This Week in Eco News - February 7, 2014

Duck and Cattails at Harlem Meer. Photo by Robin Madel.

It's been a busy week in Eco News as the long-overdue Farm Bill finally passed, California's ongoing drought imperiled organic dairy and Massachusetts has banned dumping commercial food waste into landfills. We'll take that bright spot. See these stories, along with the latest Ecocentric blog posts, climate news and multimedia. See a story we should share? Drop us a line at [email protected]

Best of the Web - Food

Sip. Do Not Gulp.
A chef, two scientists and an Ohlone storyteller give their perspectives on the connection between food and water, in the context of the severe drought California is going through at this time. This video is part of that installation "Sip. Do Not Gulp." at the de Saisset Museum in Santa Clara, California.

Take Action: How does industrial crop production strain our water supply? Find out more.


Massachusetts Leads Again, This Time Bans Food Waste
Tossing valuable food waste into landfills is about to take on new meaning in Massachusetts. Come October, commercial operations generating at least a ton of food waste a week will be legally obligated to donate or recycle reusable food and ship the rest to a biogas facility. The state aims to reduce waste and methane emissions in one stroke. [Sustainable Business]

Starving Hives: Pesticides Cause Bees to Collect 57% Less Pollen, Study Says
Following the EU ban on three neonicotinoids last year, a recent study argues once more that even miniscule amounts of neonicotinoids diminish the ability of bees to collect pollen. Scientists say neonicontinoid insecticide exposure is one of many stresses contributing to recent population declines. Pesticide manufacturers and other critics claim the study is not representative of field conditions. [RT]

Farm Bill Contains Farmers Market Program That Food Advocates for Poor See as Hopeful
With the farm bill finally in the President's hands, families relying on food stamps are one signature away from doubling their benefits at farmers markets. While cuts made to SNAP funding this year are truly devastating, the ability to spend SNAP dollars at markets has been shown to encourage healthier diets and boost local economies, so that's something. [Washington Post]

As Record Drought Intensifies, Organic Dairies are the First to Face Financial Crisis
While most farmers are struggling during California's third consecutive drought year, organic dairies and ranches are especially vulnerable as water, feed and the money to sustain business dry up. Organic dairies are required to graze their cows and supplement feed with organic hay, but with no pasture and rising prices, following regulation is nearly impossible, even with USDA aid. [EENews]

Meatless Mondays

'Meatless Mondays' in Schools Could Help Combat Obesity Epidemic
The Humane League, a nonprofit animal advocacy organization, is encouraging Philadelphia's School District to implement Meatless Monday. Besides providing meals lower saturated fat for children and fighting the obestity epidemic, Meatless Monday can also help reduce the School District’s carbon footprint. [Philadelphia Public School Notebook]


More Than 80,000 Tons Of Coal Ash Flow Into North Carolina River
A burst stormwater pipe at a defunct North Carolina power plant poured 82,000 tons of coal ash into the nearby Dan River. Plant owner, Duke Energy, is on the hook for the coal-ash pollution, which includes a toxic mix of arsenic, uranium and other harmful substances, and so far, drinking water treatment has been successful for the downstream town of Danville, Virginia. [NPR]

West Virginia Governor Tomblin Directs State to Conduct Home Water Testing
The crisis over West Virginia's widespread chemical contamination continues as skeptical residents forced Gov. Tomblin to conduct in-home water quality tests, a move he first rejected. Although federal officials have given the all-clear to the drinking water supply, outside experts say that indoor home plumbing could absorb the chemicals, which haven't appeared in tests conducted elsewhere. [Charleston Gazette]

State of Green Business: Water Rises as a Risk Factor
Multinational corporations are getting into the business of water use-reduction - and proselytizing - because of their increasing experience with shortages in freshwater supplies that lower profits. Companies now understand that they can strongly influence the resource and operational practices in their supply chains, a notion previously thought uncontrollable. [Greenbiz]


NY Health Dept. Fracking Review Done in Secret
It's been 16 months since New York State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah was tasked with analyzing the public health impacts of large-scale hydrofracking, and a full year since he first said the work would be finished within "the next few weeks." The process has been anything but transparent as Shah has traveled the country and hired consultants to aid in the analysis, but has revealed nothing about the results. [Elmira Star Gazette]

In Wake of State Dept Report on Keystone XL, Enviros Pledge to Keep Fighting
Last week the US State Department concluded after its environmental review that the Keystone pipeline "would not significantly alter global greenhouse gas emissions." That's true only if the status quo of oil use continues and the US takes no action on climate change. If we cut back on oil use, as trends are indicating, then the Keystone XL becomes a disaster. [Earth Island Journal]

Obama Launches 'Climate Hubs' to Help Farmers and Communities
The creation of seven "climate hubs" around the country will help farmers, ranchers and rural communities prepare for and adapt to floods, drought and other climate change-related threats. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for "nexus thinking" to us. Renewable energy, drip irrigation and energy efficiency are just a few tools that can cut back on agriculture's vulnerability to energy and water challenges. [E2 Wire]

42 Gallons Of Water To Make One Slice Of Pizza, And Other Facts We Need To Know
Forbes reports on our just-released nexus guide and gives a rundown of how everyday food, water and energy decisions can have a profound impact on each other. In the midst of the California drought, the issue is of critical importance given the state's huge, and irrigation-dependent, agricultural economy and the big electrical appetite of its water system. [Forbes]

Climate Change

Denver Vs Seattle: Which City Wins the Energy Efficiency Super Bowl?
Okay, so the Super Bowl was a boring blowout. But what about the REAL Super Bowl, the one that pit the energy efficiency street cred of Seattle versus Denver? Congratulations again, Seattle! Your combo of renewable energy, energy efficiency and carbon reduction targets is the clear winner. Denver fans, there's always next year.  [SmartPlanet]

California Drought: Clock Ticking on 17 Communities' Water Supply
How "ugly" is the California drought? Not only has a drought emergency been declared and a call for a voluntary 20 percent conservation by individuals, but 17 communities, mainly rural communities, could run out of water in less than 100 days. So far, this water situation has no end in sight. [Christian Science Monitor]

Its Great Lake Shriveled, Iran Confronts Crisis of Water Supply
Although many know that Iran is crippled by international economic sanctions, few are aware that scarce freshwater resources are just as devastating. Factors such as greater evaporation from climate change, increased dam construction and poor (and illegal) irrigation have curtailed agricultural production and shrunk water supplies, with a dry Lake Urmia being emblematic. [New York Times]

Next Phase of Obama's Executive Push: Climate Hubs
The Obama administration has announced the locations of seven regional climate hubs to help farmers prepare for potential climate change threats, such as pest invasion and extreme weather events. The administration revealed plans to develop these hubs last June as part of its overall climate strategy, and hopes the centers will pave the way to broader climate regulations. [The New York Times]


The Healthy Farm: A Vision for US Agriculture
Explore the sustainable, science-based future of American agriculture in this awesome interactive infographic that illustrates what a healthy farm looks like. Farmers don't have to sacrifice profits to be sustainable! [Union of Concerned Scientists]

Water - The Infographics Show
This quick little video contains a nice summary of facts about water, both how it exists on the planet and how we use it. It's a quick hit that makes the point about why we shouldn't waste our most precious resource. [The Infographics Show]

Years of Living Dangerously
Check out the trailer for Showtime's new eight-episode television event that tells the biggest story of our time: climate change and the impact it's having on people right now in the US and all over the world. The show covers the ways individuals, communities, companies and governments are struggling to find solutions to the biggest threat our world has ever faced. Coming in April 2014. [Showtime]

Beautiful Patterns Look Like Paintings But Are Actually Photographs of Glacial Rivers
These swirling designs are bird's eye view photos of glacial rivers taken by Russian photographer Andre Ermolaev. The photographer flew 500 feet in the air to catch these sweeping views. [The Daily Mail]

Meat Atlas - Facts and Figures About the Animals We Eat
This free publication sheds light on the impacts of meat and dairy production, and aims to catalyze the debate over the need for better, safer and more sustainable food and farming. There are also graphics available for free download. [Heinrich Böll Foundation, BUND, Le Monde Diplomatique]

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.