of the investments chapter, which was leaked back in 2011, any company that did business with the U.S. could argue, under the terms of the treaty, that our environmental laws were interfering with its ability to make money. The lawsuits, which are judged by special treaty-tribunal, don't allow for any sort of appeal, and the records are not available to the public.

Just about every treaty since NAFTA has had an agreement like this, but the U.S. has largely been insulated from its effects -- in the past, it always entered into these treaties with countries that were either too poor to have American investments or just not interested in them. The TPP would include Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, Brunei, and possibly China. So it would shift a power balance that has, however unfairly, been tilted in the U.S.'s favor.

People had hopes, if not especially high ones, for the environmental chapter. The Obama administration had claimed that it would address some cutting-edge environmental issues. It was also thought to be a fairly pragmatic rehash of a Bush-era bipartisan trade deal drawn up between the U.S., Peru, Colombia, Panama, and Korea. That deal established a mutual agreement between all countries to work together to stop illegal logging, trade in endangered species, and overfishing, and to subject anyone found in violation to trade sanctions until they came into compliance.


Major newspaper coverage of climate change plummeted last year

stack of newspapers

We were feeling optimistic a couple of weeks ago when we reported that mainstream media coverage of climate and energy issues was up last year. But it turns out that if you remove the "and energy," the numbers are actually pretty depressing.

The University of Colorado’s Center for Science & Technology Research monitors mentions of “global warming” and “climate change” in five major U.S. newspapers: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. Check out the following sad graph showing its latest findings:

Click to embiggen.
University of Colorado
Click to embiggen.
Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Watch this fish eat a bird right out of the sky

A bird skimming along the top of the water, seizing a fish, and eating it: boring, everyday occurrence. But a bird skimming along the top of the water and then getting CHOMPED BY A FISH is kind of the "man bites dog" of nature:

Read more: Living


This old thing? San Francisco finds new life for dead threads

clothing pile

Style meccas, tilt your ears: San Francisco's moving sustainability forward along with their fashion. On Wednesday, Mayor Ed Lee announced the debut of a city-wide textile recycling initiative.

San Franciscans trash 4,500 pounds of clothing an hour, according to the SF Environment Department. To put a dent in that number, more than 160 textile recycling bins were rolled out at noon in schools, stores, and libraries around the city.

The bins, and today’s announcement, are the first step in what will be a learning process for both San Francisco and the global clothing recycler they’re working with, I:CO.

Read more: Cities, Living


Sustainable butcher shop responds to PETA attack in classiest way possible

PETA billboard
Publican Restaurant

Yo PETA! I got a bone to pick with you (as it were). Why go after a small, sustainable neighborhood butcher shop when you could take on, I DUNNO, Tyson? Hormel? Cargill? You know, pick on somebody your own size!


The consistently assholey (and sexist) animal rights group put up a billboard across the street from Chicago’s Publican Quality Meats. (“You can live without those ribs. I can't,” the sign reads, with a photo of a pig. “Try vegan.” Image above.) But rather than get ragey (like, say, I just did), Publican responded with grace and intelligence:

We choose to eat meat, but acknowledge that death as respectfully as possible. We deal with farms and purveyors where animals are free-range, uncaged, fed natural diets, are given no antibiotics or steroids and are slaughtered as humanely and painlessly as possible. But they ARE slaughtered. There is a death.

This is why we do not waste a molecule of these beautiful animals ... We feel this honors the life of the animal and is the right way to do this kind of work ...


North Dakota’s top oil regulator is also its top oil promoter


In North Dakota, where an oil boom is leading to spills and explosions, the top oil regulator also serves as a cheerleader for the oil industry. And some Democrats think it's time for the pom-poms to change hands.

The Forum News Service reports that state's Senate and House minority leaders have asked the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which oversees industries including oil and gas, to separate the oil regulation and promotion responsibilities of the Department of Mineral Resources's boss.


Thanks to new regulations on toxic paint, female snails are losing their penises

Penis of the Phallomedusa Solida (a Mangrove Snail From The Sydney Harbour)
John Brash/Maria Fernanda Cardoso
Penis of the Phallomedusa solida (a mangrove snail from the Sydney Harbor).

There's nothing wrong with switching genders, but you want that process to be voluntary. And for female marine snails who found themselves with penises and vas deferens so big they blocked eggs from coming out, it definitely was not.

The sneak-attack peens were caused by the chemical tributyltin (TBT), which leached out of the paint on ship hulls and into the ocean. The chemical has been messing with marine life since the 1970s, and we’ve understood the extent and gravity of the problem since the '80s, says the Australian Broadcasting Corporation -- but it took until 2008 for a global ban on TBT to finally take effect.

But it's only taken a few years, ABC says, for the snail populations to settle back in their correct secondary sex characteristics:

Read more: Living