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Gingers are here to stay

No, of course climate change won’t make redheads go extinct

red hair
Shutterstock

The British media landscape is lighting up with dreadful news for our most fair-skinned friends. If the Independent, Telegraph, Daily Mail, MirrorWeather Network, Huffington Post, and other outlets are to believed, climate change threatens to send red-haired folks into extinction. Extinction!

Fortunately for redheads everywhere, and for everybody who loves them, the news is less credible than a hair product manufacturer's claim that its dyes won't fade.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Dead Heat

Hot summers make for a bloody Chicago

summerchicago
Seth Anderson

The Fourth of July weekend is widely recognized as a nice little oasis in the middle of the summer for Americans to reflect on their love of country through explosions, grilled meats, and beer (not necessarily in that order.) By contrast, this year's holiday in Chicago was commemorated by 82 shootings, including more than a dozen murders. Yesterday, the murder count for the city hit the 200 mark.

In a city so infamously beset by violence that it's earned the nickname Chiraq, the general trend has been that murders become more frequent in warmer weather. In 2012, there were 500 murders in Chicago, and many attributed the jaw-dropping figure -- the highest in the country -- to an unseasonably warm spring and unbearably hot summer. It wasn't hyperbole: I was there, and I didn't fully comprehend the meaning of "stifling heat" until July 2012.

Read more: Cities, Living, Politics

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Wild Mannered

Should wilderness get the axe?

Redwoods
Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

This year, the Wilderness Act turns 50. As is the custom, please join me in celebrating by watching some dewy timelapses set to heart-swelling ambient tunes (above). Let us now bow our heads to Gaia and call on our spirit animal (mine's a tuatara). At Grist, we tend to check redwoods and capital-C Conservation at the door and focus on climate action and culture with a modern, urban spin. But over on The New York Times opinion pages, writer Chris Solomon put pixels and ink behind something I (and plenty of others) have been thinking about for a long time: Carbon emissions …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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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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parks and reparations

How our fear of “wilding” colored the Central Park Five case

wildingCP5
PBS - The Central Park Five

The New York City men known as the “Central Park Five” will reportedly receive $40 million for their wrongful convictions and imprisonment after police falsely accused them of attacking and raping a white woman 25 years ago. It’s hard to imagine what financial amount, if any, could adequately repair what was taken from these five lives: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise, and Yusef Salaam. They were just boys when they were arrested, the youngest 14; all of them of African American or Latino American heritage. They spent the rest of their teenage years in jail, one of them in the notorious Riker’s Island penitentiary.

They were exonerated in 2002 when Matias Reyes confessed to sexually assaulting the victim, Trisha Meili, a 28-year-old investment banker who was jogging in Central Park. Her almost lifeless body was found in the early morning of April 20, 1989. Police picked up the other five boys for the crime because they were part of a larger group of kids who were in Central Park that night causing other mischief -- what the media referred to then as “wilding.”

The story leading up to their absolution is an instructive tale of how prejudice functions specifically in spaces where the general public is supposed to exist harmoniously with nature. The greenspace of Central Park wasn’t and hasn’t been a shield against racism and rape culture. In this instance, the park was used as an instrument for dehumanizing black and Latino youth, felon-izing their behavior in the process.

Read more: Cities, Living

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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.

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Between a hawk and a hard place

Rats! Rodent poison kills hawks, too

red-tail-hawk
Robert

Several years ago, I noticed that hawks had moved into my neighborhood. Well, one hawk. A dead hawk, actually. It was lying on its back on my front porch with its little feet in the air, looking fierce and magnificent and just totally dead. I had never seen a hawk that close before. My roommate stood over it, taking pictures with her phone.

"Juvenile red tail," she said. "I already posted a picture on the internet and three people already asked if they could come by and pick it up. What is it with our neighbors and taxidermy?"

The realization of how the hawk had come to die on our front porch sank in gradually. Hadn't the landlords said something a few weeks ago about sending someone over to "deal with" the mice that were establishing a dynasty in the wall behind our stove? Hadn't I not heard from the mice in a while?

The hawk had probably thought that it was its lucky day, finding these sluggish mice in our yard, probably all fattened up on our organic kitchen scraps. It wouldn't have realized they were stuffed with poison.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Whale poop may help fight climate change

humpback whale
Shutterstock

It's not a good time to be living in the ocean. Aside from oil spills and the scourge of plastics pollution, the seas are becoming ever more acidic due to humanity's CO2 flooding the atmosphere. The altered PH of the water makes for a bevy of problems, from making fish act in really weird ways to dissolving the shells of creatures critical to the marine food chain.

But a group of scientists from the University of Vermont and elsewhere think the ocean's future health has one thing going for it: the restoration of whale populations. They believe that having more whales in the water creates a more stable marine environment, partly through something called a "whale pump" — a polite term for how these majestic animals defecate.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Ask Umbra: Is it safe to water veggies from my rain barrels?

rain-water-barrel.jpg
Shutterstock

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. Is it safe to use the water that comes off my roof into a rain barrel to water herbs and vegetables that we eat?

Ron
Jefferson, Md.

A. Dearest Ron,

Using sweet rainwater to nourish your burgeoning salad ingredients is just like a refreshing drink straight from a mountain stream. By which I mean – and if you’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing what I’ll call "the wilderness two-step" after indulging in the latter, you’ll know this already – proceed with caution. Both water sources may look clear, pure, and unequivocally healthy, but you never know what invisible intruders lurk within.

Rain barrels in general are unequivocally healthy for the planet. Simple systems designed to funnel rainwater from your roof into storage tanks, rain barrels relieve pressure on stormwater systems, reduce the energy used to treat and transport water, and save you roughly 1,300 gallons of tap water per summer. But you’re not the only one wondering about using that manna from heaven on your veggie garden, Ron.

Read more: Food, Living

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Minga Dynasty

Cooperative organic farming takes root in Kentucky

screen shot La Minga
Perennial Plate

The ideas of cooperative work are central to many movements in Latin America. Nelson Escobar has brought those ideas from his home in El Salvador to Louisville, Ky., to a large urban farm named La Minga after a traditional South American form of collective organization. Now, in the heart of conservative America, the farmers plant, cultivate, and harvest their food together, sharing the bounty amongst themselves and supporting the greater local community as they go.

Read more: Food, Living