This Week in Eco News - May 31, 2013

Happy Friday! We're kicking off this week's compilation of Eco News stories with a link to our Best of the Web Video feature. We alternate weekly to share the best in food, water and energy videos from around the web along with the news stories we follow, circulate internally and publish synopses of throughout the week. You can find them all week long — in real time — in the column to the right, just above our Best of the Web Video viewer. You can also sign up to receive Eco News via email each Thursday. If you see a story you think we should include, drop us a line at [email protected]

Best of the Web Video - Energy

Water, Energy, Food - Nexus Thinking Explained
Food, water and energy are all connected; what we call the nexus. As world population grows to 9 billion by 2050, we'll need to provide more food, which means more energy and that means we're going to need a lot more water. And in a changing climate, we're going to have to achieve more with less. That requires nexus thinking.

Take Action
: Explore GRACE's nexus pages so you can know the nexus!


[Connecticut] State Senate Approves Genetic Labeling
Connecticut's state senate overwhelmingly passed legislation that would require food manufacturers to label products that contain genetically engineered ingredients. [CT Post]

Gut Punch: Monsanto Could Be Destroying Your Microbiome
The EPA has raised the allowable limits for how much Roundup can remain on the food we eat and the crops we feed to animals. Roundup has known negative environmental effects, such as decimating amphibian populations and aquatic plants. New research also shows that Roundup is killing many species of beneficial animal gut bacteria while not affecting more harmful gut bacteria, like E. coli and the bacteria that causes botulism. Chances are it has similar effect on the versions of those bacteria that live in humans. [Grist]

We Are Not Amused: Prince Launches Scathing Attack on Food Industry
The Prince of Wales has called on Europe to 'recalibrate and re-gear' its food systems towards a local model of food production and distribution - while issuing a wide-ranging attack on current practices within the food industry. [Food Production Daily]

Women on the Farm: An Evolving Role
Women have worked in agriculture since agriculture began, but for many years they were limited to supporting roles. Now their roles have changed. "Talk of Iowa" seeks out women's voices in agriculture, through history and today. [Iowa Public Radio]

USDA Inspector General: Food Safety and Humane Slaughter Laws Ignored With Impunity
Two weeks ago, the USDA's Office of the Inspector General released a report condemning the US Food Safety Inspection Services (FSIS). Among the many shocking revelations: FSIS doesn't meaningfully attempt to stop repeat violations of food safety laws; it has allowed a 15-year-old pilot program with faster slaughter and fewer inspectors to proceed without review; it all but ignores its humane slaughter mandate. [Huffington Post]

Calories In Fast Food Meals Underestimated By Consumers, Study Reveals
According to new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), consumers underestimate the amount of calories in their fast food meals. Teens underestimate the number of calories in their meals by as much as 34 percent, parents of school-age children by as much as 23 percent and adults by as much as 20 percent. [Huffington Post]

Former Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out on Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food
Thierry Vrain, a former research scientist for Agriculture Canada, was once tasked with convincing the public GMOs were safe and an important technological advancement - but these days he's singing a different tune. Since acknowledging the mounting credible research and evidence on GMOs, Vrain is now voicing his concerns about the dangers of GMOs to both public health and the environment. [Mercola]

Seeking Food Ingredients That Aren't Gene-Altered
Many sustainable and responsible food manufacturers in the US are trying to meet consumer demand for products that are free from ingredients with GMOs - but the task of finding such ingredients is proving to be exceedingly daunting. [New York Times]


US Groundwater Losses Between 1900-2008 : Enough To Fill Lake Erie Twice
According to the first-ever USGS groundwater assessment, from 2000 to 2008 the United States has depleted its groundwater resources at a faster clip when compared to the previous study years. Although the unsustainable pumping of aquifers requires local and regional solutions, the global hydrological balance is affected as groundwater has significantly contributed to sea level rise. [Circle of Blue]

US Marks At Least 65 Years of National Water Crisis
An interesting step back to 1948 when journalist Lester Velie wrote of the American water crisis in terms similar to today's. One positive point is that more efficient water use and (hopefully) better policy has avoided the prediction that the "U.S. Southwest could shut down in two decades." [Circle of Blue]

Will Your City Run Dry? Report and Infographic on American Water Crisis
A joint Columbia Water Center-Veolia white paper developed a Normalized Deficit Index (NDC) that helps identify water stressed locations in the midst of drought and gauges the impacts they may have. Plus, they have a nifty infographic as an accompaniment! [Water Wired]

The Remarkable Story Of How New York City Gets Its Water
Here's an excellent and enlightening interview of environmental historian, David Soll, about his new book, Empire of Water, which looks at the historical context and possible futures for New York City's truly amazing (and pure) water supply. (Part Two.) [Gotham Gazette]

Tinderbox-Dry Western US at High Risk of Major Wildfires
An already parched American west combined with pest-weakened trees and budget cuts are making federal officials and their firefighting units dread the expected busy - and destructive - 2013 fire season. [Climate Central]

Atlantic County (NJ) to Create First Wetland Mitigation Bank in Tri-state Area
The wetland bank allows for grouping of wetland repair projects instead of working on a per-project basis and it will "create a better site for restoring lost wetland functions and do so in less time and at less cost." [Shore News Today]

Portland Fluoride: Measure to Add Fluoride to Portland's Drinking Water Fails
Portlandia said "no" to fluoridated drinking water...again (the fourth time since the 1950s). Rose City residents convincingly voted against the measure, 61 percent to 30, leaving it one of the largest US metro water supplies without fluoridation. [The Oregonian]

A River Runs Through It
In the final analysis, the best way to combat the enormous Gulf of Mexico dead zone is a revamped US agricultural policy that deemphasizes excessive use of fertilizers that wash into the Mississippi River and overwhelm the Gulf with nutrients. (There is also an accompanying "The Making of a Dead Zone" infographic.) [The Fern]


A Black Mound of Canadian Oil Waste Is Rising Over Detroit
Petroleum coke, a waste byproduct of refined Canadian tar sands oil, is piling up along the Detroit River in a huge mound. City leaders in Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, along with concerned citizens, are calling on Koch Carbon to stop treating Detroit like a dumping ground because the dirty residue left over from dirty tar sands is "costly and inconvenient to store, but effectively costs nothing to produce." [New York Times]

In the final analysis, the best way to combat the enormous Gulf of Mexico dead zone is a revamped US agricultural policy that deemphasizes excessive use of fertilizers that wash into the Mississippi River and overwhelm the Gulf with nutrients.

US Coal-Fired Power Plants: Update or Close?
Owners of coal-fired power plants are making big decisions right now - upgrade or shut down - based on their best guesses of whether or not strict new regulations on coal emissions are going to finally become reality. [Scientific American]

Pro-Environment Light Bulb Labeling Turns Off Conservatives, Study Finds
Sadly, reducing carbon emissions is a political, not scientific, issue in the US. And so a recent study found that self-described conservative customers were less likely to buy energy efficient light bulbs if there was pro-environmental wording on the packaging, and the labeling made little impact for liberal customers. [National Geographic]

Seaweed Forces EDF to Halt Scottish Nuclear Reactors
Nuclear power plants churn out electricity 24-7, right?! Well sure, unless there's too much seaweed, or too many jellyfish, in a plant's cooling waters. [Reuters]

Study Updates Water-Use Estimates for Different Electricity Generation Methods
It may not be at the top of your summer reading list, but a new study on the water use of different electricity sources is a big deal for those who are concerned about the water impacts of the power generation, and the vulnerability of different power sources to fluctuations in water supplies. [Environmental Research Web]

Cherokee Nation to Operate Largest Wind Farm on Tribal Land
The largest tribal wind farm in the US - 90 turbines generating 153 megawatts of power for homes, businesses and farms - is set to be built on Cherokee land in Oklahoma. [Cherokee Nation]

Coal's US Comeback
Despite the soaring increase in domestic production of natural gas, prices are rising which once again makes coal a more attractive option. Last November through March, more electricity was generated by burning coal than natural gas (after being tied the previous year). It's yet more evidence that natural gas is a rickety bridge at best towards a renewable future. [SmartPlanet]

Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels
There are no industry-wide figures about defective solar panels, but anecdotal evidence is pointing to a possible quality control problem in the solar panel manufacturing industry, particularly those using Chinese-made parts. [New York Times]