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Almonds Are Sucking California Dry

Evidence mounts in the environmental case against these delicious, nutritious nuts

Photo via Flickr user Harsha K R

Say you live in California, which is now going through the worst drought in history, and you’re a good citizen. So you’re taking shorter showers, teaching the kids about conservation, and giving your neighbors the appropriate dirty looks for sprinkler use. You are doing all the right things and sometimes to reward yourself you have a nutritious handful of delicious almonds.

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Can You Cut Your Water Consumption by 90 Percent for 24 Hours?

A nonprofit challenges people to live off a gallon of water a day, instead of dumping it on their heads

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

When the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge gained unprecedented social-media success earlier this year, with its campaign to raise awareness and funds for Lou Gehrig's Disease, not everyone was convinced. For every few people that posted themselves getting doused in ice cold water, one or two seemed to publicly question the logic of wasting water—5 million gallons to be exact—to raise money for charity when much of the world, including parts of the United States, is in the middle of a historic drought.

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Why Spray-Painting Your Lawn Is an Act of Patriotism

California’s drought demands a new form of greenwashing.

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

For the last three years, California has been drier than a stale saltine cracker. After two years of poor rainfall and depleted reservoir levels, this is being called the worst drought in California’s history, updated by the U.S. Drought Monitor to “severe” status three months ago, and still getting worse by the day in many areas of the state. Every effort is being made to raise awareness of the bleak situation and reduce local water consumption as the real-world effects of the emergency set in.

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Climate Change Is Forcing Entire Countries to Migrate

The island nation of Kiribati could buy land in Fiji to start transplanting its population off its disappearing islands.


The people of Kiribati are going to have to move. Slightly more than 100,000 people live in this country, a chain of 33 atolls in the South Pacific, about as many as live in a small American city like Erie, Pennsylvania, or Flint, Michigan. The islands lie low in the ocean, and as climate change drives the sea level higher, fewer people are going to have the option of living there. The country’s president, Anote Tong, considered surrounding the islands with sea walls or building floating platforms for his constituents to move to. But both those options are expensive, and the country’s cabinet is now backing Tong’s new plan: buy land elsewhere.

Climate-forced migration isn’t supposed to be happening yet. We've always thought the consequences of abusing the earth would hit our children and our children children’s in 2050 and 2100, not in 2012. That’s the easy way to think about climate change, and many Americans do. This past fall, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication asked survey participants, “How much do you think climate change will harm future generations of people?” Forty percent responded, “A great deal.” How much did they think climate change would have their own families? Forty-eight percent of respondents thought “only a little” or “not at all.”

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Searching for Water in an Untapped Source: the Air

The Airdrop is a low-tech fix to a serious problem: growing food during a drought.

As climate change and the needs of 7 billion humans increase demands on the global water supply, the pressure is on to come up with ways to squeeze water from a stone—or at least from the air. The Airdrop is a new gadget that steps up to the challenge by helping farmers in severely dry regions source water for irrigation systems by harvesting moisture that's evaporated into the ether. Edward Linnacre, the engineering student behind the project, won this year's James Dyson Award for creativity in engineering design for his low-tech solution to a grave problem.

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John Wesley Powell's Watershed States Map Map: What If Our Western States Were Shaped by Watersheds?

John Wesley Powell thought our western borders should be shaped by watersheds. A 130-year-old map shows how the West would have looked.

We've covered the Western water crisis quite a bit, from the demise of Lake Mead to this startling infographic about the inter-state battles for the Colorado River's vital waters.

This tension between Western states was anticipated by John Wesley Powell, the great frontier explorer and head surveyor of the West for the federal government back in the 1880s. (You might remember him from history class as the one-armed maniac who lead the first European American expedition down the then-ferocious Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.)

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