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Final Exam

What type of environmentalist are you?

environmentalist
Brendan Kiefer

Quizzes are all the rage today. There are even quizzes to determine what kind of quiz you are. Sure, you know which Game of Thrones character, style of kisser, and Ninja Turtle you are -- but do you know your modern eco breed? If not, we thought we'd help you figure it out (because quiz-makers obviously know yourself better than you do).

If you found your way here, we're guessing you have at least some sort of green inclination. But in the 21st century that no longer has to go hand-in-hand with things like sanctimony and guilt -- environmentalists now come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. Maybe even some ones that you wouldn't expect.

Are you an unquenchable activist that everyone awkwardly pretends not to notice while you're out canvassing? A tech-loving futurist churning out pie in the sky ideas? An eco yuppie happily buying into everything green, so long as it's still trendy? Take the quiz to find out!

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Hay, Girl

Farming is full of shit, blood, and stubborn fields. How’s that for romantic?

farm-wedding.jpg
Shutterstock

Real talk? That hay would be itchy as hell.

For the last few years, farming has enjoyed perhaps unprecedented levels of urban adoration. But two excellent articles recently popped up to warn us of the dangers of romanticizing farming.

Sarah Searle muses for Modern Farmer on the trend of farm-based weddings and agrotourism in general. While that extra bit of income from holding weddings can really make a difference for some farmers, "we’re incentivizing farmers to use their limited resources to perpetuate a romantic stereotype that consumers enjoy, rather than to spend money on functioning, sustainable (but perhaps not magazine-beautiful) models of local farming." Plus, some once-working farms "have found they can fare better offering a carefully curated version of farming to those willing to pay for it."

Shells of farms and farmers preoccupied with dancefloor assembly do not a sustainable, hardy food system make.

Over at The Guardian, Beth Hoffman hits hard on how little we actually know about the journey from farm to fork:

Read more: Food, Living

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Public transit still isn’t safe for women — but we can change that

harass transit
Hallie Bateman

The other day, I was talking to my dad on the phone about an essay I wrote about sexual harassment in a warming world.

“Honey,” he said, “I thought it was great – but where did you get the idea to write about something like that?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Personal experience, I guess.”

“You mean men say things like that to you? Just walking down the street?”

Well, no -- not just walking down the street, but also on the bus, in parks, and even in the Twittersphere. I suppose no father wants to think of his little girl being talked to that way, but I was shocked that it had never occurred to him because for me and billions of other women all over the world, it’s such a constant reality. I started thinking more about how, as a woman, my right to exist peacefully and safely in public spaces is compromised on a fairly regular basis. And I know that I’m not alone, which is why I’m still writing about it.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Ask Umbra: What is the greenest party-drink vessel of all?

red cups
iStockphoto

Send your question to Umbra!

Q.  Do you think it is better to use cups and bottled soda or canned drinks at a party? I recently hosted a graduation party and chose to use 2-liter bottles of soda and plastic (recyclable) cups. I set out Sharpies, so people put their name on their cups and reuse them. I know people tend to set a soda can down unfinished, misplace it, and get a new one, but I haven't tried Sharpies on aluminum!

Ginger
Richland, Wash.

A. Dearest Ginger,

Your question, while timeless, certainly feels timely this week. Countless Americans are no doubt stocking up on BBQ fixin’s, flags, and fireworks from just over the border for this weekend’s 4th of July celebrations, so now is a perfect time to discuss our party drinking habits.

You have posed a classic either-or question, Ginger, but as is my wont with these queries, I’m going to start with an answer of “neither.”

Read more: Food, Living

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Eden Foods pulls a Hobby Lobby

This organic food company is refusing to pay for employees’ birth control

Eden Food cans

Just because a company is organic doesn't mean it's progressive. Exhibit A: Eden Foods.

Like Hobby Lobby, Eden Foods sued the Obama administration to try to get out of providing contraceptive coverage for its employees. Eden Foods is a Michigan-based business that bills itself as "the oldest natural and organic food company in North America." It is solely owned by Michael Potter, a Catholic who refers to birth control pills as "lifestyle drugs" and likes to whine about "unconstitutional government overreach." (More crazy quotes from him below.)

In Eden Foods Inc. v. Kathleen Sebelius, filed in federal court in March of 2013, the company claimed its religious freedom was being violated by the Affordable Care Act's mandate that employee health insurance cover birth control. The suit argued that "contraception or abortifacients ... almost always involve immoral and unnatural practices.” In October, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided against Eden Foods, ruling that a for-profit company cannot exercise religion.

But then, on June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that family-owned, "closely held" companies can use religion as an excuse to flout the birth control mandate. Eden Foods is one of a few dozen "closely held" for-profit companies that have filed suit over the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate. On July 1, the Supreme Court ordered the 6th Circuit Court to reconsider its decision against Eden Foods and another plaintiff with a similar case.

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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.

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This timelapse serves up some deforestation with your World Cup

Manaus Amazonas stadium
Gabriel Smith

We all know that this World Cup, however magnificent the saves, comes with its fair share of fouls. But it's one thing to know that Brazil built a stadium in the capital city of Amazonas, and another thing entirely to SEE 30 years of satellite images in which a little patch of mostly green is slowly and almost completely colonized by concrete.

(To be fair, FIFA can only take the blame for the stuff that happens after 2007, when Brazil was named this year's tournament host ... in fact, most of the deforestation was already fait accompli by then, but you didn't click on this for quibbles, you clicked on this because you wanted to watch a depressing timelapse.)

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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The not-so-hidden climate messages in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”

"Do the Right Thing" poster

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing, listed by the late, great critic Roger Ebert as one of America’s greatest movies. It wasn’t Lee’s first film, but it was the one that launched him into legendary cinematic status and comparisons to other lauded New York filmmakers like Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese. In celebration of the anniversary, Lee held a block party over the weekend on the Bed-Stuy block where the movie was filmed, with performances from Public Enemy, Erykah Badu, and Dave Chappelle. The First Family even streamed a video message to the party, noting that Do the Right Thing was the movie Barack and Michelle saw on their first date.

http://instagram.com/p/py1PNvR2FW/

While “Do the Right Thing” is best known for its commentary on race relations, there are some prophetic moments and prognostic themes in the film for those concerned about climate change and cities.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Drug users buy local, snack heavily

marijuana-smoke.jpg
Shutterstock

The U.N.'s annual World Drug report is in and -- good news! -- it turns out that crocheted hackie sack isn't the only local artisanal product those hippies on the quad are supporting. The world's drug market is also hitting the locavore trend.

Here in the States, for instance, imported cocaine is on the decline and home grown (well, not necessarily grown so much as distilled from only the finest household cleaning products in a vintage trailer park bathtub) drugs are taking its place.

Joshua Keating at Slate has the story:

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Ask Umbra: Should I find a rideshare for my trip — or just go Greyhound?

Greyhound
Chester Paul Sgroi

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. I would like to take a Greyhound bus with another family member on a short trip from Toledo to Cincinnati. It would be more relaxing than driving, and better for the planet. But we have an appointment we can't miss. How do I find out how reliable the schedule is? Also, I have heard there are rideshare websites one can go to. Any information on them? Are they safe?

Kathy
Southeast MI

A. Dearest Kathy,

I’m revved to hear your enthusiasm for transportation options beyond the personal automobile. Given the choice, I, too, would happily hand the wheel over to someone else and spend those road hours catching up on my crossword puzzles. It’s the surest cure for road rage I know.

Planet-wise, the bus is an excellent option for your trip to The Queen City. Not only do Greyhounds have wifi these days, but buses are among your lowest-carbon choices: According to a Union of Concerned Scientists report, you and your relative will cut your carbon emissions almost in half over even a hybrid car by busing. The downside to this option over, say, a high-speed train is that you’re still tied to the ebb and flow of highway traffic.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living