This Week in Eco News - September 13, 2013

The People vs. Big Ag had a big week in Eco News, the tide may be turning on the shale gas industry and there is a newly-discovered and untapped aquifer right where Kenyans need water the most. Plus, we have climate news and fun multimedia for your viewing pleasure! See a story we should share? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Energy

When Will Solar Get Cheap?
Solar is not like other energy sources, as this animation explains. Photovoltaic cells are a transformative technology, and the faster the price of solar energy falls, the more viable it becomes as a source of clean power - and the sooner we'll see it on roofs across America.
Take Action:
Learn about the Vote Solar Initiative and how they're working to bring solar energy into the mainstream.


EPA to American People: 'Let Them Eat Monsanto's Roundup Ready Cake'
Effective this past May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved Monsanto's request to increase legal glyphosate (Roundup) application levels for some crops up to a million times above those found to be carcinogenic. The public comment period for this decision closed in July, leaving farmers, consumers and the environment to adapt to these new circumstances. Grassroots resistance to glyphosate-friendly regulation is on the rise. [Green Med Info]

American Farmers Appeal to US Supreme Court to Seek Protection from Monsanto
Last Thursday, September 5th, a group of 73 American family farmers, businesses and advocacy organizations appealed to the US Supreme Court to hear their case against Monsanto. In the case, known as Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al. v. Monsanto, the group has acted to preemptively sue Monsanto. Why? If the farmers' fields became contaminated with Monsanto's genetically engineered seed, they'd be protected from possible patent infringement accusations by the corporation. [Food Democracy NOW!]

Pork it Over: US OKs Chinese Purchase of its Largest Pig Company
The US government has approved a deal to sell Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, to Shuanghui International, a Chinese meat company. The US has determined that the deal is not a threat to national security, but concerns about production quality and long-term trends towards outsourcing the American food industry remain. Investors are not expected to challenge the change in ownership. [Grist]

Anti-GMO March On Kauai Draws Thousands
Just last Sunday, thousands of Hawaiian protesters marched to the Kauai County Building calling for the passage of Bill 2491, which would require biotech companies on Kauai to release information about the pesticides they use. The bill also mandates environmental impact studies and buffer zones to protect public spaces from biotech fields. Residents fear that recent declines in health are connected to biotech spraying, but the biotech companies claim the bill unfairly targets their businesses. [Civil Beat]

Texas Passes Law to Keep Junk Food in Schools (Yeah, You Read That Right)
The Texas legislature recently passed a law that allows public schools to sell "foods of minimal nutritional value," which are defined by federal law as foods containing less than 5% daily value of specific nutrients. (Such as sodas and candy, the sale of which are currently restricted in public schools.) The new law was passed in response to protests of the state's enforcement of competitive school food rules; now Texas will have to decide whether to proceed with their soda and candy law as is, or to work within federal regulations. [Huffington Post]

Meatless Monday

Now on School Menu: Meatless Mondays
San Diego Unified district was the latest institution to join the national “Meatless Mondays” movement this week. Cafeterias went vegetarian Monday, eliminating cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets and other popular meaty meals from their menus. Support from the medical community, parents, students and nonprofit groups prompted the San Diego school board to adopt the menu changes in June. The district’s food services chief, Gary Petill, is committed to improving school food. [U-T San Diego]


UN-Backed Study: World Set to Use Much More Wastewater
An increase in global population translates into increased demand for water, and reused wastewater will meet more of those future needs, says a UN-Water report. Proper treatment of wastewater is critical before being used as irrigation water, a concern in poorer nations, because it can cause outbreaks of food-borne disease. [Reuters]

How Could A Drought Spark A Civil War?
Drought, water scarcity and governmental inability to manage the consequences seem to have played a role in such conflicts as Syria, Mali and Sudan. As the duration and intensity of drought and flooding events are likely to increase because of climate change, the term "climate refugee" might gain more currency and require greater action. [NPR]

Kenya Finds '70 Year Supply' of Water in Desert Region
Early estimates by scientists using oil-finding satellites discovered an aquifer in the dry northwest region of Kenya that could provide decades of precious drinking and irrigation water. This comes as no surprise since groundwater comprises the vast majority of world's freshwater, although scant research, management, protection or respect is extended to these "hidden" water resources. [The Telegraph]


Mesh Rising Energy Demand With World Water Needs, UN Envoy Says
This year's World Water Week conference was concluded by a UN special envoy who said of the world's rising water and energy needs, "From now on we must talk about these two things together, we must have nexus thinking." [Bloomberg]

Shale Boom Could Be On Last Leg
A growing number of experts say the nation's shale boom could come to an end sooner than anyone anticipated thanks to the continued decline of oil prices. Why declining oil prices? More trucks are expected to switch to natural gas, fuel efficiency has risen significantly and Americans are driving less even after the recession has eased. [Houston Chronicle]

Electric Power Emissions: 29,000 Deaths/Year in PJM States
What this slightly esoteric headline means is that power plant emissions are responsible for 29,000 premature deaths annually in the mid-Atlantic and east central US, thanks primarily to coal-burning plants. Nationwide, the number of premature deaths due to power plants totals 53,000 annually. [RTO Insider]

Shale Criminal Charges Stun Drilling Industry
Pennsylvania has been the fracking industry's best friend, so that the state's Attorney General will actually prosecute a major Marcellus Shale natural-gas driller for a 2010 wastewater spill is a big shock (especially since the incident has already been settled in a federal civil suit). [Philadelphia Inquirer]


EPA to Revise Climate Rule for New Power Plants; Will Still Require Carbon Capture
It's almost, nearly, most likely here! The long-awaited EPA rule that would limit carbon emissions from new power plants is expected to be released next week. Rumor is the emission reduction targets have been reduced for natural gas and (especially) coal plants. [Washington Post]

Experts: Climate Primary Factor in Great Lake Levels
Scientists and water managers peg lower Great Lake water levels to climate change and the subsequent increase in water temperatures and evaporation rates. There is now debate about whether underwater structures could raise water levels for the especially hard-hit Lakes Huron and Michigan, but such infrastructure could prove ineffective against natural forces. [AP]

Pennsylvania has been the fracking industry's best friend, so that the state's Attorney General will actually prosecute a major Marcellus Shale natural-gas driller for a 2010 wastewater spill is a big shock!

New Water Plan Could Turn New Orleans Into The Next Amsterdam
The reveal of the New Orleans' Urban Water Plan by a regional development organization envisions the city as one that allows water to pass through - with canals and ponds - rather build up behind levees. This follows the Amsterdam model where "living with water" means managing storm surge through more green infrastructure that mimics nature. [Think Progress]


Video: 2013 International Coastal Cleanup
For nearly three decades, Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup® has mobilized millions of people in the world's largest volunteer effort for our ocean and waterways. Watch and see how to participate! [Ocean Conservancy]

Hydrograph Showing Boulder Creek at Flood Stage
According to the USGS, over 200 USGS real-time stream gauges used to support NWS river forecasts and warnings are at risk of being discontinued. This graphic from a hydrograph showing the current Boulder flood event demonstrates the need to continue funding stream gauges. [National Weather Service]

What's in Crude Oil -- and How Do We Use It?
The chemistry of crude oil is examined in this two-minute video that explains the process of distilling and gives a gallon-by-gallon breakdown of how it's used. [The Atlantic]

Interactive Overview - The Environment Nexus: Your Digital Ecosystem
The IIEA has created an interactive graphic that communicates issues surrounding water, energy and food policy and the crucial interdependence between these areas. The project promotes Nexus Thinking - a new, integrated approach to policy making that recognizes the interconnections between water, energy, climate change, agriculture and food security. [The Institute of European and International Affairs]

Photos from Inside Red Hook's Grain Terminal, Left To Rot For 48 Years
This piece of Brooklyn's agricultural past "where thousands of tons of grain were cleaned and prepared before being distributed to breweries and other local outlets," has been left to rot on the Red Hook water front. Photographer Ali Hussain shares the photos he took after he "grained access." [Curbed] 

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins.