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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Up close and personal with blight fungus and bugs

2011 is the International Year of Forests, and as part of their efforts to promote the sustainable forestry, the National Association of State Foresters, which represents state forestry agencies, and the National Network of Forest Practitioners, granted a fellowship to photographer Josh Birnbaum to document the state of the nation's forests. Birnbaum's first stop was in West Virginia, where he hung out with young foresters (pictured above), visited with the wood industry, traveled with researchers to a post-mining reclamation area, and documented blight fungus. He's now in South Dakota, to cover insect infestations, but he'll also be making stops in …

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Critical List: Keystone XL protests begin; Fukushima area could be uninhabitable for decades

In DC, protests against the Keystone XL pipeline began this weekend. The first round of protesters that cops arrested sat in jail through the weekend, longer than police had said they'd be detained. The area around Fukushima has levels of radioactivity so high, it could be uninhabitable for decades. The U.K. cycling industry contributes more than $4.7 billion to the country's economy each year. Cutting carbon will create, not kill, jobs. Mitt Romney might believe in global warming, but it doesn't seem like he believes in doing much about it on a political or a personal level: He's building a …

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Cool new game is like SimCity for the whole environment

Is environmentalism a GAME to you? Does it look like some kind of GAME??? Oh, it doesn't? Well, it could. Upcoming game Anno 2070 lets you go all Sims on the fate of the planet. You decide up front whether to throw your lot in with the Ecos (who focus on sustainability but progress slowly) or the Tycoons (who focus on aggressive expansion). Either way, your goal is to make civilization grow without completely wrecking the environment (spoiler: the Ecos will probably do better on the second part), while simultaneously weathering the planetwide changes that are already in place by …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Whales hanging out in New York

First dolphins, now whales -- sea mammals in New York City are bigger than Cats! Urban nature blogger Matthew Wills caught a humpback whale frolicking off Sandy Hook, N.J., within sight of the city. (He's got some great pictures over at his blog.) Wills was dismayed by the floating trash in the bay, not to mention all the garbage produced by his fellow boat passengers. But on the whole, the presence of whales and dolphins is a good indicator for water quality.

Read more: Animals

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Teenage genius improves solar panels using math and trees

You gotta heart teenage geniuses: this one, Aidan Dwyer, age 13, figured out a way to make solar panel arrays more efficient after taking a walk in the woods. Here is his basic thought-process, broken down for us non-geniuses: Tree branches grow in a specific pattern. (It's called the Fibonacci sequence. Each number is the sum of the previous two. Sorry -- too much technical detail?) Trees are also really good at absorbing sunlight. Solar panels could be placed like leaves on a structure that follows the same mathematical pattern as a tree. Would that create more energy than just …

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How to turn raw sewage into profit

For most people, having a open stream of sewage running past your backyard is a problem, not an asset. That how Keshav Tavre, who lives in Bhiwandi, India, saw it, until he decided to set up a homemade filtration system. With a series of walls and layers of soil, he was able to filter the sewage until it was clean enough to use to grow crops. Later, he sold water commercially to local dye industries. For a while, the local authorities were against his use of the resulting water for commercial gain, but since they weren't doing anything with the …

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Critical List: New York AG going after natural gas companies; species move one mile north each year

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed three energy companies as part of an investigation into natural gas production estimates. If rats could abandon Ship Earth, they would right about now. Instead, species in the Northern Hemisphere are moving north at about a mile per year — three times faster than anyone imagined. Kick your caffeine habit now: climate change could make 60 percent of the places that now grow coffee inhospitable to the crop by 2050. Pennsylvania agencies can no longer contract for renewable energy. In Texas, oil and gas companies want to lay new pipelines so badly that …

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Google's open-source, wireless, smartphone-controlled lightbulb

Google continues to roll out new details about its wirelessly-controlled “smart” lightbulb, which gets around all the problems usually associated with making a home energy-aware. The latest: the company is working on open-source software that will run on the lightbulbs themselves. Instead of re-wiring your house and connecting it to an expensive home energy-management system, Google's new bulbs will contain everything you need to program them to go on and off at certain times, or to turn themselves off after you (and your Android phone, with which they communicate) leave the room. Sticking a computer inside a lightbulb might seem …

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Why Michele Bachmann thinks she can get gas under $2 a gallon

Michele Bachmann isn't crazy -- she's just horribly misinformed. At least in this particular instance: When Bachmann promised that if she became president, gas would be under $2 a gallon, her statement was entirely consistent with the voodoo alternate energy universe she and countless right-wing conspiracy theorists happen to inhabit. The only reason I even know this is that I've occasionally had run-ins with this alternate plane of reality, in which otherwise rational people truly, fervently believe that America has enough oil within its borders to last the country for centuries, but a liberal cabal led by the EPA is …

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Which eco-friendly food labels are meaningful, and which are just hot air?

Certified organic ... chemical free ... dolphin-safe ... the stamps and slogans on food labels make a lot of promises, but can they back it up? Audobon magazine breaks down which labels are meaningful and which are USDA-certified bull crap. These labels can't be used without independent verification: USDA Organic Fair Trade  Rainforest Alliance Food Alliance Demeter Biodynamic Salmon-Safe Bird Friendly Certified Humane Raised and Handled FishWise  Non-GMO Project Verified Healthy Grown Potatoes These should be taken with a grain of salt -- they may mean something, but they don't have to: Raised Without Antibiotics Natural Free Range Grass Fed  …

Read more: Food