When the River Caught Fire: A Brief History of Earth Day

Includes videos

Donning a gas mask, a demonstrator participates in the first Earth Day celebration in 1970. (AP)

Quick quiz:

1. Which labor organization helped fund and organize the first Earth Day celebration?

2. Who made the following statement:

“Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions … It is a cause of particular concern to young Americans, because they, more than we, will wreak the grim consequences of our failure to act on programs which are needed now if we are to prevent disaster later.”

Keep reading for answers. Continue reading

Now that You’ve Finished Your Taxes (Hopefully), See What They Actually Pay For

Estimation based on income taxes only (not payroll taxes).

“In this world,” wrote Ben Franklin, “nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”

On April 15, as the filing deadline closed in, millions of Americans were frantically confronting that latter (but hopefully not former) inevitability. Continue reading

Equal Pay Day: How Big is the Wage Gap Between Men and Women?

April 14 is Equal Pay Day, symbolizing the number of days into 2015 (in addition to all of 2014) that the average American woman would need to work in order to match what the average man made in 2014 alone, according to Department of Labor estimates.

Although the the gender wage gap has significantly narrowed in recent decades, it still persists to a notable degree. According to the DOL, women are paid on average 78 cents for every dollar made by a man. That gap is even wider for women of color. Continue reading

Visualization: US Police Have Killed More than 2,500 People Since 2011

Produced by San Diego design firm 1 Point 21, this visualization shows all 2,695 verifiable officer-involved homicide nationwide since 2011 that were reported to and cataloged by the crowdsourced database Fatal Encounters. Mouseover any line to view incident information at top. The red button showing incident classification links directly the original news article. Data can be sorted by year, race and manner of death. Scroll down to see racial breakdowns and statewide data.
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How Much Precious California Water Did You Just Eat? Find the Water Footprint of Your Food

Courtesy LA Times

Courtesy LA Times

CORRECTION: This article originally stated that soy milk was the most water-intensive drink. The  value, as initially listed by the LA Times, was for the soybean ingredient, not the actual final soy milk product. Soy milk actually has a smaller water footprint than most other processed drinks.

Looking to minimize your water footprint at the dinner table? How about a wholesome meal of eggs, carrots, potatoes and beer?

Nutritious and downright water efficient (although perhaps not age-appropriate for the whole family).  Continue reading

How Much Water Do Californians Use and What Does 25 Percent Less Look Like?

Photo courtesy of NASA

Photo courtesy of NASA

Feeling a bit dry lately? It’s not just your imagination.

California is mired in its fourth year of historic drought, with snowpack in the Sierra Nevada — which supplies about a third of the state’s water — at 6 percent of the long-term April average. Continue reading

March Madness by the Money: Should College Players Get Paid?

Courtesy Wikipedia


March is winding down, and that means millions of Americans camping out on their couches and taking suspiciously long lunch breaks to witness the dwindling cadre of basketball squads battling it out for intercollegiate glory.

Although college athletes are considered “amateurs” by the NCAA, and prohibited from collecting any kind of monetary compensation (including royalties from sponsorships), the tournament they play in has become very big business, generating massive profits for the National College Athletic Association and many of the coaches and schools involved.   Continue reading

Multimedia Roundup: ISIS Explained

The Islamic State, a radical religious group that in the past year has violently seized huge chunks of territory in eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq, is widely considered among the world’s most violent and dangerous new terrorist forces. Also referred to as ISIS or IS, the group is known for use of brutal tactics, including mass killings and beheadings of journalists and aid workers, to spread a message of fear and establish a medieval-style religious order throughout the region. But much mystery about the group remains. These resources help explain who exactly the Islamic State is, what it wants and the surprisingly sophisticated media tactics it uses to spread its message and attract new recruits. Continue reading

Where Does Your T-Shirt Come From? Follow Its Epic Global Journey [Visualization]

[Re-run Alert! A version of this post was first published in June 2013]

Best viewed in full-screen mode (click on button at bottom left corner after loading)

A simple cotton T-shirt doesn’t seem so simple when you begin to trace the various steps in the now-standard vast global process from cotton farm to clothing shop.

The extraordinary success of “fast fashion” giants like H&M, Zana and Forever 21, lies squarely in the ability to produce a massive amount of clothing – billions of garments a year – in the cheapest, quickest manner possible. It may seem counterintuitive, then, to divide the process into manufacturing hubs scattered around the globe.  But when you factor in the dramatically lower labor and material costs offered by suppliers in developing countries, the global supply chain model begins to make more sense. Continue reading