This Week in Eco News - August 22, 2014

Talk about opposites: record-setting rain drowned parts of Long Island, New York last week while California’s water overuse is aggravating already parched conditions. One great piece of Eco News: Oregon’s state legislature said no to a coal export terminal on the coast which could have fouled native fisheries in the Columbia River and other waterways. If you see a story we should share, please drop us a line at blog[at]gracelinks[dot]org.

Video of the Week - Water

Water: The Lexicon of Sustainability
Water is the lifeblood of agriculture, but clean, abundant water resources can be hard to come by in many parts of the world because of scarcity and pollution. That's why farmers and others are seeking ways to preserve their farms while better managing their surrounding watersheds.

Take Action: Learn and get resources about sustainable, on-farm water management.


Decision Could Boost Use of Popular Weed Killer
Dow AgroSciences’ newest version of 2,4-D herbicide, Enlist, has been recommended for approval by the USDA, even though the agency says approval of both the pesticide and its corresponding resistant seeds could increase pesticide usage by 200 to 600 percent. The chemical and resistant seeds will face final approval this fall, a likely step towards further impacts on human health. [AP]

Food Waste Costs US Consumers $162 Billion Annually
American consumers trash nearly 36 million tons of food every year, according to the American institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN). This waste amounts to about $936 per household, two-thirds of which is due to home spoilage before preparation, the rest due to overcooking. AMERIPEN points out the vital role proper packaging can play in preserving food and discouraging waste. [Food Production Daily]

Can Drones Expose Factory Farms? This Journal Hopes So
Journalist Will Potter aims to get a closer look at factory farm activities by flying drones over otherwise off-limits industrial livestock operations. In the face of EPA’s failure to gather comprehensive data on these facilities, and “ag gag” laws, which criminalize many important whistleblower activities, Potter hopes to expose CAFOs and other massive operations without breaking the law. [Civil Eats]

Petitions Urge Congressional Action on Antibiotics Legislation
No bill to prevent antibiotic misuse has moved through Congress despite the devastating number of deaths associated with antibiotic resistance. In response to the stagnation of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act and the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act in the House and Senate respectively, numerous petitions and local resolutions have gained wide support to call for real federal action. [Food Safety News]

USDA Clips Wings of Misleading Organic Marketers
Some brands have marketed their products by using the word “organic” in their names without actually meeting organic standards, but that is about to change. Following outcry over misleading labels, the USDA has released a new policy that restricts brands from prominently displaying the word “organic” unless they are “100 percent organic.” Consumers can shop a little more confidently now. [The Cornucopia Institute]

Meatless Monday

This Top Nutritionist Knows Why Monday Is the Best Day to Teach Your Kids to Cook
Dietitian-nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix is one of the nation's leading health influencers, sharing her knowledge of enduring healthy habits on television (the Today Show) online and in magazines (US News & World Report's "Eat + Run" blog) and her own book, Read It Before You Eat It. Taub-Dix is a big advocate for the Meatless Monday and Kids Cook Monday campaigns as ways to start each week with good family fun! [Huffington Post]


Crowd-sourced Rain Garden Installed
Sustainable JC teamed up with NJ Tree Foundation to install a rain garden at St. Paul’s Church that will absorb 25,000 gallons of water overflow annually, which will ease the burden on Jersey City, NJ’s combined sewers that overflow into New York Harbor during rain storms. What’s even more innovative is that the project was crowd-funded, a model to consider for other groups in older cities with older infrastructure. [Sustainable JC]

Oil Companies Fracking into Drinking Water Sources, New Research Shows
A Stanford study shows that oil and gas fracking in Pavillion, WY was done at shallow depths near drinking water-bearing aquifers, defying the notion that fracking only occurs one mile or more underground. No water contamination was detected, yet the proximity of extraction to drinking water demonstrates the need for better oversight, which is often lacking due to the limited capacity of overstretched state regulators. [Los Angeles Times]

California Allocates More Water Than Available for Use, According to New UC Study
California has allocated five times the amount of surface water than runs annually, finds University of California research on water rights and use. The report explains that poor water accounting and regulations must improve to fix the dysfunctional water rights system that over-allocates. Unsurprisingly, the largest appropriation goes to drought-racked agricultural hubs within the Sacramento-San Joaquin River basin. [Modesto Bee]

New York Suburbs Get Entire Summer's Worth of Rain
Parts of Long Island, NY received more rain in 24 hours - an astounding 13.26 inches - than their combined average total rainfall during the summer months. This broke the state’s previous 24-hour rainfall record of 11.6 inches set three years ago in a Catskills town during Tropical Storm Irene. Flood damage and stranding was prevalent, with the same storm dumping record rainfall in Maryland, New Jersey and Rhode Island. [AP]


Traders Profit as Power Grid Is Overworked
The nation's electric grid is old and congested, and investment traders have of course figured out a way to profit from the problem. By cashing in on congestion contracts, complex financial instruments that gain value when the grid becomes overburdened (such as during a bad heat wave) traders can make big money in a matter of hours. [New York Times]

Oregon Blocks Major Coal Export Terminal
Oregon officials have denied a permit that would have allowed the construction of a large coal export terminal along the state's coast. The terminal would have exported 8.8 million tons of coal annually to Asia, but officials said that it would disrupt waterways and harm tribal fisheries on the Columbia River. [E2 Wire]

Change in the Air
Based on NASA imagery measuring particulate matter, Asian countries have been releasing more particulate matter into the air as they urbanize, while European countries and the US have seen pollution levels decline as more efficient, cleaner-burning technologies have become more widespread. [NASA Earth Observatory]

Seeing Purpose and Profit in Algae
Algae Systems, a company with a pilot project in Alabama, claims that it can make diesel fuel from algae by simultaneously making clean water from municipal sewage (which it uses to fertilize the algae), using the carbon-heavy residue as fertilizer and removing more carbon from the atmosphere than is added when the fuel is burned. [New York Times]

Following outcry over misleading labels, the USDA has released a new policy that restricts brands from prominently displaying the word “organic” unless they are “100 percent organic.” Consumers can shop a little more confidently now.

Climate Change

All the Food, Using Half the Water
In this video, we learn about how climate change could bring about significant demands on water for irrigation in spite of dwindling supplies, like we’re experiencing in California right now. What’s the solution? Doing more with less, according to experts. We could cut our irrigation water use in half if we use smarter, better irrigation methods. [Scientific American]

Climate Change Reflected in Altered Missouri River Flow, Report Says
Climate change has dramatically affected the Missouri River over the past 50 years, reducing the flow in Montana and Wyoming and increasingly flooding North Dakota. The “drought and deluge” scenario for farmers has meant lower crop yields and even less predictability with some losing high-quality irrigation water while others continue to recover from inundated, unworkable fields. [Los Angeles Times]

Coal 'Is the Single Biggest Flaw in US Climate Policy'
The US is cutting the amount of coal that it burns for its own electricity, and in turn cutting greenhouse gas emissions. But at the same time it's quickly ramping up the amount of coal that it exports for other nations to burn, shifting the responsibility for the same emissions but still affecting the atmosphere that we all share. [Business Insider]


Tool for Water Stewardship
The Water Footprint Assessment Tool brings everyone a step closer to global water sustainability and security by equipping everyone - consumers, producers, investors, suppliers and regulators - with the most advanced and accurate information available. Interactive maps illustrate how the water footprints of our food, clothes and other items span the globe and help users get a clearer picture of what each and every one of us must do to make our footprints more sustainable. [The Water Footprint Network]

Protect America's Public Lands and Parks from Fracking
America's public lands are our national treasures, but the oil and gas industry is more than willing to frack with our national forests and around national parks. There are thirteen national parks at risk of being or that already have been harmed by fracking. Find out more in the national parks "stamps." [Food and Water Watch]

Lake Erie's Toxic Bloom Has Ohio Farmers On The Defensive
The recent giant algae bloom in the western part of Lake Erie that released toxins into the water supply of Toledo, Ohio and forced officials to ban nearly half a million people from using tap water, was blamed largely on crop runoff. But local farmers say that they shouldn’t take all the blame. A local farmer discusses why in this podcast. [NPR]

Bottled Water Comes From the Most Drought-Ridden Places in the Country
As if you needed another reason to stop drinking bottled water (and the list is already long, so stop!), here’s another one - the California drought. Regardless of whether companies bottle from springs or the tap, lots of companies are taking water from the areas that need it most right now, especially in California. A couple of new maps illustrate how you might be taking water away from some places that have been hit especially hard by the ongoing, extreme drought in the American West. [Mother Jones]

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