This Week in Eco News - August 8, 2014

Caption photo by Kai Olson-Sawyer

Midsummer Community Garden, Springfield, New Jersey. Photo by Kai Olson-Sawyer.

The effects of industrial farming were on vivid display this past week as Toledo's water supply was rendered toxic thanks to an overgrowth of algae brewed up by a combo of agricultural runoff and a warming Lake Erie. Wherever you are today, celebrate your favorite local farmers who are helping build a stronger, better food system by shopping at a farmers' market. (Happy National Farmers' Market Week!) If you see a story we should share, please drop us a line at blog[at]gracelinks[dot]org.

Video of the Week - Energy

Liberated Carbon
Andy Revkin's (New York Times Dot Earth columnist) song about burning fossil fuels from his recent album "A Very Fine Line." The video begins with early stop motion animation by Thomas Edison, includes coal and oil exploration and ends with footage from the International Space Station.

Take Action: Find out about the newest way we are liberating carbon: Fracking.


Indian Poultry Farmers Continue Use of Growth Promoters, Despite Official Ban
Despite an official ban against using antibiotics as growth promoters, farmers across India have yet to abandon the practice. They argue that stopping usage would threaten farmers’ livelihoods and national nutrition by decreasing poultry yields, and that the prevalent misuse of antibiotics among humans overshadows any agricultural impacts on antibiotic utility. Ending antibiotic abuse in all sectors worldwide is critical. [Global Meat]

USDA Misleads About New Poultry Testing Requirements
The USDA’s new poultry inspection rule is here! But wait, the rule is voluntary and leaves discretion over which pathogens to detect up to each company? It’s true. The final rule does not require testing for any pathogens, including Salmonella and Campylobacter, the two most commonly associated with illness from raw poultry. Consumers beware! Thanks for the help, USDA. [Food Safety News]

When China Spurns GMO Corn Imports, American Farmers Lose Billions
Who’s to blame for the $3 billion US farmers stand to lose due to China’s bans against GMO grains? Some blame Syngenta, the seed company selling banned varieties. Once a top importer of US GMO grain, China presents a massive gap in the GMO market following recent bans, and Syngenta continues to offer new types of GMO grains without considering market risks. [NPR]

DeLauro Introduces Bill to Tax Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
Your favorite sugary drink may cost a little more if the sugary beverage tax proposed last week makes it to law. Let's face it, sugar is delicious, but too much is deadly. The SWEET Act, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), would attach a one cent tax to every teaspoon of caloric sweetener in beverages like soft drinks and diluted juices. [Food Safety News]

Meatless Monday

Get 3 Meals from 1 Trip to the Grill 
With summer produce at its peak, Meatless Monday has expanded from one to three meals per week for at least one foodie. Writing in Parade Magazine, Alice Knisley Matthias offers easy recipes for summer classics: grilled vegetables, panzanella and gazpacho. All three are tasty, meatless alternatives for lazy summer evenings, and all of them use up your overflowing CSA share or farmers' market bounty. [Parade]


Toledo Reopens its Taps – But Algae Problems Aren't Going Away
Earlier this week Toledo, Ohio lifted its three-day ban on drinking water tainted by toxic microcystin, but the Lake Erie algae blooms that produce the toxin are a constant battle for authorities. Algae blooms – stemming largely from agricultural runoff, wastewater and septic systems – are a top US water quality problem that links healthy drinking water to the enactment of the proposed Clean Water Act updates. [E&E News]

Canadian Mount Polley Mine Tailings Pond Breach Called Environmental Disaster
Another complete ban on drinking and bathing water occurred this week, this time in rural British Columbia after a rupture at a copper and gold mine tailings (waste) pond poured 2,000 swimming pools-worth of hazardous materials into a stream that feeds Polley Lake. As of now, 300 residents are affected and an early read on environmental damage looks terrible. [CBC News]

Blessings and Curses of Satellites' Colorado River Basin Views
NASA's GRACE satellites (no relation to this foundation) that have been used to great effect to publicize the often overlooked status of groundwater, most recently describing unsustainable pumping in the Colorado River Basin. Satellites are valuable at a large scale, but really must be used in tandem with “boots-on-the-ground, old-fashioned (using modern tools, of course), hydrogeological work.” [WaterWired]

Man-Made Wetlands Turn Wastewater into Tap Water
The manmade Wetland Water Reuse Project on Trinity River between Dallas and Houston naturally filters excessive nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from the water before it runs into the reservoir. During the prolonged Texas drought, this provides an efficient, low-cost method to treat and enhance water supplies to the tune of 65,000 gallons per day. [AP]

Bruce Weber, John Baldessari, Jeff Koons and More Makeover New York City's Water Skyline
Mary Jordan is the curator behind the Water Tank Project which will wrap 100 of New York City's iconic rooftop water storage tanks with work by famous artists. The premise is to have New Yorkers - and others - look up and value their famous water while the project fundraises for clean water projects in water-short locales in the developing world. [Elle]


Deal Struck in Colorado Over Vote on Drilling
A deal was struck to pull a vote on a fracking ban in Colorado. The governor made a deal with Democratic politicians to scrap the vote on the ban in favor of an in depth study of the effects of current drilling. [New York Times]

Editorial: The Possibility Of A Clean Energy Future
The editorial board at the Daily Iowan shows how Iowa is playing its part in transitioning to a cleaner energy economy with 27 percent of its electricity coming from wind power. The board notes that we have the capability, but now it's a "matter of building the social and political willpower to get the job done." [The Daily Iowan]

Now Is America's Moment to Assert Itself as a Solar Superpower
Solar Power advocate Brad Mattson argues that we are entering the era of solar 2.0, a time of massive deployment of solar energy. The US could become a solar superpower and in turn generate jobs, while boosting solar exports. [Huffington Post]

Sand Mines Are Latest Fracking Concern
The process of fracking for fossil fuels uses a mixture of water, chemicals and sand. With the rise of fracking, demands for sand has caused a boom in the sand mining business, while at the same time rising concerns about the safety of the fine sand on peoples' lungs. [UPI]

Climate Change

What Toledo’s Water Crisis Reveals About Industrial Farming
Last Saturday, half a million residents around Toledo, OH, lost access to municipal drinking water due to potential microbial toxin contamination from Lake Erie. Scientists blame chemical runoff from industrial farms and the effects of climate change for the alarming number of such cyanobacteria contamination events around the country. Ironically, big ag’s “sustainability” efforts may be a principal offender. [Civil Eats]

Group Earns Oil Income Despite Pledge on Drilling
One of the nation's leading environmental groups is collecting money from oil drilling on its property despite its conservation  pledges. This revelation is part of Naomi Klein's new book about climate change that will be published in September. [New York Times]


Serenading the Cattle With My Trombone
What a way to call in the cattle! Family farmers are the backbone of our country. Support them whenever you can by shopping at farmers' markets and green markets and joining CSAs. CAFO operators probably are not serenading their cattle with musical instruments.  [YouTube

Are You as Water Smart as Conan O'Brien?
Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter, NRDC, and the State of California have teamed up to create a new series of PSAs encouraging water conservation during California’s historic drought.  The partnership follows state adoption of emergency regulations to cut outdoor water waste. Conan and Andy are funny and awesome for inspiring needed action, but you’ll see that they’re pretty darn water smart, too! [NRDC]

Sustainable Waters: Solutions in a Time of Scarcity
This website provides global education about water by sharing accurate and up-to-date information about water scarcity, news of water shortages, and information and tools for solving water problems (and you know we really like that stuff). Check out their great videos, publications and maps. [Sustainable Waters]

Anchovy School at Scripps Pier
It may look like a shadow or an oil slick, but the moving, dark spot in this video is actually a school of millions and millions of anchovies. Some swimmers got up close and personal with the school and shot a video that they shared with the rest of us. This is one time when sharing the water with a crowd is a pretty cool experience! [Scripps]

Follow That Nutrient
What’s with all that green water in Toledo? In a healthy watershed, as shown in this animation, there are just enough nutrients to keep an aquatic system going. In water bodies that get run-off from agricultural lands (and in this country, many water bodies do), excess nutrients from fertilizers that don’t get used by plants and herbivores end up in those waterways, causing an explosion of algae. This is bad because the algae uses up all the oxygen in the water and chokes out aquatic life. This is happening in Toledo and in many other places around the country. [KQED]

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.