This Week in Eco News - July 17, 2015

Caption Penn State

Village at the edge of what is left of the marshes in Iraq.

A big part of sustainability includes protecting the Earth's creatures and habitats. On top of other Eco News, this week we bring you stories from the food, water and energy sectors about protecting the natural world - from bees, to the marshes of Iraq, to a desert island's unique dwellers.

Video of the Week - Food

Lexicon of Sustainability - GMO
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are constantly in the news and are on the plates of almost everyone in the US. When we look at the impact that GMO crop production has on our environment, it's clear that today's GMO industry is not sustainable or transparent.
Take Action: Learn more about the impacts of GMOs on Sustainable Table.

Food

Harvard Study Proves Why the Bees Are All Disappearing
It's difficult to contest study after study saying the same thing: sublethal exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides, the world's most widely used insecticide, is the primary culprit for colony collapse disorder and bee die-offs. A new Harvard study has reached that same conclusion, yet again, debunking industry claims that neonicotinoids biodegrade and are therefore not a threat to us or to bees. [CSGlobe]

US Poultry Farmers' Rights Are Under Siege
In the US, free speech is not guaranteed for farmers under contract with poultry processing companies. These corporations silence farmers and keep them in debt, even though laws exist to protect farmers' rights. Singer Willie Nelson and Congresswoman Kaptur have written a pointed overview of farmer exploitation to show support for a new funding bill to enforce laws protecting farmers' rights. [WashingtonPost]

California Senate Agriculture Committee Passes Bill Providing Undocumented Farm Workers a Work Permit
While the federal government stalls on immigration reform, California is moving towards a work permit program that would allow undocumented immigrants to work on California farms. It's estimated that 75 percent of farm workers in the US are undocumented immigrants – supporting these workers is vital to keeping California's multi-billion dollar agriculture industry going. [LatinPost]

American Adults Still Aren't Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables
Do you eat enough fruits and vegetables? According to a survey by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 20 percent of American adults eat the recommended 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily. The percentage varies by state, with California adults eating the most produce, but clearly most of us need to up our game. [TheVerge]

Meatless Monday

Free School Lunch E-Cookbook from Meatless Monday
The Monday Campaigns has announced the publication of Meatless Monday Goes to School, a beautifully designed, free collection of 30 meatless lunch recipes to help K-12 foodservice directors and community advocates implement the program in schools. The book is available as a free download. [Sharon Palmer, RDN]

Water

We Don't Trust Drinking Fountains Anymore, and That's Bad for Our Health
The demise of the once-ubiquitous drinking water fountains in the US didn’t just happen. Instead, the understandable but wrongheaded fear of tap water quality, played up by bottled water companies perpetuating the false myth of greater purity, steered people towards bottled water, all at the risk of worsening public health. [Washington Post]

Iraq's Famed Marshes Are Disappearing—Again
The restoration of southern Iraq's fertile wetlands initiated 10 years ago has crashed due to activity on the vital Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers and their tributaries. Water shortages and lower quality are caused by upstream dams in Turkey and Iran, which have resulted in flow reduced of 60 percent, hurting the wetland’s ecology and the struggling Marsh Arabs who depend on it. [National Geographic]

How More Lawn Restrictions Could Remake the California Landscape
Do you want to live in a house complete with an emerald green turf lawn? Then don't choose California. The state continues to crack down on water-sucking grass by regulating that new houses can only have 25 percent of their available landscape area planted, making native and drought-tolerant plants more attractive and resilient. [LA Times]

Energy

These Energy Upgrades Could Save Landlords $350 Million
Owners of large multifamily buildings could save a collective $350 million annually with a $2.1 billion investment in efficiency projects, a new report shows. [Crain's New York]

Facebook Wants More Green Energy. But Red Tape Is in the Way
Facebook's new data center in Fort Worth, Texas will run entirely on wind power. But it took Facebook more than a year to arrange a wind power deal, and making this kind of thing happen in Texas is far easier than in most other states. [Wired]

Logistics and Lizards Disrupt Chevron's Project Off Australia
Almost everything involving Chevron's gas-processing plant on Barrow Island is a bit of a trick. The desert island is populated with rare animals including giant lizards, turtles and bandicoots and landing on the island involves a complicated quarantine process. [New York Times]

Solar Impulse Plane Grounded Until 2016 Due to Battery Issue
The solar powered plane that crossed the Pacific Ocean earlier this year has been grounded until spring 2016 due to overheated batteries, the plane's operators announced. [Time]

Battle Over Rooftop Solar, Clean-Energy Mandate Brews in California
State lawmakers are all but certain to raise California's clean energy mandate to 50% later this year. But there's a big question lawmakers haven't yet addressed: Should rooftop solar count? [USA Today]

Climate

Satellites Track Earth's Water Movements to Help Complete Climate Picture
NASA satellites have observed how water evaporates and moves through Earth's water cycle, painting a more detailed picture on climate. About 75 percent of the planet's energy (as heat) is transferred through the process of water evaporation. Understanding this transfer will help improve (hard-to-predict) precipitation estimates in important climate models. [NASA Vital Signs]

Careful Water Use Could Ease Climate Threats to Food: Scientists
Climate change will hit water resources in a major way because of drier times and greater evaporation rates in many places. But more efficient and productive irrigation through techniques such as drip irrigation and evaporation slowdowns would not only increase crop yields without felling forests for farmland, but also free up irrigation water for sun-fried farmers. [Reuters]

Unraveling the Relationship Between Climate Change and Health
Is climate change a serious threat to human health? Scientists agree that evidence is growing that warmer weather is having an effect on health, but they say it is only one part of an immensely complex set of forces that are influencing health. [New York Times]

The Northeast's Electricity Bills Have Dropped $460 Million Since They Started Paying for Carbon
A regional cap-and-trade program has added $1.3 billion in economic activity to nine New England and Mid-Atlantic states since 2011, while decreasing their carbon emissions by 15 percent, according to an independent analysis released Tuesday. [ThinkProgress]

How 2°C of Warming Could Reshape the US
A two-year project culminated in this interactive map that allows you to see areas below different amounts of sea level rise and flooding — down to neighborhood scale — matched with area timelines of risk. The tool provides statistics of population, homes and land affected by city, county and state, plus links to reports, fact sheets, action plans, embeddable widgets and more. [The Weather Channel]

Climate Change Is Increasing Stress on Oceans
Climate change is seriously stressing out the oceans, concludes a new study that used measurements of an array of human pressures on the ocean — from acidification to overfishing — to make a map of where those factors combined into stressed-out hotspots, as well as how the combinations of stressors has changed over time. [Climate Central]

Multimedia

Urban Farmers: Community Food Growing Around the World – in Pictures
Take a peek at urban gardens in the US, UK and beyond where communities have come together to grow food and strengthen relationships to each other and to the soil. From farms to plot allotments in community gardens, people have found many ways to build a more sustainable food system by starting programs that address needs in their communities. [TheGuardian]

Deflecting the Scarcity Trajectory: Innovation at the Water, Energy and Food Nexus
Shortfalls of water, energy and food can sabotage economic and business growth as well as compromise social well-being. Host Tanya Ott talks to Will Sarni, director of Deloitte Consulting LLP's Enterprise Water Strategy practice about signs that the public sector, private sector and NGOs are beginning to work together to take us off the scarcity trajectory. [Deloitte University Press]

Drought Closes Part of Joshua Tree Trail as Animals Search for Water
Park officials closed a hiking trail in Joshua Tree National Park so the region's bighorn sheep and mountain lions can range farther in their search for water. A portion of 49 Palms Oasis Trail will remain closed until Southern California gets significant rainfall. [89.3 KPCC]

You Can Live Without Producing Trash
Think it's impossible to live without generating trash, or at least only generating a tiny amount of it? Think again. If you limit your consumption, buy in bulk, bring your own packaging, make your own beauty products, recycle, reuse and compost, it’s possible to significantly limit how much actual trash you generate, as the woman in this video illustrates. [Seeker Network]

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.

Image “Iraq1” by Penn State on Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.