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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Tokelau, population 1,500, goes renewables-only

At the U.N. climate talks in Durban, the South Pacific micro-state of Tokelau announced that it would be switching entirely to renewable energy. Tokelau has 1,500 people and three cars, but, uh, it's the thought that counts? Tokelau, which has 1,000 fewer people than my high school, currently runs diesel generators that eat up imported oil. But starting next year, it will be getting 90 percent of its energy from solar and 10 percent from homemade coconut oil. I swear I'm not making that last part up. I would never joke about a South Pacific island running on coconut oil; …

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It’s panda-countin’ time!

Get out your panda-counting equipment, because it's panda census time! China's government is organizing the first panda census in a decade, sending out teams of wildlife biologists over hill and under dale in search of the elusive critters. And it's not as fun as it sounds. Pandas are really rare in the wild -- the last census, which was conducted in 2000, turned up only 1,596 of them. So most of panda census-taking involves traipsing around in the mountains looking at a distinct absence of pandas. Although actually, coming up empty-handed might be preferable to what your hands are full …

Read more: Animals

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Fun with energy efficiency! (No, really. I promise.)

The problem with trying to make your home more energy-efficient is that energy efficiency is deadly boring. Start talking about heating systems and insulation and smart windows and even the niftiest thermostat ever, and eyes start to glaze over. The Energy Bills, though, are funny. Ish. At least, they're funnier than any other conceivable idea that would educate people about energy efficiency. They're played by two Second City actors, and they're basically toned-down versions of Andy and Chris from Parks and Rec. Big Bill is lovable but dense, and doesn't have a clue how to keep energy use low. Little …

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Palestinians can’t get statehood, but at least they’ve got these zero-emissions schools

Yeah, it kinda sucks to be a Palestinian these days, what with the failed peace talks and everyone but you having an Arab Spring. That doesn't mean your non-state state isn't making progress, though: Just check out the plans for this zero-emissions school. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is going to roll out 20 of them, all designed by the world-famous Mario Cucinella Architects. "[T]he school will support 800 students and use rainwater, geothermal, and solar systems instead of [municipal] water and energy grids," reports Sun Joo Kim at SmartPlanet. All of the schools will be built from …

Read more: Cities, Green Home, Living

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Possibly the greatest use of an infographic ever

“Need to prove something you already believe? Statistics are easy: All you need are two graphs and a leading question,” reads possibly the greatest infographic ever, created by Vali Chandrasekaran for Businessweek. Do yourself a favor, strap on your skeptic helmet and click through for the full experience.

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Critical List: EPA releases draft fracking report; Gingrich’s new climate change book

The EPA released a draft of its fracking report and found chemical contamination in a gas field well. The draft summary says that "EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking water wells over time." The U.S. got a little warm and fuzzy about a climate roadmap proposed by the E.U. So at least we support suggesting the idea that we come up with some ways of doing something about the climate. Exxon Mobil believes in the hybrid revolution: the company predicts that half of cars will be alternative-fuel vehicles within three …

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Bear bile farming is just as bad as it sounds

Animal welfare foundation Animals Asia has just rescued 14 moon bears, which had been farmed and abused for a substance produced in their gall bladders. Gah. People are willing to perpetrate some real atrocities on animals in order to get valuable commodities -- rhino horns, elephant ivory, tiger parts. But man, once you start doing horrible things to bears just so you can get their gallbladder secretions, you really need to step back and take a look at your life. The moon bears have undergone gruesome conditions in the name of extracting bile, an important ingredient in a number of …

Read more: Animals

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New York’s bike commuters have doubled in four years

Despite the best efforts of bike lane opponents and overprivileged New Yorker columnists, bike commuters in the Big Apple have increased by 102 percent since 2007, according to new figures from the New York Department of Transportation. Bicycle commuter numbers have almost quadrupled since 2001. Just imagine what it will look like when their bikeshare debuts! This presents some infrastructural challenges, of course, but the city is up for it. There may be some bike lane growing pains, cough cough John Cassidy and his Jaguar, but there are also ambitious plans to expand the bike lane network. As for parking, …

Read more: Biking, Cities

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Watch a time-lapse image of 2011′s crazy weather

Sure, we all know 2011's weather was bananapants, but just how banana WERE those pants? The Natural Resources Defense Council has put together an interactive map showing all the record weather events from the last year. The map shows record snowfalls, record rainfalls, record high and low temperatures, and the affected range from disastrous events like floods, droughts, and wildfires. (They didn't even include events, like tornadoes, that haven't been conclusively linked to climate change.) The image above is a summary of the year -- click it to watch a time-lapse video of 2011's record-busting weather, and to look at …

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Tighter efficiency standards may lead to bigger, more ironic vehicles

The idea behind fuel efficiency standards, nominally, is to end up with more efficient cars. But according to a new study from the University of Michigan, what they actually do is create a financial incentive for bigger cars -- because bigger cars don't have to be as efficient.  Fuel economy goals are stated as an average for the whole industry. But the guidelines actually vary by company depending on their vehicles' footprint, which is track width times wheelbase. Companies that make bigger cars can aim for a lower average fuel efficiency. This study found that average vehicle size could increase up …