Oceanfront Property

If you’re into this whole “climate change threatens coastal ecosystems” thing (and you should be, because, you know, science and all that), Climate Central has an interactive map that shows how sea-level rise could affect coastal areas.

Here’s Houston, Texas with a one-foot rise in sea levels:

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 1.08.09 PM

And here it is with a ten-foot rise: Continue reading


Tiny Houses and the High Cost of Living Off the Grid

Have you always wanted to live off the grid, close to nature, in a simple dwelling you designed and built yourself? Well, you can!…..assuming, of course, that you have access to land that would enable you to do so, along with the means to do all the stuff I just described, the physical ability to live away from the amenities of civilization, and so forth.

Via Collective Evolution (so consider the source) (h/t Lisé), we learn of a guy who built his “dream mini-home.” In Thailand. On land that was pretty much donated to him. But it’s still a pretty cool house. It has a rooftop hammock platform, which I would totally dig.

Don’t get me wrong—I think it would be great if people en masse could live in a more sustainable way. The key term there is en masse. Continue reading


What I’m Reading, January 12, 2015

The Future of Women on Earth May Be Darker Than You Thought, Annalee Newitz, io9, January 2, 2015

When I say freedom, I don’t mean anything fancy. I’m just talking about women’s ability to control their destinies, by having things like access to jobs that give them financial independence from anyone else. Just for good measure, let’s say that freedom also includes the opportunity to contribute to the political destinies of our communities by voting, holding office, and being given a chance to run important institutions. I’m not saying anything radical here. These are all pretty typical freedoms afforded to women in modern democratic countries, at least technically — and even to some women in non-democratic ones.

I used the word “technically” for a reason. As most people who have ever lived as women will tell you, many of these freedoms are difficult to achieve in practice. Women are not forbidden from having financial independence and leadership roles, but we still struggle to get them.

But that’s not really news, and if you want to debate it, there are plenty of message boards that will welcome your thoughts. What I find more interesting is that women have had these freedoms for such an incredibly short period of time. Considering that humans have been creating systems of government for thousands of years, women’s suffrage is like a blink of an eye. In the United States, where I live, women couldn’t vote a century ago.

It’s Time To Arrest Ultra-Orthodox Jews Who Delay Flights Over Seating, Michael Luciano, The Daily Banter, December 29, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, December 30, 2014

The Year Having Kids Became a Frivolous Luxury, Jessica Grose, Slate, December 22, 2014

There have been many prominent pregnancy and child care–related issues in 2014, from the UPS pregnancy discrimination case that was recently argued in front of the Supreme Court to the publicity around the scheduling software that makes child care arrangements impossible for working-class parents. In reading and writing about these issues, I’ve noticed a depressing sentiment: Having children is now often framed as a frivolous lifestyle choice, as if it’s a decision that’s no different from moving to San Francisco or buying a motorcycle. If you choose to buy that Harley or have that baby, it’s on you, lady.

When I’ve written about middle- and upper-middle-class parents wanting benefits like paid parental leave, this is the typical sort of comment people make: “I see no reason to subsidize women’s fantasies of ‘having it all.’ ” As if raising children is just about pinning another badge to a Girl Scout sash. When I write about working-class parents just trying to make ends meet and find safe child care for their offspring, the comments are even crueler: “If you can’t afford a dog, don’t get a dog. If you can’t afford a kid, don’t get a kid.”

I got slimed by Rush: The real story of how Stephen Colbert schooled Limbaugh on U.S. history, patriotism, Sophia A. McClennen, Salon, December 24, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, December 22, 2014

It’s OK Not to Be Offended But Not OK to Be Offended That Others Are Offended, Jill Pantozzi, The Mary Sue, December 17, 2014

Let’s stick to the less violent responses. You’re personally offended by someone being offended by a thing. Offended enough to comment on an article. What are you actually saying about yourself? You’re saying you don’t care enough to want a change for the better in the society you live in but you care enough to tell other people you don’t care?

I mean, really?

Here’s the thing: It’s totally fine if you don’t want to change the world for the better. I, and others, may judge you for it, but that’s totally your prerogative. You can also think the world doesn’t need changing. You’d be wrong, but you can certainly believe that. You don’t have to take up a cause or join ours. That’s ok. You also don’t have to consider issues we take with media on the same level as world issues. We write about these things because they mean something to us, and we believe what’s portrayed in the media has real-world implications. And we’d like others to know it.

GOP’s new fracking hypocrisy: What a Texas battle reveals about Republican dogma, Kyle Schmidlin, Salon, December 15, 2014 Continue reading


Because we, uh, I mean God, said so, that’s why!

State officials in Alabama are refusing to comply with new EPA standards for carbon pollution, because God:

At their news conference today Cavanaugh and PSC commissioner-elect Chip Beeker invoked the name of God in stating their opposition to the EPA proposal. Beeker, a Republican who is running unopposed for a PSC seat, said coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God’s plan.

“Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?” he said.

You know what God presumably also gave us? Brains. Just sayin’.


There Is No More Boot

Printed maps of the state of Louisiana typically show a “L”- or boot-shaped state, but the state hasn’t actually had that shape for quite some time (h/t PZ):

According to the U.S.G.S., the state lost just under 1,900 square miles of land between 1932 and 2000. This is the rough equivalent of the entire state of Delaware dropping into the Gulf of Mexico, and the disappearing act has no closing date. If nothing is done to stop the hemorrhaging, the state predicts as much as another 1,750 square miles of land — an area larger than Rhode Island — will convert to water by 2064. An area approximately the size of a football field continues to slip away every hour. “We’re sinking faster than any coast on the planet,” explains Bob Marshall, a Pulitzer-winning journalist in New Orleans. Marshall authored the series “Losing Ground,” a recent collaboration between The Lens, a non-profit newsroom, and ProPublica, about the Louisiana coast’s epic demise. Continue reading


Whither Regulations?

I frequently see rants from people about this government regulation or that. Many of them seem entirely reasonable or justified, because a great many regulations are annoying as crap on a day-to-day basis.

By Felix Andrews (Floybix) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Free market water! (This is in China, not Ohio, but my point stands.)

One thing I see far, far less frequently than invective against certain regulations, however, is inquiry into why those particular regulations exist. I know a few things about how laws and regulations come to be, and while it is a seriously messy process, it generally doesn’t happen completely out of the blue or for purely arbitrary reasons. I’ll just let Paul Krugman take it from here, in large part since he has at least one more Nobel Prize than me:

In the latest Times Magazine, Robert Draper profiled youngish libertarians — roughly speaking, people who combine free-market economics with permissive social views — and asked whether we might be heading for a “libertarian moment.” Well, probably not. Polling suggests that young Americans tend, if anything, to be more supportive of the case for a bigger government than their elders. But I’d like to ask a different question: Is libertarian economics at all realistic?

The answer is no. And the reason can be summed up in one word: phosphorus. Continue reading


LEGO and Petrochemicals

I got an email the other day about a petition started by Greenpeace urging LEGO, the world-famous toy company that was a mainstay of my childhood (continuing on into my adulthood), to cut its ties with Shell, the world-infamous oil company that has faced major opposition for its plans to drill in the Arctic. I am a huge fan of LEGO, and not at all a huge fan of Shell, but I decided to look into this campaign a bit more, in part because the LEGO/Shell partnership didn’t seem like a new deal to me. In fact, I was pretty sure I had a LEGO Shell gas station as a kid.

I was close. It was a LEGO Exxon gas station.

Via Brickipedia

Via Brickipedia

According to Brickipedia, LEGO had a licensing deal with Exxon for sets sold in the U.S., beginning as early as 1979, when it released a fuel tanker set. It released the gas station set in 1980, along with a tow truck that had Exxon logos on the doors. It also released another fuel tanker set—with room for the minifigure to sit behind the wheel—in 1984. I’m pretty sure I had all of these sets. LEGO used the Esso brand until the Exxon brand largely replaced it in the U.S. in the 1970’s.

As for Shell, I remembered seeing Shell sets in LEGO catalogs. LEGO began making Shell-branded products, such as the “Shell Service Station,” in 1966: Continue reading


This Counts as Irony, Right?

Via Ed Brayton:

You might want to turn off your irony meters for this one. An oil refining company in Delaware has applied for public funding to protect its refinery from a rise in sea levels, brought on by the global warming that burning fossil fuels helps cause, that threaten its infrastructure.

May I ask why the company couldn’t just pull itself out of the rising sea levels by its own bootstraps?