Posts tagged: oceans

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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.

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View Shirley Hao's blog posts
11 October 2010, 10:12 PM
A 28,000 turtle egg truck lift

As animal births go, sea turtles arguably top the cuteness scale. Watching a hundred teeny turtles emerge from the sand, scrambling straight towards the sea in a gleeful mad dash for the future is nothing short of incredible:

From the sandy shore, each season’s new hatchlings embark on the same journey that their forebearers have made for more than a hundred million years. This year, though, there was a 200-million gallon surprise lying in wait for Alabaman and South Floridian hatchlings: the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill.

The New York Times gives an engrossing account of the emergency plan wildlife agencies put into action in an attempt to save the turtles. In a nutshell:

America was orchestrating the migration of an entire generation of sea turtles, slow and steady, overland, in a specially outfitted FedEx truck.

How did they do it? With the help of the turtle people.

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View Sarah Burt's blog posts
05 October 2010, 9:35 AM
"Flag of convenience" helps shipping dodge pollution controls

We are all familiar with the North-South divide that prevented agreement on a new climate treaty at Copenhagen last year. Relying on the principles of "Common But Differentiated Responsibility," the developing countries led by China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and South Africa refused to adopt any proposal that would require them to reduce carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, the developed countries, most significantly the U.S., adamantly opposed any deal that would leave out these countries' large and growing contributions to the global climate problem.

Now, one can debate the appropriateness of labeling countries like China and Saudi Arabia as "developing" when China has the second largest economy in the world and Saudi Arabia represents significant oil wealth.

The distinction between developed and developing nations is even murkier in the context of international shipping. Ship owners can register their vessels in any country they choose under a "flag of convenience" and thus avail themselves of the laws and regulations most favorable to their industry, and often least favorable to worker safety, human health and the environment.

So how does this relate to the politics of carbon?

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
01 October 2010, 11:02 AM
Carcinogens are 40-times greater off Louisiana
Oil in Gulf of Mexico marshes

Cancer-causing substances have been discovered in the waters and air of the Gulf of Mexico near the BP oil spill area, at levels much greater than before the spill occurred, according to researchers from Oregon State University.

Increased levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs—some of which are known carcinogens—were found along the coastlines of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, but the greatest increase was off Louisiana, where levels measured 40-times greater than before the spill. Ominously, the substances are available to be taken into the food chain.

The measurements were recorded in May and June, during the height of the BP oil spill, when hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf each day. New measurements are now being taken to see if degradation of the PAHs is taking place.

View Shirley Hao's blog posts
28 September 2010, 4:04 PM
Recycling of life, one shark bite at a time
Great white shark, ready for a meal. Photo: Fedorenko Gennady.

It turns out you really can get a free lunch—at least, if you're a great white shark.

A group (or, a shiver, if you prefer a more alliterative group name) of sharks found themselves presented with just such an unexpected buffet earlier this month, when a 36-foot Brydes whale (Balaenoptera edeni) was found drifting off the coast of South Africa.

Likely the tragic result of a ship strike—a major cause of injury and death to large whales, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale we're working to protect—the massive 10-ton remains was on a steady course for the shoreline, presenting a serious problem for local authorities. The recently departed whale would attract hungry sharks, which would in turn increase the likelihood of awkward shark/human encounters.

In a brilliant solution, the South African navy made the best of the whale's unfortunate death, towing it out to a remote area where the sharks could dine undisturbed—and under the close eye of scientists. Alison Kock, project leader at the Save Our Seas Shark Centre, characterized the nine-day marathon feast as "an unparalleled opportunity to document white shark behaviour." (Click on the image to advance to the next photo. Viewer discretion advised, if you're presently in the midst of your own meal.)

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
28 September 2010, 10:06 AM
Oil spill commission hearing provides grim oil spill testimony

Yesterday, in a report on the government's oil spill commission hearing, we wrote of the mounting scientific evidence that a bunch of spilled, toxic oil still haunts the Gulf and may  be resistant to degradation. Today, we revisit the testimony and empasize some very strong conclusions offered by hearing witnesses.

The commission's co-chair, former senator Bob Graham, compared BP's oil spill plan to how General George Custer prepared for his last campaign: overestimation of the fighting capability, underestimation of the foe, and a heavy resulting price to be paid.

An article by US News and World Report offers a particularly concise look at two of the most persuasive witnesses: oceanographer Samantha Joye from the University of Georgia, and scientist Ian MacDonald from Florida State University. The full story is worth reading, but here are the two key takeaways:

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
27 September 2010, 4:50 PM
Scientists warn of long-range health effects from oil, dispersants
Planes prays dispersant on Gulf oil spill

Here, in a one-sentence assessment by a U.S. Coast Guard commander, is what went right and wrong with the Gulf-oil spill clean up. As reported by the Wall Street Journal:

"My personal philosophy is, it is like a war and you have to respond with everything you have—overwhelmingly."

We were fortunate to have the Coast Guard at hand when BP's well exploded and the company was found ill-prepared to react. The Guard is nothing if not prepared and, as a branch of the military, attacked the spill as a foe trying to invade our homeland. They did, indeed, throw everything they had at it, including, unfortunately, a weapon with untested side effects: dispersants.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
10 September 2010, 4:12 PM
Rude practice, noxious Nike, Chicago the green, BP goes minor
Cruise ship docked in Washington

Washington cruise ships dump on Canadian waters
It turns out that cruise ships subject to ship pollution standards in Alaska and Washington State have found a way to cruise around the new rules by dumping their waste in nearby Canada, a practice that's currently legal thanks to a patchwork of inconsistent and lax international cruise pollution regulations. Earthjustice is working to curtail the rude and un-neighborly practice, which mucks up the ocean and harms marine life.

New Nike ad has enviro activists kicking and screaming
A new Nike promotional ad featuring a West Virginia University football player in front of a mountaintop removal mine has ticked off environmentalists, who argue that the ad is endorsing a destructive form of strip mining. The WVU athletic department disagrees, saying that the ad is meant to honor the victims of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in W. Virginia last April, yet that explosion occurred in an underground mine, while the ad denotes a surface mine. The devil's in the details.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
19 August 2010, 5:24 AM
No amount of PR can cleanse the oil spill's continuing reality

<Update 8/19: The chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment said today that BP gets a failing grade for its cleanup efforts in the Gulf. He also castigated federal authorities for grossly underestimating how much oil remains from the BP spill.>

<Update 8/19: Quoting Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute researchers, The Washington Post reports that a 21-mile plume of oil stretches underwater from the BP oil spill site in the Gulf. A similar report was put out by The New York Times.>

<Update 8/19: An oceanographer, from the Florida university whose scientists report that most oil from the Gulf spill still remains in the Gulf, is expected to tell a House subcommittee today that the federal government has underestimated impacts of that oil.>

Although initially slow to rush into Gulf waters and lead the clean-up of BP's oil spill, President Obama and his agencies are showing no hesitancy in rushing to clean up the public relations image of what that oil is doing to Gulf fishing and recreation. In the last few days, we've seen:

* Obama swimming along the Florida shoreline with his daughter to show just how clean and fun it is.

* EPA announcing that ¾'s of the 200 million gallons of crude have evaporated into thin air or into the tummies of hungry microbes.

* Various government authorities insisting that Gulf seafood is safe to eat—an insistence that accompanies the opening of shrimp season off the Louisiana coast on Monday.

Fortunately—or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it—many scientists aren't jumping on the Happy-Days-Are-Here-Again bandwagon.

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View David Guest's blog posts
18 August 2010, 10:34 AM
They ask Congress to keep the toxic good times flowing
St. John's River algae infestation - Courtesy Jacksonville University

Florida's St. John's River is fouled this summer with green slime, and dead fish are washing up on its shores. Every time it rains, nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen poison this river and others all over Florida. The poison comes from sewage, animal manure and fertilizer.

It is a crisis big enough that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed in November 2009 to set the first-ever legal limits for nutrient poisoning.

But, now, polluters are trying to derail efforts to clean up Florida's waters. They arrived enmasse recently at Congress, where they met with numerous federal lawmakers to try getting a rider put on the federal appropriations bill. The rider would, unbelievably, prevent EPA from setting important new limits on nutrient pollution. The rider may be introduced in a few weeks.

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View Shirley Hao's blog posts
16 August 2010, 12:27 PM
“Making ocean life count”

On dry land, the U.S. Census Bureau is tidily wrapping up work on the Great 2010 Census of Humans (and coming in nicely under budget, at that). Meanwhile, out in the seven seas, a different kind of census—wetter, wider and most surely wilder—is also coming to a much-anticipated conclusion.

Ten years in the making, the spectacular Census of Marine Life is assembling the first ever catalog of all sea-faring residents, uncovering far more personal details than your census form ever dared to ask: where these species live and vacation, their numbers (historical, present and trending), the roles they play in the ecosystem, and more.

Earlier this month, COML scientists released a sneak preview of their findings, a roll call of salty friends from 25 key ocean areas, ranging from the intimidating:

Imagine living in the sea where it is permanently dark, cold, and food is hard to find. For many animals at depth it may be weeks to months between meals. If you find something to eat, you have to hang on to it. This is why so many deep-sea fishes have lots of big teeth. This dragonfish even has teeth on its tongue! They would be terrifying animals if they weren't the size of a banana. (c) Dr. Julian Finn, Museum Victoria.

Imagine living in the sea where it is permanently dark, cold, and food is hard to find. For many animals at depth it may be weeks to months between meals. If you find something to eat, you have to hang on to it. This is why so many deep-sea fishes have lots of big teeth. This dragonfish even has teeth on its tongue! They would be terrifying animals if they weren’t the size of a banana. © Dr. Julian Finn, Museum Victoria.

…to the many-legged:

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