This Week in Eco News - April 18, 2014

The U.S. National Archives

Did you know that NFL linebacker Will Witherspoon is also an organic beef producer? Or that it's possible to extract water from the air? Or fuel from seawater? See these stories, along with climate news and fun multimedia in this week's Eco News. As usual, if you see a story we should share, please drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Food

Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs)
Here's a video from a new series produced by The Lexicon of Sustainability and PBS Food - "Know Your Food." This episode is all about Community Supported Agriculture. What if you could buy fresh fruit and vegetables each week, grown by a local farmer? You may have heard of CSAs, but do you know how they really work? Find out!

Take Action: Find a CSA near you on Eat Well Guide.


Insect Feedstock for Pigs, Chicken and Fish Production
That's right, insects might become an alternative to plant-based protein in feed for fish, pigs and chickens if approval moves forward in the EU. An entomologist speaking at a Food Vision conference said that emerging automated production techniques could lower costs enough to make insects a viable feed, with potential to compose perhaps 50 percent of fish farm feed. [Food Manufacture]

NFL Player Tackles Sustainable Beef Off the Field
Will Witherspoon is the linebacker for the St. Louis Rams, which is part of the reason he’s so interested in raising his own antibiotic-free, organically raised beef. Spending time on his grandmother’s farm and paying attention to what he eats as professional football player inspired Witherspoon’s passion for sustainable farming. He says sustainable food is gaining popularity amongst many athletes. [Grist]

Why You Should Be Skeptical of Walmart’s Cheap Organic Food
Walmart is developing a line of low-cost organic products to be sold at up to 25 percent less than other organic brands. Higher prices on organic foods represent the true costs of food production that prices on conventional items disregard, which begs the question: how will Walmart shave prices without transferring costs from consumers to farmers, or to the environment? [Grist]

Food Scraps to Fuel Vertical Farming’s Rise in Chicago
If you haven’t heard of it, vertical farming generally means growing plants in or on a multistory structure, and this often requires artificial lighting to compensate for reduced access to sunlight. To avoid this obvious sustainability challenge, a vertical farming project in Chicago is installing a giant anaerobic digester to turn food waste into energy for grow lamps. [NPR]

US Bill Seeks to Block Mandatory GMO Food Labeling by States
Consumers and advocates have made headway in passing GMO labeling laws in various states across the country, but a federal bill introduced last week could nullify that progress by making mandatory GMO labeling illegal. Labeling advocates say this is a sign that big food companies are intimidated by consumer distrust of GMO products, and are attempting to stifle consumer choice. [Reuters]

Meatless Monday

What You Can Do and Meatless Monday Invite You to Go Meatless for Earth Day!
To celebrate Earth Day, What You Can Do and Meatless Monday are joining forces to help support our planet. Following a fully vegetarian diet just one day per week for an entire year is the equivalent to taking your car off the road for 1,100 miles in terms of greenhouse gas emissions that you will save. Not a bad way to help save the planet, eh? [What You Can Do]


California’s San Joaquin Tops List of America’s 10 Most Endangered Rivers
Watchdog group, American Rivers, announced its annual list of 10 of the most threatened - not worst - rivers in the United States. This year's most endangered river is the San Joaquin, whose water is so overdrawn that it runs dry at points. Other rivers include the Upper Colorado, the Middle Mississippi, New Mexico's Gila River and North Carolina's Haw River. [Earth Island Journal]

Mississippi Basin Water Quality Declining Despite Conservation
Regardless of water conservation efforts practiced up and down the Mississippi, nitrate pollution in the River has risen due mainly to runoff from field crop fertilizers, animal manure, urban areas and discharges from wastewater treatment plants, USGS tests show. To curb pollution and the resultant dead zones, requirements for more monitoring and nitrogen reduction targets with teeth. [National Geographic]

This Tower Pulls Drinking Water Out of Thin Air
Water scarcity in a world teeming with people will rely more on new sources, like a recently designed towers that can each collect around 25 gallons of potable drinking water per day directly from the air through condensation. The next step is to place two in water-stressed Ethiopia and observe the effectiveness of in-the-field water harvesting. [Smithsonian]

Florida Lawmakers Proposing a Salve for Ailing Springs
Florida’s abundant groundwater springs – tied to drinking water for many state residents – have witnessed the deterioration of water quality because of septic systems, agricultural and urban runoff, and industrial waste, hurting tourism and wildlife in the process. The state senate has taken up the issue and seek move a bill through that tightens up pollution standards. [New York Times]


Renewable Energy Technology to Turn Seawater Into Fuel, Allowing Ships to Stay at Sea Longer
US Navy scientists believe they have figured out how to turn seawater into fuel – pretty handy for an organization with 289 ships and submarines. As a Navy Vice Admiral explained, "We need to challenge the…assumptions that are the result of the last six decades of constant access to cheap, unlimited amounts of fuel." [International Business Times]

CETO Produces Wave Power and Freshwater
Hey if you're using wave power to pump pressurized seawater onshore to produce electricity, you might as well desalinate that water too, right? Of course you should, and exactly such a combination of a power and desalination plant is being installed right now in drought-prone Australia. [EcoGeek]

Despite Rise in Spills, Hazardous Cargo Rides Rails in Secret
Federal laws allow American railroads to operate without any local or state oversight, providing a blanket of secrecy over their operations. With the rapid rise in the number of trains carrying crude oil through populated areas, not to mention recent derailments and explosions, local officials are raising the alarm about the risks of transporting dangerous cargo by rail. [New York Times]

Appeals Court Upholds EPA Limits on Air Toxicity
Despite yet another industry court challenge to cleaning up old, dirty coal plants, a federal appeals court found that the EPA's designation of mercury emissions from power plants as a threat to public health and the environment "substantively and procedurally valid." [McClatchy]


Years of Living Dangerously Premiere Full Episode
In this new Showtime cable series, Hollywood celebrities and respected journalists span the globe to explore the issues of climate change and cover intimate stories of human triumph and tragedy. Episodes air on Sundays; the first is available in full on YouTube. (Stay tuned to see if others follow!) The premiere episode features Harrison Ford and Don Cheadle. [SHOWTIME]

How to Think Like the Dutch in a Post-Sandy World
Much of the Dutch live under sea level so water and flood management is mandatory. As sea levels creep up in places like New York City, that Dutch mentality of living “under water,” which means finding solutions that sometimes “let water in” or “keeps water out” depending on what works best at both the ecological and community level. [New York Times]

Energy-Water Nexus Around the World and the Missing Link
The energy-water nexus (water to cool power plants, produce fuel, power to clean and move water) has been getting a lot of attention recently, but it's essential that we include food in the equation if the world is to manage growing populations and the demands on all three resources. [EDF Energy Exchange]


The Food Energy Water Nexus in South Africa
The food, water and energy nexus is central to the sustainability of South Africa's future, where 98 percent of their water resources are allocated for specific uses. They’re now faced with a system alarmingly out of balance, and the sustainable supply of water, food and energy is becoming ever less certain, as pointed out in this video. Effectively averting a crisis requires thinking differently. [WWF South Africa]

In Kentucky, Who's to Blame For Coal's Decline?
An audio slide show illustrates the increasing jobless rate in eastern Kentucky due to the declining coal mining industry and highlights what some are doing to find work. Music for the slide show is provided by Lee Sexton on the banjo. [NPR]

True Cost Accounting: The Real Cost of Cheap Food
From our friends at the Lexicon of Sustainability, this video illustrates that by considering all the external costs factored out of the cost of food, an economic principle called true cost accounting helps consumers understand the real cost of the food they buy. Suddenly cheap food isn’t so cheap after all. [PBS]

Episode 1 : “Up, Down. Hot, Cold. Love Takes Energy”
Meet Wendy and Russell, two New Yorkers with a home that’s putting a chill on their relationship. These two need professional help to figure out their “Irreconcilable Energy Differences!” Maybe an energy audit will help. Find out more in this video series. [NYSERDA]

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.