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.

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.

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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16 February 2010, 12:08 PM
Local weathercasters create climate of distrust about global warming

The current issue of the venerable Columbia Journalism Review has a fascinating cover story that goes some way toward explaining why people's understanding of climate change is so, well, skimpy, if not downright biased or wrong. It all has to do with your local TV weatherman or –woman.

As the piece by The Washington Monthly's Charles Homans  points out, the local weather forecast is the most popular segment of local TV news shows and the weather forecaster usually the most respected reporter on a given program. They are tacitly assumed to be climate scientists when, in fact, they are meteorologists (or at least some of them are; lots aren't)—and the difference between the disciplines is great.

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11 February 2010, 4:35 PM
Politicians succeed where scientists fail

This is just too delicious. The Utah House of Representatives has just passed a resolution (by 56 to 17), which declares that global warming science is a conspiracy and urges the Environmental Protection Agency to halt any and all carbon-reduction activities it may have underway and withdraw its recent “endangerment finding,” which declares that carbon dioxide is harmful to humans.

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09 February 2010, 6:15 PM
Is snow inconvenient truth about the end of climate change?

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle often titles his sports column, "Deep Thoughts, Cheap Shots, and Bon Mots," which always makes me smile and which I'm stealing just for today.

The huge storm that has buried DeeCee under multiple feet of snow is proof that global warming is a hoax.

The fact that we've had a great deal of rain here on the left coast also proves that if the climate is changing it's all for the better and that the drought is over. Or maybe not.

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21 January 2010, 4:21 PM
As the number of undernourished tops a billion for the first time

I'm not going to bother rewriting or interpreting this time, but simply quote at some length from a harrowing release from the Earth Policy Institute, an extremely valuable organization. 

The 107 million tons of grain that went to U.S. ethanol distilleries in 2009 was enough to feed 330 million people for one year at average world consumption levels. More than a quarter of the total U.S. grain crop was turned into ethanol to fuel cars last year. With 200 ethanol distilleries in the country set up to transform food into fuel, the amount of grain processed has tripled since 2004.

The United States looms large in the world food economy: it is far and away the world’s leading grain exporter, exporting more than Argentina, Australia, Canada, and Russia combined. In a globalized food economy, increased demand for food to fuel American vehicles puts additional pressure on world food supplies.

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19 January 2010, 3:19 PM
Monsanto-funded study finds that Roundup® creates super weeds

Last November I blogged (blog isn't even a word and now it's a verb?) about the treadmill that Roundup and other agricultural chemicals represent. That is, no matter how slick your latest miracle chemical fix, nature will find a way around it, will evolve, in this case, better weeds to fend off the effects of the new poison.

Now a new study (heavy going unless you're a chemist), ironically funded by Monsanto itself, has confirmed the earlier findings. The Organic Center has translated the findings into English. It all seems to come down to the lesson that it's better to consider nature our friend and find ways to work cooperatively rather than think of nature as the enemy and find better ways to do battle.

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15 January 2010, 4:28 PM
Many people are asking the wrong questions, proposing false solutions

Just got wind of a very sobering booklet, very sobering indeed. It's called Searching for Miracles, a joint publication of the International Forum on Globalization and the Post Carbon Institute, written by Richard Heinberg with a foreword by Jerry Mander.

The proposition Heinberg set out to explore is this: If society somehow managed to build all the solar installations possible—rooftop, central station, the works—plus all the wind farms and every other kind of good, clean, sustainable energy supply operation, would it be enough to serve current demand world-wide as fossil fuels run out and plants that rely on them are phased out or converted to other fuels?

The answer is a resounding no.

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04 January 2010, 3:37 PM
Big Coal abandons its PATH to power

 "The problem is, of course, that not only is economics bankrupt but it has always been nothing more than politics in disguise ... economics is a form of brain damage."—Hazel Henderson

This lively little snippet came to mind the other day when we got news that the PATH project—that's Potomac-Appalachia Transmission Highline—a massive boondoggle that would have served Big Coal to the detriment of the burgeoning green-power industry (and to the detriment of the places it would have passed through) had gone off the rails.

The project's undoing, at least for now, were demand projections. The promoters of the plan had wildly overestimated the need for the line in the future, and experts rounded up by PATH opponents (Abbie Dillen of Earthjustice is their lawyer) pointed out the fact. PATH folded its tent.

A similar scenario recently played out in Florida, where promoters of a huge new coal plant also caved in when their projections were shown to be, shall we say, optimistic (that plant now will be solar instead of coal-fired). David Guest and Monica Reimer of Earthjustice were the lawyers on that one.

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09 December 2009, 10:13 AM
West Virginia Senator Shocks Industry, Pleases Critics

Robert Byrd, the patriarch of the United States Senate, has been the champion and defender of the coal industry for decades, a staunch ally who could be depended on to look out for the interests of his constituents, many of whom work for or own coal operations.

But a massive sea change took place in early December with a statement issued by the senator, urging the coal industry to face the future, to stop blaming regulatory hurdles for its woes, to acknowledge the reality of climate change, and to get busy preparing for a lower-carbon future.

The senator, who has served nearly 57 years in the Congress, seemed particularly miffed that the coal industry had tried to persuade him and other coal-state legislators to block health-care reform unless coal got a free ride in any climate legislation, an idea the senator called "morally indefensible." He also suggested that support for mountaintop removal mining is evaporating in Washington, It's quite a statement, well worth reading, maybe saving. It's a turning point. You can read the statement, or listen to the senator reading it, here.

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02 December 2009, 3:57 PM
A different angle from the Center for Food Safety

I just received two copies of a newsletter called Cool Foods: Countdown to Copenhagen & Beyond from the Center for Food Safety. The purpose of the effort is to remind negotiators and the public that industrial agriculture accounts for between 13.5 percent and as much as 32 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. "Particularly alarming," they write, "is that industrial agriculture is responsible for 60 percent of total global nitrous oxide emissions, largely from nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrous oxide is the deadliest of the three major GHGs, approximately 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide." And on in the same vein. Scary but vital information.

Lester Brown's Earth Policy Institute has a somewhat different take on the subject, but also provides compelling evidence and argument that climate change and agriculture are intimately linked.

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17 November 2009, 10:26 AM
Gene-spliced crops require extra chemicals, extra cost

 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.