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Grist List: Look what we found.



Katherine Heigl wants you to neuter your pets, because she hates balls

Sure, there are lots of good animal-welfare-related reasons to spay and neuter your pets. But can we talk about the best reason? BALLS ARE GROSS. At least, that's the contention of Katherine Heigl, who is clearly embarking on some kind of weird image-correction campaign where she embraces her reputation as an ice queen in order to show people that she's actually got a sense of humor. Or I guess possibly she just really, really hates balls. 

Read more: Animals


Germany is building a park on top of a highway

Germany's A7 Autobahn is like a highway on steroids. The 500-mile, six-lane road runs the length of the country and handles 150,000 bat-out-of-hell drivers a day. That might improve life for traffic fetishists or people who regularly need to get from Denmark to Austria at 100 miles per hour, but people who live alongside the A7 have noticed that it's super noisy and kind of hard to cross. So they're putting a three-mile lid over the part of the A7 that runs through the city of Hamburg, and turning it into a public park. The cars will still run underneath, …

Read more: Cities, Infrastructure


White House to make $4 billion out of $0 using energy efficiency

Everyone says energy efficiency can pay for itself, and now the White House is out to prove it, by spending zero money to produce $4 billion. Yeah, I'm not making that up. From the administration: The $4 billion investment announced today includes a $2 billion commitment, made through the issuance of a Presidential Memorandum, to energy upgrades of federal buildings using long term energy savings to pay for up-front costs, at no cost to taxpayers. The other half of the $4 billion will come from a consortium of private investors, assuming they all come through. The whole operation has the …


Has dense living gotten too dense?

Thinkers like Ed Glaeser, whose ideas have been discussed frequently on Grist, assert that density is an unalloyed good, and even Manhattan isn't dense enough. But there is another strand of thought about cities, which is that they are neither green nor sustainable, and it's exemplified by everyone's favorite foul-mouthed catastrophist, James Howard Kunstler. In a new piece in Orion magazine, helpfully summarized by Treehugger's Lloyd Alter, Kunstler asserts that even the reviving urban cores of our cities are doomed. DOOOOMED!!! I see our cities getting smaller and denser, with fewer people. Skyscrapers will be obsolete, travel greatly reduced, and …


New York City’s new plan to improve street safety: Throw haiku at it

Janette Sadik-Khan, DOT commissioner of New York City seems to think the main challenge to street safety is not enough short poems. Thus, her new campaign: Making bikers and walkers safer through haiku. Not good haiku, either. Certainly not as good as the ones I can write! A sudden car door, Cyclist’s story rewritten. Fractured narrative. Too averse to risk To chance the lottery, yet Steps into traffic. Anyway, go figure: Advocacy groups don't think this plan is enough: Safe street designs: check. But where is the enforcement? It’s your turn, police.

Read more: Biking, Cities


IKEA will ship disposable furniture on disposable pallets

IKEA knows from disposable. So when the company realized it could save money and shipping space by using cardboard shipping pallets, it tossed out its traditional wooden pallets like last year's BILLY bookshelf. The new pallets can support loads as heavy as the wooden pallets could, but they’re only a third as high and weigh 90 percent less. As a rule, more efficient shipping saves energy, because those monster boats that make globalization possible pig out on fossil fuels. On the other hand, the cardboard pallets will each only get one use. But they'll be recycled. But they come with …


Critical List: $4 billion for energy efficiency; SUVs rise again

President Obama and former President Clinton are announcing $4 billion to make buildings more energy efficient over the next two years. A fierce wind storm hit the West yesterday, taking down trees and fanning fires. Coke ditched those white, pro-polar bear holiday cans preeetttty fast. Apparently they confused Coke drinkers, some of whom thought the soda “tasted different in the white cans.” The Department of Energy and the Department of State are teaming up to work on energy issues. Apparently Scandinavians don't care that much about trees. All we hear about is carbon, carbon, carbon. What if cutting back on …


The most heartbreaking polar bear picture, ever

I don't know if this guy is actually trying to push this icebreaker ship away from his home. Maybe he just thinks there's a free buffet if he can climb aboard. But in the context of the polar bears' plight, with their numbers dwindling due to climate change and habitat loss, this looks like a heartbreaking picture of a lone bear trying to hold back the inevitable. UGH MAKE IT STOP.


Energy-producing toilets kill two birds with one … well, you know

Leave it to MIT geeks to figure out how to solve one problem (the need for a sustainable energy source) by solving another (insufficient sanitation). Sanergy, a company founded by a group of MIT grads and newly funded by USAID, provides low-cost toilets to sanitation-challenged communities in Kenya, then harvests the waste to convert into energy and fertilizer. It turns out you can polish a turd.  Sanergy hopes to install 6,000 toilets to serve 600,000 people, which will have a big effect on public health -- in parts of Nairobi, the majority of residents use a plastic bag for waste …

Read more: Uncategorized


Cool map shows density at a glance

The pixels on Fathom Information Design's Dencity map get smaller the more people they represent -- meaning that sparsely-populated areas are low-resolution, and densely-populated ones are sharp and bright. It illustrates both the positive and negative aspects of density: Each pixel gets less space the more pixels there are, but that means that denser areas can fit more pixels and transmit more information. Also, it looks wicked cool. Click the image to go to the Fathom site, where you can look at details and buy it as a poster!

Read more: Cities