This Week in Eco News - May 30, 2014

The 14th River Rally kicks off today in Pittsburgh, inspiring us to take a fun look back at last year's gathering, during which we snapped the above photo of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Learn why massive meat recalls are our New Normal and why fish need trees, too! Catch up on all of our food, water and energy dispatches and check out the week's videos and multimedia. As usual, if you see an Eco News story we should share, drop us a line at [email protected]!

Best of the Web Video - Food

We The People, Genetically Modified?
StudentCam is C-SPAN Television Network's annual national video documentary competition that encourages students to think critically about issues that affect our communities and our nation. At sixteen years of age, Andrew Demeter investigates the veil of esotericism between American producers and consumers -- genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

Take Action: Find verified Non GMO products and purchase them!


Age of the Mega-Slaughterhouse: How Massive Meat Recalls Became Our New Normal
When giant slaughter facilities make mistakes, the impacts are disastrous. They’re also becoming increasingly common. The recent recall of 1.8 million pounds of ground beef possibly contaminated with E. coli is part of a new norm in the meat industry. [Salon]

DeCosters to Plead Guilty Under Agreement With Government
Once one the largest US egg producers, infamous for disputes involving environmental and labor issues, Austin and Peter DeCoster are now set to plead guilty of actions contributing to the 2010 Salmonelle Enteritidis outbreak affecting around 62,000 people. Over a half-billion shell eggs were recalled following the outbreak, the largest recall of its kind in US history. [Food Safety News]

Lawmakers Seek Delay On Healthy Lunch Rules For Schools
Which is harder: getting kids to eat healthy foods, or getting schools to serve them? While 90 percent of schools have met the 2012 healthy school lunch standards, some have complained the rules are too difficult to implement due to budgets, product availability and lack of student interest, prompting a one-year waiver proposal from Congress. Opponents believe waivers will needlessly stifle progress. [NPR]

China Makes Waves in the International Meat Market
Following record imports of pork, China's demand for beef has followed suit, leading imports to surge by 44 percent. Given the environmental, human health, social and animal welfare implications of industrial livestock production, we're hoping Meatless Monday takes off in China soon. [Global Meat News]

Meatless Monday

Wyandanch School District Goes Meatless on Mondays
Long Island's Wyandanch School District has just adopted the Meatless Mondays campaign as a measure to help bolster students' health. The district's school lunch manager Pamela Usher wants "to educate the students of the health benefits of a more plant-based diet." No telling yet if the campaign spreads throughout Long Island's other schools. [Newsday]


Exclusive: Leaked EPA Draft Fracking Wastewater Guidance Suggests Closer Scrutiny for Treatment Plants
This week, an EPA draft guideline on toxic fracking wastewater treatment was leaked to Desmog Blog. Their tests found that chemicals and heavy metals in shale waste exceeded eight drinking water contaminant levels, nine human health parameters and 16 aquatic health parameters. EPA has Clean Water Act-authority to regulate wastewater disposal, but action often depends on slow and costly litigation. [Desmog Blog]

London's Sewers Overflow About Once a Week
London’s River Thames is infamous for a 19th century episode with cholera-contaminated drinking water that killed thousands  (and the “Big Stink,”) which necessitated the city's first sewer system. Now 150 years old, the sewer is so overburdened that it overflows into the river once a week, on average, and despite the large costs, infrastructure improvements are in the offing. [Marketplace]

Fish Need Trees, Too
If a US Forest Service-considered clearcut of southeastern Alaskan old-growth trees moves forward, salmon might be the biggest losers because of the loss of spawning grounds. The shade, rich soil and steady water flows that the huge, ancient trees provide could irreparably harm the salmon habitat and commercial fishery, now one of the “drivers of the region’s economic recovery.” [New York Times]

Senate Passes Water Infrastructure, Drought Bills
As unbelievable as it is true, the 113th US Congress passed a $12 billion bill that is the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which authorizes water infrastructure upgrades, specifies policies and initiates research. Check here for details on the bill that covers everything from port dredging to managing the invasive Asian carp population.  [Circle of Blue]


Kasich Agrees to Sign Bill Revamping Green-Energy Requirements
Ohio's Governor John Kasich is expected to sign a controversial bill changing the state's renewable energy rules after it passed the House this week. The bill will freeze standards for two years, after which they will substantively change, reducing renewable energy requirements for utilities. Ohio is the first state of the 29 with such standards to roll them back. [Columbus Dispatch]

Applying the Lessons of Politics to Green Power
Energy service companies, known as ESCOs, are offering energy packages for customers to buy clean energy without the hassle of physically attaching distributed energy, like solar panels, to their house. A former director of is using his organizing skills to help customers sign up. [New York Times]

Solar’s Time To Rise And Shine
Solar energy efficiency records are being broken at a breakneck rate. The constant competition is making affordable solar enegy a near certainty. In the near future, solar may be competitive with natural gas and coal but that may be contingent on finding the right kind of cheaper solar materials. [Ensia]

Wind Turbines and Birds: What’s the Real Story?
The Nature Conservancy's David Mehlman says wind turbines, "must be developed in ways that account for and minimize [bird] impacts such as wildlife mortality." He recognizes the benefits of wind power and that there are overall low number of birds killed at wind turbines in comparison to other sources of bird mortality, but that "masks the fact that certain species are considerably more vulnerable to collision with wind turbines than others." [Cool Green Science]


The Wall Street Journal’s Shameful Climate Denial: The Scientific Consensus is Not a Myth
97% of scientists agree that man-made climate change is happening, and a transparent Op-Ed fails to argue otherwise. Lindsay Abrams argues that the authors fail to debunk the popular meme, while managing to make a much more insidious, and radical, argument.  And what the authors are really trying to do is stifle debate. [Salon]

Carbon Dioxide Levels Topped 400 PPM Throughout Northern Hemisphere In April, WMO Says
Carbon dioxide levels throughout the northern hemisphere hit 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human history in April, an ominous threshold for climate change, the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday. Rising concentrations of the heat-trapping gas raise risks of more heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels. [Huffington Post/Reuters]

Satellite Images Reveal Scope of Massive Balkans Flooding
Affected residents of Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are now drying out from the devastating flooding that that began on May 13th when extreme rainfall started. Some locations received one-third of their average annual rainfall in just three days that set regional records, killed dozens and displaced thousands. [Climate Central]

California Drought: State's Flawed Water System Can't Track Usage
California’s historic, severe drought has meant implementing widespread water restrictions, save for the 4,000 senior water rights holders who can freely use water with scant oversight. Comprised of mainly of businesses and farms that have special legal status extending back 100 years, they hold rights to more than half the state’s rivers and streams, although no one knows their exact use because of self-reporting and incomplete state records. [AP]


8  Disgusting Facts About Hog Poop
Manure isn't supposed to smell good. But people living near hog farms complain of unbearable stenches that affect their health and essentially keep them prisoners in their own homes. The Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate manure odor, and neither do most states. So just how much poop are we talking about here? And what's it really like to be neighbors with a factory hog farm? These infographics present a few facts to keep in mind. [Mother Jones]

It Takes How Much Water to Grow an Almond?!
California, supplier of nearly half of all US fruits, veggies, and nuts, is on track to experience the driest year in the past half millennium. Farms use about 80 percent of the state's "developed water," or water that's moved from its natural source to other areas via pipes and aqueducts. As these maps show, much of California's agriculture is concentrated in the parts of the state that the drought has hit the hardest. But not all crops require the same amount of water. [Mother Jones]

California Water Data
As the most populous US state enters the summer of 2014 in the throes of a ruinous drought, new data tools put California’s water crisis into context. An interactive dashboard shows current and historic reservoir levels and is updated daily. Arsenic contamination and water use data are plotted by zip code or county. And a high-resolution map illustrates the audacious canal system that binds the state together. These tools are part of Choke Point: Index, an investigation into the condition of water resources in three essential American farm regions. [Circle of Blue]

No Matter How You Spell It, Fracking Stirs Controversy
Fracking was among 149 words added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this month. Activists play up its unseemly connotations; those in the oil and gas industry downplay documented problems with gas development. Find out the history of the word in this podcast. [NPR]

Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!
Check out the video and these artist renderings from this ambitious team that aims to bring solar panels to roadways. From the team: “Solar panels that you can drive, park, and walk on. They melt snow and...cut greenhouse gases by 75-percent?!!!” They’ve started an indiegogo campaign to try to make it happen. [Solar Roadways]

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