This Week in Eco News - June 14, 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 - Food

Food MythBusters: Do We Really Need Industrial Agriculture to Feed the World?

The biggest players in the food industry--from pesticide pushers to fertilizer makers to food processors and manufacturers--spend billions of dollars every year not selling food, but selling the idea that their products are essential. But, do we really need industrial agriculture to feed the world?
Take Action
: On Real Food Fridays, pledge to eat food that is REAL: sustainably and ethically raised by workers and food producers paid and treated fairly.


NRDC Sues FDA for Failing (Again) to Disclose Information About Antibiotic Resistance
Last week the NRDC re-filed a lawsuit against the USDA that they had already filed last November because the agency once again failed to respond in a timely manner to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information about antibiotic resistant bacteria on meat and how antibiotics are used on livestock and poultry. [NRDC]

Kids Think Fish Fingers Come From Chicken: BNF Study
Kids say the darndest (and most depressing) things about food. School children's widespread ignorance of food origins and poor eating habits were revealed by a survey of more than 27,500 pupils conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF). Nearly a third of primary school children thought cheese came from plants and almost one-fifth believed fish fingers were chicken. [Food Manufacturer]

UK Food Security Report Urges Us to Eat Less Meat, Warns Industry to 'Curb Waste'
A global report on food security launched by the UK government urges retailers and manufacturers to take action that curbs food waste, warning that we are close to a significant food shortage. The report also strongly recommends consumers to eat less meat in order to ease the food crisis in developing countries. [Food Navigator]

Smithfield Sellout: Will Americans Pay the Price?
Andrew Gunther gives his two-cents on what the Smithfield sell-out to Shuanghui International, one of China's biggest meat processors, means for the US. He warns that this acquisition will give Shuanghui the green light to dramatically increase the number of pigs raised in CAFOs - and subsequently increase all of the associated damanges to the environment and public health. [Huffington Post]

Senate Passes Farm Bill; House Vote Is Less Certain
On Monday the Senate passed its version of the farm bill (which is 353 days overdue), and lawmakers will still have to reconcile it with the version making its way through the House before it becomes a law. Unfortunately the major reform we had hoped for (removing the subsidies supporting giant monocultures and moving that money to support sustainable ag) will not happen. Direct payments were cut but added back in the form of crop insurance and disaster relief, no major food safety amendments were passed; senators reduced the money for food stamps by $4 billion and cut conservation programs by $3.5 billion. [New York Times]

Pope Francis: Wasting Food is Like Stealing From the Poor
Last Wednesday, which was World Environment Day, dedicated to the issue of food waste, Pope Francis denounced consumerism and what he called the "culture of waste" of modern economies, especially when it comes to food. [Washington Post]

Pressure Grows to Create Drugs for 'Superbugs'
Government officials, drug companies and medical experts are pushing to speed up the approval of new antibiotics to provide alternatives to currently used antibiotics that are fostering antibiotic-resistant "superbugs." This sounds like a temporary solution, and many are concerned about safety. How about investing in an alternative to antibiotics altogether? [New York Times]

After Drought, Rains Plaguing Midwest Farms
Last year at this time a devastating drought plagued Midwest farmers, but this year soybean and corn crops are suffering from torrential rains that have stunted their growth or prevented them from being planted at all. [New York Times]

Maine Legislature Easily Passes GMO Food Labeling Bill, a Blow to Monsanto
Maine's Senate unanimously approved a version of a bill to label GMO foods on Wednesday, after House of Representatives approved LD 718 on Tuesday by a vote of 141 to 4. The final bill will eventually head to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage. [NY Daily News]

US Tailors Regional Climate Plans to Help Farmers Beat the Heat
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a suite of new government programs to help farmers adjust to a more extreme climate - a move which sends a clear message that regardless of certain beliefs regarding climate change, the Obama administration is in fact going to adapt to signs that these changes in climate are not simply aberrations. [Bloomberg]


Water Protection Gets Shortchanged in Proposed Fracking Rules
The US Department of Interior has announced that fracking will proceed on up to 750 million acres of land, although eco-investment group Ceres decries the weak proposed regulations on items like fracking fluid disclosure, wastewater management, water testing and "exemption" loopholes for waters not currently in use. [National Geographic]

Water Waste May Leave Us Thirsty (PODCAST)
The debut of the US Geological Survey's groundwater assessment that reveals the sped-up pace of American aquifer depletion is getting notice, as evidenced by this Scientific American podcast. [Scientific American]

Struggling Great Lakes Region Pinning Economic Hopes on Water
Despite the deindustrialization that occurred over much of the Great Lakes region, a "blue economy" is developing, strategically advantageous compared with the economically burgeoning but water-scarce Sun Belt. By investing in water research, innovative utilities and the use of water abundance (i.e., for tourism) places like Milwaukee are planning a comeback. [AP]

It turns out that spying requires a lot of water and energy.

Water in the Anthropocene
Using a data visualization of the earth, this video explains the global hydrological cycle, humanity's impact on its change and what must be done to ensure that all people have access to clean freshwater in the years ahead (from the "Water in the Anthropocene" conference in Bonn, Germany). [Global Water Systems Project]

Ecology Lessons From the Cold War
Biodiversity of plants and animals is not some hippy-dippy ideal, but a well-recognized method to maintain environmental security and counter potential social and economic disruption. Or so say environmentalists, scientists and, yes, the military (even to this day). [New York Times]

Floods Bring Misery to Central Europe Areas
Large swaths of Central Europe have been submerged under flood waters after heavy rains raised water levels in most of the region's waterways costing lives and billions of dollars. Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic have all declared states of emergency, although the latter is particularly underwater. [CNN]

The Impending Deluge
The 200 million people living in low-lying coastal areas in contemporary times must heed rapidly rising sea-level trends and consider the likelihood of catastrophes - such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy - and consider the policies, adaptation, cooperation and innovation needed to address "permanent environmental refugees." [New York Times]

Evaporating Water Supply Poses Costly Risk for Miners
Water shortages in mining areas around the world are adding operational risk and costs and forcing mining companies to reduce, reuse or even desalinate water necessary for ore production. In some cases, like in Chile, demands on freshwater supplies are pitting mining companies against local communities. [Reuters]

New Mexico County First in Nation to Ban Fracking to Safeguard Water
The proactive ban of shale oil fracking in Mora County, New Mexico - the first ever on a county level - displays the higher value placed on clean water and the environment over potential oil industry income. This decision comes from a county whose residents are largely poor and politically conservative. [Los Angeles Times]

Global Grain Reserves Are Low; Legacy of US Drought
US grain supplies are drying up as the intense drought in the US heartland continues. This is bad news for food prices since low grain reserves drive up the cost of bread, meat and milk, with low-income people and developing countries especially vulnerable. [Circle of Blue]


The Obama Climate Move That Nobody Noticed
The federal government weighs the costs and benefits when new regulations are proposed, so when Obama quietly increased the social cost of carbon emissions by 60 percent, he increased the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and automobiles. Nicely played, sir. [Grist]

Bright Lights, Big City - Big Battery
Cities are driving development of energy-storing batteries which could store solar and wind energy, supplying power closer to where it is actually used. The batteries could also supply energy locally when power plants are struggling to meet soaring air-conditioning loads on hot summer days. [Scientific American]

EPA Inspector General to Investigate Efforts to Reduce Natural Gas Pipeline Leaks
After the EPA lowered its estimates of natural gas leaks from the nation's pipelines, scientists began to question the figures. The agency is now beginning an investigation to review the estimates and find what actions are being taken to reduce methane leaks. [Washington Post]

The Argument Against Oil Drilling in Arctic Seas
Why are we pushing fossil-fuel frontiers to extremes while neglecting energy-efficiency measures at home? NRDC says that based on recent accidents, "even the best-prepared, best-equipped, and most technologically advanced oil company has no business drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. Ever." [Dot Earth]

The Energy to Create Your Food
The amount of energy it takes to produce food varies wildly from one product to another. For Americans, food accounts for between one-fifth and one-quarter of a person's energy footprint, so simply replacing meat-based calories with eggs and dairy would result in an energy savings akin to switching from a Camry to a Prius. [IEEE Spectrum]

Amid Data Controversy, NSA Builds Its Biggest Data Farm
It turns out that spying requires a lot of water and energy. The huge new National Security Agency data center in Utah requires 65 megawatts of electricity to operate - enough to power 65,000 homes - and 1.5 million gallons of water per day to keep its equipment cool. [NPR]

The Amish Are Getting Fracked
The Amish live on top of rich oil and natural gas deposits, and energy companies have been taking advantage by paying bottom-dollar for leasing agreements on Amish farmland. Unfortunately, the Amish culture forbids taking such grievances to the courts. [New Republic]

US Energy in Five Maps
America's diverse portfolio of energy is spread throughout different parts of the country, so check out this series of five maps that illustrate where you'll find fossil fuels, nuclear plants, dams, solar panels and wind turbines. [Christian Science Monitor]

Could Biofuel Forests Repair Mountaintop Removal Sites?
Here's an option to restore the mine-ravaged Appalachians and create some jobs for former coal workers: plant fast-growing, native trees to be harvested every five to 10 years, turn them into woodchips to produce combustible gases to generate energy and heat. After a few generations of short-rotation harvests, the land could be transitioned to a long-term forest. [Earth Island Journal]