Blue Marble Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2013/09 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en McDonald's Franchisees: "We Will Continue to Fall and Fail" http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/04/mcdonalds-franchises-arent-happy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>McDonald's opened its <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/contributor/2015/04/fast-food-is-bad-but-mcdonalds-hot-mustard-sauce-is-so-good" target="_blank">first franchise</a> in Des Plaines, Ill., 60 years ago today, but its franchisees aren't exactly celebrating.</p> <p>"The future looks very bleak. I'm selling my McDonald's stock," one operator wrote in response to a recent survey of McDonald's franchises across the country, <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/mcdonalds-franchisees-are-furious-2015-4" target="_blank">as quoted by <em>Business Insider</em></a>. "The morale of franchisees is at its lowest level ever."</p> <p>"McDonalds' system is broken," another wrote, <a href="http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mcdonalds-franchisees-are-not-happy-2015-04-15" target="_blank">according to <em>MarketWatch</em></a>. "We will continue to fall and fail."</p> <p>Is the fast-food giant having a mid-life crisis?</p> <p>McDonald's has some 3,000 franchises in the United States, and 32 of them&mdash;representing 215 restaurants&mdash;took part in the latest survey by Wall Street analyst <a href="http://www.janney.com/institutions--corporations/equity-research/our-team/mark-kalinowski" target="_blank">Mark Kalinowski </a>of Janney Capital Markets. Many of them complained about poor business this year and blamed corporate executives. When asked to assess their six-month business outlook on a scale of 1 to 5, they responded grimly with an average of 1.81. Maybe that's because, according to the survey, same-store sales for franchises declined 3.7 percent in March and <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/mcdonalds-u-s-same-store-sales-fall-4-in-february-1425903434" target="_blank">4 percent</a> in February.</p> <p>Only three of the 32 franchisees said they had a "good" relationship with their franchisor, while about half described their relationship as "poor." The average score for this question was 1.48 out of 5, the lowest score since Kalinowski first started surveying the franchisees more than a decade ago.</p> <p><span id="articleText"><a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/15/us-mcdonalds-idUSKBN0N625Z20150415" target="_blank">Reuters reported</a> that a McDonald's spokesperson responded to the survey by noting the poll size and saying that the company appreciates feedback from franchisees and has a "solid working relationship with them." </span></p> <p>Last month, McDonald's executives invited franchisees to a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=7&amp;ved=0CEIQFjAG&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.usatoday.com%2Fstory%2Fmoney%2F2015%2F03%2F09%2Fmcdonalds-fast-food-restaurants-monthly-sales%2F24643027%2F&amp;ei=9tUuVYCCBZL8yQTcy4DgCg&amp;usg=AFQjCNH42o44g3sKBWw7zuAOQ_JUc6eZlg&amp;sig2=XY-Aat713AlTMEqSgDvqLg&amp;bvm=bv.90790515,d.aWw" target="_blank">"Turnaround Summit" in Las Vegas</a>, to address its US sales decline. But the get-together didn't seem to boost anyone's spirits. "The Turnaround Summit was a farce," one franchisee wrote in the survey, <a href="http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/mcdonald-s-franchisees-turnaround-plan-a-farce/298069/" target="_blank">as quoted by <em>AdAge</em></a>. "McDonald's Corp. has panicked and jumped the shark." Another added, "McDonald's management does not know what we want to be."</p> <p>Some franchise operators slammed McDonalds' <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/04/mcdonalds-wages-increase-some-employees-credited-rising-economy" target="_blank">decision to raise pay</a> by giving employees at company-owned stores $1 an hour above minimum wage. "We will be expected to do the same," one wrote, <a href="http://nrn.com/franchising/survey-mcdonald-s-franchisee-outlook-worsens" target="_blank">according to <em>Nation's Restaurant News</em></a>. "Watch for $5 Big Macs, etc. and Extra Value Meals in the $8 to $10 range."</p> <p>Next week, McDonald's is set to report its first-quarter earnings.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Wed, 15 Apr 2015 23:11:00 +0000 Samantha Michaels 273726 at http://www.motherjones.com These Popular Clothing Brands Are Cleaning Up Their Chinese Factories http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/04/new-fashion-trends-apparel-mills-greening-their-supply-chains <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's well known that the outsourcing of clothing manufacturing to countries with low wages and weak regulations has led to exploitative <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/11/india-garment-factories-sumangali" target="_blank">labor conditions</a>.&nbsp;But many foreign apparel factories also create environmental problems. The industrial processes used to make our jeans and sweatshirts require loads of water, dirty energy, and chemicals, which often get dumped into the rivers and air surrounding factories in developing countries. Almost 20 percent of the world's industrial water pollution comes from the textile industry, and China's textile factories, which produce half of the clothes bought in the United States, emit 3 billion tons of soot a year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).</p> <p>But a few basic (and often profitable) changes in a factory's manufacturing process can go a long way in cutting down pollution. That's the takeaway from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nrdc.org/international/cleanbydesign/" style="line-height: 2em;" target="_blank">Clean by Design</a>, a new alliance&nbsp;between NRDC,&nbsp;major clothing&nbsp;brands&mdash;including Target, Levi's, Gap, and H&amp;M&mdash;and Chinese textile manufacturing experts.</p> <p>Starting in 2013, 33&nbsp;mills in the cities of Guangzhou and Shaoxing participated in a pilot program that focused on improving efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of producing textiles. The results, <a href="http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/lgreer/banner_day_for_reducing_pollution.html" target="_blank">released</a> in a report today, are impressive.&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" height="446" src="/files/Screen%20shot%202015-04-13%20at%205.36.54%20PM_0.png" width="414"><div class="caption"><a href="http://www.nrdc.org/international/cleanbydesign/" target="_blank">NRDC</a></div> </div> <p>The 33 mills reduced coal consumption by 61,000 tons and chemical consumption by 400 tons. They&nbsp;saved 36 million kilowatts of electricity and 3 million tons of water (the production of one tee shirt <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/27/cottons-water-footprint-world-wildlife-fund_n_2506076.html" target="_blank">takes</a> about 700 gallons, or 90 pounds, of water). While mills often needed to invest in capital up front, they saw an average of $440,000 in savings per mill&mdash;a total of $14.7 million&mdash;mostly returned to them within a year.</p> <p>How did they accomplish all this? Below are some of the measures that were implemented:</p> <ul><li> <p><strong>Upgrading metering systems</strong> to monitor water, steam, and electricity use (and identify waste)</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Implementing condensation</strong> <strong>collection</strong> during the steam-heavy dying process</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Increasing water reuse </strong>after cooling and rinsing (some clothes get rinsed as many as 8 times; the final rinses often leave behind clean water)</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Investing in equipment for recovering heat</strong> from hot water used for dying and rinsing, and from machines</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Stopping up steam and compressed air leakage </strong>to increase energy efficiency</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Improving insulation </strong>on pipes, boilers, drying cylinders, dye vats, and steam valves to prevent wasted energy</p> </li> </ul></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/blue-marble/2015/04/new-fashion-trends-apparel-mills-greening-their-supply-chains"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Blue Marble China Labor Regulatory Affairs Wed, 15 Apr 2015 10:00:15 +0000 Luke Whelan 273421 at http://www.motherjones.com The FDA Has Some Bad News About Your Kind Bars http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/04/fda-kind-bars <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Depressing news for all you Kind bar fans: The popular nut and fruit snack, which bills itself as a "healthy and tasty" treat, is actually kind of not healthy at all.</p> <p>According to a<a href="http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/ucm440942.htm" target="_blank"> letter</a> from the Food and Drug Administration to the makers of Kind, the bars "do not meet the requirements for use of the nutrient content claim 'healthy&rsquo; on a food label" under the law.</p> <blockquote> <p>"Your website states, 'There&rsquo;s healthy. There&rsquo;s tasty. Then there&rsquo;s healthy and tasty' and 'all of our snacks are pretty much the nirvana of healthful tastiness.' In addition, your webpage for the Kind Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein product states 'KIND Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein is a healthy and satisfying blend of peanuts and antioxidant-rich dark chocolate.' However, none of your products listed above meet the requirements for use of the nutrient content claim 'healthy' that are set forth in 21 CFR 101.65(d)(2)."</p> </blockquote> <p>The FDA said the bars have too much saturated fat to justify the term "healthy," and also don't measure up to their "antioxidant-rich" claim. Bloomberg <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-14/kind-bars-aren-t-healthy-enough-for-healthy-label-fda-says" target="_blank">reports</a> Kind is "moving quickly to comply" to edit its labels.</p> <p>More disappointment for people who thought cheerfully labeled snacks and drinks (a la <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/vitaminwater-false-claims_n_1181860.html" target="_blank">Vitamin Water</a>) could actually make them fitter.</p> <p><a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-14/kind-bars-aren-t-healthy-enough-for-healthy-label-fda-says" target="_blank">(h/t Bloomberg)</a></p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Tue, 14 Apr 2015 18:41:49 +0000 Inae Oh 273641 at http://www.motherjones.com Marco Rubio Used to Believe in Climate Science. Now He's Running for President. http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/04/marco-rubio-president-climate-change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/CYCBFGBQdDQ" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>When the Florida state Legislature opened its 2007 session, Speaker Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDvlt5DnIbI" target="_blank">took the stage</a> to lay out his priorities for the year. Near the top of his list was a focus on clean energy.</p> <p>"Global warming, dependence on foreign sources of fuel, and capitalism have come together to create opportunities for us that were unimaginable just a few short years ago," he said, in a video recording <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/as-florida-house-speaker-marco-rubio-voiced-suppo#.dd25KBz6A" target="_blank">unearthed by <em>BuzzFeed</em></a>. Rubio predicted that legal caps on greenhouse gas emissions were inevitable, and he argued that Florida should prepare to become "an international model of energy efficiency and independence" and the "Silicon Valley" of clean energy.</p> <div><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-text"> <p class="mininav-header-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> How the 2016 contenders will deal with climate change </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-266761"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/12/jeb-bush-climate-change-skeptic"> Jeb Bush on Climate Change: "I'm a Skeptic"</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-273261"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/04/marco-rubio-president-climate-change"> Marco Rubio Used to Believe in Climate Science</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-273141"> <li><a href="/environment/2015/04/rand-paul-climate-change"> Rand Paul Is No Moderate on Global Warming</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-273556"> <li><a href="/environment/2015/04/hillary-clinton-climate-change-president"> What a Hillary Clinton Presidency Would Mean for Global Warming</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-272011"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/03/ted-cruz-seth-myers-climate-change"> Scientists: Ted Cruz's Climate Theories Are a "Load of Claptrap"</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-271541"> <li><a href="/environment/2015/03/scott-walker-environment-climate-change-2016"> Scott Walker Is the Worst Candidate for the Environment</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-257241"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/09/hillary-clinton-fracking-shale-state-department-chevron"> How Hillary Clinton's State Department Sold Fracking to the World</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-267041"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/12/jim-webb-climate-change"> Jim Webb Wants to Be President. Too Bad He's Awful on Climate Change.</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-266956"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/12/martin-omalley-longshot-presidential-candidate-and-real-climate-hawk"> Martin O'Malley Is A Longshot Presidential Candidate, and a Real Climate Hawk</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> </div> <p>Several years later, as a junior senator <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLmZbBh83-I" target="_blank">offering his party's rebuttal</a> to President Barack Obama's 2013 State of the Union address, Rubio was singing a different tune. Solar and wind energy "should be a part of our energy portfolio," he said, but the United States should focus its efforts on extracting coal, oil, and natural gas "instead of wasting more money on so-called clean-energy companies like Solyndra." (Solyndra was a solar power company in California that <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/24/business/la-fi-solyndra-20110925" target="_blank">failed spectacularly</a> in 2011 after receiving a $500 million grant from the Obama administration. Republicans seized on it as a textbook case of the president's foolhardy energy agenda, but in reality the company was just badly managed.)</p> <p>Rubio's comments since then have been more consistent: He argues that government policies to limit emissions are pointless in the face of rising pollution from developing countries. And, he says, such policies are certain to be "devastating" to the US economy.</p> <p>He also rejects the notion that scientists are in agreement about the role humans have played in causing global warming. "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," he <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/05/sen-marco-rubio-yes-im-ready-to-be-president/" target="_blank">told ABC News</a> last May.</p> <p>On Monday, Rubio is <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/13/politics/election-2016-marco-rubio-presidential-campaign/" target="_blank">expected to announce</a> his candidacy for president. Check out the video above for a look back at his thoughts on climate change.</p> <p><em>This story has been revised.</em></p></body></html> Blue Marble Video 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Science Top Stories Mon, 13 Apr 2015 10:15:05 +0000 Tim McDonnell 273261 at http://www.motherjones.com The Drought Is Behind California's Skyrocketing West Nile Virus Numbers http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/04/drought-behind-influx-west-nile-virus-california <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>California's <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/04/everything-you-wanted-know-about-california-drought" target="_blank">drought</a> isn't <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/01/california-drought-scary-facts-snowpack" target="_blank">bad news</a> for everyone: turns out West Nile Virus has been thriving in the state's parched climate. The California Department of Public Health <a href="http://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/NR15-027.aspx" target="_blank">announced</a> last week that in 2014 it recorded the most cases of the potentially deadly mosquito-borne illness since it first showed up in the Golden State more than a decade ago. The CDPH tallied 801 diagnoses, including 31 deaths&mdash;the most ever in California.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/x57T0/2/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"></iframe></p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/blue-marble/2015/04/drought-behind-influx-west-nile-virus-california"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Health drought Mon, 13 Apr 2015 10:00:11 +0000 Luke Whelan 273481 at http://www.motherjones.com Another State Agency Just Banned the Words "Climate Change" http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/04/another-state-agency-just-banned-words-climate-change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The climate change language police just struck again.</p> <p>Last month it was in Florida, where former staffers with the state's Department of Environmental Protection <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/florida-climate-change" target="_blank">alleged that senior officials</a>, under the direction of Gov. Rick Scott (R), had instituted an unwritten ban on using the phrases "climate change" and "global warming." Scott <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/03/11/392263831/fla-gov-scott-denies-climate-change-is-a-banned-term" target="_blank">denied</a> the claim.</p> <p>This week's incident is much less ambiguous. Yesterday, the three-person commission that oversees a public land trust in Wisconsin voted 2-1 to block the trust's dozen public employees "from engaging in global warming or climate change work while on BCPL time."</p> <p>In proposing and voting on the ban, the commission "spent 19 minutes and 29 seconds talking about talking about&nbsp;climate change," <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-08/for-some-wisconsin-state-workers-climate-change-isn-t-something-you-can-talk-about" target="_blank">according to </a><em><a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-08/for-some-wisconsin-state-workers-climate-change-isn-t-something-you-can-talk-about" target="_blank">Bloomberg</a></em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>The&nbsp;move to ban an issue leaves staff at the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands&nbsp;in the unusual position of not being able to speak about how climate change might affect&nbsp;lands it oversees&hellip;</p> <p>The Midwest warmed about 1.5F on average from&nbsp;1895 to&nbsp;2012. Pine, maple, birch, spruce, fir, aspen, and beech forests, which are common in the region, are likely to decline as the century progresses, according to the latest US <a data-web-url="http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/" href="http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/">National Climate Assessment</a>.</p> </blockquote> <p>The ban was proposed by newly elected State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, a Republican who ran on the unusual campaign promise to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/02/us/wisconsins-treasurer-wants-to-cut-needless-workers-starting-with-himself.html?_r=0" target="_blank">swiftly eliminate his own job</a>. At a public meeting on Tuesday, according to <em>Bloomberg, </em>Adamczyk said he was disturbed to learn that the agency's director, Tia Nelson, had spent some time co-chairing a global warming task force in 2007-08 at the request of former governor Jim Doyle (D). Dealing with climate issues&mdash;even responding to emails on the subject&mdash;isn't in the agency's wheelhouse, he said. Adamczyk didn't immediately return our request for comment.</p> <p>Adamczyk was joined in voting for the ban by State Attorney General Brad Schimel (R), also newly-elected. Schimel is handling <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/03/scott-walker-environment-climate-change-2016" target="_blank">Gov. Scott Walker's lawsuit</a> against the Environmental Protection Agency over President Barack Obama's new climate regulations. The ban was opposed by the commission's third member, Secretary of State Bob La Follette, a Democrat.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Wed, 08 Apr 2015 19:45:03 +0000 Tim McDonnell 273336 at http://www.motherjones.com Do Your State's Hospitals Serve Big Macs? http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/04/do-your-states-hospitals-serve-big-macs <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Would you like fries with your hospital stay? If so, you're in luck: Many hospitals house fast-food restaurants. Some<strong> </strong>even offer delivery to patient rooms. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) isn't wild about this phenomenon and <a href="http://www.pcrm.org/media/good-medicine/2015/winter2015/hazardous-hospital-foods" target="_blank">made this map</a>, which shows the US hospitals with fast-food chains inside them:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Hospital-Fast-Food-Graphic-v3-630.gif"><div class="caption">Image by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine</div> </div> <p>Of the 208 hospitals&mdash;most of them public&mdash;that PCRM investigated in its <a href="http://www.pcrm.org/media/good-medicine/2015/winter2015/hazardous-hospital-foods" target="_blank">report</a>, 43 had fast-food chains inside, mostly McDonald's, Wendy's, and Chick-Fil-A. PCRM staff dietitian Cameron Wells told me that some of the fast-food joints have contracts that require them to give a certain percentage of their profits to their hospitals, "meaning the more unhealthful food the restaurant sells to patients and their families, the richer the hospital gets," she said.&nbsp;</p> <p>Six of the fast-food-serving facilities in the report were children's hospitals. One of those, Children's Hospital of Georgia, offers delivery service from McDonald's straight to patients' beds. "Seeing this in a children's hospital&mdash;that's the most vulnerable population," Wells says. "Fast food is not going to help children get better."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Maps Corporations Food and Ag Health Care Top Stories Mon, 06 Apr 2015 10:00:10 +0000 Kiera Butler 273086 at http://www.motherjones.com For the First Time, California Is Enforcing Water Restrictions http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/04/breaking-first-time-california-enforcing-water-restrictions <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today, California Governor Jerry Brown announced <a href="http://gov.ca.gov/docs/4.1.15_Executive_Order.pdf" target="_blank">mandatory water restrictions</a> for the first time in the state's history. The announcement follows a drought of more than<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/02/wheres-californias-water-going" target="_blank"> three years</a>, which has officials worrying that Californians may have only <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-famiglietti-drought-california-20150313-story.html" target="_blank">one year</a> of drinking water left.</p> <p>The regulations require California cities to decrease water use by 25 percent, though, crucially, only requires agricultural users to report their water use and submit drought management plans. Agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of California's water usage. (For more drought background, check out our past coverage on <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/01/almonds-nuts-crazy-stats-charts" target="_blank">agricultural</a> water use&mdash;<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/01/california-drought-almonds-water-use" target="_blank">almonds</a> are the biggest suck&mdash;and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/02/wheres-californias-water-going" target="_blank">municipal</a> water use.)</p> <p>From the <a href="http://gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=18910" target="_blank">press release</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>The following is a summary of the executive order issued by the Governor today.</p> <p>Save Water</p> <p>For the first time in state history, the Governor has directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions in cities and towns across California to reduce water usage by 25 percent. This savings amounts to approximately 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months, or nearly as much as is currently in Lake Oroville.</p> <p>To save more water now, the order will also:</p> <p>Replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping in partnership with local governments;<br> Direct the creation of a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with more water and energy efficient models; Require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to make significant cuts in water use; and<br> Prohibit new homes and developments from irrigating with potable water unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used, and ban watering of ornamental grass on public street medians.</p> <p>Increase Enforcement</p> <p>The Governor&rsquo;s order calls on local water agencies to adjust their rate structures to implement conservation pricing, recognized as an effective way to realize water reductions and discourage water waste.</p> <p>Agricultural water users &ndash; which have borne much of the brunt of the drought to date, with hundreds of thousands of fallowed acres, significantly reduced water allocations and thousands of farmworkers laid off &ndash; will be required to report more water use information to state regulators, increasing the state's ability to enforce against illegal diversions and waste and unreasonable use of water under today&rsquo;s order. Additionally, the Governor&rsquo;s action strengthens standards for Agricultural Water Management Plans submitted by large agriculture water districts and requires small agriculture water districts to develop similar plans. These plans will help ensure that agricultural communities are prepared in case the drought extends into 2016.</p> <p>Additional actions required by the order include:</p> <p>Taking action against water agencies in depleted groundwater basins that have not shared data on their groundwater supplies with the state;<br> Updating standards for toilets and faucets and outdoor landscaping in residential communities and taking action against communities that ignore these standards; and<br> Making permanent monthly reporting of water usage, conservation and enforcement actions by local water suppliers.</p> <blockquote>&nbsp;</blockquote> </blockquote></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Econundrums Top Stories Wed, 01 Apr 2015 18:48:45 +0000 Julia Lurie 272816 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Leftover Pasta Might Be Healthier Than Fresh http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/five-healthy-cooking-fixes <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last week, lovers of rice rejoiced when the<em> Washington Post </em><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/03/25/scientists-have-figured-out-a-simple-way-to-cook-rice-that-dramatically-cuts-the-calories/" target="_blank">reported</a> on a simple trick to improve the nutritional value of the food. According to researchers in Sri Lanka, all you have to do is add a fat (they used coconut oil) to the cooking water, cool your rice over night, and voil&agrave;!&mdash;up to to 50 percent of the calories (a cup of rice contains about 200 when cooked conventionally) are gone.</p> <p>It works by converting the white rice&mdash;which made mostly of digestible starch&mdash;into one that is indigestible, or "resistant," meaning that it's eventually excreted instead of metabolized by our bodies. The researchers found that adding fat and then allowing the rice to cool changed the composition even after the rice was reheated.</p> <p>With <a href="http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/" target="_blank">diabetes</a>, <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/obr.12229/pdf" target="_blank">metabolic syndrome</a>, and <a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/" target="_blank">obesity rates</a> rising around the world, this simple tweak to a dietary staple for billions could be a major boon to public health. And it's just one example of how chemistry can be put to work in the kitchen. Here are five more ways to improve foods' nutritional content through cooking:</p> <p><strong>1. Use the heating/cooling method on other carbs too:</strong> The BBC <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29629761" target="_blank">reported</a> last year that pasta might be healthier when eaten as leftovers. Researchers from the University of Surrey found that eating cold pasta resulted in smaller spikes in glucose than eating freshly cooked pasta. These results were even more pronounced when the pasta was reheated: The study participants who had the reheated pasta instead of fresh reduced spikes in blood sugar by 50 percent. A previous <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562607" target="_blank">study</a> in 2009 also showed that freshly cooked legumes, cereals, and tubers had significantly higher levels of resistant starch after multiple cycles of heating and cooling. The resistant starch in peas, which had the most dramatic change, increased by 115 percent. Resistant starch consumption has been linked to improvements in <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17936196" target="_blank">gut functioning,</a> <a href="http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/3/559.full" target="_blank">insulin sensitivity,</a> <a href="http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Resistant-starch-dose-controls-satiety-effects-Study" target="_blank">increased satiety</a>, and even decrease in <a href="http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/1/1/8" target="_blank">fat accumulation</a>.</p> <p><strong>2. Turn down the heat: </strong>Chances are you are already well aware that fried foods aren't doing good things for your health. But according to <a href="http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm374855.htm" target="_blank">the FDA</a> the downsides of frying aren't just calories and fat&mdash;the high temperature is a problem too. When certain foods are subjected to high temperatures (anything above 248 degrees Fahrenheit), one byproduct is a compound called acrylamide, a <a href="http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/acrylamide" target="_blank">possible carcinogen</a> that also has been linked to nerve damage at high levels. French fries and potato chips have high amounts of acrylamide, but the chemical is also produced in many home-cooked foods including toast, potatoes, and even coffee. To mitigate your exposure, soak potatoes in water for more than 30 minutes before cooking, don't over-brown your bread, and refrain from frying your food. Dark-roast coffee may have less acrylamide than light, an <a href="http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ChemicalContaminantsMetalsNaturalToxinsPesticides/UCM374534.pdf" target="_blank">FDA report</a> suggests.</p> <p><strong>3. Don't forgo frozen: </strong>Fruits and vegetables found in the freezer aisle can sometimes be more nutritious than fresh ones on the shelf. As my colleague Kiera Butler <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/09/benefit-of-frozen-foods" target="_blank">reported</a> last year, before being frozen, produce undergoes a process called blanching that stops the enzymes that would otherwise cause the vegetables to lose color, texture, and nutrients. Because this process happens soon after harvest, frozen vegetables sometimes retain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than the fresh ones that have to travel to the grocery store. Blanching might also make certain vitamins more digestible.</p> <p><strong>4. Marinade meats: </strong>Meat marinades <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-03/acs-bmc032614.php" target="_blank">do more</a> than enhance flavor and texture&mdash;they prevent the formation of <a href="http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet" target="_blank">heterocyclic amines</a> (HCAs) and <a href="http://www.epa.gov/osw/hazard/wastemin/minimize/factshts/pahs.pdf" target="_blank">polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons</a> (PAHs), which are dangerous chemicals created when meats are cooked at high temperatures. These compounds have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems. While there are noted benefits from marinades with lemon juice or vinegar, <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-03/acs-bmc032614.php" target="_blank">a study</a> published last year in the <em>Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry</em> found that when you marinade meat with beer, the carcinogenic potency is greatly reduced. Black beer had the best results, reducing PAHs found in pork by 53 percent.</p> <p><strong>5. Use your microwave:</strong> Yes, that's right&mdash;the microwave has been <a href="http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/microwave-cooking-and-nutrition" target="_blank">redeemed</a>. Because it cooks food quickly without exposing it to high levels of heat, the microwave can preserve nutrients when cooking vegetables. A 2003 <a href="http://nchfp.uga.edu/papers/2003/03iftturnipgreensposter.html" target="_blank">study</a> by <span>Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University </span>showed that, compared to boiling, microwaving retained more water-soluble vitamins in turnip greens, <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814608003191" target="_blank">and another</a> done in 2008 by the University of&nbsp;Tsukuba in Japan found that the microwave was one of the best cooking options for preserving antioxidants in peppers. Researchers <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15563214" target="_blank">also found</a> that chemicals called&nbsp;glucosinolates&mdash;which may fight cancer&mdash;actually increased after red cabbages were microwaved. The American Institute for Cancer Research also <a href="http://www.aicr.org/press/press-releases/5-steps-warning-grilling-safety.html" target="_blank">recommends</a> precooking meat in the microwave before putting it on the grill to reduce the cancer-causing HCAs and PAHs mentioned above.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Top Stories Wed, 01 Apr 2015 10:00:09 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 272521 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's What President Obama Just Promised the World in the Fight Against Climate Change http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/us-offer-next-global-climate-talks-obama <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This morning, hours ahead of a looming deadline, the United States released its formal submission to the United Nations in preparation for global climate talks that will take place in Paris later this year. Known as an "intended nationally determined contribution," the document gives a basic outline for what US negotiators will pony up for an accord that is meant to replace the aging Kyoto Protocol and establish a new framework for international collaboration in the fight against climate change.</p> <p>The US submission offered few surprises and essentially reiterated the carbon emission reduction targets that President Barack Obama first announced in a bilateral deal with China in November: 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The document then gives a rundown of Obama's climate initiatives in order to demonstrate that the US goal is attainable with policies that are already in place or are in the works. Chief among those policies is the Clean Power Plan, which sets tough new limits for carbon emissions from the electricity sector, with the aim to reduce them 30 percent by 2030.</p> <div class="DV-container" id="DV-viewer-1698605-un-indc">&nbsp;</div> <script src="//s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/viewer/loader.js"></script><script> DV.load("//www.documentcloud.org/documents/1698605-un-indc.js", { width: 630, height: 800, sidebar: false, container: "#DV-viewer-1698605-un-indc" }); </script><noscript> <a href="http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1698605/un-indc.pdf">UN INDC (PDF)</a> <br><a href="http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1698605/un-indc.txt">UN INDC (Text)</a> </noscript> <p>With today's announcement, the United States joins a handful of other major polluters, including Mexico and the European Union, in formally articulating its Paris position well in advance. In a series of earlier UN meetings over the fall and winter, negotiators stressed that setting early delivery dates for these pledges was important so that countries will have time to critique each others' contributions in advance of the final summit in December. But although the deadline is today, many other key players&mdash;including China, Brazil, Russia, Japan, and India&mdash;have yet to make an announcement.</p> <p>Environmental groups' immediate reactions to the US submission were mostly positive.</p> <p>"The United States' proposal shows that it is ready to lead by example on the climate crisis," World Resources Institute analyst Jennifer Morgan said in a statement. "This is a serious and achievable commitment."</p> <p>At least one leading Republican offered an equally predictable rebuttal, <a href="http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_UNITED_STATES_CLIMATE_CHANGE?SITE=MOSTP&amp;SECTION=HOME&amp;TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&amp;CTIME=2015-03-31-03-25-54" target="_blank">according to the Associated Press</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p class="ap-story-p"><span class="entry-content">"Considering that two-thirds of the US federal government hasn't even signed off on the Clean Power Plan and 13 states have already pledged to fight it, our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.</span></p> </blockquote></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy International Top Stories Infrastructure Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:26:22 +0000 Tim McDonnell 272661 at http://www.motherjones.com The World's Worst Climate Villain Just Showed Us Exactly How to Stop Global Warming http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/australia-emissions-carbon-tax-chart <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>There was a somewhat surprising announcement this week from a country with one of the world's worst climate reputations: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's office <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/federal-government-commits-to-global-accord-on-climate-20150328-1m9mbm.html" target="_blank">declared</a> that his government is committed to signing on to the next major international climate accord, set to be hammered out in Paris later this year.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://www.dpmc.gov.au/pmc/publication/setting-australias-post-2020-target-greenhouse-gas-emissions-issues-paper" target="_blank">statement</a>, the PM's office said that "a strong and effective global agreement, that addresses carbon leakage and delivers environmental benefit, is in Australia&rsquo;s national interest."</p> <p>I have no idea what "carbon leakage" is. Presumably it's something similar to carbon dioxide emissions, which are the leading cause of global warming. (Update: Carbon leakage is "the term often used to describe the situation that may occur if, for reasons of costs related to climate policies, businesses were to transfer production to other countries which have laxer constraints on greenhouse gas emissions," <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/ets/cap/leakage/index_en.htm" target="_blank">according to the European Commission.</a>) Regardless, the announcement is a welcome sign from an administration that was <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/12/australia-abbott-green-climate-fund-politics-koala" target="_blank">recently ranked</a> as the "worst industrial country in the world" on climate action.</p> <p>The Paris summit is meant to elicit strong commitments to reduce carbon pollution from all of the world's leading economies, so it's a good thing Australia is willing to play ball. The country gets <a href="http://www.originenergy.com.au/4224/Energy-in-Australia" target="_blank">74 percent</a> of its power from coal (that's nearly twice coal's share of US energy generation). Australia has the second-largest carbon footprint per capita of the G20 nations (following Saudi Arabia), according to US government statistics.</p> <p>But let's not get too excited. Although Abbott hasn't yet specified exactly what kind of climate promises he'll bring to the table in Paris, there's good reason to be skeptical. Here's why: In the run-up to the talks, developed countries are keeping a close eye on each others' domestic climate policies as a guage of how serious they each are about confronting the problem. It's a process of collectively raising the bar: If major polluters like the United States show they mean business in the fight against climate change, other countries will be more inclined to follow suit. Of course, the reverse is also true&mdash;for example, the revelation that Japan is <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/japan-coal-climate-finance" target="_blank">using climate-designated dollars to finance coal-fired power plants</a> weakens the whole negotiating process. That's one reason why President Barack Obama has been so proactive about <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/02/states-virginia-obama-climate-bills" target="_blank">initiating major climate policies</a> from within the White House rather than waiting for the GOP-controlled Congress to step up.</p> <p>So, on that metric, how are Australia's climate policies shaping up? It looks like they're going straight <a href="http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/down+the+drain" target="_blank">down the gurgler.</a></p> <p>Almost a year ago, Australia made a very different kind of climate announcement: It became the world's first country to <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/australia-repeals-carbon-tax-1405560964" target="_blank"><em>repeal</em></a> a price on carbon. Back in 2012, after several years of heated political debate, Australia's parliament had voted to impose a&nbsp;fixed tax on carbon pollution for the country's several hundred worst polluters. The basic idea&mdash;as with all carbon-pricing systems, from California to the European Union&mdash;is that putting a price on carbon emissions encourages power plants, factories, and other major sources to clean up. Most environmental economists agree that a carbon price would be the fastest way to dramatically slash emissions, and that hypothesis is supported by a number of case studies from around the world&mdash;British Columbia is <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/british-columbia-carbon-tax-sanity" target="_blank">a classic success story</a>. (President Obama backed a national carbon price for the US&mdash;in the form of a cap-and-trade system&mdash;in 2009, but it was quashed in the Senate.)</p> <p>In Australia, the carbon tax quickly became unpopular with most voters, who blamed it for high energy prices and the country's sluggish recovery from the 2008 global recession. Abbott rose to power in part based on his pledge to get rid of the law. In July 2014 he succeeded in repealing it.</p> <p>Now, new <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/36653a43-4e2f-4b3a-bd1d-0d676778f780/files/nggi-quarterly-update-sept-2014.pdf" target="_blank">data</a> from the Australian Department of the Environment reveal that whether or not you liked the carbon tax, it absolutely worked to slash carbon emissions. And in the first quarter without the tax, emissions jumped for the first time since prior to the global financial crisis.</p> <p>The new data quantified greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector (which accounts for about a third of total emissions, the largest single share)&nbsp;in the quarter from July to September 2014. As the chart below shows, emissions in that same quarter dropped by about 7.5 percent after the carbon tax was imposed, and jumped 4.7 percent after it was repealed:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="oz carbon emissions" class="image" src="/files/oz-carbon-emissions4.jpg"><div class="caption">Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>It's especially important to note that the jump came in the context of an overall decline in electricity consumption, as Australian climate economist Frank Jotzo explained to the <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/emissions-slide-began-to-reverse-after-the-end-of-the-carbon-price-data-show-20150330-1mat7d.html" target="_blank"><em>Sydney Morning Herald</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Frank Jotzo, an associate professor at the Australian National University's Crawford School, said electricity demand was falling in the economy, so any rise in emissions from the sector showed how supply was&nbsp;reverting to dirtier energy sources.</p> <p>"You had a step down in the emission intensity in power stations from the carbon price&mdash;and now you have a step back up," Professor Jotzo said.</p> <p>&hellip;[Jotzo] estimated fossil fuel power plants with 4.4 gigawatts of capacity were been taken offline during the carbon tax years. About one third of that total, or 1.5 gigawatts, had since been switched back on.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, we have here a unique case study of what happens when a country bails on climate action. The next question will what all this will mean for the negotiations in Paris.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Charts Climate Change Climate Desk Energy International Top Stories Infrastructure Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:30:04 +0000 Tim McDonnell 272596 at http://www.motherjones.com Scientists Can Predict Your City's Obesity Rate by Analyzing Its Sewage http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/wisconsin-scientists-obesity-sewage-sludge <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>If someone were to ask you what distinguishes skinny cities from fat ones, you might think of the prevalence of fast-food joints, the average length of automobile commutes, or the relative abundance of parks and jogging trails. But there's also another, more underground factor: their sewage.</p> <p></p><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-text"> <p class="mininav-header-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> More MoJo coverage of bacteria and health: </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-222731"> <li><a href="/environment/2013/04/gut-microbiome-bacteria-weight-loss"> Are Happy Gut Bacteria Key to Weight Loss?</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-222726"> <li><a href="/environment/2013/04/bacteria-in-human-body"> This Is Your Body on Microbes</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-222696"> <li><a href="/environment/2013/04/should-you-take-probiotics-supplement"> Should You Take a Probiotic?</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-199521"> <li><a href="/environment/2012/10/what-is-fecal-transplant-difficile-bacteria"> Poop Therapy: More Than You Probably Wanted to Know About Fecal Transplants</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-197496"> <li><a href="/environment/2013/12/can-antibiotics-make-you-fat"> Can Antibiotics Make You Fat?</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-215356"> <li><a href="/environment/2013/02/can-antibiotics-cure-hunger"> Antibiotics As Key to Curing Starvation </a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-222906"> <li><a href="/environment/2013/04/sinus-infections-antibiotics-resistance"> Why You Shouldn't Take Antibiotics for a Sinus Infection</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> <p>Researchers with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee collected raw sewage samples from the intakes of municipal wastewater treatment plants in 71 cities around the country. Their results, <a href="http://mbio.asm.org/content/6/2/e02574-14#aff-1" target="_blank">published last month</a> in <em>mBio</em>, the American Society for Microbiology's open-access journal, showed that the microbial content of that sewage predicted each city's relative obesity with 81 to 89 percent accuracy.</p> <p>The finding actually isn't all that surprising, says lead author Ryan Newton, a visiting professor at UWM's School of Freshwater Sciences. Other studies <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/04/gut-microbiome-bacteria-weight-loss" target="_blank">have shown</a> that bacterial imbalances in your intestines can lead to metabolic syndrome, obesity, and diabetes. Newton's study, however, is the first to demonstrate that those microbial differences also play out across entire populations, even after our poop gets flushed, mixed together, and sent through miles of pipes.</p> <p>The UWM study was enabled by computing advances that have allowed scientists to rapidly sequence microbial populations and look for patterns in the results. Other researchers are using similar techniques to look for correlations between gut bacteria and a wide range of health conditions.</p> <p>Newton isn't the only scientist who sees sewage as a promising place for data dives. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's<a href="http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2015/01/09/what-does-cambridge-sewage-say-about-residents-mit-plans-find-out/qxBK9jbHYJFMcNGiTM2L2I/story.html" target="_blank"> Underworlds</a> project, which began in January, <a href="http://spectrum.mit.edu/continuum/tales-from-the-sewers-looking-underground-for-public-health-data/" target="_blank">will study sewage</a> for the presence of viruses such as influenza and polio; bacterial pathogens that cause cholera typhoid fever, and other diseases; and biochemical molecules ranging from antibiotics to illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. Scientists hope the resulting data could help predict epidemics and track other public health trends within particular neighborhoods.&nbsp;</p> <p>As scientists gain a better understanding of the interplay between microbes and human health, they may eventually be able to look at municipal sewage to figure out which communities would be the best to target with public health campaigns designed to, say, get people to eat less sugar or more vegetables.</p> <p>And just as important, sequencing sewage could eliminate the thorny problem of doing public health surveys. Unlike people, your poop can't lie about what you had to eat.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Science Top Stories microbiome Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:10:06 +0000 Josh Harkinson 272641 at http://www.motherjones.com Illegal Pot Farms Are Literally Sucking California Salmon Streams Dry http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/marijuana-farming-drought-salmon-california <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Water-map-web_0.gif"><div class="caption"><strong>Outlet Creek watershed in Northern California's Mendocino County. </strong>Scott Bauer</div> </div> <p>Northern California pot farmers are using up all of the water that normally supports key populations of the region's federally protected salmon and steelhead trout.</p> <p>That, at least, is the conclusion of a new study, <a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0120016" target="_blank">published last week in the journal PLOS One</a>, that examined four California watersheds where salmon and trout are known to spawn. In the three watersheds with intensive pot cultivation, illegal marijuana farms literally sucked up all of the water during the streams' summer low-flow period, leaving nothing to support the fish.</p> <p>Author Scott Bauer, a biologist with the state department of fish and wildlife, estimated the size and location of outdoor and greenhouse pot farms by looking at Google Earth images and accompanying drug enforcement officers on raids. He did not include "indoor" grows&mdash;marijuana grown under lamps in buildings.</p> <p>After visiting 32 marijuana greenhouses in eight locations and averaging the results, Bauer extrapolated his findings to all greenhouses in the study area&mdash;virtually nothing else is grown in greenhouses in this part of the country. The sites contained marijuana plants at a density of about one per square meter, with each plant (taking waste and other factors into account) using about six gallons of water a day. Overall, he calculated, pot operations within the study yielded 112,000 plants, and consumed 673,000 gallons of water every day.</p> <p>And that is water the area's fish badly need. The Coho salmon population is listed as threatened under both state and federal Endangered Species Acts, and is designated as a key population to maintain or improve as part of the state's recovery plan.&nbsp;</p> <p>Bauer collected his data last year, at a time when California's drought had already become its worst in more than 1,200 years. When I spoke to him at the time, he told me that pot farming had surpassed logging and development to become <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/marijuana-weed-pot-farming-environmental-impacts" target="_blank">the single biggest threat to the area's salmon</a>. Now that that the drought is expected to extend into a fourth year, the same streams could run dry again this summer, and remain so for an even longer period of time.</p> <p>Overall, the outdoor and greenhouse grows consume more than <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/marijuana-pot-weed-statistics-climate-change" target="_blank">60 million gallons of water a day</a> during the growing season&mdash;50 percent more than is used by all the residents of San Francisco.</p> <p>"Clearly, water demands for the existing level of marijuana cultivation in many Northern California watersheds are unsustainable and are likely contributing to the decline of sensitive aquatic species in the region," Bauer's study concludes. "Given the specter of climate change"&mdash;and the attendant rise of megadroughts&mdash;"the current scale of marijuana cultivation in Northern California could be catastrophic for aquatic species."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Marijuana Top Stories drought Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:06:30 +0000 Josh Harkinson 272476 at http://www.motherjones.com Japan Wants You to Believe That These Coal Plants Will Help the Environment http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/japan-coal-climate-finance <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Japan is at it again. Back in <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/oopsie-1-billion-un-funds-fight-climate-change-built-coal-power-plants-instead-288497" target="_blank">December</a>, the country got caught trying to pass off $1 billion worth of investments in coal-fired power plants in Indonesia as "climate finance"&mdash;that is, funding to fight climate change. Coal plants, of course, are the world's single biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions.</p> <p>Today, the <a href="http://fuelfix.com/blog/2015/03/26/japan-uses-climate-cash-for-coal-plants-in-india-bangladesh/" target="_blank">Associated Press discovered over half a billion more</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Japanese officials now say they are also counting $630 million in loans for coal plants in Kudgi, India, and Matarbari, Bangladesh, as climate finance. The Kudgi project has been marred by violent clashes between police and local farmers who fear the plant will pollute the environment.</p> <p>Tokyo argues that the projects are climate-friendly because the plants use technology that burns coal more efficiently, reducing their carbon emissions compared to older coal plants. Also, Japanese officials stress that developing countries need coal power to grow their economies and expand access to electricity.</p> </blockquote> <p>Putting aside Japan's assumption that developing countries need coal-fired power plants (a view still under much <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-much-coal-can-poor-countires-burn/" target="_blank">debate</a> by energy-focused development economists), the real issue here is that there isn't an official, internationally recognized definition of "climate finance." In broad strokes, it refers to money a country is spending to address the problem of climate change, through measures to either mitigate it (i.e., emit less carbon dioxide from power plants, vehicles, etc.) or adapt to it (building sea walls or developing drought-tolerant seeds, for example). But there remains little transparency or oversight for what exactly a country can count toward that end.</p> <p>The reason that matters is because climate finance figures are a vital chip in international climate negotiations. At a UN climate meeting in Peru late last year, Japan announced that it had put $16 billion into climate finance since 2013. Likewise, President Barack Obama last year pledged <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/11/obama-green-climate-fund-un" target="_blank">$3 billion</a> toward the UN's Green Climate Fund, plus several billion more for climate-related initiatives in his proposed <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/02/obama-budget-billions-green-climate-fund" target="_blank">budget</a>. Other countries have made similar <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/10/un-green-climate-fund-us" target="_blank">promises</a>.</p> <p>Each of these commitments is seen as a quantitative reflection of how seriously a country takes climate change and how far they're willing to go to address it, and there's always pressure to up the ante. And these promises from rich countries are especially important because in many cases the countries most affected by climate change impacts are developing ones that are the least equipped to do anything about it&mdash;and least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that caused global warming in the first place. But the whole endeavor starts to look pretty hollow and meaningless if it turns out that "climate finance" actually refers to something as environmentally dubious as a coal plant.</p> <p>These numbers will take on increasing significance in the run-up to the major climate summit in Paris in December, which is meant to produce a wide-reaching, meaningful international climate accord. So now more than ever, maximum transparency is vital. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy International Top Stories Infrastructure Fri, 27 Mar 2015 19:26:20 +0000 Tim McDonnell 272496 at http://www.motherjones.com Should Your State Be Able to Ignore the Nation's Most Important Pollution Law? http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/senate-gop-proposes-bill-gut-obamas-climate-plan <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed a bold solution for any state that doesn't like President Barack Obama's flagship plan to slash carbon emissions: <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/mitch-mcconnell-climate-rules-obama" target="_blank">Just ignore it</a>. The new rule, issued under the Clean Air Act, aims to reduce the nation's carbon footprint 30 percent by 2030. It would require every state to devise a plan to cut the carbon intensity (pollution per unit of energy) of its power sector. By simply ignoring the mandate, McConnell reasoned, states could delay taking steps like shuttering or retrofitting coal-fired power plants until the rules get killed by the Supreme Court (even though the chances of that happening are pretty remote).</p> <p>Last week, McConnell <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/236356-mcconnell-to-states-epa-climate-rule-is-illegal" target="_blank">justified</a> his unusual suggestion that state regulators deliberately ignore federal law by arguing that the rules themselves are illegal. And yesterday, he took his campaign to a new level by introducing&mdash;on behalf of GOP co-sponsors Rob Portman (Ohio), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), and Orrin Hatch (Utah)&mdash;an <a href="http://www.portman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=4ec0b106-d439-41df-ae0e-e60b006f9578" target="_blank">amendment</a> to the Senate's massive budget bill. It would allow any state to opt out of the rule if that state's governor or legislature decides that complying would raise electric bills, would impact electricity reliability, or would result in any one of a litany of other hypothetical problems. The amendment could get a vote later this week.</p> <p>Meanwhile, over in the House, Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) have introduced a <a href="http://whitfield.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/whitfield-unveils-ratepayer-protection-act-to-address-epa-s-overreaching" target="_blank">bill</a> along essentially the same lines, which is set to to be debated by the Energy and Power Subcommittee, which Whitfield chairs, next month.</p> <p>Republicans are pitching these proposals as necessary steps to protect Americans from the power-hungry, climate-crazed Obama administration. But if passed, they might do more to protect the interests of coal companies. In fact, the Portman amendment introduced by McConnell explicitly allows states to opt out if the rules would "impair investments in existing electric generating capacity"&mdash;in other words, if they require the early retirement of any power plants. The apparent justification is that in order to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency, states will have to quickly implement sweeping changes to their power system that could leave residents with expensive, unreliable power.</p> <p>In reality, many energy economists (not to mention <a href="http://www.utilitydive.com/news/exelon-backs-epa-clean-power-plan-wants-price-on-carbon/367028/" target="_blank">utility companies</a> themselves) have found that the range of options states have to comply with the EPA&mdash;such as mandating better energy efficiency and building more renewable energy&mdash;are <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/02/will-obamas-climate-plan-cause-blackouts" target="_blank">more than enough to keep the lights on and bills stable</a>, while simultaneously burning less coal. (Meanwhile, regardless of any new EPA rules, coal is already on a precipitous and probably irreversible decline thanks largely to the recent glut of cheap natural gas.)&nbsp;</p> <p>Both bills also work on the assumption that the rules grossly overstep the EPA's authority by extending beyond coal-fired smokestacks to the whole power system. That question is likely to be at the heart of the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/02/states-virginia-obama-climate-bills" target="_blank">inevitable court battles</a> over the rule. But as leading environmental lawyer Richard Revesz testified to a House committee this month, wide-reaching plans like this have been <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/energy-environment/226449-obamas-professor-on-clean-power-plan-wrong-on-facts-and" target="_blank">successfully implemented</a> under the Clean Air Act for other pollutants like sulfur and mercury throughout the legislation's 40-year history.&nbsp;</p> <p>In any case, giving states the option to opt out of federal air quality rules essentially undermines the entire premise of the Clean Air Act, probably the most powerful piece of environmental legislation ever passed. As Natural Resources Defense Council policy chief David Doniger <a href="http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ddoniger/gop_launches_brazen_bid_to_giv.html?utm_source=tw&amp;utm_medium=tweet&amp;utm_campaign=socialmedia" target="_blank">put it yesterday</a>: "These bills would force us back to the dark days half a century ago when powerful polluters had a free hand to poison our air, because states were unwilling or unable to protect their citizens."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Congress Energy Top Stories Infrastructure Wed, 25 Mar 2015 17:20:06 +0000 Tim McDonnell 272356 at http://www.motherjones.com Our Meat Obsession May Kill Us. But Not How You Think. http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/were-going-feed-animals-67-percent-more-antibiotics-2030 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The world is using more antibiotics than ever before&mdash;and showing no signs of stopping. A new <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/03/18/1503141112.abstract" target="_blank">analysis</a> published in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Science </em>predicts that worldwide consumption of the drugs will grow 67 percent by 2030. Over the same period of time, in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, the authors expect that antibiotic use will double.</p> <p>The reason for the dramatic increase in antibiotic use, say the authors, mostly has to do with the planet's ever-increasing appetite for meat. Since the 1970s, meat producers have been dosing livestock with regular, low doses of antibiotics. For reasons not entirely understood, this regimen helps animals grow bigger. In the United States, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/02/meat-industry-still-gorging-antibiotics" target="_blank">80 percent</a> of all antibiotics already go to livestock, and the practice is becoming the norm the world over. This map shows the current global antibiotic consumption in livestock (in milligrams per 10 square kilometer pixels):</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/map-best.gif"><div class="caption">Map courtesy of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science</div> </div> <p>As the middle class in the developing world grows, demand for meat&mdash;and use of the antibiotics to grow that meat cheaply and quickly&mdash;is expected to rise as well.</p> <p>To get a sense of how quickly our global appetite for meat is growing, take a look at China. There, livestock producers are buying record amounts of corn and soy to feed a growing number of animals:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/usChinaExports5_projections_0.png"></div> <div class="caption">Jaeah Lee</div> </div> <p>As antibiotic use skyrockets, experts expect that germs will evolve to resist them. That's scary, considering that some of the same drugs we use on livestock are also our best defense against <a href="http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378100.htm" target="_blank">infections in humans</a>. And suberbugs, several recent studies have shown, can and do <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/04/study-confirms-antibiotic-resistant-bugs-jump-animals-humans" target="_blank">jump</a> from animals to people. In fact, another recent study predicted that antibiotic resistant infections will kill 10 million people a year by 2050.&nbsp;</p> <p>There's also evidence that antibiotics might soon stop working the way that meat producers want them to: A recent <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/antibiotics-dont-actually-promote-growth-livestock" target="_blank">analysis</a> concluded that the drugs are no longer making pigs bigger.</p> <p>The good news: Despite <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/04/fda-factory-farms-antibiotics" target="_blank">loose federal regulations</a> around antibiotic use on farms, American consumers are beginning to <a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-08-11/consumers-are-demanding-antibiotic-free-meat-and-big-food-starting-listen" target="_blank">favor</a> meat grown without drugs. And manufacturers are taking notice: Earlier this month, McDonald's <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/heres-why-mcdonalds-chicken-antibiotic-ban-matters" target="_blank">pledged</a> to serve only chicken raised without antibiotics, and <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/06/us-costco-antibiotics-idUSKBN0M201520150306" target="_blank">Costco</a> quickly followed suit.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Top Stories Tue, 24 Mar 2015 10:00:09 +0000 Kiera Butler 272246 at http://www.motherjones.com Bad News for Those of You Who, Like Us, Drank Cheap Wine Each and Every Night of Your 20s http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/cheap-wine-might-contain-arsenic <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em><strong>Update, 3/20/15:</strong> Wine industry groups have begun to contest the lawsuit's contentions and motive. The California wine trade group, the Wine Institute, released a <a href="http://www.wineinstitute.org/resources/pressroom/03192015" target="_blank">statement</a> saying, "While there are no established limits in the U.S., several countries, including the European Union, have established limits of 100 parts per billion or higher for wine. California wine exports are tested by these governments and are below the established limits." A representative of The Wine Group, one of the defendants, <a href="http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/51353" target="_blank">says that</a> the plaintiffs "decided to file a complaint based on misleading and selective information in order to defame responsible California winemakers, create unnecessary fear, and distort and deceive the public for their own financial gain."</em></p> <p>Before you go out drinking tonight, a quick note on cheap wine: Yesterday, a class-action lawsuit was filed against 28 California wineries&mdash;including the creators of Trader Joes' Charles Shaw (a.k.a. "Two-Buck Chuck"), Sutter Home's, and Franzia, Beringer, and Cupcake&mdash;alleging that some varietals of their wines contain dangerously high levels of arsenic. According to the <a href="https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/f0533877/files/uploaded/Wine_Complaint.pdf" target="_blank">complaint</a>, three independent laboratories tested the wines and found that some contained levels of arsenic "up to 500% or more than what is what is considered the maximum acceptable safe daily intake limit. Put differently, just a glass or two of these arsenic-contaminated wines a day over time could result in dangerous arsenic toxicity to the consumer."</p> <p>The origins of the lawsuit draw back to Kevin Hicks, a former wine distributor who started BeverageGrades, a Denver-based lab that analyzes wine. The lab tested 1,300 bottles of California wine, and found that<strong> </strong>about a quarter of them had higher levels of arsenic than the maximum limit that the Environmental Protection Agency allows in water. Hicks noticed a trend: <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/lawsuit-claims-high-levels-arsenic-found-some-california-made-wines/" target="_blank">As he told CBS</a>, "The lower the price of wine on a per-liter basis, the higher the amount of arsenic." Trader Joe's Charles Shaw White Zinfandel came in at three times the EPA's level, while Franzia's White Grenache was five times higher. The lawsuit alleges that the contaminated wines are cheaper in part because their producers don't "implement the proper methods and processes to reduce inorganic arsenic."</p> <p>A spokesperson for The Wine Group, one of the defendants, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/lawsuit-claims-high-levels-arsenic-found-some-california-made-wines/" target="_blank">says</a> that it's not "accurate or responsible to use the water standard as the baseline," as people drink more water than wine. But water is the only beverage with an arsenic baseline that is monitored by the US government, and the defendants stress that the chemical is toxic even in small doses, and is known to cause cancer and "contributes to a host of other debilitating/fatal diseases."</p> <p>Trader Joe's <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/lawsuit-claims-high-levels-arsenic-found-some-california-made-wines/" target="_blank">told CBS</a> that "the concerns raised in your inquiry are serious and are being treated as such. We are investigating the matter with several of our wine producing suppliers." A spokesperson for Treasury Wine Estates, another defendant, said that its "brands are fully compliant with all relevant federal and state guidelines."</p> <p>Whether or not you should be worried about the allegations is up in the air, particularly as the lawsuit has yet to go before a judge or jury. But in the meantime, here's a list of wines that are included in the lawsuit. (Note: Any wines without a specific year listed mean that the grapes don't come from a single year.)</p> <ul><li>Acronym GR8RW Red Blend 2011</li> <li>Almaden Heritage White Zinfandel</li> <li>Almaden Heritage Moscato</li> <li>Almaden Heritage White Zinfandel</li> <li>Almaden Heritage Chardonnay</li> <li>Almaden Mountain Burgundy</li> <li>Almaden Mountain Rhine</li> <li>Almaden Mountain Chablis</li> <li>Arrow Creek Coastal Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2011</li> <li>Bandit Pinot Grigio</li> <li>Bandit Chardonnay</li> <li>Bandit Cabernet Sauvignon</li> <li>Bay Bridge Chardonnay</li> <li>Beringer White Merlot 2011</li> <li>Beringer White Zinfandel 2011</li> <li>Beringer Red Moscato</li> <li>Beringer Refreshingly Sweet Moscato</li> <li>Charles Shaw White Zinfandel 2012</li> <li>Colores del Sol Malbec 2010</li> <li>Glen Ellen by Concannon's Glen Ellen Reserve Pinot Grigio 2012</li> <li>Concannon Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011</li> <li>Glen Ellen by Concannon's Glen Ellen Reserve Merlot 2010</li> <li>Cook Spumante</li> <li>Corbett Canyon Pinot Grigio</li> <li>Corbett Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon</li> <li>Cupcake Malbec 2011</li> <li>Fetzer Moscato 2010</li> <li>Fetzer Pinot Grigio 2011</li> <li>Fisheye Pinot Grigio 2012</li> <li>Flipflop Pinot Grigio 2012</li> <li>Flipflop Moscato</li> <li>Flipflop Cabernet Sauvignon</li> <li>Foxhorn White Zinfandel</li> <li>Franzia Vintner Select White Grenache</li> <li>Franzia Vintner Select White Zinfandel</li> <li>Franzia Vintner Select White Merlot</li> <li>Franzia Vintner Select Burgundy</li> <li>Hawkstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2011</li> <li>HRM Rex Goliath's Moscato</li> <li>Korbel Sweet Rose Sparkling Wine</li> <li>Korbel Extra Dry Sparkling Wine</li> <li>Menage a Trois Pinot Grigio 2011</li> <li>Menage a Trois Moscato 2010</li> <li>Menage a Trois White Blend 2011</li> <li>Menage a Trois Chardonnay 2011</li> <li>Menage a Trois Rose 2011</li> <li>Menage a Trois Cabernet Sauvignon 2010</li> <li>Menage a Trois California Red Wine 2011</li> <li>Mogen David Concord</li> <li>Mogen David Blackberry Wine</li> <li>Oak Leaf White Zinfandel</li> <li>Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc 2011</li> <li>R Collection by Raymond's Chardonnay 2012</li> <li>Richards Wild Irish Rose Red Wine</li> <li>Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc 2012</li> <li>Simply Naked Moscato 2011</li> <li>Smoking Loon Viognier 2011</li> <li>Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc 2010</li> <li>Sutter Home Gewurztraminer 2011</li> <li>Sutter Home Pink Moscato</li> <li>Sutter Home Pinot Grigio 2011</li> <li>Sutter Home Moscato</li> <li>Sutter Home Chenin Blanc 2011</li> <li>Sutter Home Sweet Red 2010</li> <li>Sutter Home Riesling 2011</li> <li>Sutter Home White Merlot 2011</li> <li>Sutter Home Merlot 2011</li> <li>Sutter Home White Zinfandel 2011</li> <li>Sutter Home White Zinfandel 2012</li> <li>Sutter Home Zinfandel 2010</li> <li>Trapiche Malbec 2012</li> <li>Tribuno Sweet Vermouth</li> <li>Vendange Merlot</li> <li>Vendange White Zinfandel</li> <li>Wine Cube Moscato</li> <li>Wine Cube Pink Moscato 2011</li> <li>Wine Cube Pinot Grigio 2011</li> <li>Wine Cube Pinot Grigio</li> <li>Wine Cube Chardonnay 2011</li> <li>Wine Cube Chardonnay</li> <li>Wine Cube Red Sangria</li> <li>Wine Cube Sauvignon Blanc 2011</li> <li>Wine Cube Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2011</li> </ul></body></html> Blue Marble Econundrums Food and Ag Fri, 20 Mar 2015 23:09:26 +0000 Julia Lurie 272161 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama Administration Reveals New Federal Rules on Fracking http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/obama-administration-reveals-new-federal-rules-limiting-fracking-public-land <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Friday, the Obama administration put forth the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/21/us/politics/obama-administration-unveils-federal-fracking-regulations.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;assetType=nyt_now" target="_blank">first major federal standards</a> regulating hydraulic fracturing&mdash;the oil and gas extraction technique commonly referred to as fracking. The regulations will, among other things, require companies working on public lands to reveal <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/obama-chemical-disclosure-fracking-natural-gas?utm_content=buffereb403&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer" target="_blank">which chemicals</a> they used in their drilling processes. But as the <em>New York Times</em> notes, the impact of the new rules will be limited since most fracking in the United States takes <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/21/us/politics/obama-administration-unveils-federal-fracking-regulations.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;assetType=nyt_now" target="_blank">place on private land</a>. From the <em>Times </em>story:</p> <blockquote> <p class="story-body-text story-content" data-para-count="325" data-total-count="1630" itemprop="articleBody">The regulations, which are to take effect in 90 days, will allow government workers to inspect and validate the safety and integrity of the cement barriers that line fracking wells. They will require companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in the fracturing process within 30 days of completing fracking operations.</p> <p class="story-body-text story-content" data-para-count="254" data-total-count="1884" id="story-continues-3" itemprop="articleBody">The rules will also set safety standards for how companies can store used fracking chemicals around well sites, and will require companies to submit detailed information on well geology to the Bureau of Land Management, a part of the Interior Department.</p> </blockquote> <p>Environmentalists aren't exactly thrilled with the new regulations; many were instead calling for the government to ban fracking on all public lands.</p> <p>"This fracking rule is merely a continuation of Obama's harmful all-of-the-above energy policy that emphasizes natural gas development over protection of public health and the environment," said Friends of the Earth's Kate DeAngelis in a press release. "This country needs real climate leadership from President Obama, not weak regulations that do nothing to stop the devastating impacts of climate disruption."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Obama Infrastructure Fri, 20 Mar 2015 17:27:47 +0000 Inae Oh 272146 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama Is Ordering the Federal Government to Slash Its Greenhouse Emissions http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/obama-executive-order-climate-change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Barack Obama will once again use his executive authority to mandate action on climate change, the White House announced this morning. Later today, Obama plans to sign an executive order directing the federal government to reduce its carbon footprint by 40 percent below 2008 levels within a decade. The White House announcement also includes carbon-reduction commitments from a number of large government contractors, including GE and IBM.</p> <p>From the <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/99c689e7e20d4e8a9e991192b00347e6/obama-order-govt-cut-its-greenhouse-gas-emissions" target="_blank">Associated Press</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>All told, the government pollution cuts along with industry contributions will have the effect of keeping 26 million metric tons of greenhouse gases out of the air by 2025, or the equivalent of what about 5.5 million cars would pump out through their tailpipes in an average year, the White House said. Yet it was unclear exactly how either the government or private companies planned to meet those targets.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, it will take until 2025 to for the cuts to reach 26 million metric tons per year. And even that is a pretty small fraction of the nation's total carbon footprint, which was nearly <a href="http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/pdfs/usinventoryreport/US-GHG-Inventory-2015-Chapter-Executive-Summary.pdf" target="_blank">7 billion metric tons in 2013</a>. But the announcement garnered praise from environmental groups as a sign of Obama's leadership on climate. In a statement, Natural Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh called the announcement "a powerful reminder of how much progress we can make simply through energy efficiency and greater reliance on clean, renewable sources of energy."</p> <p>The executive order will be the latest step the president has taken to confront climate change that won't require him to push legislation through a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/ted-cruz-seth-myers-climate-change" target="_blank">recalcitrant</a>, GOP-controlled Congress. In the last couple years his administration has imposed tight limits on vehicle emissions and has put forward a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/02/states-virginia-obama-climate-bills" target="_blank">flagship set of new rules</a> under the Clean Air Act to slash carbon pollution from power plants. Obama also negotiated a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/11/obama-just-announced-historic-climate-deal-china" target="_blank">bilateral deal with China</a> that featured a suite of new climate promises from both countries. And sometime this spring, the president will announce what kind of commitments his administration will bring to the table for a high-stakes round of UN-led negotiations that are meant to produce a new international climate accord.</p> <p>According to the White House, today's executive order directs federal agencies to:</p> <ul><li>Procure a quarter of their total energy from clean sources by 2025;</li> <li>Cut energy use in federal buildings 2.5 percent per year over the next decade;</li> <li>Purchase more plug-in hybrid vehicles for federal fleets and reduce per-mile greenhouse gas emissions overall by 30 percent by 2025;</li> <li>Reduce water use in federal buildings 2 percent per year through 2025.</li> </ul></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Obama Top Stories Infrastructure Thu, 19 Mar 2015 15:19:01 +0000 Tim McDonnell 272066 at http://www.motherjones.com Scientists: Ted Cruz's Climate Theories Are a "Load of Claptrap" http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/ted-cruz-seth-myers-climate-change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/m0UJ_Sc0Udk" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Last night, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a probable candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, shared his thoughts about climate change with late-night host Seth Meyers (video above). Here's what he said:</p> <blockquote> <p>CRUZ: I just came back from New Hampshire where there's snow and ice everywhere. And my view actually is simple. Debates on this should follow science and should follow data. And many of the alarmists on global warming, they've got a problem because the science doesn't back them up. And in particular, satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years there's been zero warming, none whatsoever. It's why, you remember how it used to be called global warming, and then magically the theory changed to climate change?</p> <p>MEYERS: Sure.</p> <p>CRUZ: The reason is it wasn't warming. But the computer models still say it is, except the satellites show it's not.</p> </blockquote> <p>We totally agree with his point that debates about climate "should follow science and should follow data." Right on! But according to Kevin Trenberth, a leading climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, everything else in Cruz's quote is "a load of claptrap&hellip;absolute bunk."</p> <div><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-text"> <p class="mininav-header-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> How the 2016 contenders will deal with climate change </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-266761"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/12/jeb-bush-climate-change-skeptic"> Jeb Bush on Climate Change: "I'm a Skeptic"</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-273261"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/04/marco-rubio-president-climate-change"> Marco Rubio Used to Believe in Climate Science</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-273141"> <li><a href="/environment/2015/04/rand-paul-climate-change"> Rand Paul Is No Moderate on Global Warming</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-273556"> <li><a href="/environment/2015/04/hillary-clinton-climate-change-president"> What a Hillary Clinton Presidency Would Mean for Global Warming</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-272011"> <li><a href="/blue-marble/2015/03/ted-cruz-seth-myers-climate-change"> Scientists: Ted Cruz's Climate Theories Are a "Load of Claptrap"</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-271541"> <li><a href="/environment/2015/03/scott-walker-environment-climate-change-2016"> Scott Walker Is the Worst Candidate for the Environment</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-257241"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/09/hillary-clinton-fracking-shale-state-department-chevron"> How Hillary Clinton's State Department Sold Fracking to the World</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-267041"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/12/jim-webb-climate-change"> Jim Webb Wants to Be President. Too Bad He's Awful on Climate Change.</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-266956"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/12/martin-omalley-longshot-presidential-candidate-and-real-climate-hawk"> Martin O'Malley Is A Longshot Presidential Candidate, and a Real Climate Hawk</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> </div> <p>Trenberth wasn't alone in his criticism. Several prominent climate scientists contacted by Climate Desk dismissed Cruz's analysis. "It is disturbing that some of our most prominent elected officials have decided to engage in distortions of and cynical attacks against the science," said Michael Mann of Penn State.</p> <p>"Lawmakers have a responsibility to understand the science, and not to embrace ignorance with open arms, as Senator Cruz is doing here," added Ben Santer, a researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.</p> <p>So what's wrong with what Cruz said? For starters, the satellite record <em>does</em>, in fact, show warming. <a href="http://images.remss.com/msu/msu_time_series.html" target="_blank">Here's a view</a> of temperature anomalies (that is, the deviation from the long-term average) reported by Remote Sensing Systems, a NASA-backed private satellite lab. It shows warming of about 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1980, the beginning of the satellite record:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/RSS_TS_channel_TLT_Global_Land_And_Sea_v03_3.png"><div class="caption">Remote Sensing Systems</div> </div> <p>Even still, there are a couple important caveats with satellite temperature data that Cruz would do well to make note of. One, Santer said, is that it has a "huge" degree of uncertainty (compared to land-based thermometers), so it should be approached with caution. That's because satellites don't make direct measurements of temperature but instead pick up microwaves from oxygen molecules in the atmosphere that vary with temperature. Fluctuations in a satellite's orbit and altitude and calibrations to its microwave-sensing equipment can all drastically affect its temperature readings.&nbsp;</p> <p>More importantly, satellites measure temperatures in the atmosphere, high above the surface. The chart above shows the lower troposphere, about six miles above the surface. This data is an important piece of the climate and weather system, but it's only one piece. There are plenty of other signs that are far less equivocal, and perhaps even more relevant to those of us who live on the Earth's surface: Land and ocean surface temperatures are increasing, sea ice is declining, glaciers are shrinking, oceans are rising, the list goes on. In other words, the satellites-vs-computers dichotomy described by Cruz ignores most of the full picture.</p> <p>For example, here's the most recent land and ocean-surface temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, showing how temperatures this winter deviated from the long-term average (dating all the way back to 1880). Much of the globe is warmer than average, some parts are the hottest on record, and the overall global temperature was the <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2015/03/18/record-warm-winter-globe/24957737/" target="_blank">warmest on record</a>:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/temp-map_0.jpg"><div class="caption">NOAA</div> </div> <p>There's also a big underlying flaw with Cruz's cherry-picked timespan of 17 years, which almost any climate scientist would agree is far too short to observe any meaningful trend. 1998, the year Cruz starts with, was itself exceptionally warm thanks to the biggest El Nino event of the 20th century. If that's your starting place, the warming trend does indeed look weak. But look over a longer time period, and it's obvious that very warm years are more common now than before.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/trend-bars.jpg"><div class="caption">NOAA</div> </div> <p>And in any case, even the modest "slow-down" in warming that has occurred since 2000 isn't inconsistent with what scientists have always expected man-made climate change will look like. Even the earliest climate models predicted the possibility of occasional leveling-off periods in upward-bound global temperature, like a landing on a staircase.</p> <p>In fact, one reason why many scientists "magically" (as Cruz put it) have begun to prefer the term "climate change" to "global warming" is because they think the latter can misleadingly imply that every year will be incrementally warmer than the last. In reality, climate change is all about odds: Man-made greenhouse gas emissions substantially increase the chances of an exceptionally warm year, but they don't eliminate the possibility for average or even cold years to happen.</p> <p>Even accounting for the apparent stability of the last few years, Santer said, "everything tells us that what's going on isn't natural."</p> <p>As for Cruz's reference to snowy weather in New Hampshire...<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/01/snow-cold-global-warming-republicans" target="_blank">give us a break</a>.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Elections Film and TV Science Ted Cruz Top Stories Wed, 18 Mar 2015 21:00:57 +0000 Tim McDonnell 272011 at http://www.motherjones.com California Nutritionists Just Voted Not To Invite McDonald's Back as a Sponsor http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/california-nutritionists-vote-not-invite-mcdonalds-back-sponsor <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last year, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/05/my-trip-mcdonalds-sponsored-nutritionist-convention" target="_blank">I attended</a> the annual conference of the California Dietetic Association, the state's chapter of the country's largest professional <a href="http://www.eatright.org/" target="_blank">organization </a>for nutritionists and dietitians. Its premier sponsor&mdash;and lunch caterer&mdash;was McDonald's. That won't be the case at this year's conference<strong> </strong>in April: The organization just voted not to invite the fast-food chain back.</p> <p>Today a member of the California Dietetics Association <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DietitiansForProfessionalIntegrity/posts/897613703641839" target="_blank">shared</a> the following letter from conference leadership on the Facebook page of Dietitians for Professional Integrity:</p> <blockquote> <p>We would like to direct your attention to what the California Dietetic Association (CDA) has done to address our own issues surrounding sponsorship. We heard your concerns regarding CDA Annual Conference sponsorship and we have listened. We voted and McDonalds was not invited as a sponsor in 2015. This decision has impacted our finances; however, we believe it was important to respond to our member feedback. In addition, an ad hoc committee approved by the CDA executive board, reevaluated the sponsorship guidelines. The new sponsorship policy will be posted soon on www.dietitian.org. Any questions regarding the new policy can be directed to Kathryn Sucher, CDA President-elect [email address redacted]<br> We look forward to seeing you at the CDA Annual Conference.<br> Your 2014-2015 CDA Executive Board</p> </blockquote> <p>That's not to say that the conference organizers have ditched corporate funders entirely. According to the schedule (<a href="http://www.dietitian.org/d_cda/docs/annual_mtg_2015/2015_am_schedule.pdf" target="_blank">PDF</a>), Kellogg's is sponsoring a panel called "The Evolution of Breakfast: Nutrition and Health Concerns in the Future," while <a href="http://www.soyconnection.com/" target="_blank">Soy Connection</a>, the communications arm of the United Soybean Board, is hosting a session titled "Busting the Myths Surrounding Genetically Engineered Foods" (and sponsoring a "light breakfast"). A few other sessions sponsored by corporations and trade groups:</p> <ul><li>"Why We Eat What We Eat in America and What We Can Do About It" (California Beef Council)</li> <li>"Probiotics and the Microbiome: Key to Health and Disease Prevention" (Dairy Council of California)</li> <li>"New Research &ndash; Understanding Optimal Levels Of Protein And Carb To Prevent Obesity, Sarcopenia, Type 2 Diabetes, And Metabolic Syndrome" (Egg Nutrition Center)</li> <li>"New evidence of Non-Nutritive Sweeteners: Help or Hindrance for Weight and Diabetes Management" (Johnson &amp; Johnson McNeil, Inc, LLC)</li> <li>"Plant-based Meals from Around the Globe" (Barilla Pasta)</li> </ul><p>Still, says <a href="http://www.andybellatti.com/" target="_blank">Andy Bellatti</a>, a dietitian and leader of the group Dietitians for Professional Integrity, ditching McDonald's as a sponsor is a step in the right direction. "There's still a long way to go," he said. "But the McDonald's sponsorship was just so egregious. I'm glad they came to their senses and got rid of it."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Wed, 18 Mar 2015 18:08:33 +0000 Kiera Butler 272016 at http://www.motherjones.com Want Some Metal With That Kraft Mac & Cheese? http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/want-some-metal-mac-n-cheese <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today, Kraft Foods recalled 242,000 cases&mdash;or about 6.5 million boxes&mdash;of its signature macaroni and cheese after customers reported finding small pieces of metal in the product. Yummy!</p> <p>Eight customers, like the one below, have found the metal, though no injuries have been reported.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Just found this coiled up piece of metal in my easy Mac <a href="https://twitter.com/kraftmacncheese">@kraftmacncheese</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/kraftfoods">@kraftfoods</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/explainthis?src=hash">#explainthis</a> <a href="http://t.co/zjJCpaI9m5">pic.twitter.com/zjJCpaI9m5</a></p> &mdash; jake shat (@CoMoStreetArt) <a href="https://twitter.com/CoMoStreetArt/status/573020602425995265">March 4, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>According to a company <a href="http://newscenter.kraftfoodsgroup.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=253200&amp;p=irol-newsArticle&amp;ID=2026530" target="_blank">press release</a>, the recalled boxes are 7.25 oz, "Original Flavor" Macaroni &amp; Cheese Dinner with expiration dates between September 18, 2015 and October 11, 2015, and they're marked with the code "C2"&nbsp; below the date (referring to the box's production line). The boxes have been distributed across the United States and Puerto Rico, as well as some Caribbean and South American countries. The company's statement read, "We deeply regret this situation and apologize to any consumers we have disappointed," and added, "Consumers who purchased this product should not eat it."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Econundrums Food and Ag Tue, 17 Mar 2015 23:54:33 +0000 Julia Lurie 271976 at http://www.motherjones.com Wind Energy Will Be Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels Within a Decade http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/wind-energy-will-be-cheaper-fossil-fuels-within-decade <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Wind energy is growing fast. While it still accounts for less than 5 percent of the United States' total electricity mix, wind is by far the <a href="http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_1_01_a" target="_blank">biggest source</a> of renewable energy other than hydroelectric dams, and it accounted for <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/2014-was-biggest-year-solar-power-ever" target="_blank">23 percent</a> of new power production capacity built last year. Some experts <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/10/wind-energy-electricity-one-fifth-global-2030" target="_blank">think</a> wind could provide a fifth of the world's energy by 2030. But wind in the US is always in a perilous position, thanks to its heavy reliance on a federal tax credit that is <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/11/will-obama-pull-plug-wind-energy" target="_blank">routinely attacked</a> in Congress; the subsidy was allowed to expire at the end of last year, and its ultimate fate remains unclear.</p> <p>Fortunately, wind won't be subject to the whims of legislators for much longer, according to a new analysis from the Energy Department. The new report found that within a decade, wind will be cost-competitive with fossil fuels like natural gas, even without a federal tax incentive.</p> <p>From <em><a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-12/wind-energy-without-subsidy-will-be-cheaper-than-gas-in-a-decade" target="_blank">Bloomberg Business</a>:</em></p> <blockquote> <p>Cost reductions and technology improvements will reduce the price of wind power to below that of fossil-fuel generation, even after a $23-per-megawatt-hour subsidy provided now to wind farm owners ends, according to a report released Thursday.</p> <p>"Wind offers a power resource that's already the most competitive option in many parts of the nation," Lynn Orr, under secretary for science and energy at the Energy Department, said on a conference call with reporters. "With continued commitment, wind can be the cheapest, cleanest power option in all 50 states by 2050."</p> </blockquote> <p>That would be a huge win for slowing climate change. The report finds that it could also lead to billions of dollars of benefits to the American public, from lower monthly electric bills to fewer air-pollution-related deaths.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Tech Infrastructure Tue, 17 Mar 2015 17:56:50 +0000 Tim McDonnell 271931 at http://www.motherjones.com Your Cellphone Might Be Making You Fat http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/your-cellphone-might-be-making-you-fat <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Like most things you love in life, your cellphone might be contributing to your growing waistline&mdash;along with your tablet, videogame console, computer, and television. Electronic devices with chips contain flame retardants to cool those chips so they don't catch fire while you are using them. <a href="http://www.uh.edu/news-events/stories/2015/March/030415zebrafish" target="_blank">Researchers at the University of Houston</a> are now finding that these commonly used chemicals may be connected to weight gain.</p> <p>The compounds in question, Tetrabromobisphoneol A (TBBPA) and tetrachlorobisphenol A (TCBPA) can leach out of the devices and often end up settling on dust particles in the air we breathe, the study found. The compounds are a form of <a href="http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/sya-bpa/" target="_blank">bisphenol A (BPA), </a>a chemical ubiquitously used in food containers and plastic water battles that has already already <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/05/bpa-fat-obese-badge-cans" target="_blank">been linked to obesity</a> and <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25619500" target="_blank">increases in metabolic disorders</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>After <a href="http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/119-a398b/" target="_blank">previous studies showed</a> that these chemicals could activate stem cells to grow fat cells, the scientists set out to study their effect on living organisms.</p> <p>Using sibling pairs of zebrafish, the researchers administered low doses of the chemicals to only one group for 11 days. Though both groups ate the same diet, after a month the zebrafish in the chemical group were heavier and showed signs of increased fat cell build up (zebrafish are transparent so scientists could see fat build up around vital organs as well as around the fish's sides).</p> <p>The team was hopeful that the findings will lead to more in depth research on chemicals that can cause weight gain, said&nbsp;researcher Maria Bondesson in a University of Houston <a href="http://www.uh.edu/news-events/stories/2015/March/030415zebrafish" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Our goal is to find the worst ones and then replace them with safer alternatives."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Tech Tue, 17 Mar 2015 10:00:08 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 271896 at http://www.motherjones.com Will Obama's Ag Chief Wimpify the 2015 Dietary Guidelines to Please Big Meat? http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/03/tom-vilsack-2015-dietary-guidelines-sustainability-environment <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Should the new Dietary Guidelines&mdash;the advice the federal government issues every five years on what constitutes a healthy diet&mdash;include recommendations about what makes for a healthy planet? The meat industry sure doesn't think so.</p> <p>The industry <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/02/salt-sugar-chicken-what-look-upcoming-dietary-guidelines-report" target="_blank">started flipping out</a> when it saw some of the language in the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's February <a href="http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/PDFs/Scientific-Report-of-the-2015-Dietary-Guidelines-Advisory-Committee.pdf" target="_blank">report</a>: "Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods...and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with a lesser environmental impact (GHG emissions and energy, land, and water use) than is the current average US diet."</p> <p>Big Meat takes issue with two main things:</p> <p>1) That the committee's scientists dared to comment on environmental sustainability issues in a nutrition report.</p> <p>2) That the report said (elsewhere) that a healthy diet should be lower in red and processed meats.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.meatinstitute.org/index.php?ht=d/sp/i/204/pid/204" target="_blank">North American Meat Institute</a>, a massive trade association, retaliated this week with a "Hands Off My Hot Dog" petition on <a href="https://www.change.org/p/tom-vilsack-sylvia-burwell-hands-off-my-hot-dog-inject-common-sense-in-2015-dietary-guidelines" target="_blank">Change.org,</a> a flurry of tweets about <a href="https://twitter.com/MeatInstitute/status/576413462722646017" target="_blank">saving the Ruben sandwich</a>, and this short film, starring plastic-wrapped packages of raw beef:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MR5GTz3EvLU" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>The film focuses on the health merits of meat, arguing that it trumps other foods because, unlike plants, "animal proteins are considered complete proteins, or ideal proteins." Never mind that plenty of other accessible and cheap vegetarian foods, including rice and beans, or buckwheat, also provide complete proteins.</p> <p>But the video does not try to refute the notion that meat's environmental footprint is cause for concern&mdash;the UN <a href="http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3437e/i3437e.pdf" target="_blank">argues,</a> for instance, that livestock produce 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Dietary Guidelines' committee points out that producing one calorie of beef requires 18 times as much fuel as producing one calorie of grain.</p> <p>It's no coincidence that the committee chose to flag the carbon footprint of our food: The guidelines are ultimately about people's relationship with food, and the deterioration of the environment's health is a blow to our food security. "Meeting current and future food needs," the committee notes, will depend on changing the way people eat and developing agricultural and production practices "that reduce environmental impacts and conserve resources."</p> <p>So will the Dietary Guidelines retain this responsible language when they are officially published this fall by the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture? On Wednesday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that he could not rule out the chance that the final version will mention sustainability, but he implied that he would steer clear of doling out environmental advice. He <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/03/11/vilsack-dietary-guidelines-are-about-health-not-environment/" target="_blank">told the <em>Wall Street Journal</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>"Our job ultimately is to formulate dietary and nutrition guidelines. And I emphasize dietary and nutrition because that's what the law says. I think it's my responsibility to follow the law."</p> </blockquote> <p>The law or the money? The AP has <a href="http://www.columbian.com/news/2015/mar/12/meat-industry-fights-fed-new-dietary-proposa/" target="_blank">reported</a> that meat processing and livestock industries spent $7 million on lobbying and donated $5 million to members of Congress during the last election cycle.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Sat, 14 Mar 2015 10:00:06 +0000 Maddie Oatman 271751 at http://www.motherjones.com