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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Critical List: Deaths rise in Philippines flooding; how to recycle your Christmas tree

The death toll for flooding in the Philippines is over 2,500. For the first time in six decades, harbor porpoises are hanging out in the San Francisco Bay. First Solar, a company that makes thin-film solar panels, has spent $2.2 million on D.C. lobbying in the past four years. That’s a pittance by Washington standards. But in California the company spent triple the amount BP did on lobbying. Sick of your Christmas tree yet? Here's how to get rid of it responsibly. And here's how to prepare your house or apartment for the less-fun part of winter.

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Pepsi spends $3 million a year so laws don’t come between corn syrup and your kids

Ironically-named food hero Marion Nestle just calculated that PepsiCo, which pumps enough high fructose corn syrup into the American public to turn out one Ghostbusters-size Stay Puft marshmallow man every 18 hours (I made that up; you get the idea), spends $3 million a year lobbying Congress. So what is Pepsi doing dumping all that loot on 1-percenters who supposedly represent the American public on Capital Hill? One motivation, according to the Sunlight Foundation, is the company's effort to stop the government's Interagency Working Group from proposing guidelines on food marketing aimed at kids. As Nestle explains (emphasis mine): As …

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Mexico City cuts crime by banning cars

Banning cars from Mexico City's Centro Historico and replacing streets with pedestrian pathways has increased nighttime foot traffic and decreased crime, say local business owners. Before the street got pedestrianized, neighborhood business owners used to strike "unspoken" agreements with the local thieves, says Rogelio Murrieta, who owns a printing business on Regina. "The thieves who were from this area they went to other areas, they didn’t rob people from here," he says. "We’d give them something, support, and they respected us. It was a purchase basically." Increased security in the area has also helped, and the historic district still has …

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‘Evotourism’ is the new ecotourism

Why journey all over the planet visiting natural wonders that are sure to disappear by the time your grandchildren are old enough to curse your profligate ways, when you can journey into the past, which has already happened so you at least you can't screw it up? That's the premise of Evotourism, a the hot new dance invented by the bow-tie-wearing hipsters at the Smithsonian. The highlights: • Skip dour, economically depressed London and head to England's Jurassic Coast, where even in winter "heavy rains beat against the cliffs, washing away clay and revealing bones dating back hundreds of millions …

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In Madrid, a highway becomes a park

Smart cities all around the world are getting rid of highways, and in Madrid, not only has the city built a tunnel to drive a urban-fabric-ripping highway underground, it has turned the reclaimed land into a park. In the New York Times, critic Michael Kimmelman tours the park and reports that, while "still a work in progress," it's connecting neighborhoods once cut off from each other. The idea to bury the highway came before the move to transform the land into a park, but the redesign is also part of a build-out of public transit that connects the outer boroughs …

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Small spiders have TERRIFYING GIANT BRAINS

Tiny spiders are tiny, but relative to their body size it turns out their brains are ginormous. In some cases, 80 percent of a spider's body cavity contains central nervous tissues. Other spiders store parts of their brains in their legs. In other words, step on a tiny spider, and most of the goo that comes out will be braaaaains. Or think of it like this: If dogs breeds had a similar relationship to brain size, chihuahuas would have brains all the way to their tails.

Read more: Animals

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Critical List: Oil spill off Nigerian coast contained; demand for solar could flatline

Shell managed to contain the large oil spill in the Atlantic Ocean before it reached the Nigerian coast. In America, thousands of times each year, sewer systems overflow and contaminate the country's waterways. But nope, fixing up aging infrastructure during an economic downturn is a terrible idea, according to House Republicans. Not only are solar panels getting cheaper, they're getting waaaay more efficient. Too bad demand for solar projects could "flatline" next year. Finding Nemo lied to us all: Tropical fish stuck in small tanks aren't friendly and helpful. They turn mean.

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Politics blocks scientists from explaining why this year’s weather was record bad

A typical year in the U.S. includes three to four extreme weather events that do more than $1 billion in damage, but 2011 featured 12 of them. Add in the slightly-less-expensive extreme weather we experienced, and the total price tag is north of $50 billion. Scientists say they now have the tools to determine how climate is influencing these extreme weather events, which sounds like a good idea. I mean, if we're tearing the planet apart with our carbon emissions, isn't that something that should be as important to monitor as, say, the activities of Al Qaeda? Except the political …

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2012 will probably best record-setting 2011 for gas prices

This year broke all previous records for amount spent by the average American household on gasoline -- us car-having suckers spent $4,155! As Jonathan Fahey pointed out in the Associated Press, in an unusually informative and clear-eyed look at the pedestrian impact of the planet's slow-motion oil crunch: "That is 8.4 percent of what the median family takes in, the highest share since 1981." But hold tight, because 2012 is probably going to be worse.  Here's what's really crazy about these figures. High gas prices are usually a consequences of economic boom times -- more money in our pockets means …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Oil

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How climate change shows up in ancient, Tolkien-esque myths

The Vernagtferner glacier in the portion of the Alps falling within the borders of Austria is said to be cursed. In ancient legend, it buried the cities Onanä and Dananä, whose ruins lie beneath its implacable mass of ice to this day. Which is all a way, way cooler story than the purely factual “climate change happened.” According to David Bressan at History of Geology: A long time ago there existed a rich city surrounded by fertile pastures where today is the glacier. Unfortunately the wealth corrupted the inhabitants and they wasted milk and bread to clean the streets. One …