Grist List

St. Louis Zoo builds love hotel for salamanders

Ozark hellbenders, aka "snot otters" and "lasagna sides," are among the world's largest and least cute salamanders. Looking at them, it’s probably not a big surprise that they’re having a hard time breeding -- although inexplicably, scientists think it’s NOT because of their pancake heads or beady little eyes, but some problem in the natural environment. Now that there are fewer than 600 hellbenders left in Ozark rivers, scientists at the Saint Louis Zoo decided to step in and create a place for the salamanders to get it on. The salamanders' love nest is a simulated river built to bring out amorous feelings in hideous beasties: The zoo has built a kind of honeymoon resort for salamanders, assembling a mini water treatment plant and carefully tweaking water chemistry to recreate their cold, fast-flowing Ozark streams — minus any distracting predators or pollution. ...

Critical List: Toxic chemicals on the rise; baby seals in trouble

The EPA may retest water in Dimock, Pa., where residents have linked polluted water to fracking operations. In its first round of testing the town's water, the EPA declared it safe. GM is fixing up the Volt in order to avoid in real-life battery fires like the ones that started during testing. As winter sea ice disappears in the Arctic, fewer baby harp seals are making it. The amount of toxic chemicals shunted into the environment went up 16 percent between 2009 and 2010, according a new EPA report.

Zombie bees!

We've been concerned for a while about colony collapse disorder, which has been decimating honeybee populations. The disorder is of uncertain origin, though there's some evidence linking it to pesticides; there's also evidence for viruses, fungi, and mites, or maybe it's all of them. And now scientists are investigating the possibility that it's caused by parasitic flies turning bees into zombies.

FDA regulates 0.3 percent of antibiotics in livestock

So if you were the FDA, and you wanted to regulate the feeding of antibiotics to livestock -- which you don't, but bear with me -- there would be a couple of ways you could go. You could regulate the ones that are the most widespread and cause the most problems. Or you could regulate the ones that a tiny and decreasing number of people use in the first place. The second one is less effective, but it's easier! So that's what the FDA is doing. The agency has announced that it will ban the agricultural use of cephalosporins, a class of antibiotic used in humans to treat pneumonia and certain infections. That's a good step towards keeping factory farms from becoming breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant microbes -- or anyway, it would be, if it weren't for the fact that effectively zero percent of farms use cephalosporins in the first place.

The world’s tallest treehouse

The Minister's House in Crossville, Tenn., is 10 STORIES HIGH, over 97 feet tall, and supported by six full-grown oak trees. If you're a total purist about your treehouses and believe they need to be entirely off the ground and supported only by limbs, then this doesn't qualify, but screw you because it's awesome. 

Pre-fab yurt is the FEMA trailer of our post-optimism future

Homelessness, extreme weather, civil unrest — the 21st century is going to give us a lot of reasons to house people as cheaply as possible. So hobbyist Malcom White came up with a way to …

Climate change bumps prices at Starbucks

Crap weather means that the wholesale price of arabica beans is at a 14-year high of $3.09 per pound, and coffee distributors are blaming climate change, reports the nifty new you-should-be-reading-it Bloomberg sustainability channel. “Climate …

Embattled teen genius actually better, smarter than most people

Back in August, the Internet discovered Aidan Dwyer, a 13-year-old go-getter who worked out a way to make solar panels more efficient. Because nobody likes a 13-year-old go getter, the Internet basically told him NO YOU'RE WRONG. Okay, so he should have measured power instead of voltage when testing his solar panel design. But it turns out Dwyer is totally getting the last laugh here, and is proving that nerdy 13-year-old go-getters actually are just better at life than most people on the Internet. Dwyer's spoken at PopTech's annual innovation conference and is scheduled to speak at the World Future Energy Summit.

Paris had the High Line before the High Line was cool

Oh, New York. You think that you've got a cool new idea, but always (always!) Europe beats you to it. NYC’s been getting all kinds of excited about its High Line park, an abandoned train platform converted into a wonderland of local plants, awesome places to sit and people-watch, and hibiscus ice pop vendors. But at TreeHugger, Alex Davies points out that NYC is just a couple decades late to the elevated park party. For almost 20 years, Parisians have been enjoying a stroll above city streets on the Viaduc des Arts. And just like the High Line, the elevated platform is a converted rail line.

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