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(Editor's note: Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal are back from two weeks of long hours and hard work deep inside the world climate conference at Copenhagen. In their final report, Martin goes behind the headlines to describe and explain how the conference really worked and why it shouldn't be dismissed as a failure. Amid the disappointments, there was progress, he says, and opportunities that must be seized.)

The Tongass National Forest is a sight to behold. From a boat you can watch bears fishing at the mouths of streams and eagles flying through pristine old-growth forests. This natural beauty is what makes America's largest temperate rainforest such a draw. Ecotourism, hunting, and fishing trips, are building a new economy for the people of Southeast Alaska.

As many of us brave planes, trains and automobiles to travel home for the holidays, this weekend, a group of four African northern white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) were also (ancestrally) homeward bound—though under a more somber air than befits the holiday season.

I remember my first thought when I read the papers on Dec. 23, the day after one of the biggest environmental disasters in our nation's history: "This is only the beginning."

The stories about the spill came out like the spill itself: slow at first, then in a huge, sudden avalanche of sad details. 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Power Plant burst through a dam near Harriman and spread over 300 acres of pristine shoreline along the Emory and Clinch Rivers.

Today, as world leaders, led by President Obama, struggled deep into the night on a plan to fight climate change, a handful of U.S. senators at home were trying to sabotage U.S. climate action. In league with long-time climate science deniers in Congress, they launched an effort to keep the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

(Editor's Note: This file presents news and information from the Copenhagen climate change conference on Dec. 18, distilled from news outlet reports. We will be updating developments during the day.)

<Update>: What is described as a 'meaningful agreement' was announced by the U.S., but is far from the powerful end result that most had hoped for.

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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.