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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Senegal’s salt lakes look like Pepto-Bismol

This is Lake Retba in Senegal, NOT the contents of your stomach when you drink too much Strawberry Quik and then have to chase it down with Pepto-Bismol and tiny boats. The lake itself is actually not in danger, but given that I just yelled "WHAT IN BLAZES?" and nearly dropped a cup of coffee on my dog, I'm still going to label this an environmental hazard.

Read more: Food

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This graphic novel about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch looks awesome

I'm Not a Plastic Bag is a graphic novel about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the agglomeration of plastic flakes that is swirling around in the Pacific Ocean. The book follows the journey of several pieces of trash destined to become part of the patch. The images are beautiful, and the story's reminiscent of The Brave Little Toaster, updated for a world in which trash doesn't get to live a second life.

The book is by Rachel Hope Allison, who describes herself as "a white girl with curly hair" who is nevertheless “not Jewish, nor am I Chelsea Clinton.” We can't help but have a little crush on her. Especially after she told Treehugger what drew her to this subject:

All this forgotten stuff, out in the remotest ocean, so far away from the people who created it. It gave me this sense of deep loneliness and geeky wonder by turns, and that's what eventually led me to bring it to life as my main character.

Read more: Living, Pollution

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$28 cabbage, $65 chicken, and other insane food prices in Northern Canada

Nunavut is the edge of the world in a lot of ways -- it's the farthest-north part of Canada, a broken-up spray of frozen land coming off the top of the country like a very icy mohawk. In terms of land mass, it's bigger than any other Canadian province or territory, with an area the size of Western Europe, but its population (mostly Inuit) is smaller than Berkeley's -- and I mean the university, not the town.

So it's remote, and cold, and sparsely settled, but none of that really explains why food is so outrageously expensive that the basic necessities of life are beyond normal people's reach. Now, the locals are starting to get fed up (not literally, because they can't afford it), and they're agitating for government attention to their unsustainable cost of living. Cabbage that costs $28? Chicken for $65 a pound? They're having Nunavut. (Sorry.) (Not sorry.)

Below are some photos of real food and water prices from the "Feeding Our Families" Facebook group. Canadian dollars and American dollars are basically the same now, so there's no need to do complicated monetary conversions to figure out how staggering this is. It's as staggering as you think.

Read more: Food

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Bereaved husband sues NYPD for failing to investigate pedestrian death

Last summer, 28-year-old Clara Heyworth died while crossing the street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn -- she was hit by a car piloted by an intoxicated driver who only had a learner's permit. The NYPD never conducted an investigation, and the driver received only a violation for driving without a license. Today, Heyworth’s husband, Jacob Stevens, is suing the New York Police Department and the driver in civil court.

Heyworth’s case received basically no police attention. The NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad, with its staff of just 19 people (who we assume are extremely overworked), called off the investigation after an hour or so. The squad only investigates crashes where the victim is "likely to die" and in Heyworth's case, they concluded based on one call to the hospital that she didn't fit that category. Stevens said the police who responded to the crash told him from the get-go that Heyworth had little chance of making it, and, in fact, she never regained consciousness.

Heyworth's death alone would be a tragedy, but as Stevens points out, "it fits a pattern." In New York City, drivers in cars routinely kill people and get away with it. Death is just what happens when people drive heavy pieces of metal at blazing speeds down busy roads. No one investigates, and the drivers who kill people get back on the road. The man who killed Heyworth had his car back later that evening.

Read more: Biking, Cities, Family

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A report from inside the Shell ‘oil spill’ party prank

It took Grist a hot second to figure out that this too-ironic-to-be-true video of a Shell party gone wrong was a prank. The concept, though, is brilliant -- an "oil derrick" on a cake started "spilling" liquid all over the assembled guests. Pulling it off wasn’t easy, or cheap. Salon has dishy details from a volunteer, who reveals even more layers of clever strategy:

  • The woman sprayed in the face by the supposed booze (it’s soda) was Dorli Rainey, who was sprayed in the face with pepper spray at Occupy Seattle.
  • The guy who presses the button on the soda-fountain-gone-wrong is supposed to be the engineer of the Kulluk, a drilling rig set to go to the Arctic this summer. In fact, it’s Paul Horiuchi, an actor who was once on Northern Exposure (ha!) and who is pretty old (76). The Kulluk is also old -- 29, which is at least 76 in drilling rig years. That was the joke: The rig and its “engineer” are both past their prime.
Read more: Oil

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Climate change causes monster patch of microscopic plants in the Arctic

A different phytoplankton bloom, in the Ross Sea. (Photos c/o NASA.)

There aren't supposed to be microscopic plants called phytoplankton blooming in the Arctic right now -- usually that doesn't happen until after the ice melts in the summer, i.e. months from now. But a research team has just discovered a huge, 60-mile-long, three-foot-thick slick of phytoplankton where no phytoplankton should be. It was "like finding the Amazon rainforest in the middle of the Mojave Desert," said one scientist.

Read more: Climate Change

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Possibly the best Humans of New York photo yet

I've mentioned before my abiding love for Humans of New York (HONY), photographer Brandon Stanton's (entirely unpaid, as far as I know, unless you buy prints) mission to photograph New York's infinitely visually arresting inhabitants. It's an amazing love letter to the city, and to humanity in general. Stanton has taken over 3,500 photographs to date, but this might be the most hilarious, inexplicable, and weirdly beautiful one yet.

Read more: Cities

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Libya is overrun with locusts

Photo c/o FAO.

Libya is maybe not in the most stable political situation right now. And don't tell Ron Paul, but when the central government is out for the count, maintenance services tend to break down. One of the things that's fallen by the wayside in this time of political turmoil? Pest control. Which means parts of Libya are currently looking like an Old Testament hellscape of locust swarms. Say what you will about Gadhafi, but he did reliably spray for bugs.

Read more: Food

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Transit workers stop train to save toy bunny

This is Nummy. From "Life With Roozle."

Casey Carey-Brown, a Boston woman who blogs about her daughter "Roozle," has chronicled a harrowing story about childhood trauma narrowly averted by big-hearted transit workers. It concerns Roozle's toy bunny Nummy, pictured above. (Roozle is the human child, Nummy is the bunny. I just don't want you getting confused and thinking this was almost way worse than it almost was.)

Here's the setup:

Today, Nummy had a great day at school and just before the train arrived to pick us up at Stony Brook, Roozle told us that Nummy was a little scared of the train and she needed to tell her it was okay, trains aren’t scary.

We got off the train at the very next stop, at Green Street. Just as we were getting off the train, somehow Nummy jumped out of Roozle’s stroller and out of her grasp and fell between the platform and the train, right onto the tracks. The entire train gasped. Nummy was gone. Roozle immediately started screaming, “My friend! Nummy! She fell on the tracks and now a train is going to run her over! She will be squished by the train! On the tracks! I NEED MY FRIEND!!!”

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New York kids need a doctor’s note to use sunscreen in school or at camp

Once upon an innocent American summer, sun-kissed cheeks were all the rage for lithe, beautiful children freckling in the clean air. But now we know that evil sun rays will kill you -- not now, but later, with skin cancer -- and that kids should wear sunscreen pretty much any time they go outside for more than five minutes. New York state, though, apparently still has one foot in the 1950s. State law requires that a kid bring in a doctor's note in order to use sunscreen at school or at summer camps, the Democrat and Chronicle reports.

Steve Hendrickson, recreation supervisor for the town of Victor, said children need a doctor’s note to have sunscreen at his town’s summer camp program, in accordance with state law.

“With short programs, like soccer or whatever, obviously they’re only out there an hour or so, so the parent usually applies it. But for summer camp, where they’re out there for a full day, we need a doctor’s permission and you need it in writing,” Hendrickson said.

Read more: Living