This Week in Eco News - August 1, 2014

Photo by Robin Madel

We hope you're enjoying a beautiful summer lazing beside your favorite waterfront! Lots of good stories this week on GMO labeling, the California drought and why your favorite cup of iced coffee is costing you more these days. If you see a story we should share, please drop us a line at blog[at]gracelinks[dot]org.

Best of the Web Video - Water

Science for a Hungry World: Growing Water Problems
Not only does agriculture face the challenge of feeding a growing global population, but also whether there's enough water to produce our food needs. This video shows how NASA's GRACE satellites allow scientists to detect where water - including groundwater - is being used faster than it could be replenished.

Take Action: Find a sustainable farmer, store or restaurant near you with the Eat Well Guide so that you can make smart water decisions with your food purchases.


The FDA’s Blatant Failure on Food
Antibiotic resistant infections kill at least 23,000 Americans a year, but a recent federal court ruling allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to leave a drug in animal feed that increases risk of antibiotic resistant infections in people. Ruth Reichl argues that without real action, the FDA’s warnings against the misuse of antibiotics are hollow; it’s time for the food industry to take charge. [New York Times]

Meat Industry Loses Appeal on Country-of Origin-Labeling
How far has your meat traveled? Industrial meat producers don’t always want you to know, but they have to by law. This week, big meat lost another fight against Country-of-Origin labeling (COOL) laws that require labels indicating where food animals were born, raised, and slaughtered. The court ruled that COOL laws do not violate rights to free speech. [Food Safety News]

Widely Used Insecticides Are Leaching Into Midwest Rivers
Researchers have found high levels of neonicotinoids, insecticides used to coat seeds in agriculture, in Midwestern waterways, including the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. While big ag points out that the levels fall below EPA regulation, scientists worry that even such low levels of chemicals can be detrimental to wildlife, and that mixed pollutants may have unstudied impacts on local ecosystems. [NPR]

US GMO Crop Companies Double Down on Anti-Labeling Efforts
The GMO labeling battle still isn’t over. Even though consumer support of labeling is widespread, GMO companies are prepared to spend a lot more money fighting labeling legislation. The companies claim that the over $80 million spent against labeling since 2012 has increased positive GMO reputation, but advocates of labeling are confident that the consumer interests will win in the end. [Reuters]

Increased Ocean Acidity Puts Alaska Fisheries at Risk, Study Says
Pollution could put a damper on our seafood industry. According to a new study by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, rising ocean acidity, due largely to the burning of fossil fuels, threatens the health and abundance of mollusks, crabs and other shelled ocean creatures. Fisheries stand to be hard hit as acidity skyrockets over the next century, especially in colder regions. [Huffington Post]


Notorious 'Neonics' Pervasive in Midwest Waters: Study
Waters flowing throughout the heartland's corn and soy fields are awash with neonicotinoid insecticides, a new USGS study reveals. The widespread use of "neonics" are suspected culprits in bee population declines and may also harm other pollinators and invertebrates like earthworms. Acting now is crucial since neonics are long-lasting in both soil and waterways. [Common Dreams]

How the West Was Lost
Just as the American West depended on securing reliable freshwater supplies for its development, "the growing lack of water availability may well be its undoing," writes UC-Irvine professor, Jay Famiglietti. He and his NASA research team are alarmed by data that shows aquifer-overpumping has led to a 75 percent groundwater loss - much of it non-renewable - in the drought-stricken Colorado River basin. [National Geographic]

Worldwide Water Shortage by 2040, New Studies Suggest
Water shortages might become more common without changes to how thermoelectric power plants cool water, claim two Aarhus University-led studies. After a three-year review of utility operations in France, the United States, China and India, research team recommendations include improved energy efficiency, alternative cooling cycles, and greater deployment of water-free solar and wind energy. [UPI]

Chaos as Water Main Break Causes Massive Flooding at UCLA
A 93-year-old water main burst at UCLA, inundating parts of campus including the basketball team's Pauley Pavilion and even trapping people in underground parking garages. The high-pressure pipe conveyed 75,000 gallons per minute and might have dumped eight to 10 million gallons of water. Quite a water-waster as California is embroiled in the crippling three-year drought. [Mashable]

China Needs to Import More Food to Ease Water, Energy Shortages: Official
After two studies this year suggested that rapidly developing yet water-poor China could save water by importing more crops like rice and wheat, a government official floated the strategy. Large-scale imports of such staples is considered "taboo" because of food security concerns, but with so little water for purposes of drinking, energy production and manufacturing, the options are scant. [Reuters] 

I Heart NY Water

Which NY County Has the Best-Tasting Water? You Be the Judge
New York City is renowned for its clean tap water - it's how our pizza and bagels get their distinctive taste. The I Heart NY Water campaign held a taste test on New York's channel Pix 11 to see which local county's water is tops. (In a similar competition the next day, at the Museum of Natural History, White Plains, NY's tap water took the honors!) [WPIX11 ]


Not in My Backyard: US Sending Dirty Coal Abroad
As the US works to ramp down carbon emissions, it's cutting back coal used in its power plants. The coal that may have made its way into domestic facilities is still finding a market through exports. [Associated Press]

Gadgets, Apps And The Science Of Changing Energy Consumer Behavior
Technology is allowing consumers to become more engaged with their energy use. One electric utility, National Grid, is rolling out a program that gives their customers a platform to see their energy consumption and tips to conserve energy. [Forbes]

How Many Solar Panels Would it Take to Power Earth?
To power the planet with solar energy, we would need a lot of solar panels. A recent study estimated that we would need about 25,000 square miles of solar panels to meet our needs, which is about the size of West Virginia. [Christian Science Monitor]

Congressional Watchdog Urges EPA to Step up Actions on Fracking
The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is calling on the EPA to step up it's enforcement of regulations to protect drinking water due to fracking for oil and gas. The GAO want safeguards to protect against emerging threats that could arise with pressurized fluids used in the fracking process. [Los Angeles Times]

Climate Change

Some Problems Possible with EPA Climate Rule, Energy Regulators Say
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wants to closely work with the US Environmental Protection Agency as the EPA develops its climate rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. FERC is concerned that the rules could affect electricity reliability. [The Hill]

Climate Indicators: El Niño
What's an El Niño and how might it affect the weather thousands of miles away? Besides great flooding, a strong El Niño event could trigger the hottest weather on record. Australian meteorologists downgraded to an El Niño watch this week from an alert which had been in effect since May. See why the forecast had many concerned. [Climate Central]

Don’t Turn Away
Talented photojournalist Colin Finlay's photographs are stunningly beautiful - and wait until you take in the subjects. His aerial series features the results of climate change upon our planet so far, in locations all over the globe, with photos captured from dizzying heights. They're unforgettable. [GOOD]


85 GIFS To Remind You How Gorgeous Our Planet Is
It's good to remember why we care so much about our planet and its food, water and energy systems. Here are 85 beautiful, funny GIFs to brighten your day! [Urban Times]

Sea Levels and Gin & Tonics 
What do rising sea levels have to do with gin & tonics? Why does the level of the sea matter? While ice floating in the sea will raise the sea level a tiny bit when it melts (because the ice is mostly fresh water, but the sea is salty) this effect is small compared to the major causes of sea level rise. Get the details here - in the very first episode from ClimateAdam! [YouTube]

Yikes! California's Extreme Drought Could Last "A Decade or More"
California's drought is about three years old now, with 2013 being the driest year on record for most of the state. So far, 2014 is the driest year in about a century. This is affecting almost everything in the state (hello agriculture!), and drastic water conservation measures have become a reality. The National Drought Mitigation Center hosts the US Drought Monitor where you can find a lot more data and maps showing the current state of the drought. [Treehugger]

Food Eco News contributed by  Audrey Jenkins; Water Eco News by  Kai Olson-SawyerEnergy Eco News by  James Rose; Multimedia content by  Kristen Demaline.