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oceans

Today, the Obama administration sent a mixed signal on offshore oil drilling, a move guaranteed to raise concerns from native groups, environmentalists, and communities living near some of the most sensitive and biologically diverse coastal areas. Obama and Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a plan to halt oil and gas leasing in Bristol Bay off Alaska's southwestern coast and to postpone future lease sales in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, off Alaska's northern coast, while needed missing information is gathered.

February 13 was an amazing day in Florida. Wearing black to symbolize an oil spill, thousands of people took to the state's beaches in a massive "Hands Across the Sand" statewide protest opposing offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

We formed human chains to protect the state's famous white-sand beaches, and sent a message to our state Legislature that Floridians don't support oil drilling—especially in a state with an economy that runs on tourist business.

While Copenhagen and climate change are crowding the headlines at the moment, Monday Reads is breaking ranks to bring you news of a lighter—but we hope just as interesting—variety. Tool-use was once thought to be the exclusive realm of humans, but one by one other species have been added to the club—and now we welcome the octopi.

Researchers from Australia’s Museum Victoria observed the veined octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) digging up coconut shells from the ocean floor, specifically to use as a protective cover. Not wanting to be left empty suckered when they needed to hide and there was not a shell to be found, the octopus jauntily scamper around with oversized shells in tow. See for yourself (fast forward to 0:50 for the goods; stay until 2:05 to experience the sensation of being enveloped by an octopus):

Some top stories from the last week at Earthjustice...

The Copenhagen conference started off with a bang of optimism when the EPA announced that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health. The cooperative spirit quickly fizzled after a draft agreement surfaced that apparently favors the interests of the U.S. and other wealthy nations. There’s more news by the hour: Be sure to check out our daily reports from Copenhagen, and analysis by two attending Earthjustice attorneys, Erika Rosenthal and Martin Wagner.

All the buzz from the conference nearly drowned out a disturbing, and related, piece of news: Shell Oil was granted conditional approval to drill exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea. Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe warned that the approvals outpace the science of what we know about Arctic waters.

On the same day that the EPA released its endangerment finding, Earthjustice challenged the agency on a toxin polluting the air in Appalachia, to the point where kids can’t play outside. It’s coal dust, and we think the coal plants that produce it should do something about it. 

Farm workers and their families will get some long-awaited help to deal with toxic pesticides poisoning the air around their homes and schools, thanks to a new EPA policy. Going forward, the EPA will assess the health risks posed by pesticide drift with the same standards by which pesticides in food are assessed. 

And finally, this week Earthjustice saved taxpayers $1.5 million!—and 4.3 million board-feet of old-growth forest in the Tongass to boot. This also means we kept a little C02 out of the atmosphere. Indeed, one of the least controversial ideas out of Copenhagen is also one of the simplest: don’t cut down trees.

Even though a large group of polluters tried to derail it, Earthjustice won this week a historic settlement—with nationwide implications—that requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set legal limits for the widespread nutrient poisoning that triggers harmful algae blooms in Florida waters.

[UPDATE: "Friday Reads" is now moving to Mondays! Look for us at the start of your week.]

Imagine you're a prospective new mum, walking down the street, minding your own business. Maybe you're thinking about which hospital you should deliver your little ones at. Or perhaps which nursery school to enroll them in. When all of a sudden, a fellow pedestrian suddenly decides to help said little ones out of your womb—with their teeth!

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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.