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Judge says Calif. salmon in trouble but offers no short-term solution

The dams and aqueducts that shuttle water from California's Sacramento River Delta to the rest of the state will "appreciably increase jeopardy" to salmon and steelhead in the coming months, U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger said Friday. But while Wanger agreed with environmentalists that "the three salmonid species are not viable and are all in jeopardy of extinction," he declined to order a short-term remedy. The National Marine Fisheries Service, in response to a successful lawsuit from the green groups, will by March come up with operational changes to California's water-export system that will hopefully be less harmful to fish. …

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Sick of algae-polluted water, Florida groups sue EPA

A flock of Florida green groups has sued the U.S. EPA, seeking state and national water-pollution standards for fertilizer runoff from factory farms. Nitrogen and phosphorus flow from agricultural operations into many Florida waterways (among other places), triggering algae blooms which suck oxygen from the water and kill off marine life. Exposure to the algae, which contaminates many drinking-water sources and popular swimming holes, can lead to a wide range of health ailments in humans. Both Florida and the EPA have let deadlines pass for setting specific limits for fertilizer runoff; the EPA recently said it would propose numerical standards …

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Carrots, sticks, and crumbs

The farm bill is over, so what happens next?

In a stuffy room on Capitol Hill last week, I joined a couple dozen activists and farmers to discuss the farm bill. Why would we bother to meet in hot-as-an-oven Washington D.C. to discuss the legislative mess that recently sputtered to an all too drawn-out end? While the ink is barely dry on the new farm legislation, the campaign for the 2012 Farm and Food Bill has already begun. The group of grassroots advocates met in D.C. last week to wipe the sweat from their brows, roll up their sleeves, and begin to strategize a coordinated effort to ensure $14 …

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If you’re going to eat meat, you can’t shy away from the whole beast

Ready to meat its maker. A few months ago, I decided to force myself to confront issues surrounding meat-eating head on -- so to speak -- by attending a hog-butchering class. Taught by Boston chef Jamie Bissonnette of KO Prime and offered through the Chefs Collaborative, the class focused on utilizing the whole animal, from head to tail. As usual, I was beset by the dilemma of what to wear. What looks attractive, creative, and professional -- yet also looks good splattered in blood? I finally gave up trying to solve this particular sartorial puzzle and just decided to wear …

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Ugandan coffee endangered by climate change

Uganda's coffee industry could be basically kaput in 30 years, according to a new Oxfam report. Uganda is Africa's second-largest coffee exporter after Ethiopia, but the report direly predicts that if "average global temperatures rise by two degrees or more, then most of Uganda is likely to cease to be suitable for coffee." In the last two decades, inconsistent weather has reduced crop yields and plant varieties and increased drought, flooding, landslides, and erosion. "Rains may come early and then stop for long periods; they may come when it is supposed to be dry. People describe living through long periods …

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Top of the crops

USDA scientist: Some crop residues may be too valuable for biofuels

Converting crop residues into cellulosic ethanol sounds to many people like a good idea -- certainly better than using food crops themselves. Yet according to respected USDA soil scientist Ann Kennedy, the stems and leaves left over after crops are harvested may have more value if they are left on the ground, especially in areas receiving less than 25 inches of precipitation annually. That includes most of the United States (click on link to see map) west of the 100th meridian, which runs roughly from Bismark, S.D. through Laredo, Texas. To regular readers of Gristmill, this probably does not sound …

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Have you smelled the little piggies?

In eastern North Carolina, citizens and students rise up for environmental justice

Last month, about 150 people converged on Raleigh for the pinnacle of a 51-hour hog vigil. Busloads full of children and old-timers from Halifax, Duplin, Sampson, and Bladen counties, where the stench of hog poop is a way of life. Joining them were students and residents from 28 other counties in North Carolina. All across the lawn of the state capital, our words sprayed out in a powerful arc like the liquid hog waste that routinely sprays land in eastern North Carolina. We hoped to saturate the ground, the air, and the people with disgust. Gov. Mike Easley's (D) 1999 …

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A whole new kind of local

Urban homesteading in Washington, D.C.

Today's slow yet steady movement towards sustainable foods has a decidedly urban feel to it. This morning, sitting at my backyard patio table and drinking my morning coffee, I looked appreciatively out into my backyard and took a satisfying breath. The highway behind my house roared with the morning rush hour traffic, the high rise apartments across the street were bustling with people hurrying off to school and work, and I was sitting in my own piece of urban heaven. In the past three months, my small yet robust rhombus-shaped backyard has turned into a garden oasis rarely found in …

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Free from the tree

Urban fruit: An untapped resource

Photo: Fallen Fruit. Here's a great local food/art initiative, Fallen Fruit, a map project of neighborhoods where one can collect unwanted fruit in Los Angeles. Humans should be making use of these urban apples, avocados, pomegranates, etc. as much as possible, not raking them up into a garbage bag or compost pile. The folks at LocalEcology have started one for Berkeley, and folks with the Portland Fruit Tree Project collect fruit that grows on neighborhood trees for drop-off at local food banks (check out the links section of their site for other projects like it in Philadelphia, Vancouver, and more). …

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Bam! Planet Green is cookin' tonight

Catch the premiere of Emeril Green

As previously reported (and punned) TV chef Emeril Lagasse is kicking it up a notch with a new cooking show on Planet Green that addresses viewers' kitchen-related dilemmas. Catch the premiere of Emeril Green -- which may or may not actually be very green (this brief convo with participants suggests a hit-and-miss) -- tonight at 8 p.m. Here's a short preview:

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