Skip to content
Grist home
Support nonprofit news

Articles by Biodiversivist

My real name is Russ Finley. I also have my own blog called Biodiversivist, which contains articles in addition to those submitted to Grist. I live in Seattle, married with children. Suffice it to say that although I am trained and educated as an engineer, my passion is nature. I very much want my grandchildren to live on a planet where lions, tigers, and bears have not joined the long and growing list of creatures that used to be.

All Articles

  • Free market forces can save some species, but habitat is still crucial

    A success story:

    elvis the lizard Instead of unboxing box turtles, maybe WildAid should consider setting up a cell tower and some motion sensitive digital cell cameras to keep the wildlife traffickers out of the preserves. It is a lopsided struggle. One side stands to profit while the other relies on donations and volunteers. Find a way to make it more profitable (or fun by harnessing some aspect of human nature) to preserve biodiversity and you will win every time. My youngest daughter owns a New Caledonian Crested Gecko (named Elvis). Like the Ivory Billed woodpecker (coincidentally also code-named Elvis), the lizards were thought to be extinct until their rediscovery a decade ago. At that time, a few legal crested specimens were collected for study and breeding, followed by a totally predictable binge of illegal collecting for profit.

  • It’s an electric bike

    electric hybrid bike I don't know what this guy's hang-up is with Deuce Bigalow, but high gas prices and the following comment by Odograph on the cost of plug-in electric hybrids got me thinking again. In lieu of paying $3-6K more for a plug-in hybrid electric car:

    What if you drive a prius and plant $3-10K worth of trees? What if you skip the prius, buy an echo and plant $13-20K worth of trees? What if you spend $1k and ride a really nice bike?

    I especially liked his last idea. I jumped on the net to see what was new for electric bikes and bought a conversion kit from a shop somewhere in California for $300. UPS dropped it off at my house last Monday and I had it on my bike an hour or so later.

  • Replacing fossil fuels with biodiesel may do more harm than good

    vanI remember when real environmentalists drove smoking VW vans with bumper stickers that said stuff like, "You can't call yourself an environmentalist if you eat meat." They didn't get the best gas mileage, but hey, you could do worse. They were replaced by the forest-green Subaru Outback (Eddy Bower edition if you were really cool), seen by the dozens in any REI parking lot. These are presently being eclipsed by the ubiquitous Prius. But, there is stiff competition from the diesel Jetta replete with biodiesel stickers all over the butt end.

    As we all know by now, biodiesel can be made out of a lot of things:

    Soybeans: 50 gallons per acre
    Rapeseed: 150 gallons per acre
    Jatropha: 175 gallons per acre
    Palm oil: 650 gallons per acre

    To limit the impact on the planet, maybe we should start pressuring our biodiesel distributors to sell fuel made only from palm oil? According to the World Wildlife Fund, we would also need to demand that it be made out of palm oil grown only on degraded, non-forested land:

  • Beware the hype around plug-in hybrids

    An article in Business Week Online tells us that experimental hybrid cars get up to 250 mpg (a very similar article appeared in the New York Times business section a couple of months earlier). I enjoy reading between the lines of lay press science and technology articles. There was a great discussion in Grist on this subject not too long ago.

    Gremban ...spent... $3,000 tinkering with his car... [I]n the trunk sits an 80-miles-per-gallon secret -- a stack of 18 brick-sized batteries... [T]he extra batteries let Gremban drive for 20 miles with a 50-50 mix of gas and electricity.

    In other words, for his $3000 he will get 80 miles per gallon for 20 miles before his carriage turns back into a pumpkin. For the rest of the day he will carry a hundred pounds of bricks around in his now-useless trunk, which by the way will degrade his gas mileage. For the first 20 miles he drives each day he will save 0.25 gallons, thus recouping his $3000 in about twenty years, assuming his batteries last that long. The more miles he drives after the batteries go dead, the worse things get because of the extra weight of the dead batteries in his trunk. Which leads me to ask: If his commute is only ten miles each way, why not just ride a bike, get a little exercise, and save $3000? You can also get 80 mpg out of a 40-mpg car by carpooling with one passenger, or get 120 mpg with two passengers, or 160-mpg with three passengers.