This Week in Eco News - August 23, 2013

This week, we took a fascinating look at what families around the world had to eat, saw sobering evidence of global aquifer depletion and celebrated Sunny love as solar panels were reinstalled (at last) in the White House. Welcome to This Week in Eco News, now including climate news and vibrant multimedia. See a story we should share? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Energy

How Do We Use Energy at Home?
From gadgets to kitchen appliances to heating, AC and beyond, this two-minute video reveals what it takes to power an American home and explains how how shifting demographics have influenced energy use.

Take Action
: Three things you can do to cut energy use.


What's Up With Chipotle's Potential New Antibotic Standards for Beef?
Chipotle Mexican Grill, one of America's fastest-growing restaurant chains known for serving responsibly raised food, announced it might be considering buying some of its beef from animals that may have been treated with antibiotics. PEW thinks it could be good for consumers, farmers, and animals. [PEW Health Initiatives]

As Pesticides Fail, California Citrus Growers Turn to Natural Solutions
It's no joke when a pest threatens California's citrus production, a $2 billion industry. When the Asian citrus psyllid was detected in southern California in 2010, growers spent millions on pesticides to stop their continued spread. Pesticides failed, but what seems to be working is not toxic after all: wasps, imported from Pakistan's Punjab region. [EcoWatch]

EPA Unveils New Pesticide Label to Protect Bees
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a new pesticide label prohibiting the use of some pesticide products where bees are present. The label will have a bee advisory box and icon. But a spokesperson from Pesticide Action Network doesn't think this is enough to protect the bees, saying this gives a "...false sense of acceptability to the use of these products that will result in greater harms to bees." [Des Moines Register]

Inside The Beef Industry's Battle Over Growth-Promotion Drugs
When the drug company Merck Animal Health announced plans to suspend sales of the animal feed additive Zilmax, people assumed it was because of pressure from animal activists or government regulators. But it wasn't. Turns out this one's courtesy of industry, as they saw animals were having a hard time walking and traced the problem back to the drug. [NPR]

Meatless Monday

Meatless Mondays: It Helps Combat Our Warming Planet - and Thickening Waists
While a Capitol Hill brouhaha exposed (again) the deep influence exerted by Big Ag, other large institutions – including schools for youngsters through college campuses – are adopting Meatless Mondays initiatives to support their communities’ health. But given the heavy impact heavy meat-eating has on our planet, already struggling against climate change, another benefit to cutting back on meat consumption is lessening the environmental load. [KCET]


Seeping Alberta Oil Sands Spill Covers 100 Acres, Still Leaking
For at least three months now, an underground tar sands oil spill has polluted wetlands and soil in northern Alberta, Canada. So far, approximately 8,024 barrels, or 317,000 gallons of bitumen (tar sands oil) has been emitted with 26,000 barrels of bitumen-laced surface water removed. The problem for the people of the nearby native Cold Lake First Nation, surrounding wildlife and the ecosystem at large is that no one - including public officials and experts - knows what happened. [Indian Country Today]

Could Smart Meters Stem $14 Billion in Annual Water Losses?
Aging water infrastructure is leaking huge volumes of freshwater globally, which costs an estimated $14 billion and is a major water-waster for thirsty locales. According to a recent water tech-oriented webinar, smart meters that detect leaks and deliver water readings remotely could significantly lower water loss, provide better customer service and stabilize rates abroad as well as in the US where the meters are already at work. [GreenBiz]

Fish Farms Cause Local Sea-level Rise
Unsustainable groundwater extraction for onshore fish farms in China's Yellow River Delta is causing land to sink - a process called subsidence - and has made local sea level rise an astounding 100 times faster than the world average. Since much of the globe's farmed fish and shrimp comes from Asian river-delta regions, groundwater withdrawals need better monitoring and management. [Nature]

Groundwater Wake-Up
From the Middle East to northwestern India to the Central Valley, California, NASA's GRACE satellites (no relation) have proved the world's groundwater supplies are imperiled. The exploitation of aquifers is widespread, with one study finding that 20 percent are being over-pumped - meaning that unless this rapid depletion is halted, drinking water and food stocks are threatened. [Ensia]


Shale Grab in US Stalls as Falling Values Repel Buyers
Oil and gas industry heavyweights BP and Shell are cutting way back on their shale gas spending because of plunging prices and wells that aren't producing as much gas as predicted. [Fuel Fix]

The South Anchors Growth in Use of Electricity for Air Conditioning Since 1993
Since 1993, electricity consumed for air conditioning in the South has increased 43 percent, accounting for 21 percent of all electricity consumption in the region. The cause? The South has added more - and larger - new housing than any other part of the US, and energy-hogging central air is growing more and more popular. [EIA]

White House Gets Solar Panels (Again)
Jimmy Carter put them up, then Ronald Reagan tore them down and now Barack Obama is replacing the solar panels on the White House. (However, credit also goes to George W. Bush for at least installing some solar panels on the grounds, if not on the White House itself.) [EcoGeek]

How the Fracking Boom Could Lead to a Housing Bust
Do you live, or are looking to move into, an area near fracking sites? Good luck getting a mortgage, refinancing, or insuring your home, because lenders are getting skittish. Banks and federal agencies are revisiting their lending policies to account for the potential impact of drilling on property values, in some cases refusing to finance property with or even near drilling activity. [The Atlantic]

We've always had intense storms and bad weather, but now we're experiencing weather on steroids thanks to carbon emissions. This video illustrates how we're paying the price for carbon - whether we realize it or not.

Tesla S Gets Highest Ever Safety Rating
Tesla's new electric sedan just received the highest federal safety testing score ever: 5.4 out of 5 ! Since the electric car doesn't have a combustion engine, more of the frame can absorb the impact of a crash, and the location of the car's battery pack under the floor makes it extremely difficult for the car to flip over. [EcoGeek]


How Extreme Australian Rains Made Global Sea Levels Drop
After decades of steady sea level rise, there was a peculiar decline in 2010 and 2011 that scientists now attribute to intense rainfall in Australia's interior. Torrential rains caused some of the worst flooding in the nation's history and also led to large volumes of water being stored inland - including an inland sea - when water normally washes into the ocean. That said, over the past two years global sea levels have actually risen even faster than average. [NPR]

Iceberg and Shore
A photo of a glacial iceberg shows the layers of packed snow (the darker ice was deeper in the glacier). [Weather Underground]

Hybrids Better for Climate than Leaf, Tesla in Most States
"Electric cars are not always the best cars for the climate. In most states, the emissions from charging electric car batteries and the emissions generated while manufacturing those batteries are large enough that some high-mileage, gasoline-powered hybrid cars are more climate-friendly options than the most efficient electric car." This infographic tells you whether or not they make sense in your state. [Weather Underground]

Video/Photo/Infographic Fun

Imagine If There Were A Town In The US Where You Couldn't Get Any Water
In this video, residents of Barnhardt, Texas are out of water for their homes and ranches and they're pointing to the fracking industry as a big part of the reason their wells have run dry. [The Guardian]

What the World Eats: Part I
Photos from Henry Menzel's book 'Hungry Planet' illustrate what typical middle class families around the globe purchase and spend on food for a week. The differences, especially in the amount of packaged and processed food in more "developed" countries, are stark. [TIME Magazine]

The Price of Carbon
We've always had intense storms and bad weather, but now we're experiencing weather on steroids thanks to carbon emissions. This video illustrates how we're paying the price for carbon - whether we realize it or not.  [Climate Reality]