October 31st, 2011
By Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director at Food & Water Watch
[Originally published by Huffington Post]
Since his first day in office, Governor Andrew Cuomo has touted his goal of open and transparent leadership. His inaugural act, Executive Order No. 1, even proclaimed, “It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the government perform its business in an open and public manner.” But in the time since that Order brought down the concrete barriers that had prevented access to the state Capitol, Cuomo has erected a much more damaging barricade to public access on a critical issue: fracking.
Less than a year later, Governor Cuomo’s 18-member fracking advisory panel sits in secret. It’s during closed door sessions that essential decisions about the state’s future are being negotiated by a handful of people, many of them strongly self-interested and industry-biased. And the vast majority of New York’s residents that will bear the harmful brunt of that decision-making will never know what environmental and community health sacrifices are being offered in the false name of economic prosperity and industry profit. We’re looking at shades of Dick Cheney’s energy policy all over again, this time under a Democratic state administration that ironically proclaimed open government a top priority a short ten months ago.
Cheney’s twisted legacy in the fracking arena unfortunately extends beyond the secrecy approach adopted by Cuomo’s fracking panel; the ex-Vice President also led the fight to make fracking exempt from key protections in federal environmental and public health laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act, and made sure that the industry didn’t need to disclose its long list of cancerous poisons it pumps into the earth every day of its irresponsible gas extraction activities. Fracking is one of the most critical issues facing New York, and the oil and gas industry’s history of operating in the dark is now being replicated by the Cuomo administration. Read the full article…
October 28th, 2011
Photo by Tom Varco used with permission.
By Rich Bindell
Perhaps you’re one of those people who actually remember to go through your medicine cabinet every year, ridding yourself of expired prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as other toiletries that have a suggested date for disposal. But, how exactly do you dispose of your unwanted medicines, lotions cosmetics and such? Do you throw them in the garbage or flush them down the toilet? We hope you don’t do either, but even if you have, let’s take this opportunity to begin again with our friends at Potomac Riverkeeper. Learn how to do it right on Saturday, October 29 at the Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day in the District of Columbia.
Potomac Riverkeeper will be out and about in the DC metro area on Saturday, helping local law enforcement and encouraging consumers to “make a commitment” by safely discarding their unused drugs at one of their collection sites. They have a map of sites throughout the entire Potomac Watershed so you can find a convenient location. Check out www.potomacriverkeeper.org/drugtakeback. Read the full article…
By Darcey O’Callaghan
Over one month into the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations (have you seen what happened to the protesters in Oakland, California?), with a large number of Americans challenging questionable relationships between corporations and government, a misguided USAID initiative has decided that those relationships, particularly the ones that are profitable for corporations, should be celebrated.
USAID has established this week as “Public-Private Partnership Week.” Before anyone makes the assumption that Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs) can be a positive and mutually beneficial collaboration, let’s be clear: this couldn’t be further from the truth.
USAID is showing a serious misunderstanding of the structure and function of PPPs. A bad investment for communities, PPPs typically leave government to shoulder financial risk, while allowing the private sector to profit. Check out our PPP briefing paper for a full explanation.
PPPs involve contracts between the public and private sectors where a private entity takes control of the operation of a public service or resource (like water privatization) and takes on the financial and administrative responsibilities of that service or resource. Unfortunately, USAID is obscuring the term by using it broadly to include participation from non-governmental organizations and, by partnering with corporations that are causing serious environmental damage, USAID is actually facilitating corporate greenwashing.
Take a look at USAID and Coca-Cola’s Water and Development Alliance that has invested $20.4 million between 2005-2011, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, in Plachimada, India, Coca-Cola spent many years violating the human right to water by over-extracting from the local aquifer until families no longer had water for drinking and farmers could no longer irrigate their crops. Worse still, Coca-Cola gave away “free fertilizer” to farmers that was later found to be toxic waste from the factory. Women farmers staged a sit-in outside the gates of Coca-Cola for over two years until the company was finally forced to leave. Read the full article…
By Royelen Lee Boykie
This time of year, I tend to recall my childhood with a spooky flavor…I grew up in New Jersey in a house built on a graveyard. Now, Facebook status updates say zombies are making a come back. Again. And there are vampires and aliens galore. But honestly, neither cemeteries nor zombies are scary when you think about it. Working at Food & Water Watch, I know there are REALLY terrifying things going on. Here are five things that really do spook me out — now and all year long. Read the full article…
October 27th, 2011
By Rich Bindell
When I was a kid, there were three Halloween rules my parents made me follow: 1. I had to incorporate my coat into my costume, 2. I wasn’t allowed to throw eggs at people’s homes (I threw other things), and 3. I absolutely, positively could not eat any of my Halloween candy until it was properly inspected by the Candy Police (mom and dad). That third one drove me nuts. How on earth is a kid supposed to have the patience and discipline to hold off on digging into their stash until they get home hours later? My folks are the trusting type, but they didn’t want to take any chances that some misguided resident would do something dangerous to the candy they passed out to neighborhood children.
It seems like a simple but critical mantra to follow: always know what you’re eating. Unless, of course, some sneaky biotech company decides that we no longer have the right to know whether or not they slip something potentially dangerous into our food. Seems like quite a trick, doesn’t it? Say hello to genetically engineered sweet corn and Monsanto, the misguided company that wants to sneak their product into stores—and into your dinner—without labeling it.
In August 2011, Monsanto announced its intention to bring Roundup Ready GE sweet corn to our tables–its first genetically engineered sweet corn for human consumption—and the seed company is planning to begin growing the crop next year. And they mean business. By 2009, nearly all (93 percent) of the soybeans and four-fifths (80 percent) of the corn cultivated in the United States were grown from seeds covered by Monsanto patents, so you can imagine how quickly their GE sweet corn could spread throughout the marketplace.
Disturbingly, USDA gave Monsanto their stamp of approval without conducting independent testing, claiming that the corn seed’s three distinct traits were previously and separately approved in 2005 and 2008. This shouldn’t be the procedure for a product that’s could appear in the frozen food and canned food sections of your local supermarkets or in the produce aisle as corn-on-the-cob. Read the full article…
October 26th, 2011
By Kate Fried
We were disheartened to learn this week that Nancy Stoner, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) acting assistant administrator for water, is an advocate for water privatization. In an interview with Greenwire (Sorry, but subscription required.), Stoner expressed doubt about the federal government’s ability to help provide the public with drinking and wastewater service, citing them as “too expensive.” She then went on to say,
“I think there’s big money in to be made in how to address the water resources needs for our country, particularly when we are going to have population growth, development, the decay of existing infrastructure and climate change.”
Hearing a top government official in charge of protecting one of our most essential shared resources laud a scheme that has been linked to the degradation of municipal water supplies definitely makes us wonder where our government is placing its priorities. Across the U.S., privatization has been linked to deteriorating water quality, rate hikes, job force reductions and poor customer service.
If there is any money to be made in water privatization, it’s among wealthy corporations and their shareholders, who time and time again have proven that they are not responsible patrons of common resources such as water. Privatization has led to disasters around the U.S., especially in Illinois, where customers of the water systems purchased by Illinois American Water and Aqua Illinois over the last fifteen years have seen their water bills more than double on average since privatization. Read the full article…
October 25th, 2011
Photo by Jlastras.
By Rich Bindell
It seems unlikely that a big food corporation with a lot of money and lobbying power would need to hide to avoid taking responsibility for its own actions. But that’s exactly what Perdue Farms is doing. They are hiding behind one of their contract growing operations, as well as behind a faux grassroots website, spreading misinformation about environmental groups trying to protect the Chesapeake Bay from pollution.
Waterkeeper Alliance filed a lawsuit in March 2010, against Perdue Farms, one of the nation’s largest producers of broiler chickens, and one of their contract growing operations—owned by Alan and Kristin Hudson— to hold them responsible for run-off from the site into farm ditches that drain into the Franklin Branch before reaching the Pocomoke River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. While the Hudsons own the farm, the chickens they raise there are owned by Perdue and the company makes almost every decision about how they are raised. But when it comes to dealing with the manure created by those chickens, the Hudsons are on their own.
In order to “defend” the Hudson Farm, Perdue anonymously created the website Savefarmfamilies.org, to spread misinformation about the lawsuit. They depict the Hudsons as victims of aggressive environmental groups who need financial help to cover their bills from the lawsuit. While Perdue doesn’t lay claim to the website, the IP address of the proxy registration belongs to Perdue.
Food & Water Watch has our own response to the claims made by Savefarmfamilies.org. Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter drafted an open letter to Perdue CEO Jim Perdue, questioning Perdue’s current PR strategy. Read the full article…
By Zach Corrigan
[Originally posted on The Stranger’s SLOG blog.)
In case you haven’t heard, the extremely fast-spreading disease that decimated salmon populations in Chile and Scotland has now hit the West Coast. As Eli Sanders pointed out last week on Slog, the virus, known as infectious salmon anemia, has been described as one that “no country has ever gotten rid of it once it arrives.”
Thankfully, it doesn’t affect humans—at least, not in the traditional sense. But if it wipes out West Coast salmon populations, it could take a large number of fishing jobs with it. And that would affect us deeply.
So how did we get to this point? And who, or what, is to blame?
While we can’t say for certain what caused this particular outbreak of infectious salmon anemia, salmon fish farms present the perfect conditions for the disease to spread like wildfire. The devastation of the salmon industry in Chile, for instance, can be directly linked to the filthy conditions inherent in these factory fish farms.
So what exactly are factory fish farms? They’re literally factory farms of the ocean—thousands of fish are kept in close quarters in open net pens or cages. Fish farms often necessitate the use of chemicals, pesticides and antibiotics to curb the filth and disease that arises in these conditions. This is not only bad for the environment and the fish; it’s bad for the consumer as well, as the toxins and waste can flow freely into the ocean and, ultimately, on to our plates. Read the full article…
October 24th, 2011
When people aren’t enough to combat fracking, enlist the power of zombies!
We hate fracking, but we LOVE zombies, especially anti-fracking activist zombies. The residents of Dimock, Pennsylvania have been experiencing incidents of terror ever since Cabot Oil and Gas began drilling for natural gas there. The horrors they have witnessed include an exploding gas well, contaminated drinking water and broken promises regarding responsible practices. Artist Kelly Finan designed this poster for an upcoming event hosted by Don’t Expect Protection (DEP), an activist group formed when the Pennsylvania DEP approved Cabot Oil and Gas’s request to stop supplying clean drinking water to Dimock’s residents. Cabot’s shale drilling caused high levels of methane contamination in the drinking water and the DEP had originally held them responsible to provide clean water to those affected.
October 21st, 2011
You know whose voice is getting louder? Yours! We’ve gained much momentum since we first launched our campaign against fracking. As consumers have become more informed about the fracking process and the threat it poses to public health and the environment, more and more communities are taking action by contacting their elected officials on the local and state level to ask them to ban the process. In fact, we’ve reached a milestone that’s worth sharing. On May 16, we published Mapping the Movement, an interactive web tool that allows us to keep track of local measures passed against hydraulic fracturing throughout the country. Only five months later, we have reached 100 actions against fracking! Congratulations!
It’s good to know that people are making a stand when it comes to protecting our drinking water. As the movement continues to grow, we will be able to accomplish even more. If you’re looking for a way to take action, CLICK HERE and join the movement to ban fracking now.