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Most environmentalists believe that nature has a right to exist for its own sake, but that's not how the law works in our country.

In the United States, nature is defensible only if a human will miss the forest, species, or clean water when it is gone. To use the law, a human must first prove harm to their person.

If that proverbial tree falls in the woods and no human cares, no laws were broken. But if a tree falls and the hiker who depended on its shade is harmed, the U.S. legal system may provide some relief.

I just finished a year-long appointment on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's Action Team on Energy and Climate Change. We released a blueprint that, if put into action, would make Florida one of America's most aggressive states in tackling climate change.

We studied the gamut: alternative energy sources, vehicle emissions, landfill gases, forestry practices, building construction, electricity demand you name it.

The result is an ambitious set of reforms which we believe would cut Florida's greenhouse gasses 34 percent by 2025.

The late Dan Luten was sneakily brilliant, somewhat iconoclastic, and possibly a maverick had that word not been so debased lately. In his fifties, he left a job as a chemist with Shell Oil to teach geography at Cal and became deeply involved in conservation. He served on the board of Friends of the Earth, which is how I got to know him pretty well.

One bon mot he tossed off that stuck with me was, "The country does not exist to serve its economy."

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne didn't like the law that required him to promptly protect public lands around the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.  So he's getting rid of it. Citizens have only a few days to express their opposition.

With less than 100 days left in its life, the current administration has its hands full.  The economy is on its scariest roller-coaster ride in generations. And we're still fighting two wars.  You'd think the administration would be too busy to do anything else.

Chevron has long been a leader in image advertising, spending an immense amount of money on print and television ads explaining to the public just how utterly wonderful the company is. Years ago, their tag line was "People Do," in answer to rhetorical questions like, "Do people really care what happens to our precious wetlands? People do." These tended to appear when the company was angling for permission to drill wells in sensitive marshes.

We won a significant victory in our phosphate case on Oct. 6. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended a permit that gave Mosaic Phosphate the go-ahead to destroy 480 acres of high-quality wetlands within Southwest Florida's Peace River watershed.

Our court case is ongoing, but the Corps decision to suspend the permit shows that the permit didn't comply with the law and should never have been granted.

In its letter, the Corps said: "The Corps has determined that it is in the public interest to revisit the analysis in support of the permit decision."

Attention has been focused on the financial crisis recently. Yet a study headed by a Deutsche Bank economist concludes that the annual costs of forest destruction is between $2 trillion and $5 trillion. So while Wall Street has lost between $1-$1.5 trillion, we are losing "natural capital" at a rate of $2 to $5 trillion every year 

It's not all that often that front-rank political leaders call for civil disobedience, but that's just what Al Gore did in New York on September 24 at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. "I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration," the ex-veep and planetary crusader said, "to loud applause," according to Reuters.

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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.