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As part of our campaign to clean up sources of toxic mercury pollution, we experimented with Google Earth to tell the story of how pollution from cement kilns is hurting local communities. Below is a video we produced that features two cement kilns right along the water in Seattle, WA.

Let's get a quick show of hands: How many of you have lost hours at work living out your flying fantasy in Google Earth? Well, me too.

Grist, the most valuable daily green news and comment ezine, published a very interesting piece May 4, talking about "old" environmentalism and "new" environmentalism as exemplified by campaigns to protect wolves (that's the old part) and polar bears (new).

Both efforts have news hooks just now, and one, at least, does not display the Obama administration, particularly Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a good light.

As an information technology director whose livelihood depends pretty heavily on the use of electricity, I'm constantly looking for meaningful ways that the technology I'm immersed in can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases. The saying "If you aren't part of the solution you're part of the problem" doesn't even suffice -- technology is part of the problem, period, and it behooves people like me, who trade in it, to use it in ways that offset its debilitating effects on our environment.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a must-read LA Times articlethat explores the dramatic effects of climate disruption on Australia. In response to these worsening conditions, seven Australian climate scientists sent a letter to the owners of every coal-fired power plant in Australia. The letter carries a blunt message: no new coal-fired power plants, unless they are zero-emissions…and operated by unicorns (ok, I added the unicorn part).

But an outright ban on new coal-fired power plants isn't enough, as the authors of the letter indicate:

Genuine action on climate change will mean that coal-fired power stations cease to operate in the near future. [Read the whole letter]

As noted in both the letter and the aforementioned LA Times article, coal-fired power plants supply more than 80% of Australia’s electricity (compared to around 50% in the United States). Replacing coal-fired power in Australia and here at home with clean and safe energy sources will require a massive, coordinated (and very necessary) effort. But abandoning the dirty fuels of the past will help us ensure that our future is filled with opportunities.

We've told you about the dangers of eating mercury-contaminated fish. Today, the US Geological Survey released a comprehensive study linking the mercury emissions from smokestacks here in the US and abroad, and the contamination of fish like tuna and other marine life in the Pacific Ocean. According to the NY Times and Greenwire:

The study documents the formation in the North Pacific of methylmercury, a highly toxic form of mercury that rapidly accumulates in the food chain to levels that can cause serious health concerns for people who consume seafood. Scientists have known for some time that mercury deposited from the atmosphere can be transformed into methylmercury, but the study focuses on how that transformation occurs.

USGS showed that methylmercury is produced in mid-depth ocean waters by processes linked to "ocean rain." Algae, which are produced in sunlit waters near the surface, die quickly and rain downward to greater water depths. The settling algae are decomposed by bacteria and the interaction of this decomposition process in the presence of mercury results in the formation of methylmercury.

Many steps up the food chain later, predators like tuna receive methylmercury from the fish they consume, the study shows.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "This study gives us a better understanding of how dangerous levels of mercury move into our air, our water, and the food we eat, and shines new light on a major health threat to Americans and people all across the world."

Just last week, the EPA proposed significant cuts in cement kiln mercury emissions (up to 16,000 pounds a year), and we’re hopeful they will continue this leadership when they work to cut mercury from coal-fired power plants sometime in the future.

Mercury is a neurotoxin especially dangerous to young and unborn children, and women of childbearing age are often warned to limit their consumption of contaminated fish (like tuna, shark, walleye, or wild striped bass).

Grins are breaking out in Colorado because of a court decision this week that stymies oil and gas drilling on New Mexico's Otero Mesa grasslands.

The 10th Circuit Court ruled that drilling could not proceed on the Mesa because the Bureau of Land Management violated the National Environmental Protection Act with its leasing plan. In short, the court said, the plan failed to consider impacts on habitat, species and water, and didn't look at alternatives.

Growing up in California's San Joaquin Valley, we spent our summer days at the community swimming pool and on the soccer field. Playing outside was one of the joys of growing up in a region where the days are warm, the grass is green and the sky is clear.

These days, elementary schools in the valley fly color-coded flags to alert parents of "bad air days" when their children should be kept indoors. Childhood fun in the valley is not what it used to be.

We’re breathing a cautious sigh of relief here in Florida on the issue of offshore drilling. A dangerous bill that would have lifted the state’s offshore drilling ban appears to be dead. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Our state Senate President told reporters today that the Legislature has run out of time to hear the offshore oil issue. The bill passed the Florida House of Representatives 70-43 on Monday. If it isn’t heard in the Senate, the bill will die.

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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.