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The Best of Treehugger: Google Targets Cheap Solar, the Local Kinkos for Stuff, and New York's Craziest (Sanest) Building




Google builds its own servers because the commercial ones are too expensive. It's also building solar panels for the same reason—and by focusing on mirrors, the company thinks it can cut the cost of solar energy by 60 percent. Overachievers. (They're going to do it, aren't they?)

While we're talking about dramatic percentages, an engine developed in England takes up 50 percent of the volume of a regular engine but gives twice the torque for the same power output—making it perfect not just for electric cars but renewable energy generation, aerospace, even electric bikes. And another dramatic percentage: Yanaizu, Japan is apparently 3290 percent efficient, due to its dependence on geothermal energy.

It's getting easier to make your own stuff: Ponoko, a digital fabricator, has teamed up with ShopBot to form 100K Garages, which will link those who need something made with a community of more than 6,000 fabricators. It's kind of like a Kinkos for things.

China may be throwing up its hands on keeping a global temperature rise within a critical 2 degrees Fahrenheit, but maybe we can find some solace a bit south, off the coast of Singapore: the world's largest ghost shipping fleet sits idle—another way the recession is inadvertently keeping CO2 emissions down.

By next year, will those ships traverse the world's next Suez Canal? Global warming has melted enough ice in the Northeast Passage to open a brand new, long sought-after shipping route, altering the way goods are transported around the world.

Volkswagon showed off a 1-Liter diesel-hybrid concept car, which gets 170 MPG. Then again, in the 19th century, hillside cable cars often ran on water. And in Switzerland, they were powered by sewage.

The craziest new building in New York is also one of its sanest: Thom Mayne's Cooper Union academic building begins with an airy central atrium, an elevator that only stops on two floors, and some of the best stairs—yes, stairs—we've ever seen. And then there's that spectacular, luminous, energy-saving skin.

Kids don't walk as much anymore in the United States, but even in a city (with sidewalks and density), it can be hard to find enough space to walk. As Mark Gorton of Streetsblog reminds us, that's because we give all of our space to the least spatially-efficient or environmentally-friendly mode of transportation.

An updated version of the website e-cycler connects those with recyclable items and no good way of getting rid of them with those who can make some cash off them. And just in time: a new push for new e-waste rules in the United States reminds us that in a metric ton of old cell phones, there's $15,000 worth of metals.

Why don't we convert more salt water to potable water in places where it's needed? Pablo explains the complexities of desalinization, reminding us that the cheapest form of drinking water is the water we save.
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via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

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Politics

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

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test
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

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Health

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

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Health
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

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Politics