This Week in Eco News - April 4, 2014

Turns out energy conservation and sustainability are important to American consumers after all. One way we might all show those concepts our love? Waste less food! As usual, if you see a story we should share, drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Energy

Foundation of Modern Life : The SWITCH Energy Primer
Energy drives the modern world and underpins every other issue. We choose our energy based on what is affordable, available, reliable and clean. All energies have environmental impacts. Even so, the biggest challenge of energy is scale. And the only way to counter scale, is with efficiency.

Take Action: Check out the full length documentary SWITCH and discover the future of energy.


Feed Is a Suspect in Hunt for Deadly Pig Virus
Experts theorize that porcine plasma, a derivative of pig blood and common ingredient in piglet feed allowing producers to wean pigs onto grain-heavy diets earlier, may be the conduit responsible for spreading deadly pig virus around the country. Although sanitation measures to stop the virus have been in place for months, farmers have recently experienced a marked rise in cases. [The Wall Street Journal]

California Farmers: Drill, Baby, Drill (for Water, That Is)
Record-breaking droughts don't scare California farmers! At least not enough to get big monocrop operations to stop and think. While surface water is hard to come by, farmers are dipping into finite groundwater resources to stay afloat and big producers are digging the deepest wells. With more droughts on the way, groundwater may be on its way out. [Mother Jones]

'Historic Wins' for Organic Industry in New Farm Bill
The organic industry has had it rough for years, receiving little support for research, marketing, and other costs under federal farm policy, all while industrial agriculture reaped tons of funding. The scene changed with the 2014 farm bill. Finally, old funding programs have been re-established and millions have been directed towards organic research and business securities. Good first steps! [Food Safety News]

Survey: Sustainability Key to Restaurant Customers
According to a recent survey, sixty-three percent of consumer respondents say they want to eat at socially conscious restaurants, with factors like safe working environments and recycling ranking highly. After "local-sourcing" made the National Restaurant Association's top trends, it's clear that many restaurant operators are listening, but the study says consumers still struggle to identify leaders in these areas. [Nation's Restaurant News]

Meatless Monday

National Public Health Week Kicks Off with Focus on Children's Health
Monday, April 7 kicks off the American Public Health Association's National Public Health Week. Children's health is the focus of this year's celebration, a perfect occasion for Kids Cook Monday to lend their support and resources to the more than 50,000 association members. Kids Cook Monday, an initative of The Monday Campaigns, is providing a Family Dinner Date kit which includes a recipe, fun facts and nutrition info to share. Sounds like tasty fun to us! [Newswise]


Water Flows Into Colorado River Delta in Historic First
The once-mighty Colorado River's roar has trickled to a whimper for decades now since the waterway dries up before reaching the Delta, never mind the Gulf of California. For over a week at least, the River flowed to the Delta in the first-ever intentional release of water from the Morelos Dam as part of a joint US-Mexico environmental effort. [National Geographic]

Proposed Federal EPA Rule Would Protect Streams, Wetlands
The EPA proposed rules that extend pollution safeguards to most wetlands, headwater streams, and intermittent and temporary streams that run after rainfall. While industry opposition exists, these measures restore and clarify Clean Water Act controls complicated by two murky Supreme Court decisions, all with the hope that stronger federal oversight might improve the nation's water quality. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

To Understand Water, Learn the Math
The public has great interest in the protection of shared water resources to maintain high quality drinking water, recreation opportunities and quality of life. Achieving those goals requires robust water data collection and analysis to understand how much is withdrawn, consumed ("lost"), where it's going, and so forth - a task the federal USGS, among others, takes seriously. [National Geographic]

Delaware River Watershed Is Focus Of Large-Scale Restoration Project
The Delaware River Initiative was established by a nonprofit coalition to protect the important yet threatened River that supplies drinking water to 15 million people in the eastern United States. Central to the effort were the identification of eight sub-watersheds where "projects will have a high impact on water quality" as regional partners work cooperatively. [Environment360]

The Fight for Wisconsin's Soul

The enormous, proposed Gogebic Taconite (GTac) iron ore mine in the far north of Wisconsin has drawn the supreme ire of the state's environmentalists, scientists and native population. Potential development could pollute what President Kennedy called in a 1963 speech "a central and significant portion of the freshwater assets of this country," meaning Lake Superior's headwaters could fall victim. [New York Times]


Five States and the Gulf of Mexico Produce More Than 80% of US Crude Oil
Texas, North Dakota, California, Alaska and Oklahoma, along with the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, account for more than 80 percent of all crude oil production in US. The recent growth surge in oil production is led by Texas and North Dakota where shale oil (i.e. fracking) is booming. [EIA Today]

Fish Embryos Exposed to Oil From BP Spill Develop Deformities, a Study Finds
Nearly four years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill a new study finds that embryos of commercially-important tuna and amberjack that were exposed to the spilled crude oil developed heart and other deformities that would probably kill some of the developing fish and shorten the lives of others. [New York Times]

Wind Turbine in a Blimp Can Bring Power to Remote Locations
Need energy in a remote location? A blimp may be the answer. A dozen homes in Alaska will be the first to test out a portable wind energy system that uses a conventional turbine blade inside a cylindrical blimp that floats about 1,000 feet above the ground, drawing on the stronger winds at that altitude. [Yale e360]

Don't Move a Mussel: Small Freshwater Biofoulers Carry a Big Price Tag
Power plants that withdraw water for cooling kill and injure billions of fish, but some freshwater mussels and clams are causing damage (to the tune of $277 million per year) to power plants and other utilities. These "biofoulers," often invasive species, clog the pipes of power plant cooling systems and water treatment plants. []


Eating Less Meat and Dairy Key to UN Emissions Targets
The UN aims to cut emissions by 2020 enough to avoid a global temperature rise of over 2 degrees this century, and a new study points out that meat, and especially beef, consumption is a key point for reduction. The study shows that curbing energy and transportation emissions alone will not be enough to prevent higher temperatures. [Food Navigator]

Gallup Poll Finds Majority Favor Energy Conservation Over Production
A new national poll finds that 57 percent of survey participants think the US should have a central energy conservation policy instead of pushing more production of oil, gas, and coal supplies. The poll also finds that 64 percent favor increasing development of alternative energy production like wind and solar power, while 60 percent favor proposals that would regulate or cut back fossil fuel emissions. [E2 Wire]

Rising Tides Threaten Former Seafood Capital

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the tide is now rising at about three millimeters per year, a rate fast enough to completely submerge the region within the next half-century.  Photographer Greg Kahn traveled to Eastern Maryland to capture the damage which is already visible. What he found there was the “a tiny apocalypse unfolding in plain sight…Generations of watermen created a tight-knit community within its own cultural ecosystem, and they do not want to see it washed away,” he says. “These photographs depict the last breaths of a community as they are forced to adapt to the smallest by most devastating tidal wave.” [MSNBC]


Oil Industry Gets An Earful As It Eyes Florida's Everglades
Fracking is coming to the Florida Everglades whether local residents want it or not (find out what they have to say in this podcast). As oil production goes, Florida isn't much of a player, producing less than 2 million barrels last year, which is how much oil Texas pumps from its wells each day. That's all about to change now that fracking is on the scene, and the drilling could be done in some pretty sensitive places. [NPR]

Perspective: Hope for Springs Eternal

This photographer has been taking photos of Florida's gorgeous springs for decades, and that means he has also documented their decline. It’s sad to think that many of these springs either have serious water quality issues from fertilizer run off or are depleted from overpumping groundwater. A new bill in Florida could help restore the springs. Also, check out the video about the springs. [Tampa Bay Times]

Americans Waste One-Third of Food Bought

USDA Director of Sustainable Development Elise Golan discusses the amount of food wasted in the U.S. each year and the reasons why consumers waste food. New estimates show that 30 percent (or 133 billion pounds) of the food intended for our plates is wasted at a cost of $161 Billion. [Bloomberg]

Visualization: How the Drought is Shrinking California’s Reservoirs
This data visualization, created by Bay Area web developer Victor Powell, shows fluctuations since 2010 in California’s 30-largest reservoirs. As of mid-March, many are at strikingly low storage levels (although some are much fuller than they were just a month ago), leaving water agencies throughout the state scrambling for options as a long, dry summer approaches. [KQED]

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.