This Week in Eco News - January 31, 2014

Energy is up on Super Bowl Boulevard at Times Square. Photo by Robin Madel.

This week marked the loss of 94-year-old American activist and music legend Pete Seeger (an inspiring Farm Aid performer as recently as last year). We appreciate his lifelong work for social change. If the world doesn’t feel quite the same without him in it, at least we’ll still enjoy an astonishing collection of music and generations of musicians and activists who are following in his courageous, determined footsteps.

As usual, if you see a story we should share, drop us a line at [email protected]

Best of the Web Video - Water

Desert Water Agency Renewable Energy Video
Recycled wastewater powered by renewable solar energy systems seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly, as illustrated by this overview of Palm Springs, California's Desert Water Agency Renewable Energy and Recycled Water Project.

Take Action: Learn more about how closely interlinked water and energy are by reading GRACE's new guide, "Meet the Nexus: How Food, Water and Energy are Connected."


Farm Bill Amendment From Sen. Jeff Merkley Good News For Organic Farmers
With the House passage of the farm bill this week, which overwhelmingly favors industrial agriculture, organic farmers took home paltry prizes relative to their $32 billion contribution to the national economy. However, along with funding for organic research and a federal program to market organic food, the bill will make crop insurance more accessible to organic farmers, which is something to celebrate. [Huffington Post]

Farm to School Legislation on the Rise
States have increasingly incorporated local food into schools since 2002, with 37 states enacting or introducing farm-to-school bills over the past two years alone. Officials praise the resulting improvements in school food quality as states bring local food and hands-on agricultural, health and nutrition programs to students. This spur of legislation will likely guide numerous other farm-to-school efforts. [Civil Eats]

Demand Grows for Hogs That Are Raised Humanely Outdoors
Good news for pigs and people alike: consumers want pastured pork, and producers are slowly but surely finding ways to deliver. Small farmers are seeing an increase in demand and greater opportunities to sell to distributors that can handle large-scale slaughter, even though higher prices for pastured meat remain an obstacle for many consumers. [New York Times]

FDA Found Drugs Used In Food Animals To Be 'High Risk'
According to a new NRDC report, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists deemed 18 of the antibiotics approved for use on farms "high risk" several years ago, but the FDA has yet to prohibit non-therapeutic use of any of these drugs. FDA efforts have done little to prevent farmer-used drugs from introducing antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the food supply. [NPR]

Meatless Monday

Just for a Day
Sid Lerner, founder and chairman of the Monday Campaigns, reflected on Meatless Monday's 10th anniversary, particularly the successful global reach of the campaign to reduce meat consumption. Lerner emphasized the "opt-in" nature of the movement as one key to its success. [The Hindu MetroPlus]


Far West Got Drier Last Year, Data Shows
Although 2013 was slightly wetter in the US overall, drought has intensified in the westernmost states, especially California, according to federal government data. Because of paltry mountain snowpacks that feed Western water supplies, fears are that regional water demand can't be met. Precipitation continues to be sparse because of a stubborn high pressure system hanging over California that scientists don't understand. [New York Times]

How San Francisco Used Poop Jokes to Save Its Sewer System
San Francisco's Public Utilities Commission was flailing and failing when it came to the promotion of necessary repairs to the city's decrepit sewer system. People perked up when a funny and slightly off-color media campaign went viral and got denizens to "give a crap" about maintaining a durable and effective wastewater system. [Fast Company]

Inside City's Water Tanks, Layers of Neglect
New York City's drinking water is rightly celebrated as some of the best in the world, yet contaminated water might be stored in many of its iconic rooftop water tanks. A Times investigation found that 5 water tanks from 12 buildings had traces of E. coli., while a city survey reports that 60 percent of building owners disregard safety regulations. [New York Times]

Nutrients in Streams Can Mask Toxic Effects of Pesticides on Aquatic Life
Not only can nitrogen lead to aquatic life-harming dead zones in waterways, but it can also hide the negative effects of pesticides that are also present, a common occurrence in agricultural areas. Canadian researchers discovered that algal growth caused by even low levels of nitrogen can conceal sub-lethal quantities of pesticides that still remain toxic. [The Fish Site]


Henry Waxman, 20-Term Democrat, Is Leaving House
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced Thursday he would be retiring from Congress at the end of this year, leaving a rich legacy of work to protect the environment and public health. Waxman helped write the Clean Air Act and was a leader on energy issues for several years. More than 30 of his fellow Congressional members will be retiring this year. [New York Times]

Fissures in GOP as Some Conservatives Embrace Renewable Energy
Conservatives have traditionally criticized solar and wind as government-dependent industries, but now many conservatives - like the Green Tea Coalition - are fighting for more renewables on the grid, claiming that electric utilities are working with outdated business plans and citing the tremendous subsidies given to the fossil fuel industry. [New York Times]

The Great Plains Oil Rush
Read and listen to this series about how the oil and natural gas boom in North Dakota is changing what was once farm and ranching country. Over the past six years oil workers have arrived in a mass migration to cash in on the newly-accessible underground fossil fuels locked within the Bakken shale formation. [NPR]

In the Midwest, Farmers Leading the Way on Solar Power
Farms need a lot of electricity to run fans, to heat and cool barns, to cool milk and produce and to dry grain and move it around. Farms also tend to have both ample roofs and open space on which to place solar panels. It's a perfect match that has encouraged a growing number of independent-minded Midwestern farmers to invest in solar. [Midwest Energy News]


Industry Awakens to Threat of Climate Change
Coca-Cola, among other big corporations, has gotten a taste of the disaster associated with climate change, at least the disaster of unmet bottom-lines. After Coca-Cola lost revenue in 2004 due to a serious water shortage in India, the company acknowledged the economically disruptive effects of climate change. Economists and business experts are doing the same, reconsidering industry attitudes towards mitigation. [New York Times]

Climate Change, Desalination and the Water-Food-Energy Nexus
One of the issues the World Economic Forum - attended by some of the most influential business and political leaders and economists - addressed at this year's meeting in Davos is how to raise the general public's awareness of the impact of climate change on the food, water and energy nexus. Allow us to humblebrag that GRACE's nexus work was cited in this year's Forum reports. [Breaking Energy]

Drinking Water: Extreme Weather Events Threaten Quality, Says Report
The greatest risks to water quality come from cumulative impacts of extreme weather events that happen sequentially, like a drought followed by a wildfire followed by a flood, says joint Australian-US study. As climate change likely increases the frequency of extreme weather events, resilience must be built into the management of watersheds and water treatment systems for recovery to happen. [Sunday Morning Herald]


10 Cities That Could Run Out Of Water
Access to plentiful, renewable sources of fresh water is one of the biggest struggles facing large cities with growing populations and declining fresh water supplies. This photo essay presents 10 major US cities facing some of the nation's most acute water shortages, and the hurdles they face in obtaining enough water to meet their citizens' and industries' needs. [The Weather Channel]

The Entire IPCC Report in 19 Illustrated Haiku
That's right! Haiku and watercolor illustrations (which are lovely by the way) completely explain the first installment of the fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report in a way that might actually make sense to a lot of people. Take a moment of contemplation and check these little gems out. [Sightline Daily]

What is Your Greatest Footprint? Carbon vs Water
Do you know what your carbon footprint is? How about water? This infographic provides some interesting facts on national carbon and water footprints and tips on what you can do to lessen your own impact. [Water & Risk Strategy]

Carbon Footprint Maps
With these new, interactive carbon footprint maps you can find out how you compare to local averages on household energy and vehicle miles traveled and create a personalized climate action plan for you or your community. [Cool Climate Network]

The Standard American Diet in 3 Simple Charts
Tom Philpott looks at three infographics that describe how the US spends its food dollars, whether home or away from home. He also looks at how we spend money as a country, both on food corporation advertising and on governmental spending on nutrition. The results are sad and not at all surprising. [Mother Jones]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins; Water Eco News by Kai Olson-Sawyer; Energy Eco News by Peter Hanlon and Multimedia content by Robin Madel.