This Week in Eco News - August 15, 2014


Solar panels on a residential home in Brooklyn, NY

How do you manage your resources? Several stories this week deal with that question, on scales ranging from national to your very own home. (Remember, a solar energy spill just means an extra-sunny day at your house!) Find out the latest source of aid for California’s farmers who are still enduring the state’s awful drought. If you see a story we should share, please drop us a line at blog[at]gracelinks[dot]org.

Video of the Week - Food

The Local Food Movement
Support local farmers and your community! Watch this fun, short documentary which was created to spread awareness of the Local Food Movement, including organics and farmers' markets, by students at High School North in New Jersey. We're sharing this video in honor of The Food List's Locavore Week - check out their great resources!

Take Action: Find local food near you using Eat Well Guide.


Will Americans Buy Bug Snacks? Maybe if They’re Funny and Cute
Care for some cricket? While bug-based foods have yet to break into the American mainstream, you may soon get to snack on crickets, grasshoppers and more as up-and-coming companies like Six Foods enter the market wielding clever advertising to attract cautious consumers. Insects are nutritious and less environmentally burdensome than other animal proteins. [Iowa Public Radio]

Consumers Are Demanding Antibiotic-free Meat, and Big Food is Starting to Listen
Leveraging your consumer power against antibiotic abuse in agriculture really does work. Although large meat producers like Perdue and Chick Fil-A have barely stepped into the antibiotic-free meat market, they are grabbing at opportunities to boost their appeal with consumers seeking antibiotic-free foods, with little prompting from legislation. Sometimes consumer demand works much faster than government to enforce good practices. [PRI The World]

Sweet Victory for Mexico Beekeepers as Monsanto Loses GM Permit
A district judge has overturned Monsanto’s permit to grow Roundup-ready soybeans in Mexico, citing the risk such crops pose to the regional honey industry. As the world’s third largest honey exporter, selling mostly to the anti-GMO EU, Mexico has good reason to avoid GMO contamination. The permit was issued in 2012 despite widespread protest from Mayan farmers, beekeepers and environmental advocates. [The Guardian]

Kerry Pushes ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture’
At the US-Africa Summit this month, Secretary of State John Kerry urged the US and Africa to engage in “climate-smart agriculture” to make fisheries and farms more resilient against climate impacts, noting that the world’s food supplies are currently in trouble. Next month, leaders of 120 nations will gather in Paris to work towards signing a global climate change pact. [The Hill]

Inheriting Disease, One Pesticide at a Time
Even if you stay away from pesticides, a new study shows that your parents and grandparents could have passed the genetic impacts of pesticide exposure to you, and that you could pass the same risks to your children. The study found that risk of certain diseases, including cancer and kidney disease, continue across multiple generations following pesticide exposure by the oldest generation. [PAN North America]

Meatless Monday

Healthy Eating that Works for Your Family
There are several benefits to looking after your family’s health in terms of nutrition and diet. (Not to mention developing social skills for kids and reinforcing family bonds.) One way to ease your crew’s way into healthy eating: try Meatless Monday. You can also make one change at a time to your typical fare - swapping brown rice for white, for example. Have fun figuring out healthy practices for your family! [Care2 ]


Lower Meat Consumption Will Help Water Scarcity Issues, Say Researchers
In a first of its kind global study titled, “Diet change: a solution to reduce water use” researchers from Finland have concluded that eating less meat would help protect water resources in dry areas around the world and increase food security efforts. [Food Navigator]

Should We Return the Nutrients In Our Pee Back to the Farm?
Before the days of synthetic fertilizers, fields used to be fertilized with human waste. A small group of environmentalists in Vermont wants to return to that method so they’re collecting their urine with special toilets that separate urine and feces. Urine from the 170 volunteers in the pilot project (about a quart per person per day) will eventually go to a farmer for her hay fields. The goal is to collect 6,000 gallons this year. Now this is what you call going old-school! [NPR]

If a Water Main Isn't Broke, Don't Fix It (For 300 Years?)
When the modern water system was designed more than 100 years ago, it was a remarkable achievement, but writer Charles Fishman says that by taking our water supply for granted, we ignore big problems. According to Fishman, "The reason we don't think about it is because of its brilliance. The water is unfailingly safe, it's really the best water system in the world, and it's totally reliable." Until it isn't. [NPR]

The Threats to Our Drinking Water
Those of us who live in the United States are fortunate; generally we don’t have to worry about the safety of our tap water. This is different from hundreds of millions of people around the world who lack access to clean water. Nevertheless, the current drought gripping a large part of the country can make us think water scarcity is a function of how much water is available, but in reality it is a function of both quantity and quality. [New York Times]


Now Arriving at Pittsburgh International: Fracking
Pittsburgh's airport is struggling financially, but 6,000 feet below its quiet runways is a large deposit of natural gas. So of course a fracking well has been built just outside the airport fence and will drill horizontally to extract the rich deposits, eventually bringing in $20 million a year in royalties for the airport. [New York Times]

As Small Hydropower Expands, So Does Caution on Its Impacts
Small hydropower projects have the potential to bring electricity to millions of people now living off the grid, but without careful planning the cumulative effect of this "fragmented" form of hydropower on ecosystems could be even worse than massive dams. [Yale e360 ]

Fertile Opportunity Awaits For Food Waste Processors
There's been a number of new start-up companies focused on how to best manage the disturbingly large amount of food wasted in the US, from turning scraps into compost and fertilizer to, more ambitiously, converting waste into biogas and then electricity. According to the USDA there's enough food waste biogas potential to power 3 million American homes. [Forbes]

EIA Mapping Tool Shows Which US Energy Facilities are in Areas at Risk of Flooding
Our energy system is vulnerable to shortages of water, and it's also vulnerable to being flooded by too much water. The EIA just released a new mapping tool that allows users to see how exposed power plants, oil refineries, crude oil rail terminals and other critical energy infrastructure are to flood risks. [EIA Today in Energy]

Climate Change

CA Farmers Find Unlikely Ally in Weathering Drought: A Major Utility Company
California's water system is a big electricity user, and the state's agricultural industry is its biggest water user. Electric utility PG&E is connecting the dots and helping farmers reduce their water use - providing financial incentives for farmers to install drip irrigation, low-pressure sprinklers and energy-saving pumping systems - in turn reducing energy demand and the need to invest in expensive new power plants. [National Geographic]

Science Brings Clarity to Shifting Shores
How vulnerable is your favorite beach if a hurricane like Katrina, Ike, or Sandy paid a visit? What did your beach look like 50, 100, or 150 years ago? What might it look like in the future? Since more than 40 percent of the nation’s population lives in coastal counties on both the East and West Coasts, the USGS has created a tool to help people understand their coastlines in an effort to protect millions of citizens who are at risk from changing sea level, retreating shorelines, and extreme coastal storms. [USGS]

NOAA: ‘Nuisance Flooding’ an Increasing Problem as Coastal Sea Levels Rise
“As relative sea level increases, it no longer takes a strong storm or a hurricane to cause flooding,” says a NOAA oceanographer. “Flooding now occurs with high tides in many locations due to climate-related sea level rise, land subsidence and the loss of natural barriers.” A new NOAA study looks at more than 60 years of coastal water level and local elevation data changes and found that major changes seems to be centered on the northeast. [NOAA News]


40 Maps That Explain Food in America
The future of the nations will depend on the manner of how they feed themselves, wrote the French epicurean Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1826. Almost 200 years later, how nations feed themselves has gotten a lot more complicated. Here are 40 maps, charts, and graphs that show where our food comes from and how we eat it, with some drinking thrown in for good measure. [Vox]

'Dead Zone' in the Gulf of Mexico is the Size of Connecticut
Scientists say the annual Gulf of Mexico dead zone is as big as the state of Connecticut this year. At about 5,000 square miles it’s the second largest in the world but is smaller than in previous years. It’s called a dead zone because it contains little to no oxygen at the Gulf floor to support bottom-dwelling fish and shrimp. One major cause in its formation is agricultural runoff from the Mississippi Valley. [Yahoo]

14 Beautiful Fruit-Infused Waters To Drink Instead Of Soda
Don’t let that CSA fruit rot! If you’re looking for a pretty and delicious way to use up some fruit, veggies and herbs, or if you’d like a colorful, drinkable centerpiece for your next dinner party, check out these photos. They make water look refreshing and appealing. Oh fruit, how we love thee! [BuzzFeed]

Water Droplets
Speakers are a must for this video! Listen in and find out how water sounds when it’s dropped on different surfaces like a flower petal, a brick and a log. Try to guess how many water droplets it takes to simulate rainfall. [YouTube]

Food Eco News contributed by  Audrey Jenkins; Water Eco News and Multimedia content by  Robin MadelEnergy Eco News by  Peter Hanlon.