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Get off my ice

John Oliver’s Antarctic tourism PSA: “Stick your d*ck in a freezer” instead

antarctica tourism

John Oliver understands why 40,000 people visit Antarctica a year. Free snow cones! And, as if that weren’t enough, free penguins! That sounds like my kind of vacation.

Which is exactly the problem: Tourists bring invasive species along with them, which has some researchers concerned for the future of the frozen continent's unique ecosystems, some of our last remaining pockets of pristine. So, on Last Week Tonight, Oliver offered up his idea for the Antarctica’s new tourist campaign: “Stop coming here.”

Sorry, Oliver, too late. When I was lucky enough to go to Antarctica in 2005, I was blown away by the vastness of the place -- a feeling that set me on track to give a damn about our planetary woes today. It's a bit of a conundrum: I'm glad for that perspective but, like almost anything that anyone does, I know it wasn't free of broader consequence. In any case, we can at least be more thoughtful about how we go about visiting the world's last wild places -- like maybe skip the Neil Armstrong impression on that ancient moss bed.

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This is what one week of your trash might look like

Garbage stinks for the planet. Food waste is a prime carbon emitter. Plastic junk ends up in our oceans. Still, even well-intentioned greenies probably drop their trash in the dumpster (after sorting the compost and recyclables, of course) and don't think much about their rubbish again.

Photographer Gregg Segal wants to change that. For his ongoing project, "7 Days of Garbage," Segal shows images of people nestled up to the trash they amassed over a week. Spend a little time with the photographs and it's hard not to notice the uneaten grub and glut of plastic:

Gregg Segal
Gregg Segal
Gregg Segal 2
Gregg Segal

Here's a little more about the project from Slate:

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Take back the streets, ladies — two wheels at a time

girlwithbike3
Shutterstock

I don’t bike. There’s no real reason for that beyond the fact that I’m not very coordinated, and I feel like I fall off a bicycle every time I get on one. (Block Island, 2011: Attempted to bike up a minor incline, fell over within two wheel rotations. Mendoza, 2009: Crashed into a ditch on the side of the highway, lost 200 pesos that fell out of my pocket, cried.) Personally, I’ve always felt more comfortable getting around on two feet than two wheels, even if it takes twice -- or thrice -- as long to get anywhere.

But in my social circle, I’m absolutely in the minority -- in fact, I’m regularly surrounded by (braver) women who love riding bikes for the pure freedom it allows them, and swear that there’s no better way of getting around. Both environmentally and economically speaking, it’s hard to beat -- especially for city-dwellers.

But as with anything that women do in public spaces, the simple act of getting on a bike and pedaling down the street opens us up to unwanted comments, sexual advances, and even violence. Because my own velocipedic career is so pathetically limited, I set out to ask others about their experiences of biking as a woman.

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the Earth-based God

Cryptic rapper Lil B drops environmental wisdom. Here are his greatest hits

lil-b
Facebook

You may or may not know who Lil B the Based God is. Or, according to his legend, you can know who Lil B is, but you may never know who the Based God is, or you may not want to know, for your own sanity. Some have tried to explain his mystique, but to little resolution.

My buddy Eric Tullis, hip hop expert and music contributor for the alt-weekly Indy Week, calls Lil B “an accidental eclectic who’s made a career out of being an idiot savant rapper.” He’s revealed so much on his Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Youtube pages, and yet we know so little. The little we know:

  • He was or is part of the Bay Area rap group “The Pack,” popularly known for their hip hop ode to Vans footwear.
  • It seems that he has a mouth full of gold teeth.
  • He appears to have a large, faithful following as a solo rapper based purely on social networks.
  • His Youtube music video hits reach into the millions, including this one named after Ellen DeGeneres (4.8 million+ views to date).
  • He’s been in a number of high-profile Twitter feuds with badass rappers like Joe Budden and Joey Bada$$.
  • He’s also involved in a long-standing feud with NBA MVP Kevin Durant (a guide to which you can read about in Grantland.)
  • He’s a motivational speaker who once gave a lecture at NYU.
  • He’s a misogynist.

And his latest reveal: He’s an environmentalist.

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Ask Umbra: Can I survive in the city with just a bike?

girl-bike-headphones-lead
Shutterstock

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. Driving everywhere makes me feel like a cretin. However, I live on a hill in Los Angeles. I've considered a bicycle (with some type of engine or motor boost) alternative, but several things stay my hand:

  1. Bike safety.
  2. Hill. Big one. And my job is one where I'm on my feet and moving, so long rides after a hard day don't sound fun.
  3. Groceries. Tools. My dog. There are certain things I can't imagine accomplishing with a bike.
  4. No public transport stations within walking distance.
  5. Dear old mom trained her girl to always be wary. There are times when it’s a relief to be able to lock my doors and be in an enclosed car.

What's the next most eco-friendly decision for a busy gal in a city of cars? Or are there just more lifestyle changes I could/should make?

Remy,
Los Angeles, Calif.

A. Dearest Remy,

Your personality-filled letter – which, regrettably, I had to edit for length – neatly identifies the hurdles many of us face when contemplating life without our four-wheeled gas-guzzlers. While the benefits of ditching the car are huge (among them saving tons of cash, no traffic and parking hassles, and more exercise), it can be intimidating to take the leap – especially in a place as stereotypically auto-crazed as L.A. But fear not: With the help of a bicycle, public transit, and perhaps a little technology, you can indeed reduce your reliance on that fossil-fuelmobile. You can even dump it entirely.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Cycle Hack

Easy tip for biking in a skirt: Put a penny in yo’ pants

I love biking to work. The sun on my face, the wind in my hair, the breeze blowing up my skirt.

Eep, actually, that last one gets annoying fast. But ladies, don’t let a fear of public indiscretion stand in your way of reveling in your own freedom! There’s a solution: Put a penny in yo’ pants.

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Death comes forest all

While away the hours to your inevitable demise with this green burial documentary

headstone.jpg

You're probably not going to die and I certainly never will, but in the off chance the Grim Reaper catches up with us one day, why should our deaths be less sustainable than our lives?

The mainstream funeral industry is full of nasty chemicals and manicured lawns. Shouldn't we strive to stay green beyond just the inevitable 50 shades of mold [GLURGH] that awaits us?

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Furries? Feet? Forget it: This flower’s weird sexual hangup has us humans beat

Axinaea-sp-Melastomataceae
Andreas Kay

It’s the age-old story: Boy lures bird close by offering bird his delicious genitals. Bird eats genitals. Boy, using his highly evolved bellows organ, explosively projects his gametes all over bird. Bird flies away, perhaps a little ashamed. Boy hopes bird lands on girl, covers her in his genetic material.

Or at least, that’s how Axinaea, a small South and Central American rainforest shrub, does it. And that’s the birds-and-the-bees story my kids are getting.

Phys.org has the rest of the tawdry tale:

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Marginalia

The 15 things I underlined in Dan Barber’s smart new book

danbarber

Dan Barber’s book The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food is full of great stories, larger-than-life characters, and descriptions that made me hungry. But if you strip away all that, what remains is a collection of delightful facts and ideas. These are the things that made me scribble stars in the margin:

1. Child “rearing begins, not at birth, or even conception, but one hundred years before the child is born.” That’s how long it takes to build the environment and community that child will live in.

2. "If you don't count corn sweeteners, we eat more wheat than every other cereal combined."

3. In the 1800s, the East Coast was America's breadbasket. "Gristmills dotted the countryside -- one for every seven hundred Americans in 1840."

Read more: Food, Living

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Zero-energy house of the future could be lurking in your neighborhood

NIST-house
Reuters

Wondering what houses will look like in the future? Wonder no longer! Gaze upon the net-zero energy test house built by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)! Gaze, I say!

Have you gazed yet?

And you’re back?

OK, so houses in the future will look exactly like every other boring house in the dull neighborhoods replacing amber waves of grain from coast to coast. And as far as it goes, that’s a good thing. People love boring. Community associations love boring. Boring is sexy. If it looked like an H.R. Giger fever dream people wouldn’t build them.

This particular house was built to do everything the typical American family of four does and end up using zero net energy, and after a year, it turns out it didn’t quite work out: Despite massive snowfalls and a rough winter, the home actually produced 441 more kilowatts of energy than it used, enough to drive an electric car over 1,400 miles -- which, considering the house was built in Maryland’s D.C. suburbs, the most boring place in America, might be far enough to get you someplace interesting.