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The 17-Step Solution
Secret Lovers
Junk Food

News Articles
Election fallout; stymieing starlings; to e-read or read print?; more.

 

The 17-Step Solution
Small changes, like carpooling and line-drying your clothes, could significantly decrease our carbon footprint if folks nationwide participated. By taking 17 actions at home, Americans could reduce the amount of carbon we emit over a decade by 123 million metric tons—equivalent to all of the greenhouse gases France vented in 2005, a recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found. “That’s something. It may not be everything, but it’s a start,” says study coauthor Paul Stern, director of the Committee of Human Dimensions on Global Change at the National Research Council. The steps involve a mix of behavioral changes and the adoption of new technologies. They include weatherizing houses with insulation, installing low-flow showerheads, taking automobiles in for routine maintenance, and driving more efficient vehicles. Relying on individuals to voluntarily make the switch isn’t likely to lead to widespread adoption, cautions Stern. “It does require policy support to make it convenient and accessible.” (For the full list of actions, click here.)—Susan Cosier
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Secret Lovers
“Make love, not war—and do it in private, please,” might be an appropriate mantra for the male spider monkey. Instead of competing openly for a mate, he prefers to sneak off with his lover, hoping others don’t notice. “Males work together to protect their territory from outsiders, which requires a lot of cooperation,” says K. Nicole Gibson, whose findings are published in the American Journal of Primatology. “By mating in secret they can maintain those relationships and still get access to the females.” They even keep their voices down when making “pre-copulatory vocalizations,” unlike other primates that loudly advertise their intentions. There may be an upside to all this secrecy. Once they’re safely ensconced in their hidden love nest, spider monkeys take their time—14 minutes on average per copulation, compared with just 8 seconds for chimps.—Nancy Averett

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Junk Food
Goats are known for devouring everything in sight except tin cans and cardboard boxes. Now their voracious appetites are being put to work to protect tiny bog turtles in New York. Water-loving invasive plants like phragmites, purple loosestrife, and canary grass are taking over wetlands, leaving no soggy soils for the three-inch reptiles to nest in. That’s where goats and cows come in; after they graze and trample plots infested with invasives, the turtles return along with the muddy patches and native plants, explains Jason Tesauro, an Environmental Defense Fund ecologist who has studied bog turtles for seven years in the Hudson River Valley. “If you find bog turtles, they’re in an area where the environment is still functioning as it should.”—Susan Cosier
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Cleaning House
Steps you can take to enhance your life, and the planet's.