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Grist List: Look what we found.


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The shipping blues

Cargo ships carry a lot of climate baggage

Mærsk_Mc-Kinney_Møller.jpg
Slawos

Buying local has become a bit of a mantra. We understand that it takes a heck of a lot of climate-killing carbon to get that hula hoop from China to Chicago, but it’s easy to let the details slip. Here's some perspective: Maersk Triple E’s, the world’s largest container ships, measure 1,312 feet from stem to stern and contain 55,000 tons of steel alone. To put that into more relatable terms, that’s 196 LeBron James long and more than a million Rottweilers in weight.

These giant vessels are giant polluters. The largest vessels burn around 16 tons of low-grade, high-sulphur diesel fuel per hour as they ceaselessly plow the world’s oceans at over 25 knots. One study estimates just one of these gigantic ships spews out as much cancer-causing pollutants as 50 million cars every year, and there are an estimated 90,000 cargo ships around the world. Unfortunately, pending legislation aimed at cleaning up these ships focuses exclusively on sulfur emissions and misses the boat on CO2, one of the driving causes of climate change.

A recent study from the University of Manchester's Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research comes with a dire warning:

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Can't Harley Wait

Attention, Hells Angels: Your electric Harley is now ready

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Harley Davidson

There’s an old saying among motorcyclists that 95 percent of the Harley Davidson’s built since The Motor Company opened in 1903 are still on the road. The rest made it back.

The point is, Harley doesn’t exactly have a reputation for innovation. The company proudly embraces its 50-year-old air-cooled engine technology because its customers are rabidly loyal to that old-school stuff. Heck, in 2001, when the company finally leapt into the 1970s with its first liquid cooled offering, faithful Harley riders collectively vomited in their mouths just a little bit.

With that history in mind, the idea of Harley building an electric motorcycle is akin to the Amish having a space program. But that’s just what the company is doing, touring the country with a prototype electric bike called Project Livewire.

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to bee or not to bee

This is what your dairy aisle would look like if all the bees died off

Remember the last time we freaked out about what would happen if the world's pollinators suddenly perished? Someone get me a paper bag, because I'm starting to hyperventilate again.

To raise awareness about colony collapse disorder, a mysterious disease that started taking out entire beehives in 2006, Whole Foods brought the fight to suburban grocery aisle by showing us what our supermarkets would look like without any food that had been helped along by a bee. That's right: Your greek yogurt, butter, cream cheese, organic milk, and -- gasp -- ice cream, are in peril.

Whole Foods Market/PRNewsFoto  Huffington Post

Read more: Food, Living

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Why Big Oil is giving piles of money to the NRA

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Shutterstock

Everybody needs one friend who, if things ever go south in a big way, will show up to help. And bring a gun. At least that’s what Big Oil thinks, and so it’s gone one better: It’s made friends with the guys who have all the guns -- the NRA.

We all know guns and oil are a natural pairing, like Milli and Vanilli, or Rodman and Van Damme -- just check out this footage from the guns and oil documentary series:

But what, you might wonder, do these two interests really have in common?

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Killing is the sweetest thing there is

Philadelphia Zoo names adorable kittens after Game of Thrones’ deadliest pets

The Philadelphia Zoo is really playing with fire these days. The zoo’s resident black-footed cats, Ascari and Aza, gave birth to three kittens on April 8. Because the zoo employees enjoy goading the Old Gods and the New, they named the kittens Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion.

“Wow, those names are pretty goofy!” you may be thinking. O, blissful ignorance! They’re taken from Game of Thrones, and are the names of Daenerys Targaryen’s three pet dragons.

Here are a few reasons one may find it appropriate to name a cuddly, sweet kitten after an extremely destructive mythical creature:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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This magic bus recharges while you dig for your fare

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TOSA

Electric buses are great, but you have to deal with all of those wires strung through half the city, making urban kite flying a dangerous proposition at worst and an opportunity to develop lightning-like super powers at best. And while being a real-world Black Vulcan would, admittedly, be rad, (you’d never run out of juice for your Palm Pilot, for instance), an OSHA workplace study shows that less than one in 50 people who are electrocuted develop super powers [Editor's note: I was going to call bullshit on that last bit, but this guy apparently knows what he's talking about], so …

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This year, a 3-year-old girl will be crowned “Coal Princess” in West Virginia. Seriously.

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WV Coal Festival Children's Royalty Pageant

I don’t know about you, but when I think about deforesting a lush mountaintop, blasting the mountain to nothing, grinding the very stones to pulp, and separating out the remains into coal and black slurry, I think beauty. And apparently I’m not the only one. In a world where beauty pageants are going the way of the dodo, coal-themed beauty contests are still holding on. Emily Atkin tells the story for ThinkProgress: The decline of the U.S. coal industry has been a hot topic lately, especially with the recent unveiling of President Obama’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from existing …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Germans spend vacations at wind farms and solar arrays because, duh, they’re Germans

reichstag
iStockphoto

Have you always wanted to visit a wind farm? Or spend a day at the recycling plant with the family? Apparently a lot of Germans have: A new guidebook covering 200 green projects around the country sold out its first printing.

Add that to the list of things I do not understand about Germany. I mean, the country is littered with castles, they’ve got the alps, the Black Forest, a 500-year-old beer hall every three blocks, and half the dudes over there have mustaches like this. Hell, their whole damn country is so cute we build our amusement parks to look like their regular streets and fill them with oompah bands.

Of course, all this must make Germans jaded. So maybe it makes sense to add a little green learnin’ to the holiday itinerary.

Komila Nabiyeva at The Guardian makes a pretty good case:

If you want to combine some mildly energetic activity with your environmental sightseeing, then head for Lower Saxony where you’ll find the Holtriem wind farm. The largest in Europe when it was built, with a total capacity of 90 MW, it has an observation platform on one of the turbines, 65 metres above ground. That offers tourists – if they’re prepared to climb the 297 steps to the top – a stunning view of the North Sea and, in good weather, the East Frisian islands.

Also in Lower Saxony is Juehnde, the first German village to achieve full energy self-sufficiency. Its combined heat and power plant produces twice as much energy as Juehnde needs. The villagers are so keen to share their experience that they built a new energy centre to win over visitors.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Ford builds cars out of tomatoes while other companies play ketchup

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Larry Woo

When Ford Motor Company found out Heinz was looking for something to do with the waste byproduct from the over 2 million tons of tomatoes it uses each year, an idea took seed, and together the companies devised a saucy plan: Turn all that tomato waste into plastic for cars.

Ford is using the tagline, “You Say Tomato; We Say Tom-Auto.” Of course, puns like that are far below Grist's standards, but I think we can all agree the time is ripe for this a-peel-ing plan. If it works, Ford will paste its competition.

Also salsa.

Ford’s media center had this to say:

Researchers at Ford and Heinz are investigating the use of tomato fibers in developing sustainable, composite materials for use in vehicle manufacturing. Specifically, dried tomato skins could become the wiring brackets in a Ford vehicle or the storage bin a Ford customer uses to hold coins and other small objects.

“We are exploring whether this food processing byproduct makes sense for an automotive application,” said Ellen Lee, plastics research technical specialist for Ford. “Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact.”

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Climate change has things on Earth looking rough? NASA’s got a fly getaway ship

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Mark Rademaker and NASA

The seas are rising, the deserts are spreading, cats and dogs are flaunting their non-traditional lifestyles, Eric Cantor is too liberal, and the Kardashian’s don’t approve of Khloe’s latest love. This whole big blue ball is going to heck in a hanging basket. Luckily, NASA, the people who brought you creamless ice cream and the babysitting miracle known as velcro, have devised an escape plan, and as sad as it will be to say goodbye, our new ride looks awesome.

Turns out Dr. Harold “Sonny” White took time away from his boring schedule of designing hum-drum ion drives, plasma thrusters, and whatever the hell he’s doing in this picture, to get creative. He teamed up with 3-D artist and part-time starship designer Mark Rademaker to show us what an intersteller NASA spaceship might look like.

Jonathan O’Callaghan of The Daily Mail had this to say:

A Nasa scientist ... has revealed a Star Trek-style ship that could make interstellar travel a reality.

Dr. Harold White is famous for suggesting that faster than light (FTL) travel is possible.

Using something known as an Alcubierre drive, named after a Mexican theoretical physicist of the same name, Dr. White said it is possible to ‘bend’ space-time, and cover large distances almost instantly.

The question is, can we do that without angering the ghost of Albert Einstein? (He’s already pissed that people forget he was Australian.)