This Week in Eco News - June 13, 2014


Lavallette Beach, New Jersey. Photo courtesy Kai Olson-Sawyer

It's time to hit the beach and enjoy lazy summer days on the water. Before you go, here's some info on making sure your favorite spot is safe for swimming! Enjoy a picnic, watch a happy whale video and check out the latest food, water and energy Eco News! If you see a story we should share, drop us a line at blog[at]gracelinks[dot]org.

Best of the Web Video - Water

2014 River Rally 
The 2014 River Rally where the Three Rivers meet in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was a success! Over 700 environmental leaders gathered for education, inspiration and support in their ongoing water advocacy. The 2014 Rally was a joint River Network and Waterkeeper event.

Take Action: Learn more and engage with the proposed "Waters of the United States" rule, which clarifies what streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act.


Asian Slave Labor Producing Prawns for Supermarkets in US, UK
The shrimp you buy at major retailers like Walmart and Costco should have brutality, forced labor and even killing written on the label. The Guardian has exposed slavery behind the largest shrimp farming business in the world, which purchases fishmeal caught on boats manned by unwilling workers in Thailand. Retailers are in the spotlight to overhaul their supply chains. [The Guardian]

California Farmers Ask: Hey Buddy, Can You Spare Some Water?
Just next door to California farmers experiencing extreme water scarcity, water is flowing freely, or nearly. While some farmers pay as little as $30 per acre-foot of water, drought has water prices through the roof elsewhere, sometimes up to $2,000. With physical barriers, bans and farmers safeguarding their own access to water, transferring cheap water to others is uncommon. [NPR]

Fish Are Great at Fighting Climate Change. Too Bad We’re Eating Them All.
The oceans absorb nearly half of human CO2 emissions, and much of that absorption occurs thanks to fish. A new study reveals that CO2 absorbed by phytoplankton ends up sequestered on the seafloor once it is ingested by mid- to deep-sea fish. Unfortunately, other reports show that overfishing by deep-sea fisheries disturbs these ecosystems. So much for reliable sequestration. [Grist]

Food Fraud Must Be Addressed
Large corporations like Quality Egg LLC, the executives of which recently pled guilty to distributing adulterated eggs, are economically motivated to mislabel their foods. Just last month, the US Pharmacopeial Convention asked the FDA to mitigate such adulteration of food by pinpointing points of potential fraud and making standards available to the public. Action by the FDA seems unlikely. [Food Business News]

Small Farmers Are Feeding the World on Less Land
Using only 25 percent of the world’s farmland, small-scale farmers are producing most of the world’s food. A recent study by GRAIN looked at small farms around the world, finding that in many countries a small percentage of the land produces sometimes over 80% of major crops. However, that’s changing. Small farms are declining in the face of export-driven large-scale production. [Permaculture]

Meatless Monday

Teen Chefs' Pasta Dishes Win Scholarships in Nationwide C-CAP Meatless Monday

Recipe Contest
Thousands of the Careers through Culinary Arts Program high school seniors became head chefs in their classrooms and were introduced to the Meatless Monday public health campaign. While working with their culinary arts teachers to concoct an original pasta entree for the recipe contest, the scholarship-winning teen chefs were encouraged to explore new fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. [Reuters]


Clean Water Key to Business Success
Craft brewer New Belgium wants the public to know that they rely entirely on clean water and support the EPA’s proposed Clean Water Act rule that clarifies what waters are protected. Water for brewers is important not only because beer is 90 percent water, and the barley and hops that go into it need the wet stuff, too. [The Globe Gazette]

Counting Each Drop: Corporate Concern Mounts About Water Supplies
Many in the business world care deeply about freshwater, as seen through such collaborative efforts like the Alliance for Water Stewardship and public-private partnerships for water infrastructure. Why do they care? The bottom line, says Oxford researcher, Alex Money. “No one cares more than companies about making a profit, so to the extent that it affects their business this stuff is for real.” [New York Times]

It's Watershed vs. Pipeline in Latest Fracking Battle
Concerns about a potential pipeline oil spill in the Mobile, Alabama area water utility’s 8,000-acre protected watershed brought the utility to court to prevent the pipeline from passing through, which they subsequently lost. This is an example of increased conflict around the country between drinking water providers and oil and gas infrastructure popping up from growth in fracking. [Wall Street Journal]

Study: Water Stress Affects Fewer Cities than Previously Thought
A recent study found that 25 percent of world cities – originally believed to be more – currently face water stress, which means greater vulnerability to drought and legal action. The lower percentage is based on inclusion of water diverted and transported from outside cities' watersheds that buffers water stress, a wealth benefit that poorer cities can’t afford. (Click through for the 20 largest global cities under water stress.) [Circle of Blue]


Though Not Quietly, Kentucky Moves to Cut Reliance on Coal
Despite cries of impending doom for Kentucky's coal industry, the draft EPA carbon emission rules are in fact extremely flexible for Kentucky and other coal-dependent states. Still, some Kentucky leaders are thinking long-term and seeking new industries for the state once coal does eventually to fade. [New York Times]

Air Conditioning Turns Up City Heat
Scientists found that heat from air conditioning systems raises some city temperatures at night by more than 2 degree Fahrenheit. This sets up a vicious cycle as cities get warmer because of climate change, residents install more air conditioners, which worsens the urban heat island effect and increases cooling demands. [Daily Climate]

Google Said to Plan Energy Push with Tools for Utilities
Google wants to, in its own modest words, "fundamentally change the world of power." To do so, the tech giant is reportedly in the early stages of building software and hardware tools to manage power lines and other infrastructure, which will help utilities deliver electricity to homes and businesses more efficiently. [Bloomberg]

Crude-By-Rail Transportation Provides Bakken Shale Production Access to Major Markets
Crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken shale is making it to major markets across the country largely thanks to railroads, as evident from recent train-related oil spills across the country. In 2013 the capacity of railroads to transport Bakken crude was nearly twice as much as the capacity of pipelines. [EIA Today]


Will California's Drought Bring About $7 Broccoli?
Could the ongoing drought in California, hub of American vegetable and nut production, drive produce prices up and coax Midwest farmers to plant greens instead of monocropped corn and soy? If California’s dry past is prologue to a drier future, then farmers in states with more rainfall like Iowa might be convinced to make that costly switch for bigger profits. [Mother Jones]

Shipping Coal to China Could Wipe Out the Benefits of Obama's Climate-Change Policy
Demand for coal in the US is expected to drop significantly in coming years, but the export of US coal is ramping up and may soon erase any of these gains. For example, three new coal-export ports are being proposed for the Pacific coast which together could ship up to 100 million tons of coal per year – as much as the total volume of coal the US will export this year. [MacLean's]

The Australian Approach to Water Crisis: Work With Farmers
With drought covering much of the western United States, Australia can offer lessons in how they withstood severe drought-induced water shortages in the Murray-Darling River basin. By establishing “The Cap,” or limits on withdrawals, in conjunction with more efficient, government-subsidized irrigation, Australian agriculture has done more with one-third less water in their largest river basin. [National Geographic]


Humpback Whale Shows Amazing Appreciation After Being Freed From Nets
Nets, fishing lines, balloons, plastic debris and all sorts of trash are a real problem for marine life. When some snorkelers on a boat came across a whale that was close to dying from being tangled in fishing nets, they jumped to action to free it. Once freed, it was one happy whale who thanked them with a great display! [Wake Up World and Great Whale Conservancy]

When some snorkelers on a boat came across a whale that was close to dying from being tangled in fishing nets, they jumped to action to free it. Once freed, it was one happy whale who thanked them with a great display!

Global Oneness Project: Return of the Sun
People indigenous to Greenland see their lives changing due to shorter durations of stable ice. Their future is uncertain if they can no longer to support themselves through fishing in traditional ways. Return of the Sun is a portrait of a modern Inuit family. Set against the fearsome North Greenland landscape, the film follows a fisherman and his son as their lives change along with the Arctic environment around them. {Global Oneness Project]

Map: The Ogallala Aquifer – A Freshwater Bonanza in Decline
Hydraulic pumps and mechanized irrigation equipment gave America’s Great Plains farmers access to seemingly limitless subterranean water wealth. Yet, what they pump in feet, Mother Nature returns to the ground in inches. Six decades have passed since grain growers and cattle producers began tapping the aquifer. As this interactive map shows, the eight-state, $30 billion agriculture and livestock industry faces a challenge: how to reduce their unsustainable demands on the aquifer while maintaining an agricultural economy. [Circle of Blue]

Burgers Begin Here: the Coronado Feeders Feedlot in Texas
Photographer Mishka Henner was searching for secret military bases for a project with data from WikiLeaks, military forums and geotagged photos on USDOD image libraries when he stumbled across feedlots. "Feedlots are high-tech, high-intensity cattle farms. Every inch has been calculated for the meat yield for each carcass, whether it's the size of the runoff channels or the number of animals in each pen," says Henner. His images are on display at the V&A in London from May 22. [Wired]

What Shale Region Are You?
Oh Fuel Fix! Exploiting natural resources in economically depressed areas is so much fun that you even made a quiz so people could see which economically depressed region of the country matches their personality. Pollution is fun! [Fuel Fix]

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.