Image of protesters camp in North Dakota
Image: ©James MacPherson AP/Press Association Images

Pipeline fights, solar cars, and swapped votes. 30 October – 6 November: What just happened?

Dakota pipeline stalled by demonstrations, Tesla gets into the solar business, Indian farmers fan fires, Americans trade votes. Here's our review of the news over the last seven days

#NoDAPL goes viral as fight over Dakota Access Pipeline continues

Native Americans and environmentalists have successfully stalled construction (for now) on an oil pipeline just miles from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. The battle has been raging for years now, but this week it's gone international, with millions showing support for the protesters on Facebook and President Obama suggesting the controversial project could be rerouted. Supporters of the pipeline say it’s going to create jobs and is safer than shipping the oil by rail, but opponents are worried about the risks of contaminated water, and feel the long term consequences of fossil fuel use (like climate change) outweigh the temporary benefits. Here’s our simple breakdown of the debate.

Tesla offers a subtle solar look for your home



Sexy electric car manufacturer Tesla raised heads this week with its announcement of a forthcoming line of equally sexy solar panels. There aren’t many details yet except that the tiles will look like normal roof tiles, so now the whole neighborhood won’t have to know how much you love the environment. Tesla is currently trying to buy Solarcity, America’s biggest rooftop solar company. If successful, the idea is that Tesla would be able to sell electric cars, the solar panels needed to charge the cars, and the big batteries needed to store all the electricity. That strategy is called vertical integration, and while it used to be popular, it’s become much rarer these days.

Straw fires in India fuel air pollution

View of Dehli covered by polution
Image: © Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier

Farmers in Punjab, India burned millions of tons of straw this weekend to prepare fields for winter crops, bringing air pollution levels to 10 times the limit deemed as 'safe'. The fires are illegal, but local farmers insist that without government support for new machinery, they can’t afford to remove the straw any other way. The problem is, pollution is one of those goods with what economists call 'negative externalities' – whether or not you chose to 'consume' it, you'll suffer the negative effects. A UN report released this week found that 2 billion children live in places with too much air pollution, contributing to the death of 600,000. More details on the situation in India from the New York Times.

'I'll trade you my Stein for your Clinton.' 'Deal!'

Screenshot from Vote Trading website

A website called has popped up to allow third party voters in swing states to trade votes with Clinton voters in ‘safe’ states ahead of next Tuesday’s US election. In America, whoever wins a state gets all the points, so if you’re a Green or Libertarian supporter in Pennsylvania but hate Trump, one way to express your opinion is to trade your vote with a Clinton supporter in an uncompetitive state like California or Oklahoma. Like all markets, there’s a price that connects demand with supply: on it’s two safe votes for every decisive vote. In another move to try and stop Trump, a group of 370 economists signed a letter published in the Wall Street Journal bashing his economics as 'magical thinking and conspiracy theories'.


In other news...

Photo finish. The morning after the Chicago Cubs broke their 108-year championship drought, Twitter was buzzing about the coverage from the local papers. The Sun fired all their photographers three years ago to save money, and their photo was terrible; The Tribune kept their photographers and their photo was epic. Invest in your staff, people!

Pirates in Iceland. The Icelandic Pirate Party, an anti-corruption party which champions direct democracy and internet freedom, won 10 of the 63 parliamentary seats this week. They've not said anything about bringing back pieces of eight, but they do want to make Bitcoin an official currency!

Fall back. Europe moved its clocks back this week and the US and Canada will follow suit this weekend. That’s raised the annual debate over whether Daylight Savings Time actually saves anything, or is just a big waste of energy.

Need a break? Treat yourself to a city of your own


Looking to really get away? For around $12 million, the United States government will sell you a former Navy base in the middle of the National Radio Quiet Zone. Nestled into a forest between Virginia and West Virginia, the Quiet Zone is a Belgium-sized place where even the slightest radio signal is strictly controlled in the name of science (or state sponsored snooping). Even things like vacuum cleaners or heaters can emit enough radio waves to be a problem here. So if you’re looking to buy a small town and think you can afford to unplug, Sugar Grove might be for you!

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