What’s the Future of the Urban Farmers’ Market?

Locally sourced food, it seems, is pervasive these days—especially in cities. Once only available at a farmers’ market one morning a week in front of city hall, it’s now on offer at most urban supermarkets, many bodegas and corner stores, on converted buses driven deep into neighborhoods, and even delivered straight to the doorstep. Now that Amazon has acquired Whole Foods, some are speculating that drones will bring us our fresh produce in the not-too-distant future.

But don’t count out the traditional farmers’ market just yet. These aren’t the fusty, American Gothic-like experiences of your parents and grandparents. Farmers’ markets, especially the ones in cities, are adapting to the times, getting smart about data and technology, catering to new customer bases, and offering lots … Read the rest

Inside the Radical Community Response to Baltimore’s Spiking Murder Rate

Forty-one hours into a 72-hour ceasefire called by a group of Baltimore citizens, someone shot Lamontrey Tynes, a 24-year-old African American man. Tynes was the 209th person murdered in Baltimore this year.

“Everybody got the wind knocked out of them that weekend hearing that news,” Erricka Bridgeford, one of the people behind the Ceasefire movement, said of Tynes’ murder. “It made us realize that we hadn’t reacted to hearing about murder before like that and we must have been numb.”

A second person was shot five hours later.

The Ceasefire plan was simple. “Nobody kill anybody for 72 hours.” The conceit of citizens calling a ceasefire is a radical, first-of-its-kind tack to addressing the city’s historically high homicide rate. And whether it has yet been successful … Read the rest

How to Solve the Environmental Information Divide

The cattle herders of Mongolia’s Tuul River Basin can’t use cell phones—the only technology readily available to them—to access their government’s online portals on pollution data. Herders are left in the dark about effects that nearby mining is having on their land, groundwater, and livestock. This lack of accessibility is not solely a Mongolian problem. In a recent report, the World Resources Institute has found that information about water quality is not being broadcast in a way that vulnerable communities can easily find or utilize.

The report, “Thirsting for Justice: Transparency and Poor People’s Struggle for Clean Water in Indonesia, Mongolia, and Thailand,” is the result of a three-year investigation into the efficiency of approaches these governments are taking to release water quality data. … Read the rest

Lab Report: Judge Rips Into Texas’s Anti-Sanctuary Cities Law

‘Arbitrary and discriminatory’: Texas’s controversial ban on so-called sanctuary cities won’t be taking effect Friday as planned. A federal judge temporarily blocked the law on Wednesday, dealing a blow to one of the toughest state-issued immigration laws in the country. The New York Times reports:

In his ruling, Judge Garcia said that the law’s provision banning policies that limit enforcement of immigration laws was unconstitutionally vague and failed to define the specific prohibited conduct. The provision, the judge wrote, “ascribes criminal and quasi-criminal penalties based upon violations of an inscrutable standard, in a manner that invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement against disfavored localities.”

Texas vowed to appeal Judge Garcia’s decision, setting the stage for the case to be heard by the United States Court of Appeals

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Genetic Testing Is Recreating Bonds Broken by Slavery

“These tests at their best allow new forms of connection that might not have been otherwise possible,” says Alondra Nelson, president-elect of the Social Science Research Council. Though African American communities experienced a troubled history with genetics, primarily through eugenics, individuals are now using DNA testing to answer questions about their ancestors and connect with their African heritage. Interviewed at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival, Nelson discusses how biology can provide information once lost through the transatlantic slave trade.… Read the rest

The Next Houston

The last time a major hurricane struck Miami directly, in 1926, it left almost 400 people dead, making it one of the 10 deadliest hurricanes on the record books in the United States. Yet that storm ravaged a sleepy, relatively small resort town of just 100,000. Today, the Miami metropolitan area has more than 6 million residents.

Even as Harvey lingers in the Gulf Coast, dumping rain on an already deluged region, the Atlantic hurricane season continues, and threatens to bring more nasty storms in short order. In the central Atlantic, Irma is some 3,000 miles southwest of Miami Wednesday afternoon, and is expected to become a hurricane later this week.

While it’s impossible to reliably predict where Irma might hit, and what strength it would … Read the rest

Southern Crawfish Are the Newest Scourge to Northern Infrastructure

Wildlife authorities in Michigan received the two reports just days apart in July, one from a lake near Vicksburg and another 100 miles away in a retention pond outside of Detroit. Both tips concerned the same critters—red swamp crawfish, or Procambarus clarkii, pint-sized crustaceans with a bloodletting pinch native to Southern states like Louisiana.

When state workers visited the Detroit-adjacent pond in Novi, they found the land around the water shot through with what looked like cannon fire. “You wouldn’t be able to walk through without probably sinking your shoes in,” says Michelle Crook, a senior project engineer for Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources. “On better than half of the pond, I’d say there’s probably a two-foot width of the shoreline where there … Read the rest

This Map Wants You to Stereotype Your City

You probably know where the hipsters, students, or rich people people hang out in your city. But when you’re traveling somewhere new and want to know the same thing, where can you go to figure it out?

Hoodmaps might have your back. Launched in July, this crowdsourced, color-coded map features more than 2,000 cities around the world, letting users draw and highlight parts of each city depending on what kind of urbanite they think is most likely to be found there.

Each city is divided into six color-coded categories: hipsters, “normies,” suits, tourists, “uni” (students), and rich. Users can also add tags wherever they want to say something that goes beyond one of the six categories.

Pieter Levels, the developer behind Hoodmaps, said in a … Read the rest

In Gettysburg, the Confederacy Won

Almost every day, I ride my bicycle past some of the over 1,300 statues and monuments commemorating the Civil War in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where I live. They are everywhere. None of them are of black people.         

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought over three days in July of 1863, is often considered the turning point of a war fought over the fate of slavery in America. Black people ultimately were the reason why over 165,000 soldiers came to this Pennsylvania town in the first place. But on the battlefield, as far as the physical memorials, they disappear.

The Confederacy, on the other hand, is alive and everywhere in Gettysburg: Over the last 154 years, the South managed to win the battlefield, if not the battle itself.

I’ve … Read the rest

The Case for Sharing All of America’s Data on Mosquitoes

For decades, agencies around the United States have been collecting data on mosquitoes. Biologists set traps, dissect captured insects, and identify which species they belong to. They’ve done this for millions of mosquitoes, creating an unprecedented trove of information—easily one of the biggest long-term attempts to monitor any group of animals, if not the very biggest.

The problem, according to Micaela Elvira Martinez from Princeton University and Samuel Rund from the University of Notre Dame, is that this treasure trove of data isn’t all in the same place, and only a small fraction of it is public. The rest is inaccessible, hoarded by local mosquito-control agencies around the country.

Currently, these agencies can use their data to check if their attempts to curtail mosquito populations are … Read the rest

Global Warming Is Threatening Alaska’s Prized Wedding Flower

A little more than a decade ago, Ron Illingworth and his wife, Marji, planted 25 peony roots on their family farm in North Pole, Alaska. They did it on a whim, really, curious whether the bright, ruffled blossoms would thrive alongside the runner beans, peas, and tomatoes they sold at the local farmers market. A horticulture-professor friend of theirs had planted some test plots on the grounds of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and she was looking for some more data on their hardiness in subarctic conditions. Could peonies become a commercially viable export crop?

The next year, Ron and Marji had 50 roots. A year later, 100. Now, the couple has 15,000 roots in ground, with the goal of reaching 18,000. Their company, North Pole … Read the rest

Charting the Planet’s Path to 100% Renewable Energy

How quickly could the majority of planet wean itself off of coal, oil, and gas? For $124.7 trillion, perhaps within just a few decades.

That’s according to the latest research by the Stanford University professor of civil and environmental engineering Mark Z. Jacobson. In a study published in the new peer-reviewed scientific journal Joule, Jacobson and a slew of co-authors detail “roadmaps” for 139 countries to move toward 100 percent renewable, clean energy sources by 2050—that is, all wind, water and solar power, for all energy purposes. From Albania to Zimbabwe, the authors show how electrifying heavy-emitting sectors through renewables could help avert catastrophic global warming, prevent millions of deaths, and increase access to energy worldwide.

This paper builds on earlier work by Jacobson demonstrating … Read the rest

A Prehistoric Toothless Dolphin That Ate by Vacuuming Up Squid

The skull came from the Wando River, which today runs past Charleston, South Carolina to the ocean.

Thirty million years ago, it was all under the sea. Ancient dolphins and whales swam over what would become Charleston’s cobblestone streets. For millions of years, megalodons also swam in this sea, leaving behind shark teeth bigger than your hand. And it was divers looking for megalodon teeth who initially found the fossilized skull, loose on the bottom of the Wando River.

The skull—unusually wide and unusually squat—made its way to a collector who gave it to the College of Charleston’s Mace Brown Museum of Natural History. By the time the paleontologist Robert Boessenecker came to it, he says “It was already known as something new and very strange.” … Read the rest