This Week in Eco News - May 16, 2014


Place setting at EAT Greenpoint, Brooklyn

We're sharing our favorite local, sustainable foods at comforting tables (see above) this week as spring storms drench some parts of the US - and others remain parched. It's been a busy week in food, water and energy Eco News - catch up on headlines and multimedia that's too good to miss. As usual, if you see an Eco News story we should share, drop us a line at [email protected]!

Best of the Web Video - Energy

Inside the White House: Solar Panels
This video goes inside the White House and demonstrates the installation of solar panels on the roof of the president's residence.

Take Action: Learn how you can plug solar energy into the grid with the award winning Freeing the Grid project 


Pesticides, Not Mites or Pathogens, Major Cause of Honey Bee Decline
Honeybee losses in the US have reached new heights, with colony declines in Ohio alone hitting between 50 and 80 percent this past winter. A new study concludes that pesticides are by far the most plausible culprit, undermining arguments by chemical companies that mites and other pathogens cause colony collapse disorder. The scientific evidence is strong - are we listening? [Beyond Pesticides]

Farm Sludge Contaminates Soil with Drugs, Other Chemicals
When we wash products down the drain, where do they go? Recent findings show that a lot of them end up in our soil and groundwater by way of sewage applied as fertilizer to farmland. Sludge introduces an alarming number of chemicals, from antibacterial soaps, cleaners, drugs and more, into the environment, and scientists have yet to understand the impacts. [Environmental Health News]

Survey: Consumers Want Local, Willing to Pay Premium
The main reason consumers are not buying locally grown produce is not price, it’s availability. Of consumers responding to a recent survey, 70 percent said they are willing to pay a premium for local food, and 47 percent said local products are not available at their retailer. Companies allowing managers to build local sourcing relationships have an edge in the market, the study notes. [The Packer]

China Gives Thumbs-up to Poultry from Virginia
China has a lot of power in the US, including its influence as one of the largest export markets for US industrial meats. With last month’s lift of a Chinese ban against poultry imports from Virginia, which had been instated following an outbreak of low pathogenic avian influenza in 2007, poultry sales to China are expected to rise even further. [Global Meat News]

Meatless Monday

Hell's Kitchen High School Student Wins National 'Meatless Monday' Contest
Danielle Rivers, a 17-year-old Food and Finance High School senior won first place in a national Healthy Pasta

Recipe Contest put on by Meatless Monday and the Careers through Culinary Arts Program, a nonprofit organization that brings culinary programs to schools. Thanks to her tasty meatless pasta dish. Rivers will receive a $5,000 scholarship and an all-inclusive trip to a Canyon Ranch resort to learn healthy cooking techniques from Chef Scott Uehlein. Congrats! [DNA Info]


Cocaine Use in Britain so High it has Contaminated Drinking Water, Report Shows
Feeling jittery or paranoid after drinking UK tap water? Could it be thanks to consuming the trace amounts of cocaine that pass through users and drinking water plants, as official water testing discovered? Probably not, since levels are far below the harmful threshold for drinking water standards. That said, complete removal of the illegal drug – as with legal, prescription drugs – still presents a challenge. [The Independent]

In the US, A Water Main Breaks Every Two Minutes
Yes, water mains and pipes break every two minutes in the United States, the groups behind this 2014 National Infrastructure Week want you to know. This week, they are emphasizing the sad fact that US infrastructure is bad (with a D+ grade) and is in serious (did I say grave?) need of upgrades. Time to put our money where we want out clean water to go. [Marketplace]

EPA Takes First Step Toward Regulating Fracking Chemicals
Despite the oil and gas industry’s repeated attempts to avoid federal oversight of fracking, the EPA might begin doing that by initiating a process whereby drilling companies can report some health and safety specifics to the agency regarding the proprietary chemicals injected underground. This reporting will likely be voluntary and incentive-driven rather than required by formal regulation. [Bloomberg]

Ogallala Water Use Climbs as Drought Intensifies in the Southern Plains
With a rain shortfall lower than that of the 1930s Dust Bowl, continued drought in the southern US High Plains has forced people to rely more on the overtaxed Ogallala Aquifer. Crops are suffering, as forecasts show, for instance, that winter wheat yields could drop by 18 percent in Kansas and 40 percent Oklahoma, ranked first and third in national wheat production, respectively. [Circle of Blue]


Amid Pipeline and Climate Debate, Energy-Efficiency Bill Is Derailed
Yes, even an innocuous, bipartisan bill supporting energy efficiency has no chance of passing through Congress today. The bill, which just last week had strong support from both parties, failed because of a fight over whether to allow amendments regarding the Keystone XL pipeline and recent EPA emissions regulations. [New York Times]

Colorado Oil Train Spill Put at 6,500 Gallons
Yet another train carrying crude oil has derailed, this time in northern Colorado where six train cars jumped the tracks. As of now it appears that one car ruptured, spilling 6,500 gallons of crude into a ditch, but apparently not into the nearby South Platte River. The train was carrying crude from the Niobrara shale formation located in Colorado, Wyoming and Kansas. [KJCT News]

14 Disturbing Posters Illustrate the Dire State of Our Energy System
The Post Carbon Institute launched its Public Energy Art Kit (P.E.A.K.), a series of 14 posters about the challenge of tackling climate change, energy inequality and fossil-fuel dependency. The project brings together artists who are passionate about climate change and want to move the energy system away from fossil fuels. [Fast Co.Exist]

Senate Bill Shines Light on the Energy-Water Nexus
Energy legislation has been DOA during the 113th Congress, nevertheless a bipartisan (!) bill was introduced in the US Senate called the Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability (NEWS) Act of 2014, intended to help make the environmental impact of water use for energy production more transparent. [Scientific American]

'Resourceful Consumers' Push Energy Efficiency, Home and Business Solar
Two new reports from Deloitte say that US consumers appear increasingly sophisticated in their energy consumption, not just turning off lights and replacing lightbulbs, but replacing inefficient appliances or renovating homes to make them more efficient. The reports also find that solar installations are increasing in middle income neighborhoods and that one-third of young people plan to buy a smart energy application this year. [E&E News]

Climate Change

Oceans: West Antarctica Glaciers Move on Path Toward Major Sea-Level Rise – Studies
Global sea-level rise might well be greater than expected over the course of the coming centuries as the West Antarctica ice sheet appears to be on a path of "irreversible" collapse, reports two separate papers. Although natural climate variability is causing the undersea glaciers to melt more rapidly than anticipated, human-induced climate change contributes by creating stronger winds that push warmer water into contact with the glaciers. [Climatewire]

What Gets Flushed Into Rivers as More Rain Hits the Northeast?
In part due to climate change, the Northeastern US has already received 67 percent more rain since 1958 - more than any other region - with trends showing heavier future rainfall. Yale researchers conducted a 5-year study and learned that with this precipitation comes dissolved organic matter including bacteria, plants, algae and heavy metals. While it looks like tea, they're not great for water quality. [WNPR]

Climate Change Making Food Crops Less Nutritious, Research Finds
High CO2 levels have negative impacts on plant nutrition, including lower protein and vitamin content in major crops, a new study reports. With April marking the first month in millions of years to exhibit daily CO2 levels above 400ppm, we are already experiencing significant risks to crop nutrition that will continue to rise even if we manage to curb emissions. [The Guardian]

New Ways to Visualize Increasingly Hot Weather in US
The portion of days with warm weather in the US have increased by 25 percent over the past 50 years according to a new data analysis using publicly-available data. The analysis and resulting maps and graphs show that the portion of hot weather days has steadily increased to 67 percent, up from 42 percent in the US. That’s bad news for all you cold-weather lovers out there. [Climate Central]


Food System Thinking
A new video about the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future highlights how CLF has applied their big-picture thinking to the food system since 1996. Interviews with a number of people (including some of our friends and heroes) demonstrate how the center has been educating the public, policymakers and advocates on key food system issues. Our own Sid Lerner from the Healthy Mondays program is included. [Livable Future Blog]

What It’s Like to Own a Tesla Model S
This infographic explains what it’s like to own, maintain and operate a Tesla. The only fluid you’ll ever handle is windshield washer fluid. The car sounds like a fun ride and it’s easy to own and operate. Wonder what it costs to fill up? [The Oatmeal]

Living Without Indoor Plumbing
According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 630,000 occupied homes in the US - 0.5 percent of the total - lack complete plumbing facilities. The Census considers a home to lack complete plumbing facilities if it is without any of the following: hot and cold running water, a flush toilet, and a bathtub or shower. This interactive map illustrates the problem. [Washington Post]

The Heartwarming Relationship Between A Man And His 1,200 Pigs
There’s knowing where your food comes from and then there’s this guy. He loves his pigs so much he hangs out with them. He even let photographer Toshiteru Yamaji take photos of him with his porcine pals over the last decade. Check out the photos - and you’ll never look at bacon the same way again. [Huffington Post]

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.