This Week in Eco News - July 19, 2013

Happy Friday! We're kicking off this week's compilation of Eco News stories with a link to our Best of the Web Video feature. We alternate weekly to share the best in food, water and energy videos from around the web along with the news stories we follow, circulate internally and publish synopses of throughout the week. You can find them all week long — in real time — in the column to the right, just above our Best of the Web Video viewer. You can also sign up to receive Eco News via email each Friday. If you see a story you think we should include, drop us a line at blog@gracelinks.org.

Best of the Web Video - Water

US EPA Scientists at Work: Managing Sewer Overflows with Green Infrastructure
When it rains in the 800 US communities with combined sewer systems, then it pours sewage into surrounding waterways and ocean waters. Watch how the EPA, as with other water and ocean protection groups, are using green infrastructure to minimize sewage overflows to keep our freshwater and beaches clean.
Take Action
: Before heading to your favorite beach this summer, find out how clean it really is!

Food

Hunger Games, USA
Last week, the US House of Representatives passed a Farm Bill eliminating SNAP (the food stamp program) while maintaining farm subsidies. New York Times commentator Paul Krugman noted the reasoning behind this reveals an "awesome double-standard" held by House Republicans. [New York Times]

Defecation Nation: Pig Waste Likely to Rise in US from Business Deal
Last year, Smithfield Foods produced 4.7 billion gallons of hog manure. If US regulators approved Smithfield's acquisition by Chinese company Shuanghui, that number will rise and increase the risk of superbug infections and other diseases. Literally and figuratively, that's a lot of crap. [Scientific American]

McDonalds Tells Workers To Budget By Getting A Second Job And Turning Off Their Heat
McDonald's has partnered with Visa and launched a website to show how their low-wage workers can live off an average of $8.25 an hour: simply turn off your heat, spend a meager $20 a month on your health and never buy food or clothing. [Think Progress]

Factory Farm Workers Found to Be Carrying Pig MRSA
A frightening new study of North Carolina hog farms found that industrial farm workers have been contaminated with "pig MRSA," an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that is increasingly found in American hogs. You know how the meat industry is always saying that blanket use of antibiotics in conventional meat production is safe? Well, real flesh-and-blood farm workers are living proof that it's NOT safe - and the scary reality is that these workers give these bacteria an easy path to contaminate the public. [Organic Consumers]

Arsenic in Apple Juice: FDA Proposes a Lower Limit, Amid Consumer Concern
In response to public outcry stemming from a Consumer Reports study on arsenic in apple juice, the FDA has announced new regulations that would ban juice containing more than 10 parts per billion. [Christian Science Monitor]

Water

Global Threat to Food Supply as Water Wells Dry Up, Warns Top Environment Expert
Lester Brown, the influential head of the Earth Policy Institute, wrote that grain yields in US, India and China have fallen while the countries near "peak water," or when more water is withdrawn than can be replenished. As populations grow and climate change sets in, a potential water shortfall could harm food security, particularly in the Middles East as aquifers are rapidly diminishing. [Guardian]

Heavy Rains Send Iowa's Precious Soil Downriver
While Iowa has been happy to receive substantial rainfall, much of it has come as torrential downpours that have caused about 1.2 million acres of farmland to lose more nutrient-bountiful topsoil in "five days than what is tolerable over an entire year," according to an Environmental Working Group report. Just a reminder that soil conservation helps with water conservation and water quality, too. [NPR]

Conservatives fighting state green-energy mandates have failed - even in deeply red states - because of unexpected opposition from rural farmers who view renewable power as a moneymaker, and state legislators from all parties who see renewable energy jobs springing up in their districts.

Connecting the Drops
A new Burlington, Vermont water pollution outreach initiative, the Let it Rain stormwater program, has connected with the community. Its success comes from an innovative mix of accessible messaging, art and music, interactive apps and online games (plus more) which has achieved understanding and appreciation for stormwater infrastructure necessary to help clean up Lake Champlain. [Stormwater Report]

Birth Defects Linked to Bad San Joaquin Valley Water
A broad study that looks into substantial human consumption of nitrate-contaminated groundwater in Texas and Iowa - pollution caused primarily by agriculture - shows a strong link to such birth defects as spina bifida, cleft palate and missing limbs. This problem is particularly threatening to the 250,000 lower income residents of California's San Joaquin Valley, many of whom spend 10 percent or more on bottled water. [Fresno Bee]

Great Lakes Area Draws World Attention for Food
As the Great Plains grows drier and agriculture wilts, the Great Lakes region - containing 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water - looks more appealing as a food production hub. Good water resource management becomes even more critical as climate change brings extreme weather and, as always, agriculture needs just the right amount of water. [Block News Alliance]

Energy

High-Speed Modems and Routers: Little Black Boxes, Big Energy Hogs
Those little black boxes that connect you to the internet consume more than $1 billion and 3 dirty coal power plants' worth of electricity each year. Amazingly, they could also be eating up as much energy as your TV, and twice as much as your laptop. The good news -for the earth and your electric bill - is that more energy efficient models will be on store shelves next year. [NRDC Switchboard]

Fracking at the Corner of Energy Abundance and Water Scarcity
Nowhere is the intersection of water and energy systems so clear as it is with fracking for oil and gas. The oil and gas industry is looking to meet energy demand, but conflicts are emerging as the industry's growing water demand is running headlong into competition with other water uses like farming and drinking water. [Christian Science Monitor]

World Bank to Limit Financing of Coal-Fired Plants
The World Bank has decided to limit its financing of coal-fired power plants to countries that have "no feasible alternatives" to coal. While there are still other ways to finance coal plants, this decision sends a strong signal that the fossil fuel is a risky investment. [Reuters]

Seawater Temps Too High for Pilgrim Cooling
Ah yes, summer heat waves; a time to beat the heat and also a time for big power plants to struggle to stay open, like the Pilgrim Nuclear Plant in Plymouth, MA which may have to close soon because Cape Cod Bay's waters are too warm to cool the plant. [Cape Cod Times]

Green-Energy Mandates Find Improbable Allies
Conservatives fighting state green-energy mandates have failed - even in deeply red states - because of unexpected opposition from rural farmers who view renewable power as a moneymaker, and state legislators from all parties who see renewable energy jobs springing up in their districts. [Wall Street Journal]

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