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 More than half of the corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the U.S. these days starts as genetically engineered seed. The best-known are produced by Monsanto and called "Roundup-Ready," Roundup being the name of an herbicide also produced by Monsanto. The idea is that the GE crops can be doused with Roundup to kill off weeds without damaging the crops themselves.

Well, someone forgot to tell Monsanto that nature is pretty slick about adapting to change: Weeds have evolved resistance to Roundup, requiring farmers to apply great quantities of different herbicides to kill them, which is expensive and dangerous.

All this and more is detailed in a new report from the Organic Center, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Center for Food Safety, which goes on to reveal that not only must farmers shell out large sums to pay for extra chemicals—the price of the GE seeds has gone through the roof even as their effectiveness declines.

I met Tom Graff in about 1970 or so. I was at the brand-new Friends of the Earth. Tom had come out from New York to open an office for the slightly older Environmental Defense Fund near the Berkeley campus. He immediately dove (pun intended) into the fractious, messy and endless battles over water in California, the place where, Mark Twain supposedly said, “water flows uphill toward money.”

The California Water Project had been built by then, a maze of canals and pumping stations to divert water from the wet north to the dry south and San Joaquin Valley. Not satisfied with what they had, big ag proposed a “peripheral canal” to route water from the Sacramento River around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a proposal Tom Graff called a rifle pointed at the heart of the Sacramento Valley, or words to that effect. The proposal was resoundingly defeated, in large part owing to Tom's efforts. He went on to help George Miller pass the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which belatedly guaranteed water for fish and wildlife.

Tom died the other day at the too-young age of 65. He leaves a legacy we can only admire and learn from—especially as a brand-new proposal for a kinder, gentler peripheral canal is likely to come bearing down on us soon and the CVPIA is under continuous attack.

Farewell, my friend, you are missed.

 

"Putting lipstick on a pig" describes a PR tactic of making something bad look good. But, two Canadian companies have added a new twist to this old ploy—they've changed the name of the pig.

We're referring to the oil mining practices of EnCana Corp. and Cenovus Energy Inc. The companies employ a form of mining oil from Canadian tar sands that has a bad reputation for being highly destructive to the environment. To counter this, they are no longer using the phrases "tar sands" and "oil sands" in referring to their work. Now they describe themselves as conducting "enhanced oil projects."

Extracting oil from tar sands is one of the dirtiest, most polluting methods—and Earthjustice is challenging a pipeline that would daily bring nearly half a million barrels of oil obtained this way into the United States from Canada. No matter what you call it, there's no disguising its harmful impacts: the excessive greenhouse gas emissions, the vast amounts of water employed in mining, the multitude of toxins released into our air and water.

If you’re wondering what you should be doing on Saturday night, well, here it is: watch some television! At 8 p.m. eastern, the world television premiere of "Coal Country" will be on the Reel Impact series on Planet Green.

Now, about the film. Earthjustice is a proud sponsor of "Coal Country," and we’ve been hosting events in San Francisco, New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Chicago to show people this powerful film and educate them on the tragedy that is mountaintop removal mining.

There’s been a lot discussed in these pages about the destruction, pollution and impacts of mountaintop removal mining, but never before has there been such an insightful and moving depiction. "Coal Country" interviews miners, activists, politicians and coalfield residents to present the true impacts of coal in Appalachia. Phylis Geller—who wrote, produced and directed the film—and executive producer Mari-Lynn Evans weave a story that really gets at the true costs of our dependence on coal.

Take the time to watch "Coal Country" on Planet Green this Saturday night. If you don’t have Planet Green in your cable package, you can purchase a copy of the DVD here. And for those not in the eastern time zone, the film is being replayed at 11 p.m. eastern, so you can watch it during prime time.

[UPDATE: "Friday Reads" is now moving to Mondays! Look for us at the start of your week.]

Imagine you're a prospective new mum, walking down the street, minding your own business. Maybe you're thinking about which hospital you should deliver your little ones at. Or perhaps which nursery school to enroll them in. When all of a sudden, a fellow pedestrian suddenly decides to help said little ones out of your womb—with their teeth!

It's not enough that Tennessee's Clinch River was devastated by a toxic spill that dumped 1 billion gallons of coal ash into its waters last December. Now the Tennessee Valley Authority wants to systematically pollute the river (which leads to the mighty Tennessee River) to the tune of one million gallons a day of toxic pollutants. We're talking dumping mercury, selenium and other chemicals into a river which the Tennessee Valley Authority is supposed to be protecting.

After weeks of speculation from Al Gore and others, we have the first indication from President Obama himself that he may go to the Copenhagen climate conference. In an interview with Reuters, Obama said he will travel to Copenhagen if he feels there is a chance of progress:

If I am confident that all of the countries involved are bargaining in good faith and we are on the brink of a meaningful agreement and my presence in Copenhagen will make a difference in tipping us over the edge then certainly that's something that I will do.

President Obama's statement of intent may signal the beginning of increased pressure on the Senate from the White House to continue pushing climate legislation forward, even as the health care debate—which has eclipsed global warming recently—rages on. Last week, the Kerry-Boxer global warming bill was passed out of the Environment and Public Works committee by a vote of 11-1. No Republican committee members were present for the vote.

Your move, Congress.
 

Earthjustice attorney David Henkin is giving the keynote address this month at the United Nations Environmental Program workshop in Okinawa on the military and the environment. Here's a glimpse of what he will discuss:

What kind of work does Earthjustice do in the Mid-Pacific office?

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About the Earthjustice 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.