Okay, yes, everybody -- especially vegans, corporation-haters, and bloggers who like writing about gross things you just put in your mouth -- got a little excited over the news that Starbucks' Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino derives its red color from crushed bugs. But here's what you didn't know: That's actually a good thing.
Globally, every year fossil fuels get six times as much money in subsidies than renewable energy. Given a world population of around 7 billion, that means every man woman and child on the planet is spending an average of $58 a year to prop this industry up, but only around $9 to support renewables.
Last week, NASA released satellite images showing that the Saudis are irrigating the desert in order to grow food -- with fossil water that accumulated during the last Ice Age and will be gone completely in 50 years. It's the very definition of unsustainable.
Data visualization wizards Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg have devised a real-time map of wind speeds in the U.S., and it beats the pants off spiky cold fronts, happy suns, and whatever else they're putting on weather maps these days. It's simple, elegant, and crazy hypnotic -- watch it together with the lava lamp ocean currents, and you might just go into a turbulence-inspired trance and start making noises like Osborne Reynolds. (Look it up, jerks.)
Here's a theme we're going to see a lot in the 21st century:
Payback is a bitch.
The president who nixed America's commitment to the carbon-reducing Kyoto protocol, whose administration censored reports on climate science, and whose State Department thanked Exxon executives for their "active involvement" in helping to determine climate change policy, is watching the town in which he grew up squirm in the grip of Texas' epic, climate change-enhanced drought.
Here's a Starbucks order to try out: a Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino with soy milk and a shot of crushed parasitic insects.
Actually, you don't need to order the bugs -- they come standard with the drink, in the form of the red dye used to give the frap that special strawberry color.
Yes, the insects are crushed, and yes, they are a commonly used natural food dye. Enjoyed a strawberry PopTart lately? Yeah, those use crushed critters for coloring, too.
So you may have already eaten your peck of bugs, and besides, insects are nutritious. Still, there's obviously a bit of an "ew" factor here. It's one thing to eat bugs knowingly, but when a gigantic corporation sticks them into a sugar bomb without asking, I think one is entitled to feel at least as miffed as when one's parents snuck broccoli into a perfectly good Kraft macaroni-and-cheese dinner. There are some health impacts, too, for the factory workers who produce the dye.
If you've got an acre of land, and a magical get-out-of-jail-free card, which cash crop do you grow -- wheat, soybeans, or marijuana?
That’s a good metaphor for a city's decision to invest in its downtown versus sprawl, says Joe Minicozzi, the new projects director at Public Interest Projects. Minicozzi uses the pot-vs.-soybeans hypothetical because people intuitively grasp the value of cash crops -- that an acre of high-grade weed throws off 10 or 20 times as much income as a food crop.
Scientists have been saying that maple syrup production could be devastated in 20 to 30 years, but this season's warm temperatures are so extreme that we're getting a taste of that state of the climate now. Or maybe climate change is two decades ahead of schedule and we are even more screwed than we thought.