Green Divas myEARTH360 Report: Environmental News Update 3.13.14

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Green Divas myEARTH360 collage image for 3.13.14What’s the word on the environment this week?

First, listen to this week’s excellent Green Divas myEARTH360 podcast . . . 

Ever think about how much water goes into making things you use or eat?

Turns out dairy products are pretty thirsty—one glass of milk has a water footprint* of 30 gallons (soy milk’s footprint is nine and fracking a well takes millions of gallons!). Considering California is the country’s largest dairy supplier and has been experiencing drought, it’s something we should think about more. But… shouldn’t we be thinking about it anyway? Conserving water makes sense!

Climate change is back in the news. It’s not going away any time soon and you can count on hearing about it in most myEARTH360 Reports. But this week it seems to be getting more fanfare than usual. Read on to learn more about this and other environmental news. The good, the bad and the utterly WTF.

* A water footprint is the amount of fresh water used in the production or supply of the goods and services used by a particular person or group.

As always, I’ve included a way for you to take action for the environment. Read on!

WTF?! News…

It Takes HOW Much Water to Make Greek Yogurt?!yogurt

Dairy products require a whole lot of water—and many of them come from drought-ridden California.
California is experiencing one of its driest years in the past half millennium. It also happens to also be the country’s leading dairy supplier. With profits surpassing $7 billion in 2012, the California dairy industry is far and away the most valuable sector of the state’s enormous agricultural bounty. Unfortunately, as the chart above shows, dairy products use a whole lot of water.

Why is our dairy so thirsty? According to a 2012 study in the journal Ecosystems by Mesfin Mekonnen and Arjen Hoekstra, 98 percent of milk’s water footprint comes from cows’ food.

Now, cattle eat all sorts of things, but a dairy cow’s diet in the United States consists primarily of alfalfa hay, grass hay, corn, and other grains like soy or canola. Alfalfa hay is a superfood of sorts for dairy cows—it’s high in protein, high in energy, and it’s digestible. “When you feed alfalfa, you produce more milk,” says Dan Putnam, a plant scientist at the University of California-Davis. “That’s the bottom line.” In a University of California alfalfa blog (yes, that exists), Putnam and his colleague wrote, “The next time you have pizza (with cheese), milk on your cereal, or ice cream, thank alfalfa.” Read the full story…

Our Homogenous Global Food Supply Will Make the World Fat & Sick.

In the not-so-distant future, expect to see a spike in diseases like diabetes and a food supply that is increasingly vulnerable to climate change due to the world’s growing reliance on a narrow range of foods.

According to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, people’s diets around the globe have become too similar over the last 50 years, to the point where 90 percent of people get their calories, protein and fat from the same 50 crops.fat man

Experts say this is due mainly to modernized agriculture, urbanization and the rise of supermarkets and processed foods.

More people every day, the study found, are consuming a “Westernized” diet of animal meat, dairy, sugary drinks and oils. Meanwhile, local grains and vegetable crops, from sorghum and rye to yams and sweet potatoes, have decreased. Read the full story…

The Fat Drug

If you walk into a farm-supply store today, you’re likely to find a bag of antibiotic powder that claims to boost the growth of poultry and livestock. That’s because decades of agricultural research has shown that antibiotics seem to flip a switch in young animals’ bodies, helping them pack on pounds. Manufacturers brag about the miraculous effects of feeding antibiotics to chicks and nursing calves. Dusty agricultural journals attest to the ways in which the drugs can act like a kind of superfood to produce cheap meat.

But what if that meat is us? Recently, a group of medical investigators have begun to wonder whether antibiotics might cause the same growth promotion in humans. New evidence shows that America’s obesity epidemic may be connected to our high consumption of these drugs. But before we get to those findings, it’s helpful to start at the beginning, in 1948, when the wonder drugs were new — and big was beautiful.

Read the full story…

Is coal ash safe to use on roads? Some experts are not so sure

Coal ash, the residue from burning coal to generate electricity, is abundant, and cheap. Often free for the taking, in fact. And it’s one way that at least some Midwestern communities provide traction on snowy and icy roads.

But what’s left behind in the nearby water and soil when this byproduct from coal-fired power plants is spread on roads?

Tom Adams, executive director of the American Coal Ash Association, dismisses the bottom ash used on roadways as mere “coal dirt.” And although it harbors varying amounts of toxic heavy metals including arsenic, lead, chromium and cadmium, Adams says the amounts are no higher than in the rock and dirt native to many areas of the country.

“None of these things exist in concentrations anywhere near what the EPA is concerned about,” he said.

Barb Gottlieb, director of environment and health for Physicians for Social Responsibility, isn’t so sure. Read the full story…

Photo: Garth Lenz

Photo: Garth Lenz

Tar Sands Devasting Our Environment & The Film PipeLIES

Want to know what environmental devastation really looks like thanks to the Alberta Tar Sands mining project? Want to know the truth about the Keystone

XL Pipeline that will deliver the tar sands oil to the U.S. for refining? Watch these videos.

Testimony Reveals Record 36 percent of North Dakota Fracked Gas Was Flared in December

The recent March 6 House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing titled “Benefits of and Challenges to Energy Access in the 21st Century: Fuel Supply and Infrastructure” never had over 100 online viewers watching the livestream at any point in time. And it unfolded in an essentially empty room.

But the poor attendance record had no relation to the gravity of the facts presented by testifiers. Among other things, one presenter revealed 36 percent of the gas by-product from oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin was flared off as waste during a brutally cold midwest winter with no end in sight.

These damning facts were brought forward by Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (Ceres) Oil & Gas and Insurance Programs Director Andrew Logan, one of eight people called to testify around topics ranging from domestic propane markets to fossil fuels-by-rail markets, to pipeline markets and flaring.

A topic covered previously by DeSmogBlog, Logan submitted to the Subcommittee that flaring “is getting worse, not better.”

“Flaring in North Dakota hit 36% in December, a new record,” Logan told the subcommittee. “This means that more than 1/3 of all natural gas produced in the state is going up in smoke, at the same time as consumers around the country are seeing price spikes from natural gas in this cold winter, along with actual shortages of propane in many places.”

Logan also said that wasteful flaring is also a growing quagmire in Texas, which has seen a 10-fold increase in flaring permits since 2010. Read the full story…

Encouraging news…

Sec. of State Kerry Urges Climate Action.

“Protecting our environment and meeting the challenge of global climate change is a critical mission for me as our country’s top diplomat.”
~ John Kerry

Click here to read Kerry’s first department-wide policy guidance statement.

Democrat senators stage all-night session of climate change speeches—#Up4Climate

The U.S. senators who participated in the all-night session on climate change didn’t get much sleep, but they may have made progress for a country that is seemingly still divided on the issue.

The event, which began Monday around 6:30 p.m., lasted 14 hours and 26 minutes, according to the Sierra Club. It featured about 30 senators who spoke at varying lengths about how the nation should address the issue.

None of the senators proposed legislation, but they were pleased to divert attention away from climate deniers. Groups that have long advocated for the recognition of climate change were pleased, too, hoping that the event will lead to serious, legislative work on the matter.

“The Environmental Protection Agency is currently working on common sense safeguards under current law to keep carbon pollution in check. However, last week, the House of Representatives voted against the steps that the Environmental Protection Agency is taking to cut carbon pollution,” Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Sarah Saylor said. Click here for seven encouraging quotes, tweets and videos from the session…


Snickers, Twix to be deforestation-free

Mars, Inc., the maker of M&M’s, Snickers, Twix, and a variety of other food products, has committed to a zero deforestation policy for the palm oil it sources, reports Greenpeace.SNickers

The policy pledges Mars to only use palm oil produced legally and without conversion of high conservation value areas, peatlands, or high carbon stock areas like tropical rainforests. It also establishes a “no burn” requirement and sets criteria for labor standards and human rights, including the need for free, prior informed consent from communities that may be affected by new oil palm plantation development.

“We will only work with palm oil suppliers that share our values and our commitment to transforming the palm oil supply chain, and we will require that by the end of 2014 they confirm their commitment to comply with [our] sourcing charter,” the policy states. “These measures will help ensure a genuinely sustainable pipeline where all material is sourced from companies whose mills only produce sustainable palm oil.”

The policy — which follows in the footsteps of safeguards established by Unilever, Nestle, Neste Oil, and Kellogg’s, among others — goes well beyond the palm oil industry’s dominant eco-certification standard run by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Read the full story…

Take Action X 2!

Everyone from President Obama and NASA, to major corporations and sports leagues knows that it is time to take action. Everyone, that is, except for Congress. Click here to tell Congress it’s time to wake up to climate change!

Join others in your community, and engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience (that could result in your arrest) in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline. Click here to sign the Pledge of Resistance.

Man with tape measure image via shutterstock.
U.S. Capitol image via shutterstock.
Forest image via shutterstock.
Snickers image via shutterstock.


About the author / 

Green Diva Lynn

Lynn Hasselberger is the former Managing Editor of The Green Divas blog and was a producer of the Green Divas Radio Show. She's also a mom, writer and award-winning cat-herder who lives in Chicagoland. Sunrises, running, yoga, chocolate and comedy are just a few of her fave things.

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