Tom Turner's Blog Posts

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Tom Turner'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.


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.

Tom Turner is an Editor-at-Large and unofficial Earthjustice guru after having been at the organization for more than 25 years. A lifelong resident of Berkeley, he is most passionate about Earthjustice's maiden issue, wilderness preservation, which he believes no longer gets the attention it deserves. Over the past two decades, Tom has told the captivating, influential stories of Earthjustice's work in three books and countless articles that have no doubt inspired the masses. When he's not bleeding ink, Tom enjoys watching baseball, playing jazz and umpiring Little League games. His favorite place in the world is, to quote John Muir, "Any place that is wild."

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11 September 2012, 12:17 PM
Son of famed environmentalist fashions book of memories
Dave Brower was a legendary leader in the environmental movement. (Photo courtesy of Tom Turner)

David Brower was the most prominent, influential and controversial environmental leader of the second half of the 20th century. He was a visionary, a brilliant publicist, and also prickly and demanding. This and much more comes through clearly in a new book published by Heyday of Berkeley to celebrate Brower’s 100th birthday.

Alas, he isn’t here to celebrate it, having passed away in November 2000, two days before the election that gave us George W. Bush. Perhaps it’s a blessing that he didn’t have to live through that nightmare.

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24 July 2012, 12:05 PM
Bill McKibben takes us to school—and nominates Public Enemy #1
Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben,  who first alerted the non-scientific world to global climate change two decades ago with The End of Nature  has a new piece in Rolling Stone that he says is the most important thing he’s written in the past 20 years, and he’s written hundreds of articles and books during that period.

It’s titled “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” and it’s long but worth reading. More than worth reading.

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15 June 2012, 12:18 PM
Shell Oil hopes to drill this summer
The Shell drillship Kulluk, off the Seattle, WA, waterfront. (Dave Nakayama)

As I write this, ships are being prepared to steam northward from several ports to begin poking holes in the floor of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in search of oil.

Thanks to legal action by Earthjustice over the last few years, and thanks also to a one-year time-out called in the wake of the catastrophic blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the drilling has been forestalled, but it could finally begin this July. Legal challenges are still pending, but the odds seem long against them.

That said, this is closer to the beginning of this struggle than to its end.

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09 February 2012, 3:38 AM
Last year saw many extreme events, and there's much more to come

I'm going to stand back and just give you a taste of a report from the Earth Policy Institute. Scary. I recommend you read the whole thing and send it around. There are still people who should know better denying climate change. They are welcome to believe whatever they like, but they shouldn't be playing any role in setting policy. Here are the excerpts:

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08 February 2012, 6:26 AM
Ignores the fundamental problems with the pipeline project
Pipes for Keystone. Courtesy

The New York Times describes Joe Nocera as a business columnist, but a quick scan of recent columns is very heavy on pieces about the woes of the NCAA, the National Collegiate Athletic Association. If today’s column is any indication, we’d all be better off if he stuck with sports.

His thesis is that rejecting the Keystone pipeline, which would transport crude oil extracted from Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf shoreline, was foolish, short-sighted, and so on.

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06 December 2011, 12:35 PM
Semple informs; Douthat obfuscates
Ross Douthat

Last Sunday, Dec. 4, the weekly review/opinion section of The New York Times carried a sober and sobering piece by Robert Semple, a Times editorial writer who seldom gets to sign his pieces. He wrote of the climate meetings taking place this week in Durban, South Africa, where no one seems to think much progress will be made.

Semple produced a couple of depressing charts showing how carbon emissions overall have soared, and found little reason to hope that Durban will produce any breakthroughs. There are some bright spots, however, principally Western Europe, whose carbon emissions have declined by about 5 percent in the past two decades through phasing out of coal, increasing use of solar, and adopting a cap-and-trade system. Much more needs to be done, especially by the U.S., China, India, and others.

Meanwhile a few pages along in the paper, we’re treated to a column by one Ross Douthat, who compared the Occupy protestors to the admirable group that is opposing the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring filthy tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the gulf coast.

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08 November 2011, 12:35 PM
Bill Moyers finds roots in an environmental memo from 1971
Bill Moyers

“Wall Street owns the country…. Money rules…. Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The [political] parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us.” So sayeth the pupulist firebrand Mary Elizabeth Lease in 1890. "She should see us now," comments Bill Moyers in a ringing speech reprinted inThe Nation.

What caught my interest particularly in this typically brilliant Moyers peroration was that he can put a date on when the more recent takeover of government by Big Money began (Aug. 23, 1971) and what triggered the revolution. According to this analysis, our troubles began on that date with the circulation of a secret memo by Lewis Powell, a board member of Philip Morris and a big wheel in the national Chamber of Commerce.

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21 October 2011, 5:28 PM
Decision climaxes 13-year legal struggle by Earthjustice
Meadows and ponds abound in a roadless area in Wyoming’s Beartooth Plateau. (© Nelson Guda, 2009 /

<In a major victory for Earthjustice and its supporters, today the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated The Roadless Rule, which protects nearly 50 million acres of National Forest lands against exploitation. Tom Turner, who literally wrote the book ("Roadless Rules") on the case, provides some background here.>

Toward the end of the Clinton administration, the Forest Service declared that most logging and road building no longer would be permitted on nearly 60 million acres of wild, unprotected national forest lands.

The so-called Roadless Area Conservation Rule was immediately challenged in nine separate lawsuits filed by states (Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, Utah, North Dakota), a few counties, and several timber industry interests.

Earthjustice immediately moved to defend the rule in all those cases, eventually devoting thousands of hours by many attorneys to the effort. Many major national groups became involved, along with statewide groups. The Natural Resources Defense Council was a key ally in Alaska.

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06 September 2011, 12:04 PM
Is acknowledging the problem selling out?
Maureen Mitra

There’s an interesting piece in the latest Earth Island Journal titled “Ready or Not: Climate Change is Coming; Time to Adapt.” The author, Maureen Nandini Mitra, argues that, whether we like or not, the climate is already on the way to significant changes and we have no choice but to figure out how to adapt—as we continue to fight to reverse the trend.

She writes that there is some resistance to this notion from people who argue that acknowledging the need for adaptation is giving up on the primary fight.

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07 July 2011, 12:47 PM
Court orders government to reconsider regulation in light of Gulf spill
Loggerhead sea turtle escaping net. Photo courtesy of NOAA

Loggerhead turtles are beset by a bewildering and deadly series of challenges, much as the other species of sea turtles are. People raid their nests and steal eggs. Hundreds used to die in shrimpers' nets until the advent of turtle excluder devices. Miles of their nesting beaches have been "armored," that is, lined with boulders to defeat natural erosion. Hundreds used to die feeding on baited hooks aimed at catching swordfish and tuna.

Earthjustice and its allies have made significant progress in bringing these threats under control, but sea turtle numbers have continued to decline nonetheless.

So it came as welcome news early this month when a federal judge in Florida ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service to take another look at rules that govern the Gulf of Mexico fishery in loggerheads' favored habitat.