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Grist List: Look what we found.


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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

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Awesome cityscapes made from discarded textbooks

I'll admit that I attended one TINY textbook fire as a teenager. It was somebody's math book, and we just stuck it in a park barbecue and then melted some cups over it, nothing particularly Fahrenheit 451. But there are better ways to dispose of textbooks that you hate, or just don't need anymore, but for whatever reason can't sell back. Chinese artist Liu Wei, for instance, does it by making spectacular carved-book cityscapes.

Read more: Cities, Living

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86-year-old man turns island into tortoise sanctuary

Back in 1962, Brendon Grimshaw bought Moyenne Island, in the Seychelles, for £8,000 (which at the time would have been about $22,000). He started living there in 1972, and since that time he's been the island's only permanent resident -- aside from the 120 giant tortoises for whom Grimshaw's island is a sanctuary. The video above features an obnoxious dipwad getting fake-overexcited about everything ("oh my god, there's a TORTOISE on your PORCH!!!!"), but ignore his capering: Grimshaw is genuinely cool.

Read more: Animals

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Upsetting photos of oil-slicked turtles from Deepwater Horizon

Back in 2010, Greenpeace filed a Freedom of Information request covering endangered species affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill. They just received a response from NOAA, and it included more than 100 photos. They're disturbing: The ones Greenpeace has released so far show endangered Kemp Ridley's sea turtles, dead and covered in oil.

The photos below the jump are even worse.

Read more: Animals, Oil, Pollution

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Critical List: TransCanada reapplies for Keystone XL permit; Japan’s last nuclear reactor

TransCanada put in a new permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Japan switched off its last nuclear reactor.

Fights over endangered species are about to get wild, as the Fish and Wildlife Service has to rule on protections for species that live in oil country.

Read more: Uncategorized

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R.I.P. Adam Yauch, musician and activist

Photo by Fabio Venni.

Adam Yauch, aka MCA, was the co-founder and beating progressive heart of the Beastie Boys, who not only made some of the most defining music of the 1980s and '90s but were among the first celebrities (at least in my memory) to go activist without sacrificing their cool. Yauch, who died today at the criminally tragic age of 47, didn't just fight for his right to party; he partied for his right to fight.

Most people associate Beastie activism with their vocal support of Tibet, which sprang from Yauch's Buddhism. But just in case you were looking for another reason to love the man and regret his loss, here's a less-known story: MCA also used his money and influence to support and distribute a powerful documentary on the water crisis, which pissed off water giant Nestlé so bad that a rep stormed out of a screening -- at a film festival Nestlé had paid for.

Read more: Uncategorized