This Week in Eco News - October 4, 2013

It's been a wacky week in Eco News, as jellyfish (!) gummed up a power plant, McDonald's says no more marketing low-nutrition food to kids (!) and a major new report on climate change confirms our water - and our planet - are drying up. We also have some of the week's Ecocentric Blog posts and some especially cute multimedia for your viewing pleasure! See a story we should share? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Energy

My Generation: Solar Consumer Nancy from Hemet, CA
In an effort to move beyond coal, thousands of people and families are saving money on their utility bills by going solar. In this video we meet Nancy from Hemet, CA. Nancy cut her bill from over $200 a month to just over a buck by installing solar panels on the roof of her home.

Take Action: Help Vote Solar cut through the red tape to help municipalities achieve solar permitting best practices.


Half of China's Antibiotics Now Go to Livestock
Taking cues from US producers, the Chinese meat industry has embraced a system of bigger livestock production facilities and fewer small farms throughout the country. Studies show that antibiotic resistance is prevalent in livestock facilities already. It looks like China is headed for an antibiotic addiction and drug resistance threat to rival that in the US. [Mother Jones]

With Tastes Growing Healthier, McDonald's Aims to Adapt Its Menu
Last Thursday, McDonald's announced its plans to add fruit and vegetable items to its adult menu combinations and their decision to stop advertising low-nutrition menu items to children. Although changes may take up to seven years to implement across markets, McDonald's has been moving towards more healthful menus in light of pressures from consumers and health advocates. [New York Times]

Government Shutdown Leaves Farm Bill Stranded; Local Food Programs That Could Save Taxpayers Billions Remain in Limbo
The Farm Bill expired Tuesday, cutting funding to a number of low-cost programs geared to help improve the health of Americans. The UCS says these smaller programs carry a hefty return, estimating that they save around $17 billion in health care costs alone. Other programs will continue to operate until their funding runs out later this year.  [Union of Concerned Scientists]

Will the FDA's New Food Safety Rules Hurt Small Farmers?
Small farmers who don't qualify for exemption from the FDA's new safety rules worry that the proposed regulations will threaten their livelihoods. Those farmers with operations exceeding exemption cut-offs, or who are growing their businesses in that direction, claim that the new regulations are in direct opposition to their practices and would create a workload they are unable to afford. [Take Part]

Big Win to Eliminate Toxic Arsenic in Meat
The FDA plans to withdraw its approval of 98 of the 101 arsenical drugs currently permitted for use in poultry and pork feeds. In 2006, an estimated 70 percent of poultry raised in the US was treated with arsenic, and traces of carcinogenic arsenic were detected in meat products as late as 2011. The industry has made some voluntary cut-backs in the use of arsenic already. [IATP] 

Meatless Monday

Report Encourages Meatless Monday for the Sake of Healthy Body, Healthy Planet
A new report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization confirmed that livestock production is a huge factor in pollution that causes climate change. Having a large number of animals in small spaces creates a lot of waste, which in turn affects water quality in areas downstream. Eating less meat – say, one day per week – is one way individuals can help alleviate the problem.


A World Beneath Lake Powell is Being Resurrected
Drought in the American Southwest is not all bad (forget we just said that) as low flows in the Colorado River have caused water levels in Lake Powell to drop and returned gorgeous rock formations and vegetation to their pre-flood glory. Now that the majesty of Glen Canyon and the Cathedral in the Desert are revealed, do we really want to refill Lake Powell? [High Country News]

Fracking May Be Polluting River with Radioactive Waste
A forthcoming Duke University study found radioactive contaminants in a stream where fracking wastewater is released from a specialized brine treatment facility in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. A chief concern is the accumulation of radioactive materials - even at low levels - in waterways and affected land. [Climate Central]

Super-Bacteria Breeding in City Streams
Washing up with antibacterial soap is all good, except when it runs down the drain and enters urban/suburban waterways, as it frequently does. The culprit? A common antibacterial ingredient, Triclosan, which disrupts aquatic life and creates antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Fortunately, some big companies like Johnson & Johnson and Colgate Palmolive are phasing it out. [Discovery]

Warning: Many Watersheds in US Failing 'Stress Test'
The demand on US surface water has put one in 10 watersheds under stress with more expected to follow by 2050, according to a University of Colorado CIRES study. The outlook for the American West is particularly dire; besides agriculture's large water requirements, power plant water cooling could be negatively impacted in certain locations. [CNBC]

Water and Agriculture in Kansas: Sip it Slowly
Some farmers in dry, northwestern Kansas understand that the irrigation water from the Ogallala Aquifer is in steep decline and are voluntarily reducing their water withdrawals. Even as farmers take steps to curtail water use, they realize that they will have to cut back significantly more if they want groundwater to be there for future generations. [The Economist]


Fuel From Landfill Methane Goes on Sale
T. Boone Pickens – one of the biggest natural gas fans out there – is backing yet another source of his favorite fuel: landfills. The oil and gas titan is supporting a company that now sells fuel made of methane captured from landfills and other waste sources at more than 40 filling stations in California. The company claims that this gas can burn 90 percent cleaner than diesel. [New York Times]

Fate of Proposed Green River Nuclear Power Plant Depends on Water
A judge will soon decide whether a proposed nuclear power plant in Utah can get the rights to withdraw water from an overstretched tributary of the Colorado River. The proposed plant would use enough water to supply a city of 200,000 people in a rapidly growing state ranked the second driest in the nation. [Deseret News]

Bird Groups and Wind Turbines Getting Along
It turns out that birders and the wind industry are getting along just fine, thank you very much - at least in England. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is looking to install a 100 meter tall wind turbine at its headquarters. Better understanding of bird migration patterns and habits, along with advanced bird and bat monitoring technology, has smoothed over a previously rocky relationship. [EcoGeek]

An Uphill Climb for the Oil Giants
Shhh, don't tell anyone but the major oil companies - think Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and BP - aren't growing. The problem is they've discovered relatively little oil in recent years, been producing more and more - and far less profitable - natural gas and have been investing less in research and development, meaning that they're losing their competitive edge. [New York Times]

Jellyfish Invasion Shuts Down Nuclear Reactor
Again? Yes, jellyfish have once again brought a big power plant to its knees. This time a swarm of moon jellies clogged up a Swedish nuclear plant's cooling water system. Believe it or not, this is nothing new because not only has this specific plant been shut down by jellies before, but so have many others around the world. [National Geographic]


What Is the IPCC Telling Policymakers About Climate Change and Water?
Brett Walton provides an overview of the major report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about how a changing climate will affect water-related processes such as sea level rise, the water cycle, glaciers and ice caps. If climate change is the shark, then water is its teeth, so to speak, said Paul Dickinson of the Carbon Disclosure Project. Important stuff. [Circle of Blue]

Who's to Blame for Climate Change?
Global warming is a global problem, but some nations get the lion's share of the blame. While China recently overtook the US as the leader in global carbon dioxide emissions, it would take the country 94 years to catch up to cumulative US emissions levels, if levels were to stay at current rates, but there are solutions. Watch this video to see some possibilities. [The Atlantic]


Organic Leaders Support Washington GE Food Labeling and Your Right to Know
In this infographic, the Cornucopia Institute illustrates which companies are fighting a GMO labeling bill in Washington State, and which companies are fighting it. Some of the names on each side of the debate might surprise you. [EcoWatch]

Puppy's First Visit to the Beach Will Make All Other Dog Photos Out There Irrelevant
As if we needed a reminder about why clean water and beaches are important, this little guy just proves the point. Don't you wish you could remember your first time at the beach? We bet it was something like this. [Huffington Post]

The Ivanpah Solar Project: Generating Energy Through Fields of Mirrors
Our friend Jamey Stillings has a photo spread in Time Magazine about the Ivanpah Solar Project, which, when it opens later this year, will be the biggest concentrating solar thermal power plant in the world. [TIME]

Franken-Chickens Growing Six Times Faster Than a Century Ago
We need our chicken nuggets NOW! A shocking new animated graph created by Counting Animals illustrates the unnatural rate at which chickens grow on today's factory farms. [MFA Blog]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins.