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Tom Turner's blog

My friend Bill McKibben, climate campaigner extraordinaire (he blew the first public whistle with The End of Nature in the late 1980s) has been organizing internationally behind the notion that 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon in the atmosphere is the absolute limit of what the earth can tolerate. The IPCC—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—in its latest report two years ago, set the number at 450. The current carbon load in the atmosphere is about 370 ppm and rising.

McKibben's organization, 350.org, has been agitating for a lowering of the goal to 350 and on Aug. 25 got the welcome news that Chairman Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC had given his personal endorsement to the 350 number. This, as Bill explained in an email, is a very big deal and governments everywhere should sit up, take notice, and get finally off their duffs.

See if you recognize any of these names: Bob Inglis, Frank Lucas, Charlie Melancon, Randy Neugebauer, Mike Ross, Adrian Smith, John Tanner. I certainly didn't. They're all members of Congress, all but one from the South, who took a taxpayer-funded trip in 2008  to Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica to see the effects of climate change first-hand... then returned and voted against the Waxman-Markey climate bill in the House. The trip cost, according to the account in Grist, about a half-million dollars, but who's counting? Anything for a nice jaunt to the Antipodes, warming or otherwise. Tut, he said, tut.

It's a given that when something momentous happens, something good, that is, that the group of people claiming credit for the outcome will be rather large. So it is with the recent decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals finding the Bush Roadless Repeal Rule illegal and reinstating the original Roadless Rule nationwide. And, to be sure, there's plenty of credit to go around—to the Heritage Forests Campaign, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and many others.

Mostly, however, credit and praise go to the doughty band of Earthjustice attorneys who have fought to defend the rule for the past eight years, along with Marty Hayden, the VP for Policy and Legislation, who helped in the creation of the rule long before it got to court. The attorneys, who deserve a place in someone's hall of fame, are Kristen Boyles, Tim Preso, Jim Angell, Tom Waldo, Doug Honnold, Todd True, Greg Loarie, and Patti Goldman. Another, who worked for Earthjustice in the 1990s, is Claudia Polsky, who argued on behalf of the states of California, Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico from her position in the California attorney general's office. Also Niel Lawrence of NRDC and Pat Parenteau of the Vermont Law School. Thanks and congratulations all around.

Oh wait. Never mind. Here's the guy who deserves all the credit.

One of the grandest victories scored by environmental types in California has been the battle to save Mono Lake at the eastern foot of the Sierra Nevada. Owens Lake, to the south, was obliterated by users in the Los Angeles basin, who simply appropriated virtually all the water that once flowed from the mountains into the lake (the easiest and most entertaining way to brush up on this story is to see the movie Chinatown).

American politics is a wonder. Let’s say you’re unhappy with the climate bill narrowly passed by the House of Representatives a while back. You think you might be able to influence the Senate and an eventual conference committee if you could get an opinion piece published in the Washington Post. Who would be your best messenger? A respected scientist to argue about the science? A Nobel prizewinning economist to attack the economics of the bill? Maybe a former government energy official from the not too distant past? How about Sarah Palin?

As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to "uphold and defend" the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which set out to protect nearly 60 million acres of pristine national forest lands across the country. Not long ago, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has responsibility for the Forest Service among many things, announced that he will personally review any projects proposed in roadless areas. This move was labelled a year-long "time out" for road building and logging by some in the media, but in fact, there's no guarantee.

The pictures are not what you'd generally call beautiful, but they're stirring nonetheless: the early stages of the demolition of the Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River in Oregon, which has been killing salmon for decades.

The demolition is the result of yeoman (yeowoman too) efforts by a cast of hundreds, including Earthjustice's Mike Sherwood, who jumped through dozens of hoops, went to court, raised hell, and finally prevailed. Demolition will take some months yet—a celebration at the site is planned for October 10, though that could change a little. Go to Waterwatch for updates. Savage Rapids Dam Is Dead. Long Live Savage Rapids.

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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.