This Week in Eco News - November 22, 2013

Between food security and policy debates, an emerging drought in the New York City metro area and a drill testing for vulnerabilities in our power grid, it's been a week of good reads in Eco News. Plus: climate and multimedia news. See a story we should share? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Water

GOOD: Drinking Water
This GOOD Magazine video reminds us to be thankful for the water and wastewater systems that makes our lives so livable (and healthy).

Take Action
: Support organizations that help provide sustainable water solutions to those unfortunate enough to live where access to clean drinking water is difficult.


Changing the Global Food Narrative: The Story About the Future of the Food Supply is Wrong
Jonathan Foley, director of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, tackles common misconceptions and shortsighted assumptions made about global food security in a terrific read. Foley argues alternatives to mainstream food production approaches focused on developing GMO's and higher yields must be central to food security initiatives to create a truly sustainable future. [Ensia]

Amendment To Farm Bill Could Be End To Humane Farming Standards
A proposed amendment to the Farm Bill that would preempt some states from enforcing stricter farming standards than others could stifle overall progress towards more humane livestock treatment across the US. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who proposed the bill, claims current laws burden farmers and the economy; advocates of humane farming practices and states' rights say the bill is corrosive. [Huffington Post]

“Blood Avocados”: The Dark Side of Your Guacamole
Mexico's avocado industry, which exports the majority of its fruit to the US, is rife with violent cartel activity that has led to higher prices and terror across avocado farming communities. After the rise of the Caballeros Templarios, a drug cartel that now controls much of the local avocado trade, production costs for farmers have soared and quality of living has deteriorated. [Vocativ]

Can A Fish Farm Be Organic? That's Up For Debate
Certification of fish farms under the USDA National Organic Program could be around the corner as industry and sustainability advocates debate potential standards. Current organic standards would need an expansion to cover fish farming issues; many experts worry that present talks will lead to lax standards catering to current industry practices. [NPR]

The Insanity of Our Food Policy
Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that the Republican push to reduce funding for SNAP and food aid to underprivileged Americans in ongoing farm bill negotiations is morally and economically unfounded. He claims that aid cuts coupled with ongoing federal subsidies for Big Ag enable an inherently unstable food system to foster inequality. [The New York Times]

Meatless Monday

Meatless Monday: Oldways, New Vegetarian and Vegan Diet Pyramid
Oldways, the Boston-based nonprofit advocating health through heritage, traditional foods and foodways, has just released its new vegetarian and vegan diet pyramid. The beautiful new version gives produce its due, with a rainbow cornucopia of vegetables and fruits comprising the pyramid’s broad base. [Huffington Post]


Coca-Cola's Assault on Tap Water
One public health advocate discovered that since 2010 Coke has deployed a secret restaurant-focused campaign to "Cap the Tap" to gain revenue lost by tap water-drinking guests. Or as it's stated on the Coke Solutions webpage: "Every time your business fills a cup or glass with tap water, it pours potential profits down the drain." Can't have that, now. [Civil Eats]

Clean Water Infrastructure: The Cost of Inaction
This new policy brief – a good read - outlines the importance of clean water infrastructure to the well-being of public health, the economy and the environment even as US infrastructure upgrades are hundreds of millions of dollars behind. Besides more federal government funding, natural infrastructure strategies are needed to ease the strain on traditional water and wastewater treatment plants. [American Progress]

New Effort Helps Farmers with Tools to Measure Conservation Impacts
Farmers-as-scientists is becoming a reality as a USDA program rolls out "edge-of-field monitoring" stations to observe often polluted field runoff. Volunteer farmers from seven states will collect data used to combat major environmental problems of water quality and soil erosion and show that conservation benefits cover crops, soil and irrigation management. [USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service]


Liberation Power: What Do Women Need? Better Energy
There's a strong connection between the role of women in society and energy. In developing nations, outdated energy systems disproportionately victimize women, while in the developed world electrical tools have led to more women joining the workforce. Globally, men still dominate the energy industry while women are the primary decision-makers for how energy is consumed at home. [Slate]

Saltwater-Cooled Greenhouse Grows Crops in the Sahara
A pilot project in Qatar has successfully used saltwater, sunlight and CO2 to produce food, fresh water and energy. The project (supported by fertilizer companies) produced 75 kilograms of crops per square meter annually in Saharan greenhouses, comparable to commercial farms in Europe. However, just how affordable it would be to get this pilot project to scale is up for debate. [SmartPlanet]

Attack Ravages Power Grid (Just a Test.)
Fans of apocalypse-themed entertainment must be so jealous of the 10,000 electrical engineers, cybersecurity specialists, utility executives and FBI agents who took part in a war game exercise last week to see how prepared the US is for a variety of attacks on the electric grid. Participants won't know exactly how they fared until after a lengthy review, but at least conspiracy theorists had plenty to blog about. [New York Times]

Biofuels Firms Push Back Against EPA Decision
Last week the EPA said that it would cut the amount of biofuels that must be blended into the nation's fuel supply, and so the biofuel industry is breaking out the lobbyists in a very big way. Already, federal lawmakers representing Midwestern states are getting an earful from the industry as well as from state officials worried about job losses. [E2 Wire]

Siting Renewable Energy ''Smart from the Start''
NRDC and the US Department of Defense (yes, you read that right) have teamed up on a new paper to guide the siting of wind, solar and other renewable energy to help the military avoid conflicts between its mission and the environment. As the report says, "military readiness, healthy natural resources and the development of renewable energy are all essential to our national interests." [NRDC Switchboard]


Climate Change is Altering Rainfall Patterns Worldwide
It is expected as climate change sets in that "wet areas get wetter and dry areas get drier," but a new research has revealed the climate footprint. Using a novel approach that paired computer models with observation, scientists determined that storms more frequently moved towards the poles - that behavior being likely greenhouse gas-related, not due to natural variability. [ClimateWire]

Northern New Jersey Enters Drought; Consequences Could Sneak Up on State
It's chilly and autumn-like in the New York City metro area, a lovely time to consider...drought. Yes, drought, which can hit anytime and almost anywhere--even in the relatively water-rich Mid-Atlantic. Limited rainfall has pushed northern New Jersey, Long Island, New York City and counties to the north into moderate drought, potentially causing problems in warmer, thirstier months to come. [Star-Ledger]


Here's the Plants You Should Have in Your Garden If You Want to Help Pollinators
If you're planning out next year's garden, check out this video about types of flowering plants that are best for attracting bees. By selecting plants carefully, you can be helpful to bees. Flowers that attract bees and other insects are no more expensive or difficult to grow than any other flowering plants. [The Pieces Fit]

Gratefulness for Water
Maybe it's time to have another view of water. Here are steps you can take to feel more grateful for this most basic necessity of life. []

The Case Against Cars in One Utterly Entrancing GIF
This animated GIF shows how much traffic density you lose by moving the same number of people using more efficient forms of mass transportation. Put another way: how much space do 25 cars take up to move 25 people vs. one bus? [The Atlantic]

The World's 10 Most Polluted Places [Slide Show]
From e-waste, to abandoned nuclear sites, to polluted river basins, these photos illustrate just how much we're trashing the planet. [Scientific American]

World Toilet Day
November 19 was World Toilet Day, and while it may seem like an odd thing to celebrate, think about how life would be without sanitation? Millions of people around the world lack any sort of sanitary sewage management. Once they get it, lives change dramatically – especially kids; most especially, girls. [World Toilet Day]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins.