This Week in Eco News - November 8, 2013

This week: Some Colorado and Ohio voters said no on fracking, it appears a GMO labeling initiative in Washington State has lost, and other election Eco News. Plus, Mark Bittman follows up on the Smithfield deal - or, how the US gets to pay for more pollution and more CAFOs to meet more meat-y demand. We also have a must-watch cycling video from Amsterdam. See a story we should share? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Food

Animal Welfare Approved's Deck Family Farm
Animal Welfare Approved has a new video series highlighting farmers, transparency and rotational grazing. This gorgeous video features the Deck Family Farm.

Take Action: Join Friends of Family Farmers' Pro Pasture Campaign to promote agricultural practices that put a high value on family farms, animal welfare, public health, the planet and our local rural economies.


On Becoming China's Farm Team
This week, the Times' Mark Bittman wrote about a Chinese firm's recent takeover of the US-based Smithfield, the world's largest pork producer. US CAFOs will now export even more pork to China to specifically meet explosive demand. Quoting our own Kai Olson-Sawyer, Bittman considers if this trade just exchanged clean-er water and land for a bunch of waste, pollution and animal abuse. [New York Times]

Kauai Mayor Blocks GMO Regulation Bill
On Halloween, Kauai mayor Bernard Carvalho vetoed the anticipated GMO regulation bill that would have mandated greater transparency in GMO and pesticide usage on the island. Hawaii is a major testing site for biotech companies, and Carvalho believes that the bill will put the county on the losing side of a legal battle with the biotech industry. The county council still has a chance to overturn Carvalho's veto. [Grist]

Whole Foods' New Produce Ratings: Transparency Bears Fruit
Whole Foods has made waves towards greater transparency in its food supply chain for years, so it is no surprise that the company plans to add sustainability rankings to its produce and flowers next September. The new labeling system will weigh ten criteria and designate items as "good," better" and "best," an initiative that could incentivize sustainability nationwide. [Civil Eats]

Secret Trade Agenda Threatens Shift Toward Sustainable Food System
The US and EU have resumed talks towards a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that could pose long-term threats to major sustainable food efforts, according to a recent report. The TTIP will center on "regulatory coherence," which likely means dropping standards to the lowest common denominator between governments. Despite their wide impact, talks have remained top secret. [Civil Eats]

Want GMO Labeling? Drive a Wedge Between Big Food and Big Ag
Despite widespread interest in GMO labeling at the consumer level, food processors that do not rely directly on GMO crops, such as General Mills and Coca-Cola, were some of the top contributors to the winning anti-labeling campaign in Washington State. If these companies do not need GMOs for their products, why are they fighting customer interests? [Civil Eats]

Meatless Monday

Meatless Mondays Not New to Me
In the wake of the Philadelphia City Council calling on city residents to start each week with a Meatless Monday, writer Stu Bykofsky recalls growing up with the practice (due to household finances) and discusses how easing up on meat consumption also eases up the environmental damages caused by intensive industrial meat production. []


Drought, Bipartisan Support Propel $2 Billion Texas Water Plan to Victory
Water was the winner in drought-weary Texas's Proposition 6 ballot measure where voters agreed that $2 billion from a state "rainy day" fund should be used in accordance with the 2012 Water Plan. These funds will be devoted to projects outlined in the water plan, operated by the Water Development Board in conjunction with feedback from local leadership. [Star-Telegram]

Proposal Would Allow Shale Gas Waste on Barges
In some shale-gas producing states like Pennsylvania, the tens of millions of gallons of hazardous (and slightly radioactive) wastewater created by fracking must be transported instead of injected into underground disposal wells. Waste removal companies now seek to haul waste by barge; the US Coast Guard has considered this option and now opened the matter to public comment. [AP]

How Much Water Actually Goes Into Making A Bottle Of Water?
The water footprint of a bottle of water? The International Bottled Water Association claims 1.39 liter of water per liter while the Water Footprint Network says six to seven times more when the plastic bottle itself is included. That bottle matters, because the growth in bottled water consumption continues even as recycling rates for single-use containers declined from 2000-2010. [NPR]

Water Mystery Baffles Engineers as Rainy Dublin Endures
For the second week, Dublin, Ireland has had water supply restrictions because of improper (and slow) water filtration at the country's largest treatment plant, which has hurt business and residents alike. While the treated drinking water is of high quality, the de-siltation process has mysteriously failed. Abundant water isn't a problem, since in Dublin "it rains about every other day." [Bloomberg]


Attacks on Clean Energy Failed Across the Country: Report
Need evidence that renewables are a favored source of energy across all political leanings? Of at least 37 bills that have been introduced this year to eliminate or weaken states' renewable portfolio standards, which set a minimum requirement for how much energy a state's utilities must draw from renewable sources like solar and wind, only one succeeded. [Huffington Post]

Voters in CO and OH Approve Anti-Fracking Measures
The trend of local communities rejecting oil and gas fracking continues. Voters in one Ohio and three Colorado municipalities approved anti-fracking measures in this week's elections. As with other communities taking a stand against fracking, oil and gas industry lawsuits are sure to follow. [NRDC Switchboard]

Underground Heat From Cities Could Help Power Them, Study Says
It may be possible to power a city by harnessing all of its excess heat generated by buildings, factories, sewers and transportation systems. A new study found that thermal energy produced by the urban heat island effect warms shallow aquifers lying below cities, so geothermal and groundwater heat pumps could tap into those warm reservoirs to heat and cool buildings. [Yale 360 ]

Contamination Lawsuits Push Duke Energy to Address Pollution
Contaminated groundwater has been flowing from a North Carolina coal-fired power plant, tainting private wells that provide water for 400 people. Because of weak federal and state oversight, it took a lawsuit to make Duke Energy agree to pay to build public water lines to the affected residents. When the company will clean up its mess is anyone's guess. [Winston Salem Journal]


Warmer Climate, Less Water for Salt Lake City
Like other dry cities in American West, Salt Lake City is concerned about maintaining its water supplies, especially after a new report found that a one degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature could equate to an average of 3.8 percent less water flow in watersheds. Fortunately, city officials and water managers are thinking - and planning - ahead of any such water disruptions. [Salt Lake City]

Save on Utilities: Just Heat or Cool Yourself
Heating and cooling our buildings accounts for 16.5 percent of energy use in the US, so MIT students have come up with a more targeted way of keeping our bodies comfortable: a wrist band that tricks the body into thinking it's cooler or warmer than it is. It's an interesting idea for keeping thermostats slightly lower or higher to save energy, but could be dangerous in large temperature swings. [Smart Planet]


Bloomberg Unveils New Water Tunnel Under Central Park
It won't taste any different, but water coming into hundreds of thousands of homes in Manhattan is now taking a slightly different route through a new tunnel unveiled recently by outgoing Mayor Bloomberg, as profiled in this NY1 video. [NewYork1 ]

EPA's Clean Water Act 40th Anniversary Video Project: Tell Us Why
As a part of EPA's Clean Water Act 40th Anniversary celebration, they hosted a video project asking people to send in a 15-second video clip explaining the important role that water plays in their lives. They've also posted a selection on their Facebook page. [EPA]

This Short Film on Amsterdam Cycling Will Blow Your Mind!
Amsterdam is widely considered to be one of the very best cities for cyclists in the world. That didn't happen by accident. When the city was choked with cars the locals took some very specific steps to get to the bike culture they have today and, as evidenced by this crazy video, it works! [Treehugger]

Are the Streams that Flow to Your Tap Protected from Pollution?
This map from the EPA shows the percent of the US population that gets some of its drinking water directly or indirectly from streams that are seasonal, rain-dependent or are headwaters. (Spoiler alert: That's a lot of us.) The EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers are currently clarifying which of those streams are actually protected by the Clean Water Act. [EPA]

Fourteen Contemporary Food-Inspired Photographs
Food has long inspired artists and photographers. In celebration of their Food Issue, the New Yorker takes a look at fourteen contemporary food-inspired photographers and photographs. Grab a cup of tea and take a few moments to absorb these photos. [New Yorker]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins.