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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Pacific Garbage Patch has gotten 100 times worse in 40 years

Since the 1970s, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- an area of the ocean clotted with plastic microparticles -- has grown 100-fold. And this is very bad news, not only because of the creatures it harms but because of the ones it helps.

According to a new study from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, every cubic meter of ocean in the area, a Texas-sized chunk of ocean located 1,000 miles north of Hawaii, has about 100 times more plastic than it did 40 years ago.

Read more: Pollution

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Dutch ‘Repair Cafes’ keep stuff out of the trash by fixing it for free

In the Netherlands, there are more than 30 "Repair Cafes" -- groups that meet once or twice a month to repair (for free!) clothes and gizmos and tools that might otherwise be discarded. The New York Times visited the original Repair Cafe, which began two and a half years ago, and found that people want to keep their stuff -- even cheap stuff, like H&M skirts. They just don't know how to mend it themselves:

“This cost 5 or 10 euros,” about $6.50 to $13, [Sigrid Deters] said, adding that she had not mended it herself because she was too clumsy. “It’s a piece of nothing, you could throw it out and buy a new one. But if it were repaired, I would wear it.”

The group repairs electronics, too -- everything from big-ticket items like vacuums and washing machines to the little gadgets that go haywire, like irons, toaster ovens, and coffee pots.

Read more: Cities, Urbanism

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Critical List: Canada will fall short of emissions goal; people hate smart meters

Props to Canada for setting an actual carbon emissions goal. Too bad there's almost no way they're going to meet it.

The World Bank is pushing countries to put a monetary value on the resources their ecosystems provide.

A new study shows that monkeys who were exposed to BPA in utero developed unusually dense mammary tissue -- in humans, a risk for breast cancer.

Those dead pelicans that washed up on the shores of Peru likely starved to death.

Read more: Uncategorized

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The most beautiful illegal treehouse you’ve ever seen

OK, I had always understood that Canadians build tree forts with little tiny fridges in them if, and only if, they have a million dollars. But Vancouver-area software developer Joel Allen built his insanely beautiful HemLoft when he went financially bust. And because he was broke, he built it by hand, illegally, on government-owned land.

Read more: Green Home, Living

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Brooklynites distribute handmade artisanal parking tickets

Woe betide you if you decide to drive your ironic vintage Yugo in Brooklyn instead of your fixed-gear bike with detachable mustache. Park Slope residents have had enough of those bullshit half-spaces that show up in front of cars when someone moves an SUV and it gets replaced by a compact. They're so pissed off, they're hauling out their letterpresses and feverishly hand-pulling artisanal parking tickets.

Read more: Cities

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City-dwellers’ allergies are so bad because they don’t have enough bacteria

This allergy season has been terrible. It seems like everyone I know has been running around with leaky eyes, even those of us who aren't typically pollen-sensitive. Granted, there was an unusual amount of tree sperm in the air this year, but it seemed strange that everybody -- really, everybody! -- was afflicted. But a new study by Finnish researchers explains everything: The reason we’re all so sick is that we live in the city.

According to this study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and based on research done in Finland, people who live in cities are more prone to developing allergies and asthma because their environments lack biodiversity. That’s not biodiversity as in “not enough kinds of cuddly wildlife” (although that too!) -- it's about the diversity of bacteria that live on your skin. If you live in the city, these freeloaders are less varied, and that spells trouble.

Read more: Cities, Clean Air

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Dinosaur farts caused early global warming

Dinosaur gas. (Photo by NCReedplayer.)

More than a quarter of the world's human-related methane emissions come from livestock burps and farts, which is bad enough -- but imagine what the climate would look like if cows weighed 25 tons. Back in dinosaur days, we had some seriously outsize herbivores roaming the planet, making some seriously outsize butt music. A team of British researchers has now calculated how much gas those giant asses would have passed, and concluded that dinosaur emissions contributed significantly to Mesozoic global warming.

Read more: Climate Change

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Critical List: Peru’s mysterious animal deaths; wolf puppies

Pelicans and dolphins are dying in droves in Peru -- 1,200 birds and 800 dolphins have washed up dead on the coast -- and the government is warning people away from the beaches until it figures out why.

Dinosaurs might have passed enough gas (i.e. methane) to match current levels of greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Crawford family of Texas held out against TransCanada reps who want to route Keystone XL through their land, and now the company's trying to force them to give that land up.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Heartland Institute’s BS ad campaign is causing it all kinds of problems

OK, I'm working on a joke, tell me if you think this works: How is the Heartland Institute like a professional burlesque dancer? It just can't stop showing its ass! Eh? Eh?

All right, maybe not, but the point is it's been a hard year for poor Heartland, which just can't seem to not look like a bunch of reprehensible dirtbags in public, probably on account of being a bunch of reprehensible dirtbags. First there was the embarrassing disclosure of the group's secret memos, which lost it a lot of support despite hypocritical victim posturing. Then everyone took umbrage at one little grossly offensive, hideously fallacious, poorly capitalized ad campaign. And now Heartland's friends are deserting it, because apparently even denialists consider "if you believe in global warming, you are basically Charles Manson" to be a step too far. It's enough to make you weep, really it is.

Here's what Heartland's allies and donors are saying about the campaign:

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Weird, adorable animal spotted for the first time in over a decade

Photo by arndbergmann.

The tiger quoll is an adorable, carnivorous marsupial, sort of like an extra-cute Tasmanian devil with spots. Like most of the other weird marsupials, they're only found in Australia, and they've been increasingly hard to find in the wild. In the Otway Ranges in southwestern Victoria, there hadn't been a confirmed quoll sighting in more than 10 years -- until last month, when a local homeowner saw one poop outside his laundry room.

Read more: Animals