Brian Smith's Blog Posts

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Brian Smith's blog


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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S 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.

Brian Smith is a Campaign Manager who learned the importance of protecting healthy soil, clean water and the climate while growing up on a farm in the Central Valley. When Brian's not busy helping people to understand the interconnectedness between the planet and people, he enjoys exploring California's endless state parks, hunting for old punk rock records or pampering his cat, Angie. He's lived car-free for more than a decade and hopes to return to that lifestyle once his new knees are up (and running). Brian's wife Susan is a hospital chaplain and when they say goodbye in the morning, she says, "Save the planet." He replies, "Save the people."

View Brian Smith's blog posts
24 December 2013, 1:05 PM
Sharks and oil and honeybees, oh my!
How much of Yosemite Valley will you be able to see on your next visit? Read more in the #10 unEARTHED blog post of the year. (Chrissy Pepino / Earthjustice)

Looking back at the most popular blog posts from 2013 we find a wide variety of subjects generated substantial readership.

unEARTHED readers were all over the map this year. Your concerns are wide and varied.

And that should give us all hope.

So, counting down (just in case you missed one) here are the Top Ten Most Read unEARTHED blog posts of 2013.

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12 December 2013, 1:20 PM
Legislators support full examination of new science to protect whales
Humpback mother and calf. (Achimdiver / Shutterstock)

In November, whales and other marine mammals along the Pacific Coast from Northern California to the Canadian border got a little help from a federal court. Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas set a deadline of August 1, 2014 for the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop a plan that will ensure Navy sonar and live-fire training doesn’t violate the Endangered Species Act.

The deadline came after a September 2013 court decision that found the Fisheries Service approved Navy training based on incomplete and outdated science.

“These training exercises harm Southern Resident killer whales, blue whales, humpback whales, dolphins, and porpoises—through the use of high-intensity mid-frequency sonar,” said Steve Mashuda, an Earthjustice attorney who represented Northern California tribes and environmental groups. “The Fisheries Service must now employ the best science and require the Navy to protect whales and dolphins in its ongoing training exercises.”

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14 October 2013, 3:11 PM
Court decision helps keep Caribbean coral reefs alive
Parrotfish are being fished to dangerously low levels. (NPS)

If you tried to invent the perfect caretaker for the Caribbean’s fragile coral reefs, it would be hard to top what nature already has created—the parrotfish.

And thanks to a court victory this week, these strikingly colored butlers of the sea will get help in carrying out their mission of removing remove algae that can smother and kill coral reefs.

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16 August 2013, 12:05 PM
Court hearings this week may decide fate of Klamath/Trinity River salmon
Local fishing communities depend on healthy salmon runs. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

This is the time of year when Chinook salmon head back up the Klamath/Trinity River system to spawn—if they have abundant, cold water.

But this year—this week—powerful business interests are in court trying to seize that water, putting tens of thousands of salmon, and an entire generation of their offspring, in peril.

Here’s why:

Because California faces drought this year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BuRec) has developed a plan to release extra water from dams along the Trinity River (a tributary of the Klamath) to prevent another disaster like the ‘Fish Kill of 2002.’ Also a drought year, 2002 saw the Klamath running low, slow and with high temperatures. The Bush administration prevented water from being released, leading to a massive die-off of adult Chinook salmon, one of the worst fish kills in U.S. history. Coastal communities dependent on those salmon suffered $200 million losses.

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02 August 2013, 1:07 PM
Earthjustice files suit to answer that question
Sea otters face many obstacles in the swim to recovery.  (Steve Lonhart / NOAA)

Should sea otters be allowed to repopulate Southern California?

Seems like a strange question, right?

When a highly imperiled species starts to recover in its native habitat, we should all be grateful and welcome them back. This has certainly been the story of the American bald eagle.

First off, let’s establish that these guys are undeniably cute. Did you know otters hold hands while they sleep so as not to be swept away from their loved ones?

And they’re not just adorable. They are also key to the health of California’s kelp forests and the many other marine critters—including shellfish and finfish—that depend on kelp forest habitat.

But being a cute keystone predator hasn’t protected the sea otter. Consider the history.

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26 February 2013, 12:57 PM
U.S. excuses for climate inaction dwindling
A large majority of Americans now want action.  (Ray Wan)

Climate change deniers in the U.S. once claimed there was no proof that pumping tons of carbon into the atmosphere was changing our climate.

This worked for a while, but Midwest drought, western wildfires, and superstorm Sandy, which all hit during 2012, have changed public opinion dramatically.

A recent poll by Duke University found 50 percent of Americans are convinced the climate is changing and another 34 percent say it is probably changing—an increase from other recent polls. A large majority of Americans now want action. The Duke poll found 64 percent of Americans want strong regulations on power plants and factories and fuel-efficiency standards for cars.

So the climate change denial camp is now trying a different argument.

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17 January 2013, 3:34 PM
Activists demand Clean Water Act enforcement statewide
Green slime in Florida waterway. (Richard Solveson)

Clean water activists showed up in force today at the first of two EPA meetings in Tampa to discuss setting limits on water pollution that comes from fertilizer, animal waste and sewage effluent. These “nutrients” feed toxic, slimy algae outbreaks. Toxic slime can kill fish and make people and pets sick.

View our collection of Florida slime photos.

After years of legal wrangling, the EPA agreed last November to establish limits that protect 85 percent of Florida’s waters, with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulating the remaining 15 percent. But the EPA has recently hinted they may turn the entire job over to the state—thus the outrage.

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08 January 2013, 12:15 PM
Australia swelters as coal industry industry brags
It's hot in Australia. (Stephen Mitchell)

This week, our friends down under are experiencing climate chaos up close and personal.

Australia is enduring a record heat wave that is causing massive forest fires and unprecedented public health issues.

The situation has become so bad that the weather service was forced to add to add additional colors to the heat map to capture temperatures up to 54 degrees Celsius (129°F).

Hobet mine.

A recent heat map of Australia, with the new colors.  (AUS Bureau of Meteorology)
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14 December 2012, 4:00 PM
First-ever coastwide limits set on menhaden catch in the Atlantic
Menhaden catch from a purse-seine net are pumped into a carrier vessel. (NOAA)

On Friday, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission finally responded to sound science and a huge public outcry by imposing the first ever coastwide cap on the catch of a little fish known as the menhaden.

More than 100,000 Americans (including more than 13,000 Earthjustice activists) wrote to the commission demanding protection for a fish that is an essential food source for seabirds, whales, and game fish like the striped bass.

The commission also cut next year’s catch to 25 percent below the 2011 menhaden catch. This cut will end recent overfishing and begin long term recovery of a species that has been reduced by 90 percent over the last three decades. New scientific information due in 2014 will trigger a transition to more precautionary long term catch levels.

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29 October 2012, 1:34 PM
Fisheries commission needs to hear from you, today!
Menhaden are harvested by the millions. (NOAA)

Something very unusual happened at the November 2011 meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The audience broke into applause for what the commisioners did.

They stood up for a fish that H. Bruce Franklin at Rutgers University called “The Most Important Fish in the Sea”—the Atlantic menhaden.

The menhaden is not a lovable, or famous fish. As Franklin describes it:

Not one of these fish is destined for a supermarket, a canning factory, or restaurant. Menhaden are oily, foul smelling, and packed with tiny bones. No one eats them—not directly, anyhow. Hardly anyone has even heard of them except for those who fish or study our eastern and southern waters.

Yet menhaden are the principal fish caught along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, exceeding the tonnage of all other species combined.

Menhaden once spanned the entire Eastern Seaboard. Travelling in thick schools miles long, these small bony, oily, fish are central to the diet of whales, seabirds, and the larger fish that fed a growing nation. They also make great fertilizer as Native Americans taught hungry European settlers who were farming in depleted soil.

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