As our human habitations encroach more and more on animal habitats, interactions become inevitable -- whether that means bears eating from trash cans, seals sleeping on sofas, or baby moose caught in fences. Luckily this little buddy ran into kind-hearted humans when he got himself trapped in a wooden gate in a Canadian suburb.
The U.S. Department of Justice just slapped another polluter around. Yesterday, Justice officials ordered the Koch brothers-owned Flint Hills Resources company to pay $350,000 in Clean Air Act fines for spewing thousands of tons of hazardous air pollutants from one of its chemical plants in Port Arthur, Texas. The company must also spend upwards of $30 million on equipment upgrades to reduce its emissions for particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide -- agents of asthma, lung disease, and death, respectively.
This is no small matter for the Gulf Coast city, about 90 minutes east of Houston. This is the dirtiest of the dirtiest areas in America. It’s where where the Keystone XL pipeline is scheduled to dump tar-sands oil from Canada. The Koch bros’ plant is just one of a gaggle of petrochemical processing facilities, oil refineries, waste incinerators, and gas pipelines strangling Port Arthur, a city also beset by ghastly levels of lung disease and cancer. Then there’s the social asphyxiation of poverty and racism on the predominantly black and Latino city.
Nobody wants to be called "appallingly irresponsible," but it's especially galling when the insult comes from the fracking industry.
Members of Los Angeles City Council, which may soon impose a moratorium on fracking, this week proposed that the city work with the U.S. Geological Survey and other scientists to determine whether a 4.4-magnitude quake on Monday was linked to nearby hydraulic fracturing. Fracking practices have been linked to earthquakes in other parts of the country.
"It is crucial to the health and safety of the City's residents to understand the seismic impacts of oil and gas extraction activities in the City," three lawmakers wrote in a motion that they introduced on Tuesday.
Earthquakes happen all the time in California. Monday's temblor was deeper than most fracking industry–induced earthquakes, though it was attention-grabbing because it occurred in an area not normally known for quakes. And it struck mere days after a trio of nonprofits warned in a report that the fracking sector could trigger earthquakes in California.
So it seems reasonable that L.A. lawmakers would want scientists to look into the issue. But frackers are not known to be reasonable people. The Western States Petroleum Association reacted vehemently to the insinuations and to the proposed scientific research. Its president, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, denied any industry links to Monday's earthquake, and decried the council members as "appallingly irresponsible."
UPDATE: It looks like Steve Mufson and Juliet Eilperin, the authors of the Washington Post article upon which this post was based, are backing down on their claims — sort of. The Koch brothers have leases on a confirmed 1.1 million acres of Alberta tar sands, and the article's authors cite unnamed "industry sources we consider highly authoritative" who estimate that amount of land to be closer to two million acres. Mufson and Eilperin claim that if the latter figure is accurate, the Koch brothers are indeed the largest lease-holders in the region. However, Jonathan Adler, a columnist for the Washington …
Greenland’s northern ice sheet is a mile thick and melting quickly, infinitesimally raising sea level and freaking everybody out. But we can say with 90 percent certainty that the solution is NOT to ship ice cubes to Greenland from L.A. And yet that’s exactly what Robert Welkie of Ice Cycle wants to do:
Ice Cycle technicians will collect donated ice cubes from restaurants and other food service facilities in Los Angeles in specially designed containers ... The ice cubes will be stored in liquid form --
So ... water.
-- until there are enough to fill a cargo shipping container that will be shipped from Los Angeles Harbor to the port of Ilulissat, Greenland.
Once the five-gallon ice cubes dock in Greenland, volunteers will transport them to a government-approved site and assemble them into a “symbolic glacier.” Welkie says in a video that metaphors and symbols inspire action more than facts do; the goal is to make people feel like we have more agency in the face of climate change.
For that reason, I've been enjoying Rachel Cernasky's piece for Matter this week, which makes the tangled web of hopes, dreams, and backstabbery around coal-ash regulation about as thrilling as one could hope for. The specific coal-ash accident that she's writing about -- when the 60-foot retaining wall of a coal-ash holding pond upstream of Kingston, Tenn., broke in 2008 -- is not a new one, but she tells it well:
[T]he sludge made its way 200 feet down to the banks of the Emory. It was so strong and dense that when it hit the water, it forced the river to change its path, pushing it eastward. The water, glistening just hours before, became a thick, gray soup rich in carcinogens and heavy metals.
For about an hour, while the town of Kingston slept, the slime spilled further and further from its retaining pond. The earth shook. The spill became a conveyer belt that slowly moved through the surrounding forest, ripping trees from their roots and driving them along its path.
Living simply means making do with less -- less space, less stuff, less money. Oh wait! Make that MORE money. In fact, make that $995,000, because that’s how much you’ll need to shell out for Treehugger founder Graham Hill’s 420-square-foot apartment in Soho. (That may sound like a lot, but it’s only $5,000 a month!)
This isn’t just ANY tiny apartment, though. Hill held a global design competition to come up with the layout for the gutted space. A sliding wall, murphy bed, and fold-down bunkbeds maximize the space, and a hidden, snap-together dinner table can seat 12. The place is also pimped out with everything from solar panels and fancy appliances to a built-in sound system, projector, and pull-down screen for movies (Netflix, of course -- DVDs are so passé). Check it out:
VICE Magazine started in 1994 by meticulously documenting hip for the young and tattooed, but in recent years, its founders have transformed it into a sort of National Geographic for the young and tattooed. Shane Smith, founder and CEO of VICE Media and host of VICE on HBO, insists dominating the news cycle will be next on the menu, and that includes expanded coverage of climate change -- what he calls the biggest story of our age.
He makes good on his promise in the newest episode of VICE, which airs on HBO tonight at 11 p.m. EST. In it, Smith travels to Greenland with climate scientist Jason Box to document Greenland's rapid melt in real time. Watch a clip:
We caught up with Smith to chat about climate storytelling, denier trolls, and how to make people understand how melting ice in Greenland will end up flooding their basements.
If you’re gonna get in a wreck while biking, this is probably the best outcome you could hope for -- miraculously landing on a mattress that fell off the very truck you were hit by:
The cyclist was biking on a road without a shoulder in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, when a pickup swerved to avoid him, losing a poorly secured mattress in the process. The mattress hit the cyclist’s wheel and swept him onto it in what has to be the fastest mattress delivery of all time. (A security camera at a driving school captured the incident earlier this week.)
Local officials said the cyclist only had minor injuries, according to Globo -- making him an extremely lucky guy. For anyone toting big furniture, tie that shit down like you’re in 50 Shades.*
In his big climate plan released last June, President Obama promised new rules to reduce methane leakage during the production and transport of natural gas. Since then, we've learned that the problem of methane leaks is much larger than the government had estimated.
Now the administration is poised to finally announce those regulations and help prevent the country’s natural gas industry from turning the world into a Dutch oven.
When burned, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide as coal. But methane, the main component of natural gas, is a much more potent greenhouse gas when released directly into the atmosphere, 86 times stronger than CO2 over a 20-year time frame.
Obama adviser John Podesta told reporters this week that the White House is "in the throes of finalizing" a government-wide strategy aimed at reducing accidental leaks of methane. The Washington Post reports that the new rules could be announced as soon as this month. They don't require the approval of Congress.