This Week in Eco News - October 25, 2013

The battle over a Washington State GMO labeling initiative heats up as we near Election Day, BP's public relations budget is edging out money for Gulf restoration, and Wendell Berry talks saving the earth, all this week in Eco News. Plus, 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

Solar Sister: A Woman-Powered Clean Energy Revolution
Uganda-based Solar Sister helps women to begin their own small businesses in a bag - selling solar-powered lamps to their neighbors through their own personal networks. The technology allows women to earn and save money and their families to have clean, safe indoor lighting.

Take Action: Learn more about Solar Sister.


The Battle Lines on GMO Food Labeling
A ballot measure in Washington State next month may lead to the first law mandating the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. Labeling critics will likely use tactics seen in the past to attempt to defeat the initiative; it is believed industry has geared up for a long series of battles. [Politico]

Why US Taxpayers Pay $7 Billion A Year To Help Fast-Food Workers
A new report on the demographics of fast-food workers revealed that 52 percent of workers rely on public assistance programs, likely due to the low wages and poor benefits associated with their jobs. Some economists argue that raising wage limits would be to the detriment of small business owners, while others contest that raising wages will benefit the economy more in the long-run. [NPR]

Investment Giant Bans Two Palm Oil Companies for 'Unsustainable' Deforestation
The largest pension fund worldwide, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, permanently banned two palm oil companies from investments due to their deforestation policies. Acting on recommendations from its Council of Ethics, the fund has divested from 23 palm oil companies; other companies were also banned for causing environmental damage and using child labor. [Food Navigator USA]

Utah Argues Plaintiffs Have No Standing to Challenge State's New 'Ag-Gag' Law
Utah state attorneys are calling for the dismissal of a federal lawsuit against the state's "ag-gag" law, which criminalizes the act of recording agricultural operations while undercover. The state argues that the plaintiffs in the case, animal activists and related organizations, have no legal interests because they are not under "real and immediate threat of future prosecution." [Food Safety News]

Kansas Farmers Commit To Taking Less Water From The Ground
A small town in Kansas has implemented a five-year trial requiring farmers to cut back on the amount of water they source from the Ogallala Aquifer. Officials have warned that the rate of irrigation from the aquifer far exceeds its rate of replenishment. If more farms in the region do not join the conservation movement, the town may be unable to continue its initiative. [NPR]

Meatless Monday

Meatless Monday Movement Gets More Veggies On The Menu
Americans are world leaders at meat consumption. Yet it turns out that all this meat consumption (averaging 270 pounds per person per year) is detrimental to "our health, the environment, the animals we raise for food and rural economies." Meatless Mondays' tenth anniversary illustrates the success of the growing critique of an all-meat-all-the-time American diet. [NPR]


Environmentalists Sue EPA Over Ocean Acidification
To help oysters and other marine life deal with harmful ocean acidification off the Oregon and Washington Pacific coasts, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the EPA that claims the Feds have abandoned their duties under the Clean Water Act. [AP]

Calculating the Impact of Stormwater
The EPA recently launched the National Stormwater Calculator, a "desktop application that allows users to estimate the amount of stormwater runoff from a site using different practices such as a rain garden or a green roof." By using local data like soil conditions and historical rainfall records, property owners, developers and urban planners can better manage stormwater runoff. [Healthy Waters Blog]

The End of Cheap Water?
While the majority of American drinking water supplies continue to be of high quality, water infrastructure is beginning to deteriorate despite higher rates and greater municipal debt, according to a Columbia Water Center white paper. Drier, more water-scarce areas have tended to increase water rates the most. The question now: how to best prepare for a more expensive future. [Water Matters]


Gulf Ecosystem in Crisis After BP Spill
Three years after the Gulf's Deepwater Horizon blowout, tar balls continue to roll in, oyster populations continue to plummet, more marine life deformities are being discovered and it could be decades for the damage to be reversed. Meanwhile, BP is spending more money on its PR campaign than on actual restoration efforts. [Al Jazeera]

Low Natural Gas Price to Hamper US Energy Efficiency, IEA Says
Could US energy efficiency programs become a victim of their own success? The good news is that "US energy-efficiency markets have grown from a footnote to a force to be reckoned with," but the combo of low natural gas prices (which lead to lower electricity prices) and increased spending on efficiency is making regulators and utilities a little grumpy. [Bloomberg]

North America Leads the World in Production of Shale Gas
In case you were wondering, it's not even a contest when it comes to who leads the world in shale gas production. The US fracked its way to 26 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in 2012, while the closest competition, Canada, produced 2 billion cubic feet per day. There are 41 other countries with technically recoverable shale resources, none of which even close to being considered "major producers." [EIA Today in Energy]


The Fracking Boom Won't Do Much for Climate Change. But it Will Make Us a Bit Richer
The natural gas boom in a nutshell: It could lower carbon emissions because it's replacing coal, but it could also raise carbon emissions because it's cheaper to develop than renewables. So what's the net result? According to a new study, the US will get a modest economic boost, pollutants other than carbon will be reduced...and carbon emissions will indeed go up. [Washington Post]

You don't need to stop buying your favorite products to make a difference. Instead, make your voice heard. Check out this scorecard and get the facts. Then use your power as a consumer to tell companies exactly what needs to change.

Rethinking Big Water
In earlier times of abundant water, mega-infrastructure projects like the Colorado River's Hoover Dam made sense. Now as exploding populations, hotter temperatures and drier climates hit much of the US (and especially the Sun Belt), big, obsolete projects are being replaced by effective smaller-bore approaches like water conservation, efficiency and price mechanisms. [Ensia]

Sandy A Warning: Rising Seas Threaten Nuclear Plants
Last year's superstorm forced three nuclear power plants to shut down, a strong warning that rising seas and higher storm surges in the future could cause a lot of problems for the seven low-lying nuclear plants along the Northeast coast. Problems with cooling water systems, road access to the plants and grid failures all present real dangers for the plants as sea levels continue to rise. [Climate Central]

The United States of Drought
An expert panel determined in a review of recent water reports, a significant imbalance in US water supply and demand could occur owing to the effects of global temperature rise and one percent population growth. Innovative water-saving strategies like downstream users paying upstreamers to use less and municipal conservation plans offer sustainable water supply opportunities. [Inter Press Service]


Wendell Berry on Fossil Fuels, Sustainable Agriculture and 'Runaway Capitalism'
In a rare television interview, Bill Moyers talks to visionary author and farmer Wendell Berry regarding a sensible, no-compromise plan to save the Earth. [Bill Moyers]

Behind the Brands
Even big companies care what customers think. You don't need to stop buying your favorite products to make a difference. Instead, make your voice heard. Check out this scorecard and get the facts. Then use your power as a consumer to tell companies exactly what needs to change. The scorecard will constantly be updated so you can see the impact you're having. [Oxfam]

100 Days of Real Food: Combat Picky Eating With These Kitchen Activities for Kids
Getting little ones involved in food prep paves the way for healthier eaters. Check out this photo essay for some helpful hints grouped by age. [Take Part]

Why Water Rates Keep Rising
This infographic illustrates a Columbia University study which shows that US water infrastructure is trapped in a recurring cycle of debt and rate hikes. [Growing Blue]

The Striking Challenge of Fracking: Who Does it Benefit and Who Gets Hurt?
The second episode of the Summits on Tenth video series features a conversation with Kate Sinding, Senior Attorney and Deputy Director at the NRDC's New York Urban Program, and Michael Shellenberger, President of The Breakthrough Institute, as they discuss if fracking is a boon to the economy, a contributor to climate change, or a destroyer of communities. [Alternet]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins.