unEARTHED, the Earthjustice Blog

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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S BLOG

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

Learn more about Earthjustice.

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
18 April 2014, 3:41 PM
New pesticide dangers lurk 50 years after Rachel Carson's death
Rachel Carson, 1907-1964. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

"A Who's Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals, eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones - we had better know something about their nature and their power." - Rachel Carson, "Silent Spring"

There is a reason why our Springs still have bald eagles, screeching falcons and wave-skimming pelicans. The reason is Rachel Carson, who died 50 years ago this month – just two years after her book “Silent Spring” alerted the world to how pesticides like DDT had infiltrated and were poisoning the very building blocks of life.

Today, DDT is banned in the U.S. and many of the creatures it had nearly extinguished have rebounded, but the plague of pesticides Carson warned about continues to infiltrate our lands, our air, our water, and many of Earth’s creatures, among them ourselves. It’s a plague hard to fight and hard to protect ourselves against – in part because our regulatory system treats the chemicals as if they had rights: safe until proven guilty.

View Alexander Rony's blog posts
16 April 2014, 11:37 AM
Captured 40 years ago, Lolita symbolizes movement to free captive animals
A pod of southern resident orcas in Boundary Pass, north of San Juan Island, WA. (Howard Garrett / Orca Network)

(An infant orca was captured in 1970, named Lolita, and has lived ever since in a tiny pool at the Miami Seaquarium. The following is about her life and a growing movement supported by Earthjustice to have Lolita reintroduced to her native waters and possibly rejoined with her family pod in Washington state waters.)

The whale trappers were exhausted. For months the southern resident orcas of Puget Sound had been outsmarting them, dodging their traps and distracting their ships away from the younger whales. But the trappers meant business, and they returned with faster boats and loud explosives. On August 8, 1970, the trappers corralled the orcas into a cove and captured them in nets.

The trappers took home seven infant orcas, those still young enough to be trained and sold as entertaining distractions to marine parks. But the event soon unfolded into a larger scandal—a fisherman later found the purposefully sunk corpses of four infant orcas—galvanizing public opposition and leading to an agreement banning orca captures in Washington state waters. By the time these captures stopped in 1976, 13 orcas had been killed and 45 more had been removed from their families. The demographic hole left in the population caused a decline that, along with other factors, led to Endangered Species Act protection for this population in 2005.

View Nadine de Coteau's blog posts
14 April 2014, 1:50 PM
"Rebels With a Cause" depicts fight to stop development of national lands

I’m a rebel. I think we all are. Or could be. Maybe we’re not the James Dean, Occupy Oakland, in-your-face, take-it-to-the-streets kind of rebel. But when pushed just a little too far, when we hear “No!” one time too many, when irrational barriers get placed between us and our dreams … We stand up … We fight … We rebel.

The film Rebels with a Cause documents such a rebellion, and it’s airing on PBS Stations across the country in celebration of Earth Day. It’s the story of unlikely rebels (garden clubs, widows, and the like) who are joined in their fight by some unusual bedfellows (ranchers, farmers, conservationists, and politicians)—all in support of a single cause: protecting breathtaking natural landscapes from rampant development.

View Tom Waldo's blog posts
10 April 2014, 5:14 PM
Unpopular Alaskan mine project meets obstacles
Sockeye salmon in a river in the Bristol Bay, Alaska watershed. (Ben Knight / Trout Unlimited)

International mining firm Rio Tinto yesterday became the second out of three remaining investors to pull its funding from a much-maligned and controversial proposed gold and copper mine in wild and scenic Alaska, the Pebble Mine. Last September, Anglo American, a London-based mining company, cited financial risks and pulled out of the project. This leaves only the small Canadian mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals still backing the giant project.

Local communities, commercial and recreational fishermen, Native tribes, recreation and tourism industry groups, and concerned citizens from around the world have vehemently opposed the Pebble Mine, an enormous mining project proposed for southwest Alaska in the headwaters of Bristol Bay and its world-class salmon runs. The Bristol Bay watershed is rich with salmon, wildlife and salmon-based Alaska Native cultures and is home to the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.

Earthjustice has joined with this broad coalition in waging a powerful campaign against this mine, to protect this treasured wilderness and all the people who depend on it. Earthjustice supporters have sent approximately 50,000 letters to the EPA opposing the Pebble Mine.

View David Guest's blog posts
09 April 2014, 7:18 AM
Big-Ag backpumping allows pollutant-laden waters into drinking water sources
Backpumping into Lake Okeechobee has polluted drinking water supplies. (Photo courtesy of Ronald Woan)

For more than 30 years, the big lake that looks like a hole on the Florida map at the top of the Everglades—714-square-mile Lake Okeechobee—has been wrecked by government-sanctioned pollution.

But we won a decision in federal court March 28 that, we hope, will put a stop to it. Florida’s biggest newspaper, The Tampa Bay Times, called the ruling “long-awaited clarity and common sense” and “a victory for public health and the environment.”

We agree.

View Maggie Caldwell's blog posts
07 April 2014, 12:36 PM
Showtime series explores links between climate change, drought and war
(Image courtesy of Years of Living Dangerously)

In a world where a forest the size of Germany is leveled and burned every year... where formerly fertile farmlands have been reduced to desert...where biblical-sized drought has caused communities to crumble and pushed nations into war... humankind must either join the fight to change the course of history or risk dooming the planet.

Now read that line again with the deep timber of the late great voice-over actor Don Lafontaine, bring in Titanic director James Cameron and actors Harrison Ford, Don Cheadle, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jessica Alba, and it sounds like you've got the breakout blockbuster event of the year. While Showtime's Years of Living Dangerously features both the Governator AND Indiana Jones, this is no post-apocalyptic popcorn flick. The 9-part documentary series, which premieres this Sunday, April 13, covers the biggest story of our lives: how years of waste and profit-driven, destructive decision-making are leading to climate calamity around the world. 

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View Abby Rubinson's blog posts
04 April 2014, 3:45 PM
Indigenous people had no voice in losing their land to dam
Ngöbe indigenous people are protesting a dam that will displace their homes. (Earthjustice Photo)

“It’s been two months,” Ngöbe indigenous leader Weni Bagama told me this week, describing the Ngöbe indigenous community members who are camping alongside the banks of the Tabasará River. They are there in protest of the Barro Blanco dam, which will flood indigenous Ngöbe families—including Ms. Bagama’s—from their land. Aside from homes, a school, and cultural sites, this land of lush, leafy vegetation provides their primary source of food.

These families are concerned about their future if the dam is built. Yet they never had a chance to raise these concerns to their government, even though international law prohibits forced relocation of indigenous peoples without their consent. The Panamanian government approved the Barro Blanco project without consulting these Ngöbe communities.

View Tom Waldo's blog posts
03 April 2014, 11:52 AM
Will the plight of a rare Alaskan wolf save our largest national forest?
The Alexander Archipelago wolf (Canis lupus ligoni). (ADF&G Photo)

For the Tongass National Forest, last week brought a long-overdue agency action that helped offset an unfortunate court decision.

The Tongass stretches 500 miles by 100 miles through the islands of Alaska's southeast panhandle. In a day you can walk from its cold North Pacific waters up salmon-filled streams, through lush ancient rainforest to jagged alpine peaks overlooking massive icefields and glaciers.

Sadly, six decades of clearcutting the best stands of old-growth forest, facilitated by 5,000 miles of logging roads, has decimated much of the habitat in this magnificent place.

View Isaac Moriwake's blog posts
02 April 2014, 8:27 AM
Hawaii court decision confirms burden is on diverter to justify water diversions
Taro fields on Kauaʻi. (Sarah Fields Photography / Shutterstock)

The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court recently issued another landmark decision on water resources and the public trust. The case, Kauai Springs v. Kauai Planning Commission, involved a company bottling and selling spring water on the island of Kauaʻi.

The court’s opinion strongly reinforced principles that water is a public trust, and that private companies profiting off these resources bear the burden of justifying their diversions and showing the resources will not be jeopardized.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
28 March 2014, 11:41 AM
Concerned communities fight back
Vice Mayor Linda Maio, joined by Mayor Tom Bates and Council member Darryl Moore, speaks out in support of resident opposition to a proposed crude by rail project. (Mauricio Castillo / Earthjustice)

Is volatile crude oil coming by rail to a town near me? For weeks, I’ve been asking myself that question as I keep hearing about the skyrocketing number of trains that are transporting potentially explosive types of crude throughout the U.S. to East and West Coast export facilities.

And I’m not alone.

Recently, I attended a protest by my fellow neighbors in Berkeley, California, to stop crude-by-rail shipments coming through our town. The crude-oil boom is brought on by fracking in North Dakota and drilling in Canada’s Alberta tar sands. Both forms of crude are hazardous—Bakken shale crude from North Dakota is highly flammable and tar sands oil is extremely corrosive and also difficult to clean up.

Not surprisingly, once people hear how explosive and dangerous this crude can be when spilled, they really don’t want it traveling through their main streets…or anywhere else. But travel it does. Hundreds of miles, in fact, through rural towns and along main streets, along densely populated areas like Chicago and Albany, and even inside windswept and vulnerable wild lands like Montana’s Glacier National Park.

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