2012: A Look Back at the Year in Water, Energy and the Nexus

Happy Holidays! It’s “Best Of” listmaking-time these days, and in spite of the groans of the blogosphere, we couldn’t resist taking stock of the past year. So now, in the second of two installments, here’s an Ecocentric look back at some of the most contentious, disappointing, inspiring, anticlimactic, game-changing moments of 2012 in food, water and energy. Today: the Water, Energy, Nexus edition!


Aid to farmers couldn’t come at a better time as they’re feeling the effects of the worst drought in 25 years. Much of the US continued, parched, through the now years-long drought which has left crops browned, cattle full of candy and power plants overheating. For consumers, effects of the ruined soybean and corn crops will start to hit in 2013.

Do the Math on Climate Change

We’re ending 2012 with word that 2011 saw an all-time high in carbon emissions, a mark 2012 is likely to top, according to scientists. Scary stuff.  Earlier this year, Ecocentric participated in the 5/5/12 campaign from 350.org, founded by Bill McKibben, connecting the dots between climate change and food, water and energy. But McKibben put climate change back on the map despite near-total mainstream media and political silence on the issue in a presidential election year. His July 19 Rolling Stone manifesto declared divestment war on oil and gas multinational corporations, and announced the “Do the Math” tour, which kicked off the day after President Barack Obama was reelected. The follow-up campaign is ongoing, and so far Unity College in Maine has agreed to divest. Harvard University, among others, has refused. Stay tuned in 2013, as climate change may yet prove to be the top environmental story – of all time.


And what of the Most Controversial Issue – Nexus Edition? I refer, of course, to fracking (that’s hydraulic fracturing), the process of extracting natural gas from tricky-to-reach shale deposits deep underground via powerful injections of chemicals (about which we know very little) and water (to the tune of 4.5 million gallons per well). The catch, of course, is what happens to all of the wastewater, chemicals, methane and carbon emitted from the thousands of trucks needed to ferry all of the drilling equipment around to the sites. Not to mention the residual effects on farmland,  animals and our food. Fracking controversy  these days is close to home for Ecocentric as NY Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to mull a decision about allowing the practice anywhere in the state. There are also legal issues to consider, such as what happens to property and mortgage values once drilling comes to town. While we await Gasland 2, this May Ecocentric Hero Josh Fox released a twenty-minute video letter to Governor Cuomo, The Sky is Pink, requesting that Cuomo refuse to allow the practice in New York State. Given the stakes, 2013 promises to be very eventful.


Remember back in January 2012, when the White House denied the Keystone XL project permit from barreling onward? This was another issue taken up by citizen activists which continues today as the US State Department prepares to issue a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Meanwhile, a federal appeals court ruled this June that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission may have mistakenly assessed that “spent fuel can be stored safely at nuclear plants for the next century or so,” ruling in favor of plaintiffs that included four states, environmental groups and Native American groups. Spent nuclear rods need a little more TLC in their disposal than do most other things, so the NRC is back to the drawing board, tasked with explaining a plan B if no permanent storage site is developed. Speaking of long-term environmental damages, in November the Obama Administration announced that BP would no longer be eligible to enter into any federal contracts given their “lack of business integrity” in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. For better energy news, renewables fans take note: the top 20 companies going solar included some of the biggest of the big box stores  – Walmart, Costco and Kohl’s.

Food Waste, Food Production and the Nexus

Food waste – adding up to some 33 million tons generated in the US annually – was a hot topic and action item this year.  And in the process of producing food, enthusiastic use of water pumps is draining aquifers in India, China and the Middle East. Which all comes back to the overall challenge we’ve focused on in 2012 : how to reduce tensions in the food, water and energy nexus.

So now, let us take our annual holiday pause, hoist some nog, and toast to the work to come in 2013. Join us!

Did you catch yesterday’s roundup of the Year in Food? And please let us know about your favorite stories of the year – we’d love to hear from you in the comments, on Facebook at Ecocentric Blog or on Twitter at @EcoCentered!