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Grist List: Look what we found.


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This fake LEGO ad shows the Arctic drowning in an oil spill

I don't know who thought it was a good idea to get their kids a Shell-themed LEGO set, but apparently someone did, or Greenpeace would not have had to make this depressing video protesting the advertising partnership between the world's largest toy company and a global fossil fuel conglomerate. (I mean, child-me would definitely have coveted those polar bear and husky minifigs, but a flaming oil rig?)

In fact, LEGO and Shell go way back, to the 1960s when the popular build-it-yourself toy company started selling Shell-branded toys to future engineers. But now, with Shell making persistent yet tentative moves in the warming Arctic, Greenpeace is calling out the companies' 2012 contract, which they claim is worth $116 million to Shell's PR department. The run of logo-bedecked toys are sold at gas stations in 26 countries, and have supposedly been accompanied by a 7.5 percent increase in Shell sales.

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Tired of just ruining your garden, kudzu destroys the climate, too

kudzu.jpg
Jonathan Hinkle

Kudzu, the climbing, coiling, choking invasive plant is the Khloe Kardashian of the invasive plant world: Everybody’s heard of it, but we all wish we hadn’t. The Asian plant was introduced to the southeastern U.S. in the 1870s and was long considered the most dangerous ornamental bush in the nation’s history, though it’s since been bumped down to second.

Kudzu is a tenacious blight from Texas in the Southwest to Florida, all the way to Connecticut in the Northeast. In some parts of Alabama, if you lie still, you’ll be covered head-to-toe in kudzu in under 11 minutes. [Editor’s note: That is totally untrue.] The fast-growing weed chokes out native species, but a new study shows it could be choking more than just plants.

According to a paper published in New Phytologist (which I’m sure you’ve got sitting by the toilet to read later) by plant ecologist Nishanth Tharayil and graduate student Mioko Tamura, kudzu and other invasives can release carbon that had been sequestered in the soil. In other words, these invasives aren’t just destroying habitats locally, they’re contributing to climate change globally. Here’s more from Clemson University’s media release:

Read more: Climate & Energy

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‘Rollin’ Coal’ culture warriors want to douse your Prius with their smoke-belching trucks

bigtruck
Shutterstock

H.L. Mencken is often quoted as saying, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” He got close, but he never uttered those actual words. Probably because he’d never seen these guys:

A hot new trend known as “Rollin' Coal” is sweeping the stupider corners of the country. If you are unfamiliar with the craze (in the truest, craziest sense of the word), forgive me for bursting your blissful bubble. Coal rollers modify their diesel pickups to get shittier mileage and belch as much pollution as possible, then blast a wall of black to show off to their friends and piss off environmentalists and anyone who likes breathing. “Prius Repellant” decals are a popular accoutrement for rollin aficionados who thought Calvin peeing on things was too subtle.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Vegetarians live longer, pollute less — and you no longer have to take their word for it

vegetarian
LoloStock

If you’ve ever had a herbivorous roommate, especially one with a thing for lentils, this may come as a shock to you, but vegetarians produce fewer greenhouse gases. A study by the Loma Linda Medical Center in California shows that a vegetarian diet reduces greenhouse emissions by a third. The vegetarians also live longer, giving them 20 percent more time to tell you they told you so.

Kathleen Lees at Science World Report has bean following the story:

Findings showed that the mortality rate for non-vegetarians was almost 20 percent higher than for vegetarians and semi-vegetarians. On top of that, switching to a vegetarian diet also helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in about a third less emissions compared to those on the non-vegetarian diets.

The United Nations Environment Programme cautioned that meat production of any kind could release greenhouse gases.

"The takeaway message is that relatively small reductions in the consumption of animal products result in non-trivial environmental benefits and health benefits," added Sam Soret, Ph.D., MPH, associate dean at Loma Linda University School of Public Health and co-author of the studies.

The Loma Linda study supports the findings of a similar British study we reported on last week, but benefited from an enormous sample size and a heterogeneous population set, consisting of 73,000 Seventh Day Adventists.

I imagine there is probably a golden mean where you eat enough less meat to reduce your carbon footprint, but still take in enough that you’ll die early if you really want to help out the planet, but I suggest you concentrate on the meat reduction and commensurate greenhouse gas reductions.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Need to charge your phone while herding? There’s an ass for that

donkey.jpg
Rachele Totaro IT

Most of you may know "Solar Donkeys" as the name of my ill-fated 1987 sci-fi rock opera, but as is so often the case, life is finally imitating art. The desperate need to stay connected being the mother of 21st century invention, village herders in Turkey found the most obvious solution to keeping their cellphones juiced on those long nights out with the flock. They mounted solar panels to donkeys, which may sound strange at first until you realize they didn’t have access to llamas.

Now I can’t imagine why a Turkish herders needs a constant connection to his Foursquare account ("Just checking in. Day 32, still in a field next to my robodonkey"), but that herder is probably wondering why I think the world needs my up-to-the-minute opinions on the latest episode of America’s Got Talent, so que sera, sera.

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Neighbors transform abandoned mall into a giant aquarium

fish
Shutterstock

American malls have been invaded by just about everything -- from Santas to zombies to the fitness-crazed elderly. But this? This is new. When the abandoned New World Mall in Bang Lamphu, Thailand, flooded and became a breeding ground for mosquitos, neighbors had a solution: Fill it with carp.

Supoj Wancharoen with the Bangkok Post has more on this fishy tale:

The history of the fish pond dates back to 1994 when the Supreme Court ordered the demolition of the seven-storey extension of the 11-storey New World. The judges uncovered the fact that the store operators originally asked for permission from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to construct a four-storey building.

The seven floors illegally added to New World were then demolished by the BMA. The work left a four-storey structure, with no roof or covering. Over the years … rain turned the waterlogged ground floor into a 500-square-metre pond.

The mostly stagnant pond became a breeding ground for mosquitoes. To fight that dangerous and annoying development, nearby residents bought fish of assorted species to eat the mosquitoes and larvae.

"The fish only came in around 2003-2004 after people around here were affected by the mosquito problems from the water-logging inside the New World building," said Sommai Chuanpak, who owns a coffee stand in front of the mall.

"We even bought carp and raised them. At first there were not many, but the number grew after several years."

The Verge has some amazing photos of the fish mall here.

The giant indoor malls that dot so much of the American landscape are falling out of favor and into decay, and what to do with them has become a hot topic, so let’s get to brainstorming! Some have suggested some “practical” uses, but I think these fish mall folks are on to something.

Read more: Cities

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baby got back

Borneo’s adorable vampire squirrel is threatened by deforestation

tufted-ground-squirrel-of-Borneo
Sciencemag.org / Rona Dennis

It’s an age-old nerd debate: Do vampires melt in the daytime, sparkle in the sunlight, or have an adorable wooly tail? The dreaded tufted ground squirrel, the blood-swilling, tree-born nut lover of the Bornean forests seen in this rare video, finally gives us the answer: It’s the tail.

Erik Stokstad with Science magazine sheds more light on these deep-woods draculas and their ferociously furry backsides:

Few scientists have ever seen the rare tufted ground squirrel (Rheithrosciurus macrotis), which hides in the hilly forests of Borneo, but it is an odd beast. It’s twice the size of most tree squirrels, and it reputedly has a taste for blood. Now, motion-controlled cameras have revealed another curious fact. The 35-centimeter-long rodent has the bushiest tail of any mammal compared with its body size.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Meet the one creature that isn’t bothered by climate change

myster-bear
Hallie Bateman

Let’s look at a list of animals threatened by climate change, shall we? Polar bears, elephants, sea-turtles, tigers, islands, Florida, tree-frogs, orangutans … You know what, just go to the nearest zoo and add everything you see to the list. But there is one creature conspicuous by its absence: Bigfoot, and with good reason.

You might want to sit down, because this isn’t going to be easy. We have just received some terrible news: The seminal 1987 documentary Harry and the Hendersons was a hoax; the furry man-ape in the film was, in all likelihood, an unshaven John Goodman. Bigfoot, the legendary hominid and beef jerky pitch-creature, does not exist.

DNA testing has revealed that the eight-foot-tall hominid, whose mighty bellows quailed climbers at the top of the world and whose hair-covered pendulous breasts left the fearless lumberjacks of the Pacific Northwest shaken to their cores is, in fact, a raccoon. Easy mistake, really.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Escargot tactics

Snails already live in fear; now they’ve got climate change to worry about, too

terrified-snail
Sarawut Padungkwan

It’s a well-known scientific fact that a human's greatest fear is going to work only to realize you are, in fact, buck naked. A close second, however, is knowing that you are completely surrounded by creatures who plan to eat you as you go about your daily business. And while animals routinely show up for work nude, they are not immune to the whole fear-of-being-devoured bit.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Fear is a big part of what makes an ecosystem tick. But add a little heat to the equation, and good healthy fear gets a lot less good and healthy, according to a new study by Professor Geoff Trussell at Northeastern University College of Science.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Latest sign that the end is nigh: You can now get a “ride share” in a helicopter

uber-ocalypse

You know how it is -- there you are, standing on the roof of the American embassy during the fall of Saigon and all of the helicopters have their vacancy lights turned off. It’s the worst!

Now, thanks to the ride-share company Uber and its whirly-bird partner, Blade, well, you’d still be screwed. But if you want to get from Manhattan to the Hamptons this Thursday for a little surfing, they’ve got you covered.

Uber, a company that gets its name from a word banned from the German national anthem after World War II, is teaming up for one day with Blade, a company that offers Uber-like services for those in desperate need of a helicopter. Just make sure you get the pilot to crank Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” as you come in low over P-Diddy’s place.