This Week in Eco News - October 11, 2013

Why the grassfed beef on your dinner plate in the US actually comes from Down Under, inspectors at federal agencies are coming and going amidst the ongoing shutdown and a handy infograph to help stock your fridge without wasting 40 percent of what you buy - all stories this week in Eco News. We also 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 - Water

Living Roofs Reduce Stormwater Runoff
Too much stormwater runoff carries pollutants directly into waterways or overburdened sewer systems. One solution to reduce runoff is to install "green roofs," or roofs covered by living plants, which slow the flow of rain water with great benefits for the plants and the health of the local watershed.

Take Action: In the US? Find your watershed using the EPA Surf Your Watershed form and locate "citizen-based groups" at work to protect the water quality in your watershed.


Good News: CDC Is Back on the Job. Bad News: Outbreak Strain Is Antibiotic-resistant
Over 278 cases of foodborne illness from Salmonella-contaminated chicken have occurred in 18 states since September. Many Centers for Disease Control (CDC) workers had been furloughed due to the government shutdown, but they're back on the job in light of the outbreak. The outbreak strain is antibiotic-resistant and hospitalizations are happening at double the expected rate. [Mother Jones]

Oregon Passes Bill to Limit GE Oversight
A new bill passed Oregon's Senate blocking local regulatory powers over genetically engineered (GE) crops. The bill was tacked on to a hotly contested package echoing the soon-to-be-defunct federal Monsanto Protection Act. The governor of Oregon stated publicly that new legislation to protect organic crops and regulate GE will be introduced in 2015. [Beyond Pesticides]

Why Walmart Must Help to End Antibiotic Abuse in Farming
As the nation's largest meat retailer, Walmart has been targeted by a new public petition seeking to end the rampant use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in industrial agriculture. Author Dan Imhoff, who launched the campaign, argues that Walmart has enough influence in the meat industry to stop the abuse of antibiotic drugs by only purchasing meats raised without subtherapeutic treatment. [Huffington Post]

Why Lots Of Grass-Fed Beef Sold In US Comes From Down Under
The demand for grass-fed beef is growing across the US, but domestic producers are finding that they cannot compete with foreign prices. Climate and the size of the industry in areas such as Australia, Brazil and Uruguay make grass-fed beef cheaper to produce than in the US, where harsh winters, irregular rainfall and smaller operations mean higher prices. [NPR]

New Law Breaks Ground for Urban Ag in California
California boosted the appeal of urban farming statewide by incentivizing long-term leases for agricultural purposes last week through a tax break option. Urban farmers have long faced risk of eviction and instability due to the short-term leases landowners typically offer, and they hope cities across California choose to participate in this program. [Civil Eats]

Meatless Monday

University of Central Florida Knights Stick to Veggies During Meatless Month
Options for university students who do not wish to consume animal products now go beyond salad and meatless pizza. Meatless Monday at the Student Union is now a weekly occurrence, and has a Facebook page that has been “liked” by numerous students. Food vendors at UCF aren’t the only ones getting involved in the vegetarian community. Since 2011, the University Recreation and Wellness Center offers periodic classes on vegetarianism and healthy living with a registered dietitian. [Central Florida Future]


Fracking Produces Enough Annual Toxic Wastewater to Flood Washington DC
Using state government and industry data, Environment America calculated that the 80,000 frack wells in the US produce 280 billion gallons of hazardous wastewater, or enough to put DC under 22 feet of water (don't give anyone ideas during the federal government shutdown). Astoundingly, around 260 billion gallons of the total wastewater were from the state of Texas. [The Guardian]

People Must Pay the Full Cost of Water, Says European Environment Agency
If the goal is for people to respect water and use it more sustainably then the best method might just be to (drum roll please) charge "full price" - including environmental costs. At least that's what the European Union recommends in a new report, warning that artificially low prices could create a "vicious cycle of underfunded service-providers with poor infrastructure." [EurActiv]

China Must Manage the Conflict Between Coal and Water
China, the world's largest coal consumer, has proposed 363 new coal-fired power plants to build energy capacity. Problems they'll face to meet the plants' water demands are illustrated by the WRI Aqueduct water-stress map. To reduce China's dependence on coal, the government is developing the process of "co-control" with outside researchers. [China Daily]


Furloughed Inspectors Leave Gaps in Safety Oversight
The government shutdown is causing many safety inspectors to be sent home. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, responsible for the safety of US nuclear plants, is set to furlough about 3,600 of its 3,900 employees. The employees retained are resident inspectors at reactors and those ready to respond to emergencies. [Bloomberg]

Which Airline Is Most Fuel Efficient?
Out of all oil used in transportation everyday, 10 percent of it is consumed by the airline industry. The International Council on Clean Transportation recently looked at the 15 largest US airlines and found out who is the most efficient carrier. [Mother Jones]

In a Hot, Thirsty Energy Business, Water Is Prized
Recent attention toward power plants' environmental impacts has centered on their carbon emissions. However, another environmental challenge regarding how electricity is generated is sometimes overlooked: the large amount of water required to cool power plants. [New York Times]

Coal's Decline Continues: Two Pennsylvania Coal Plants Will Close for Good Next Week
Want a sure sign that coal use continues its long-term decline in the United States? Two coal-fired power plants in the old coal state of Pennsylvania are shutting down due to pollution-control costs and cheaper natural gas supplies unlocked by fracking. [Grist]

Many Centers for Disease Control (CDC) workers had been furloughed due to the government shutdown, but they're back on the job in light of the outbreak. The outbreak strain is antibiotic-resistant and hospitalizations are happening at double the expected rate.

Sports Beginning to See the Energy-Efficient Light
Lighting is usually the number one or two consumer of electricity in sports stadiums and arenas. With the declining cost of energy efficient LED bulbs, stadium operators are looking at using the technology to save money on electric bills while also taking advantage of the bulbs' improved performance. [New York Times]


Flood Forensics: Why Colorado's Floods Were So Destructive
Colorado's devastating floods, the worst in decades, killed eight people and caused extensive damage which will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. A "year's worth of rain" fell over four days, combining water with debris - like soil, boulders and trees - which scoured mountainsides. What's worse is that those mountains were deforested by past wildfires, which climate change may amplify. That could further impact future flooding. [NPR]

Water Shortage Seen Worsening on Climate Change in Potsdam Study
If the world warms by two degrees Celsius (the global warming low-end range) German scientists are 50 percent sure even that could push about 500 million more people into water scarcity by 2100. Those people would join the current 1.3 billion that live in water-scarce regions, a number that could double if the temperature rises by five degrees. [Bloomberg]


A Visual Guide to Winter Squash
A handy infographic helps you get to know 12 delicious varieties of winter squash, from pumpkin and butternut to acorn and spaghetti--recipes included. [Epicurious]

LAST HOURS for Humanity?
A jolting wake-up call for humanity, LAST HOURS - a 10-minute film by internationally syndicated talk show host and bestselling author Thom Hartmann - describes a terrifying science-based scenario where runaway climate change is triggered by massive releases of frozen methane. Here's the devastating part: the melting of these trillions of tons of carbon is already underway. [EcoWatch]

The Refrigerator Demystified
Up to 40 percent of food in the US is never eaten. Stocking your fridge with the tips in this infographic will help make a dent in food waste, saving you money while you do so. [NRDC]

In Los Angeles, a Struggle Over Water Quality
This photo series illustrates an on-going struggle faced by the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in their efforts to improve water quality in one of their reservoirs as well as the problems they faced with their treatment method and neighbors surrounding the reservoir. [New York Times]

Food Waste Wastes More than Food
When we waste food, we're not only wasting the nutrients in the food, we're also wasting the resources that went into producing it, like water, energy, farmland and financial and labor investments. This video, from and commissioned by WWF Germany and UNEP in collaboration with SIWI and FAO, explains how. [FoodWasteTV]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins.