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On The Green Road Through Middle America

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
19 August 2009, 4:24 PM
Earthjustice president sees firsthand environmental bests and worsts
Wind power parts enroute

What does it take to peel back the abstractions of email, press reports, and legal briefs and really see some of what is at stake in Earthjustice's work? It's as easy as getting away from the computer, out of airports, and off the interstate.

Over the last couple of weeks I was lucky enough to travel across the Great Plains and the Rockies. Everywhere I went, I saw our country wrestling with the big challenges of energy supply and climate change, biodiversity and wildlands protection, and the human consequences of poorly enforced environmental standards.

Signs of change in our energy economy are everywhere. Across Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, I kept running into wide-load 18 wheelers hauling giant pieces of wind towers to the sites of new wind farms. One of the truck drivers told me that the towers were made in Texas. Some of the small towns practically had to shut down their main streets to let the rigs through.

Meanwhile, town after town has placed a big bet on the fickle future of corn-based ethanol. I drove through many farming villages that have lost population for decades and have shuttered their downtowns but have built new ethanol plants and converted hay and wheat fields into miles and miles of corn. Corn acreage is hitting record levels in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and South Dakota, which means big increases in pumping from the Ogallala aquifer, fertilizer use, and herbicide applications. Bad news for future water supplies on the plains and for the Gulf of Mexico's infamous dead zone, yet with no real benefit for the climate.

Two days later, crossing Wyoming's Powder River Basin, I looked with a mix of awe and horror at the gargantuan scale of the Dry Fork open pit coal mine and the new coal-burning power plant being built across the road. The mine will send 1600 tons of coal per hour by conveyor belt to be burned in the generating plant, which the state has allowed to be built without state-of-the-art pollution controls or any measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This is exactly the wrong thing to do to address climate change, so Earthjustice is challenging the generating plant's air permit—we argued the appeal in the Wyoming Supreme Court last week.

My travels then took me across the state to the magnificent wilds of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, where I watched grizzly bears and on a mountain hike saw stands of dead whitebark pines on which the bears depend for food. The trees were killed by pine bark beetles whose numbers have exploded due to the warming climate. Our lawsuit against the Fish and Wildlife Service challenging the decision to remove the grizzlies from the endangered species list is aimed at exposing, and remedying, the government's refusal to take this critical change in the grizzly's prospects for recovery into account.

Two more examples. After the Tetons, I spent a day in southeastern Idaho near the Smoky Canyon phosphate mine, where Earthjustice is challenging mine expansion into a national forest roadless area and working with local residents and advocacy groups to force a clean-up of the mine's legacy of contaminating area waters with selenium. Pristine-appearing streams that drain the mine site have elevated levels of this toxic metal, exceeding EPA standards, so the rare native cutthroat trout that abound in the streams are best caught and released rather than eaten. In fact, the USDA determined last week that the recent deaths of 18 cattle near another Idaho phosphate mine site were due to selenium contamination. Our case challenging the Smoky Canyon mine expansion is on appeal in the Ninth Circuit.

Finally, I met with wilderness advocates in central Colorado who are organizing for Congressional protection of tens of thousands of acres of premier Rocky Mountain roadless areas in the White River National Forest. A backpacking trip took me into this country and I was very proud of Earthjustice's steadfast, take-no-prisoners approach to protecting all 58 million acres of roadless areas over the last eight years. Our success has enabled local wilderness groups to now seize a new opportunity to gain permanent protection for targeted areas while we continue to work for lasting nation-wide protections.

Throughout these travels, I met with and was humbled by people giving their all to protect and improve our environment, starting with the places they live and the places they love to visit. A couple of times, people asked me how, in the face of accelerating climate change and often discouraging political news, we at Earthjustice keep on with our work. The answer is simple: we keep going because we get to work with such dedicated and capable people, because the issues we take on are so important, and because we are rewarded with seeing lasting results from the our successes.

Amerikan formis. Thank posted.

Thank you for this real world update. I also made similar trips this summer and have seen the massive wind farms being constructed across Colorado, Wyoming & Idaho.

You are right on about the consequences of ethanol production driving up the cost of basic foods around the world. I am also stunned that massive coal fired electric generation plants
are still being built. With all the talk of "clean coal" still being at least a decade in the future.

My question is, Why are we not looking around the world to see what IS working in other countries? Is it our pride as Americans that we must invent it first? An addiction to invention without the humility to recognize other countries contributions.

I have also seen wolves running free in the foothills of the Rocky mountains of Colorado, and in Yellowstone. With an eye to the practical, these are high order predators that compete with humans if living in close proximity. Beautiful but dangerous, they belong in wild areas, not living near humans and ranches. How can we keep them safely in the wild areas?

I appreciate the work the Earth justice is doing, and loved this down to earth report!

Why don't we start a campaign to hunt the hunters down. See how they like to eliminated


Whales are stranding themselves not because they no longer are needed to anchor light on the planet, but because US Navy testing in their habitat has damaged their sonar capability. The influence of the departed dark forces on their weak-willed puppets on the planet is responsible for the “national security” testing and the slaughter of whales for “scientific” purposes. However, even when the cetaceans, who species-wide are the most spiritually and intellectually evolved souls on Earth, physically die, they have agreed that their energy will remain and continue to anchor the light being beamed from distant civilizations.

Message from Matthew, February 7, 2009


By Helio-ah and Chief White Eagle through David Miller
From: May, 2008, issue of the Sedona Journal of Emergence, pages 27-28

We have talked with you about the whales, and we have pointed out that they have a particular and very high telepathic ability. Some animals and mammals are not as advanced telepathically. These whales are not the only mammals that have telepathic abilities. But their telepathic abilities are tied into very ancient energies. These energies are particularly related to a powerful force within the ocean that is directly related to what you have called Earth changes, magnetic energy shifts, weather patterns, global warming and the melting of the icecaps. Whales have the ability to telepathically communicate with the Earth and bring forth knowledge to those humans who are sensitive enough to work with them. The knowledge that they bring through could provide a key ingredient into the stabilizations of the biosphere. they also are demonstrating or modeling the need for you to accelerate your telepathic abillities.

What is interesting is that when you look at the changes on the Earth at this point, and we will generally refer to this at Earth changes, you will find numerous opinions about what needs to be done. Some of these opinions are based on interesting scientific data about changing the amount of greenhouse gasses, for example, or growing or changing some aspect of the forests. Even some people believe this just needs to take its course. I, Helio-ah, say that the way to understand the Earth changes should start with those who are able to connect telepathically to the spirit of the Earth and understand what needs to be modulated in the feedback loop of the environment. In particular, the feedback loop involved in the Earth changes needs to start with the oceans, and not necessarily only from the greenhouse gasses that are released into the air.

Solar and wind energy is good clean energy but it is only a drop in the bucket when it comes to the U.S. energy needs. It now accounts for a little less than 2% of our energy source. President Obama wants to double that in 3-5 yrs. to a wopping 4%! It's laughable. From several sources that I have read, if fully utilized as and energy source, solar and wind combined could account for 15 - 18% of our needs. Where will the rest come? Coal? Natural gas? Oil? Hydropower? There is an 800 pound Gorilla in the energy room that no one seems to see or cares to see. It has an excellent 55 year track record of safety. A number of other countries are using it far more extensively that the US. Most importantly---- it produces NO CO2! It is of course nuclear energy. It literally is the power to save the earth.

85% of France's electrical power comes from nuclear energy and has for 20 years. They reprocess their waste to greatly reduce the danger and the storage. Japan, The Scandinavian countries, China, and Russia are all building nuclear plants. 20% of our energy comes from nuclear. We haven't built a new plant in this country in 20 years!! The only accident we've had in 50 years is Three Mile Island and that was a success story. The containment building worked; no one died and very little radiation escaped. In all these years (50) there has been only one accident of significance and that was Chernobel. They didn't have a containment building!!! The US Navy has over 400 nuclear units at sea and has for the better part of half a century - no accidents. We are less that 5% of the earth's population and we use 25% of it energy.

From my perspective it is a no-brainer. One of the biggest solutions to global warming is staring us in the face and we refuse to look at it.

The blood of the noble is on the hands of poachers and all ilegal hunters, who, up to this point, have made a new name for themselves. "Murderers".

It is essential that we make our voices heard on environmental issues and actually DO something about our concerns. I have spoken to many people who share the views expressed in the article above, but who are doing nothing personally other than worying and complaining to friends. We live in a participative democracy, which means we have to be willing to participate to achieve our objectives! We can join with others in environmental groups and take action online, if nothing else. This is a critical period for life on the planet--time to get moving because the interests we are up against are working full-time on their destructive agendas.

Your comments about wind towers left me a bit confused. Why are you bemoaning these giant wind towers being moved through small towns? Is this not something to be celebrated? A form of energy generation which has probably the smallest impact on the world as a whole? I do hope that you do not belong to the group that cries outrage when solar thermal plants are being built in the desert, for fear of endangering species. Honestly I believe in the preservation of wildlife, but I think a bit of realism is in order. Let's celebrate and encourage the newest forms of energy extraction that do the least harm to our planet and take a look at the big picture once in a while. Otherwise a great article.


Trip's response:

I am very positive about wind power, and my comments were meant to express that. I'm thrilled at seeing wind turbines on the road, on their way to helping America free itself from polluting energy sources. Their size amazed me, as I tried to demonstrate by telling of how they clogged traffic in small towns.


There is much good going on today, it is the future that is in doubt. Reading a book called "The Elephant in the Room, Silence and Denial in Everyday Life". It sums up what we are up against and tips on breaking thru to people.

Its terrible they want to kill these beautiful animals in Idaho and Montana. These should people should take there Bibles out it says only the strong shall survived. These animals only eat the weak and the sick I mean wolves not people. There is violence in Newark NJ, Jersey City or parts of Elizabeth. These animals don't carry knives or guns they are trying to survive. These yahoos want them extinct. That means there will none left. This has got to stop.

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