Water wars are already here in California

Water has always been an issue in California, with competing interests from farmers, ranchers, fishermen and growing cities. But with the crippling drought that the state has experienced in recent years, all of these issues and battles are becoming more important. Unfortunately, with climate change, we may see more of these issues playing out around the world.

This article offers a compelling overview of the water issues facing California.

Venture capital starting to look at sustainable agriculture

This is a very encouraging story. Serious early-stage investors are taking a close look at what many are calling Agriculture 2.0. Trends like urban farming have tremendous potential, and innovative trends like that can accelerate with the backing of Silicon Valley.

“Sustainable agriculture is a space that looks as big or bigger than clean tech,” said Paul Matteucci, a venture capitalist with U.S. Venture Partners in Menlo Park, Calif. “Historically, we have not seen a ton of entrepreneurial activity in agriculture, but we are beginning to see it now, and the opportunities are huge.”

A catch-all phrase for environmentally beneficial farming, sustainable agriculture has long been the province of organic enthusiasts. But venture capitalists say a growing awareness of conventional agriculture’s contribution to climate change and concerns over its consumption of water and energy are creating markets for technological innovation to minimize those effects.

The Johnny Appleseed of what is being called Agriculture 2.0 is a 33-year-old former Wall Street investment banker named Janine Yorio. Her New York firm, NewSeed Advisors, brings together sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs and investors.

At the Four Seasons hotel in East Palo Alto, Calif., last month, NewSeed Advisors attracted a crowd of well-dressed investors from some of Silicon Valley’s top venture capital firms. They packed a ballroom to hear entrepreneurs pitch start-ups developing everything from nontoxic pesticides and analytical tools for soil analysis to indoor urban farming systems.

I think the urban farming trend in particular has huge potential, particularly in Rust Belt cities like Detroit and Cleveland.

Don’t drink the water!

This is a very sad story from The New York Times. It’s stunning that we still have issues with contaminated drinking water in the United States. On the other hand, with so many corporate interests undermining common sense regulation, it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. Remember the all the issues with financial regulation? It seems like we’re having the same problems here.

Jennifer Hall-Massey knows not to drink the tap water in her home near Charleston, W.Va.

In fact, her entire family tries to avoid any contact with the water. Her youngest son has scabs on his arms, legs and chest where the bathwater — polluted with lead, nickel and other heavy metals — caused painful rashes. Many of his brother’s teeth were capped to replace enamel that was eaten away.

Neighbors apply special lotions after showering because their skin burns. Tests show that their tap water contains arsenic, barium, lead, manganese and other chemicals at concentrations federal regulators say could contribute to cancer and damage the kidneys and nervous system.

“How can we get digital cable and Internet in our homes, but not clean water?” said Mrs. Hall-Massey, a senior accountant at one of the state’s largest banks.

She and her husband, Charles, do not live in some remote corner of Appalachia. Charleston, the state capital, is less than 17 miles from her home.

“How is this still happening today?” she asked.

When Mrs. Hall-Massey and 264 neighbors sued nine nearby coal companies, accusing them of putting dangerous waste into local water supplies, their lawyer did not have to look far for evidence. As required by state law, some of the companies had disclosed in reports to regulators that they were pumping into the ground illegal concentrations of chemicals — the same pollutants that flowed from residents’ taps.

Hopefully the EPA in the Obama administration will push for real enforcement.

Chinese citizens are sick of pollution

China’s growth has been impressive, but until now things like pollution and dissent have not been roadblocks to growth. The Chinese government has done as it pleased with little resistance.

Those days might be over, as BusinessWeek reports.

China has some of the most polluted cities in the world, a consequence of the country’s rapid economic development. More than 320 million people in China drink unsafe water, according to Greenpeace China. The country’s Environmental Protection Administration considers 45% of the rivers and waterways it monitors to be unsuitable for human contact, says Greenpeace.

Now, after years of silent suffering from the effects of filthy air and dirty water, many Chinese are saying they’ve had enough. And in some cases, their protests are turning violent.

This may be one of the issues that cracks the Chinese government’s grip on power. The situation in China is dire, and the people are awakening to the seriousness of the problem. This is good for China and the rest of the world.

As reported earlier, the Chinese are making huge investments in wind and solar, and this poses a threat to the US from a manufacturing point of view, but naturally these investments are a positive step for the entire world and the green economy. But this isn’t enough to address the pollution crisis in China. China needs to enact and enforce real regulations preventing companies from polluting the environment. They need to change the manufacturing culture. Until that happens, they will be facing ever-increasing protests and possible social unrest that can destabilize the regime.

Related Posts