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Grist List: Look what we found.


How your Prius is hurting the planet

Hybrid cars like the Prius emit less carbon than conventional cars. But they also depend on rare earth materials to make their engines work. And the mining of rare earth extracts a heavy toll on the environment in other ways. China has most of the world's easily accessible rare earth (which isn't actually rare, just hard to find in concentrations that make extraction profitable), and it recently decided to cut off supply to other countries. But the United States is also jumping into the business. Here's the big environmental problem, as Mother Jones explains: Rare earths occur naturally with the …


Critical List: Republicans say enviros threaten border safety; Climate change will kill the Nile

Republicans aren't against environmental protections just because those laws "kill jobs." Supposedly they also damage national security. Canada sticks its fingers in its ears, sticks out its tongue, and tells the U.S. it'll just sell its tar sands oil to China. Forget Solyndra: California-based NRG Energy is a much more typical -- and much more successful -- case study for how energy subsidies work. Climate change denial is not just a river in Egypt, but now it’s also a river in Egypt; warming-related drought is threatening the Nile and Limpopo rivers. Data can help solve environmental conundrums by measuring sewage …


Carbon monoxide makes you breathe easier (metaphorically), says study

So, carbon monoxide will kill you, obviously. But like a lot of things that will kill you, in small quantities it apparently makes you feel really great! In a recent study, carbon monoxide exposure made people less stressed out about the negative effects of living in the city, including crowds, noise, and presumably carbon monoxide exposure. We're talking really low levels here -- one to 15 parts per million -- so don't go blowing out your pilot light. But that's the concentration of carbon monoxide that the researchers found participants inhaled on the streets of Tel Aviv, where the study …

Read more: Cities, Pollution


A DIY bike lane in Mexico City

Tired of waiting for the Mexico City government to deliver on a promise to build 186 miles of bike lanes (they've managed 14), a group of residents decided to take matters into their own hands. Eighty people from local pedestrian and bike organizations built three miles of priority bike lane in eight hours.  These bike lanes don't have legal status, and the DIYers did interact with police at one point (they just told them "we are just doing what government should be doing themselves"). Chances are probably not good that the "WikiLane" will stick around. But the organizers are trying to …


Climate denialism: It’s an Anglo-Saxon thing

According to a new study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, climate change denial -- or at least, representation of climate change denial in the media -- is pretty heavily an Anglo-Saxon problem. The study analyzed more than 3,000 articles from six countries that presented deniers' viewpoints, and 80 percent of them were from the U.S. or the U.K. Newspapers in Brazil, China, and India were much less likely to cite skeptics, and even France pooh-poohed denialism as it pooh-poohs most other things. When they did quote skeptics, they were overwhelmingly the type of skeptics who doubt …



Holy crap birds are amazing

Now that we know birds are basically just tiny dinosaurs, it makes them simultaneously more cool and more terrifying. On the one hand: tiny dinosaur that lives in your house and asks you for a cracker! On the other hand: tiny dinosaur that tries to get all up in your boardwalk fries! And here we have a giant band of tiny dinosaurs doing an incredibly elaborate, exquisite undulating choreography on the air. Little lizards, you are pretty incredible.

Read more: Animals


Most efficient solar panel ever

Physics tells us that the most efficient solar cell should be able to convert 33.5 percent of solar energy into electricity, but to date the closest that the layabouts we call "scientists" were able to manage was 24 percent efficiency. Now a new solar cell has smashed that record, reaching 28.4 percent efficiency. They pull this off using a clever and counterintuitive trick: These panels actually absorb less sunlight than conventional solar cells. Using gallium arsenide, a byproduct of aluminum smelting, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory created a panel that re-emits as fluorescent light some of the photons that hit …


Infographic: The top toxic health hazards

We figured this depressing Scientific American article about the top 10 pollution-related health hazards deserved the Onion-style infographic treatment. Here are the actual numbers for how many people are being sickened or killed by toxic pollution worldwide: Mercury pollution from gold mining (3.5 million people) Lead pollution from industrial parks (nearly 3 million) Pesticides from agriculture (more than 2.2. million) Lead smelting (just under 2 million) Chromium pollution from leather tanning (more than 1.8 million) Mercury residue from other mining (more than 1.5 million) Lead pollution from mining (more than 1.2 million) Lead pollution from improper battery recycling (nearly one …

Read more: Pollution


Keystone ‘victory’ is nothing of the sort, say testy wonks

Enviros’ opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has succeeded in delaying or possibly even deep-sixing a project that would have carried oil from the tar sands in Canada to refineries in Texas (and over a drinking water aquifer and the epicenter of a bunch of earthquakes). But not everyone is celebrating. Professional wet blanket Michael Levi wants you to know that this is probably a pyrrhic victory, more likely to result in delays to the kind of action the U.S. needs to take to avert the worst of climate change's effects. And he has a point, sort of. If Keystone …


FDA fights fish fraud

Not only is eating fish not the most sustainable of food choices, it's likely a rip-off. If you're eating a pricey fish like cod or salmon, there's more than a one in five chance that it's something much cheaper. The FDA, though, is developing a new regulatory program to fight fish fraud. The agency is building a library of fish DNA that it can use to test samples of raw, frozen, steamed, or deep-fried fish and determine the sample's species. This genetic identification process is known as DNA bar coding, and it's gotten so cheap that the FDA can do …

Read more: Food, Scary Food