This Week in Eco News - June 27, 2014

Farmers' markets connect farms with cities, providing a delicious way for us city-dwellers to actually meet those who grow the food for our tables. Whether you're at home or on the road this summer, stop by, visit with farmers (and your neighbors) and enjoy seasonal food together! If you see a story we should share in this week's food, water and energy Eco News, please drop us a line at blog[at]gracelinks[dot]org!

Best of the Web Video - Energy

Gates Notes: Vaclav Smil on His Book, ''Making the Modern World''
University of Manitoba professor Vaclav Smil shares his insights on material growth across the globe. In making our modern world, we create and use vast quantities of materials, especially concrete. Smil advocates for "quality over quantity", especially as China and other countries' growth booms.

Take Action: Learn about how our existing energy infrastructure impacts aquatic environments and why we should use the best available technology to reduce those impacts. 


Organic Standards Go Global
It’s getting easier to buy and sell organic products internationally, which should lead to a stronger organic market. The US is rapidly developing “equivalency agreements” around the world that ensure USDA organic standards will be accepted in foreign markets, and vice versa. US standards are still not accepted in Korea, Switzerland, India, China and Latin America, but negotiations are underway. [NewsWise]

Farmstr Raises $1.3M to be the Airbnb for Local Organic Food
A startup connecting organic farmers directly to consumers just raised $1.3 million to get going in Washington State. Similar to the popular Airbnb model, Farmstr would help farmers make more money off their goods by removing associated costs often faced in traditional markets, such as repackaging and transport, while lowering the cost of organic foods for consumers. [GeekWire]

President Obama Establishes Task Force to Save Bees
Bee colonies are struggling in the US. Around 23 percent of managed colonies died off over the past year alone, and this has been a better year than many. A week ago, President Obama announced plans to create a task force that will have 180 days to formulate a federal strategy to protect our bees. Hopefully strategy becomes federal action. [Huffington Post]

Farmer’s Appeal of GM Contamination Decision Praised by Lobby Groups
The organic market is worth around $56.5 billion globally, and growing, so protecting a nation’s organic farmers would seem prudent. Australia, however, is in the midst of legal battle between an organic farmer and his neighbor whose GM crops contaminated the farmer’s field, costing him organic certification. Courts overruled his claim in February, but an appeal is on its way. [FoodProductionDaily]

Why the Makers of Animal Growth Hormones Shouldn’t Control the Hunger Debate
How to solve world hunger? Elanco, the global pharmaceutical company behind the artificial growth hormone rBST, says we need about 60 percent more meat, dairy and eggs produced using technological innovations. Not surprising given their industry. Big money, like Elanco, has influence in many areas, one of them being how we frame solutions to global hunger. [Huffington Post]

Meatless Monday

How to Talk to Your Child About Choosing Healthy Food at Camp
As parents prep kids for their stays at summer camp, there's another issue besides packing and possibly coping with homesickness: what they'll be eating. Buffets may - and likely, will - include lots of tempting chicken tenders and hot dogs. Aside from the occasional summer treat, how can you help your child's diet stay healthy while they're on their own? Answer: planning and communication! [American Camp Association]


Groups Seek United Nations Aid for Detroit Water Shut-offs
As Detroit continues to cut water to residents delinquent on their water bills, a coalition of rights groups has appealed to the UN to intervene on grounds that the cuts violate the “human rights to water” resolution. The hope is that the UN pressure can help efforts to restore water services to about 2,000 homes after 46,000 shutoff notices were sent. [The Detroit News]

Experts Foresee Shortages as the Nation’s Freshwater Supply Dwindles
Even under normal conditions, 40 states expect to feel the pinch of freshwater shortages in the coming decade, according to water managers surveyed in a federal GAO report. Water shortages can affect drinking water and power supplies, but “[b]ottom line is that we’re going to have to look at what we do irrigate,” says Montana Water Center’s Duncan Patten. [Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting]

Report: Virginia Ranks 5th Worst for Toxic Chemicals Released in Waterways
Environment America reports that over 206 million pounds of industrial toxic chemicals were dumped into US waterways in 2012. EPA data was used to rank the states, with Virginia being the 5th highest at 11.8 million pounds, trailing the (not-so) top three of Indiana, Texas and Louisiana. Strengthening the Clean Water Act could reduce hazardous pollution. [The Daily Press]

Growing Pains of China's Agricultural Water Needs
Water problems in China are exacerbated by crops grown in water-stressed regions that are then exported to water-rich regions. This food exchange acts as a “virtual water” transfer which could, in part, be corrected by reversing the production flow from of water-intensive goods from the wetter South to arid North while making irrigation more efficient overall. [BBC]

Coca-Cola India Wins Ruling Overturning Uttar Pradesh Plant Closure Order
A scrutinized Coca Cola bottling plant in Uttar Pradesh, India has been allowed to reopen after a local board shuttered it due to water shortages and high pollution-level concerns. With a stay of the closure by the National Green Tribunal, Coke is back, albeit with its stature lowered and water security prioritization elevated, especially for food and beverage producers in water-scarce locations. [Beverage Daily]


Texas Gas Town Considers Banning Fracking
A Texas town is prepared to say "no" to fracking and "yes please" to hot sauce. The gas fields below Denton, TX may have pumped $30 million into city bank accounts, but the town may soon approve a ban on fracking while town leaders are trying to persuade the maker of Sriracha hot sauce to expand its massive pepper-grinding business in town. [Associated Press]

Sturgeon Killed at Salem in 'Shocking' Numbers
A newspaper investigation found that New Jersey's Salem nuclear power plant is drawing more than water into its cooling system. It's also trapping and killing endangered Atlantic sturgeon and Kemp's Ridley sea turtles at a rate dozens of times higher than federal or company projections. [Delaware New Journal]

Oil from BP Spill Slowing One of Ocean's Fastest Fish
A study found that when the popular game fish mahi-mahi was exposed as infants to oil from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill they swim nearly half as fast as their unaffected counterparts. The problem is that slower fish are less effective at capturing prey, and less effective in avoiding predators, posing a potential threat to stocks. [Reuters]

Two Universities in DC Make Deal to Buy Solar Power
Both George Washington University and American University will buy more than half their power from three new solar power farms that will be built in North Carolina. The schools agreed to a 20-year deal with Duke Energy and could possibly save millions of dollars as the cost of conventional power is expected to rise. [Associated Press]


World's Energy Systems Vulnerable to Climate Impacts, Report Warns
The energy industry isn't just part of the climate change problem; it's also going to feel a lot of the ill effects. Rising sea levels, weather extremes and increasing floods and droughts will all play havoc with the world's energy systems, according to a new report. [The Guardian]


Small Spaces
Check out this collection of decorating and organizing idea pins for small spaces. These are perfect for anyone living in an apartment or small house. You don’t need a lot of space; you just need to organize your stuff well. [Pinterest]

Untapped Savings
California is suffering from a devastating drought but if everyone (from farmers to municipal planners to members of the public) were a little more clever and conservative with their water use, there would be more than enough to cover all of the state’s irrigation needs. [NRDC]

Navigate a Watershed
Do you know which watershed you live in? Find out with this series of watershed graphics based on Google Earth. There are more than 3 million miles of streams in the contiguous US. Only 21% of those are considered in “good” condition. These graphics can help you understand that a river is more than the sum of its parts. It’s not a static body of water along a linear downstream pathway, it’s a gradually changing continuum of environmental conditions that trickle, pulse, and meander water and sediments from the mountains to the sea. [KQED]

At School, Turning Good Food Into Perfectly Good Compost
The sad voyage of fruits and vegetables from lunch lady to landfill has frustrated parents, nutritionists and environmentalists for decades, but there’s a growing effort to shrink the mountains of perfectly good food hauled to trash heaps every year. New York City’s two-year old school composting program is now in 230 school buildings throughout the city with an ultimate goal of encompassing all 1,300-plus buildings. The slideshow illustrates the voyage. [New York Times]

These Homes Took a Licking and Kept on Costing Taxpayers
Some 4,700 homes and businesses in New York and New Jersey are classified as “severe and repetitive loss" properties by the government, meaning they flooded at least twice over a 10-year period and suffered extensive damages. According to a WNYC analysis of the data, the flood insurance program has paid out more than a billion dollars to fix them, for an average cost of about $213,000 per property. Find out more in this podcast. A chart shows the top 30 payouts. [WNYC]

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.