This Week in Eco News - July 18, 2014

Like us, you’re probably eager to get your hands on more summer bounty at the farmers’ market. While there, have you also bought local eggs? Some food for thought this weekend along with our other food, water and energy Eco News! As always, if you see a story we should share, please drop us a line at blog[at]gracelinks[dot]org.

Best of the Web Video - Energy

Formation of Fossil Fuels
Where do fossil fuels come from? The ancient origins of coal, oil and natural gas have a lot in common with a Louisiana swamp. Find out how these fuels formed and why they're unsustainable.

Take Action: Check out sustainable energy sources and how they can help our food, water and energy systems.


Your Almond Habit Is Sucking California Dry 
California’s water-thirsty almond industry is booming, spurring rapid farm development and widespread well-deepening across the state, even during this summer’s devastating drought. Let’s crunch the numbers - in a state responsible for half of all US-grown produce and prone to drought, this turn towards almonds risks US food security, especially as less irrigation-intensive crops are dismissed and aquifers depleted. [Mother Jones]

How a Former Google Data Guy Could Change What We Eat For Breakfast
Why build the world’s largest plant database? Hampton Creek, the plant-based egg startup behind the project, wants to identify species with ideal traits to optimize environmental and commercial benefits from plants used in industry. With over 8.7 million known species of plants worldwide, it’s no wonder they hired Dan Zigmond, a top Google maps specialist, to meet the challenge. [TechCrunch]

Clear Difference Between Organic and Non-Organic Food, Study Finds 
A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition concludes that organic foods offers numerous health benefits over conventional foods, such as higher levels of antioxidant compounds and lower levels of toxic metals and pesticide residues. The prospect that environmentally sound production may correspond with healthier eating is a good one. [The Guardian]

Americans are Too Stupid for GMO Labeling, Congressional Panel Says 
Can you think beyond a label? Congress doesn’t thinks so. At a session of the House Agriculture Committee last week, members and witnesses concluded that consumers would be too afraid of GMO labels to think for themselves about whether the GMO ingredients are worth avoiding. The session failed to discuss actual GMO-related concerns, focusing on assumed consumer ignorance. [Huffington Post]

Low-Budget Poultry Inspection – Ready or Not 
The final rule for the Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection is moving forward, and critics have identified a number of problems that may put consumers and workers in harm’s way. While industry benefits from budget and workforce cuts, workers will endure higher speed inspection rates that so far have unclear implementation standards. [Food Safety News]

Meatless Monday

Meatless Monday: For Your Health
What You Can Do speaks with Diana Rice about the Meatless Monday movement and the positive effects it has on your health. Watch and learn all of the amazing benefits you can experience by just cutting out meat one day a week! [YouTube]


Lake Mead Drains to Record Low As Western Drought Deepens
How dry is the southwestern United States? Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, has fallen to its lowest level since it was filled in 1937. The reservoir has long been an indicator of the volume of water held by the important Colorado River, and although water allocations are set, states wanting to realize their full allocations might not even have it available. [Circle of Blue]

California's Drought Is 'The Greatest Water Loss Ever Seen,' And The Effects Will Be Severe
The economic cost of California’s drought on its agricultural industry is pegged at $2.2 billion with 17,000 jobs lost, finds UC Davis Center for Watershed Science research. With one-third less surface water than average, farmers are irrigating crops by pumping groundwater at an unsustainable rate, leading to the “greatest water loss ever seen” for agriculture. [Business Insider]

California Water Use Rises Amid Crippling Drought
Californians must be conserving loads of water in this epic drought, right? Not so much. A state water regulatory board reported that water consumption rose 1 percent from January to May, even after the state called for voluntary reductions of 20 percent. The water regulators voted to impose a fine of up to $500 on water wasters. [AP]

The Water Short List: The Most Effective Actions US Households Can Take to Curb Water Use
Do you want to lower your household water us but know where to start? A new study coauthored by Shazeen Attari describes the best bang for your buck (and behavior) to save water at home. Examples include, upgrades to water and energy efficient fixtures and appliances, water lawns less, take shorter showers and “let it mellow” a little more. [Environment Magazine]

North Dakota Pipeline Leaks About 1 Million Gallons of Oil-Production Saltwater
A leak of one million gallons of “produced water” – or salty water that comes to the surface from oil and gas wells – flowed from a rupture pipeline and nearly contaminated a reservoir that supplies water to North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. The brine is a hazardous byproduct of oil drilling that is 10 to 30 times more salty that ocean water, of which the fracking boom creates vast, unwanted volumes. [AP]


Mountaintop Removal for Coal Hurts Water Quality and Harms Fish, Study Says
A new study confirms that mountaintop removal mining is harming fish in rivers and streams, indicating that water resources are becoming tainted. Minerals released from within stone blown apart by explosives used in the mining process are changing water chemistry, lowering quality and causing tiny fish prey such as insects, worms and invertebrates to die. [Washington Post]

Alaska Harnesses Power of Tides, Rivers, and Waves
Alaska may be a fossil fuel hub, but it’s also ideally situated to tap into renewable hydrokinetic power from tides, waves and rivers. Currently 90 percent of the nation’s tidal power is being generated in Alaska, mostly powering remote rural towns, but some researchers say Anchorage could soon be powered by nearby Cook Inlet instead of natural gas. [Alaska Public Radio]

Federal Government Still Spending Billions to Subsidize Fossil Fuels
According to a new report, federal fossil fuel subsidies have increased from $12.7 billion in 2009 to $18.5 billion in 2013, largely because oil and gas production has increased in the US. While President Obama has called for cutting the subsidies, Congress has yet to act. [Huffington Post]

Sheep Power at a San Antonio Solar Farm
Sheep and solar power are the best of friends! Owners of a Texas solar farm are using a small herd of sheep to graze the grass around the 45 acre array. The sheep get fed and can hide in shade cast by the solar panels, and technicians can easily access the panels for repairs without tripping through high weeds and grass. [New York Times]

Natural Gas Boom Hasn't Made US Energy Secure, Warns IEA Chief
If you associate an oil and gas boom with energy security, then sure the US seems to be on the right track for the time being. But IEA chief Maria van der Hoeven said US oil supplies will plateau in the next two decades, causing the country to rely more heavily on the Middle East for oil. [E2 Wire]

Climate Change

Southern Australia Faces Water Crisis by End of Century Due to Climate Change
A study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that the steep rainfall decline in southern Australia is attributable to climate change. The Western Australia city of Perth is in the crosshairs as it could experience 40 percent less rain than today even as Perth reservoirs have been reduced by up to 75 percent since the 1960s, making new water sources mandatory. [Guardian]

Natural Gas: Local Leaks Impact Global Climate
Leaked natural gas-mostly methane-is a powerful contributor to climate change, but current assessment methods don't incorporate their impact because they don't determine the rate of the leak. So EDF, Google Earth Outreach and researchers at Colorado State University developed a new way to locate and estimate the climate impact of methane leaks. The result is a method that can scale up dramatically across entire cities. [EDF]


EPA Infographic: Saving Water, Saves Energy
The EPA created an infographic to help spread the word about the water - energy connection. Since 2006, their WaterSense program has helped reduce the need to pump, move and treat water and in the process has saved 101 billion kWh of energy. That’s enough energy to power over 9.3 million homes for a year. [EPA]

On Instagram: Ordinary People in a Giant Food World
Brazilian artist William Kass has created the most magical photos using small figurines and food consisting mostly of fruits and vegetables. The figurines do ordinary things - they take gondola rides, they go fishing, and they even play soccer, however, they climb walls of dragon fruit instead of rock, or ride through canals made of watermelon. Sometimes, playing with your food is a good thing. [The Kitchn]

Personifying the Waste Problem: Photos of People Lying in 7 Days of Their Own Trash
Photographer Gregg Segal wanted to put a human face on the trash problem in the US. Cold numbers and statistics only have so much of an impact, but pictures of real families and individuals lying in 7 days' worth of their own trash…now that gets attention! The 7 Days of Garbage series features people from varied socioeconomic backgrounds literally wallowing in a week’s worth of their waste. [PetaPixel]

National Comparison of USGS Compiled Irrigation Water Use Data
The USGS is putting a human face on its important and highly anticipated water use data report that is released every five years. Crunching the numbers and writing about the results provides USGS interns real world experience that benefits us all. The next report is due in November 2014, and we’re on the edge of our seats waiting to see the data! [USGS]

Food Eco News contributed byAudrey Jenkins; Water Eco News byKai Olson-Sawyer; Energy Eco News byPeter Hanlon and Multimedia content byRobin Madel.