In Chattanooga, this moment and this man turned everything around, singularly…In the wake of the tragic shooting in my hometown Chattanooga, Tennessee, this moment and this man reminded our community and our country that #WeAreOne In Chattanooga, this moment and this man turned everything around, singularly… In the wake of the tragic shooting in my […]
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Huge Victory from the Ninth Circuit Protects the Tongass National Forest
The Tongass National Forest, Alaska
I’m elated to tell you about a huge victory that will maintain protection for the roadless lands in the Tongass National Forest. Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in a rare, 11-judge en banc court, ruled that Bush-era action exempting the Tongass National Forest from the Clinton-era Roadless Rule is invalid. Yesterday’s decision will ensure that the roadless portions of the Tongass—the largest and wildest national forest in the U.S.—will be protected from new road-building and logging.
The Roadless Rule was enacted in the waning days of the Clinton administration in 2001. It was designed to protect “large, relatively undisturbed landscapes” in inventoried roadless lands within national forests.
The Roadless Rule prevents expensive and damaging new roads and clear-cuts in intact forests while allowing other economic development—including hydropower, transmission lines, mining and tourism projects—to proceed. The policy was designed to protect what the United States Department of Agriculture described as “roadless values”—scientific, environmental, educational, recreational and aesthetic attributes unique to these areas.
The Department of Agriculture explained that roadless values include healthy watersheds that provide clean water for domestic and agricultural uses, supporting healthy fish and wildlife populations. They also include “habitats for threatened and endangered species, space for wilderness recreation, environments for research, traditional cultural properties and sacred sites and defensive zones against invasive species.”
From the start the Department of Agriculture gave special consideration to the Tongass, a 16.8 million-acre forest in southeastern Alaska. As the Ninth Circuit noted in its ruling, “No other national forest received such special consideration in the department’s nationwide assessment of the proposed Roadless Rule.”
After much debate and roughly 1.6 million comments, the department decided that the Tongass should not be exempt from the Roadless Rule because it “would risk the loss of important roadless values” in the Tongass. But in 2003, the Bush administration reversed that decision. The Department of Agriculture adopted an exemption to the Roadless Rule for the Tongass, stating the rule wasn’t necessary to maintain those key roadless values.
Our case originated in 2009 when a diverse coalition of Alaska Native, tourism industry and environmental organizations, represented by attorneys from Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council, challenged the Bush Administration’s decision to exempt the Tongass.
In 2011, a federal judge agreed with the coalition that the decision was arbitrary and capricious. The federal government decided not to appeal, but the state of Alaska did. Last year, in a split decision, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit sided with Alaska. We asked for a rarely granted full court rehearing of the case and the court agreed.
That final decision from the full court came down today. The en banc panel ruled the decision to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule failed to “explain why an action that it found posed a prohibitive risk to the Tongass environment only two years before now poses merely a ‘minor’ one.”
This is an important decision that affirms a vital principle: Even when an administration changes, agencies cannot arbitrarily change policies. The victory would not have been possible without the tireless dedication of my colleagues, Earthjustice staff attorney Tom Waldo and managing attorney Eric Jorgensen, who have literally dedicated their professional careers to protecting the Tongass and its living inhabitants.
Most importantly, today’s decision is great news for the Tongass and for all those who rely on its roadless areas. The remaining wild and undeveloped parts of the Tongass are important fish and wildlife habitat and vital to residents and visitors alike for hunting, fishing, recreation and tourism, the driving forces of the regional economy.
To learn more about Earthjustice’s work in the Tongass, check out this feature: Saving the Forests for the Trees.
by Rivera Sun Hiroshima, Nagasaki, atomic bombs, nukes, war, peace, Los Alamos, Japan, nonviolence, movements Two days. Two bombs. More than two hundred thousand men, women, and children incinerated and poisoned. It has been seventy years since the United States … read more
A version of this article, by Jennifer Swann, a culture and lifestyle reporter covering the intersection of pop culture and social justice, originally appeared on TakePart. Emma Watson, U.N. Women’s goodwill Ambassador, has spent the last year trying to convince men that women’s equality is more than just a women’s issue. In the U.S., the “He for She” campaign…
Firefighters Feel the Burn of Climate Change
The Chiwaukum fire in Washington state, started by lightning, that burned more than 14,000 acres in July 2014.
California always seems to be on fire lately, not surprising given its hotter, drier weather. And the state’s not alone. Climate change means that many parts of the world are more susceptible to wildfires and, with less nearby water to staunch the flames, the job of firefighters is becoming increasingly difficult.
From January 1 to July 25, 2015, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) responded to 3,897 wildfires across the state, more than 34 percent over the five-year average. To help deal with this increase, Cal Fire has hired hundreds more firefighters this year and put more firefighting tankers in the air.
Those women and men have worked hard to contain the increasing numbers of wildfires. In 2014, 2,757 fires burned over 40,000 acres. But 2015’s record-setting number of fires burned fewer acres, less than 30,000 in total, thanks to the firefighters’ increased efforts.
Firefighters working in Type 1-PLUS crews deal with the worst fires. These Type 1 crews, more commonly known as hotshot crews, labor in the hottest sections of the blaze. Hotshot crews are comprised of 18 to 20 firefighters who are available seven days a week during fire season. They work and train together at least 40 hours per week, are assignable to any geographic area, and must be able to mobilize within two hours of any call. Hotshot members must meet stringent fitness measurements, including running 1.5 miles in 10:35 minutes or less and completing 25 pushups in 60 seconds or less. They arrive with their own gear and transportation, fully equipped to battle wildfires.
One inspiring hotshot crew, the Geronimo Hotshots, is based on the San Carlos Apache reservation in Arizona. The Atlantic documented the crew’s 2013 fire season in an informative and touching video.
In the video, members of the hotshots lament their tough schedules, where they’re sometimes home for a day or two and then absent for weeks. But their schedules, and those of other firefighters, might get even worse. In 2014 and 2015, Cal Fire hired its seasonal firefighters during January, much earlier than normal. And southern California never even saw an end to fire season, a phenomenon that’s unheard of, says Amy Head, a fire captain with Cal Fire.
Despite the herculean efforts of hotshot crews and other firefighters, fire season is indeed lengthening. One recent study shows that fire weather seasons lengthened across more than 25 percent of Earth’s vegetative surface from 1979 to 2013. The global average fire weather season increased by more than 18 percent. With the longer fire seasons, the area of the globe labeled as “burnable” increased by more than 108 percent.
California is already feeling that longer fire season, as well as an increase in the amount of burnable land. UC Davis Professor Mark Schwartz says that fire danger is also increasing at higher altitudes, as warmer climates lead to more vegetative growth at high elevations and less snow leads to drier forests in general.
Meanwhile, low water levels across the state mean that there are fewer locally available water sources for firefighters. Bill Shaw of Cal Fire told NPR, “In a rural firefighting, we don’t always have hydrant systems. We don’t have municipal water plumbed everywhere. So when we fight a fire, whether it be a wildland or a structure fire, we need large amounts of water most of the time to handle that. So we have to haul it on wheels.”
The devastation of wildfire and the efforts of firefighters were evident to me last summer when I was hiking in Yosemite. A fire raged nearby, spewing smoke across the valley. From the top of a peak, Yosemite looked like a lunar landscape, not a national park famed for its beauty.
With no end for the drought in sight, more of California may be transformed by smoke and fire. We can help prevent some blazes by taking basic precautions, like extinguishing campfires, but larger sacrifices may be in order to protect the lives of Californians and its firefighters.
It’s Time to Be Drought Intolerant
California agriculture uses about 80 percent of the state’s developed water supply.
California is in a drought fever. Judging by the plethora of billboards, store ads and news articles popping up lately, the only way to break this fever is for average Californians to make sacrifices. The messages all suggest replacing grassy lawns with low-water plants, taking shorter showers and shunning the water-guzzling almond.
These efforts are noble, and they do get people to think about water as a valuable resource that shouldn’t be squandered. (The Bay Area, especially, is getting into the drought-tolerant plant craze, as reported recently in this Earthjustice blog.)
But with every shower skipped by a Californian, the agricultural industry breathes a huge sigh of relief. That’s because these “Little Things Californians Are Doing To Conserve During the Drought,” as one HuffPo article recently stated, are just that—little things. Meanwhile, California agriculture uses about 80 percent of the state’s developed water supply, so little fixes meted out by individuals are mere drops in the bucket when it comes to alleviating the drought-stricken state.
Worse, when Californians like me spend all of our extra energy engaging in heated debates with our housemates about whether to flush the toilet or “let it mellow,” the opportunity to significantly affect our state’s fate goes down the drain.
So how does one individual solve the drought? It’s a bit of a trick question because one phone call or letter written about this issue feels as useful as planting that pretty succulent in your garden. But what if we all wrote letters or called our representatives to demand real, long-term drought solutions? Collective action like that is the heart of democracy, and though it’s not as enticing as a plant shopping spree, it forces our representatives to think beyond quick fixes and seriously reconsider how we allocate water.
For starters, we need to stop irrigating certain areas of the southern San Joaquin Valley. Farmers there have abandoned their fields because decades of irrigation have brought to the surface chemicals like selenium and arsenic, making the soil toxic. Yet Gov. Brown recently proposed building two giant water tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta that will “deepen the ecological mess” by guaranteeing more water from northern California is poured on the toxic land. (Read more about why the tunnels are a bad idea.)
We also need to stop growing water-intensive crops in arid landscapes, period. Water is a scarce resource in California, and it should be allocated as such. Almonds have been sliced and diced repeatedly by the media lately for their water-intensive ways. But depleting the state’s desert aquifers to grow hay and corn to fatten cows also makes little sense, especially when you can raise cows in plenty of non-arid places, as this Slate article points out.
Of course, California’s Big Ag industry hates these solutions because it impacts their bottom line. That’s probably why Gov. Brown shifted the focus off the industry and towards individual Californians. His administration has created billboard slogans like “Let it go” or “Turn it off,” urging taxpayers to let their lawns fade to gold.
The good news is that this water-saving campaign is working: residential water use dropped by 29 percent in May. Individuals have answered the call to make sacrifices when it comes to water; now it’s time for the agricultural industry to do the same.
About this series
Thirsty Thursdays is a weekly blog series exploring the historic drought in the western United States. In the ongoing series, we’ll share expert opinions, breaking news, compelling articles and the work Earthjustice is doing to protect water resources in a time of extreme water scarcity.
Don’t miss last week’s post: “Who Gets the Water and Who Gets Hung Out to Dry?”
In April, a string of xenophobic attacks shocked Durban, sending waves of chaos and fear throughout the city and its surrounding townships. Store fronts were set afire, homes were looted and a reported 8,000 foreign nationals were displaced into three interim refugee camps. These attacks happened minutes from my doorstep, giving me no option other…
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Press Conference Condemning Execution of Egypt’s Democratically-Elected President Mohamed Morsi To Be Held at Lexington Hotel in New York City on July 30
An international coalition of NGOs, human rights organizations, and media including Code Pink, International Action Center, Georgia for Peace, Gandhi’s Be Magazine, Gandhi Global Center for Peace, Euro Palestine, Stop the War, The Egyptian Revolutionary Council, The National Coalition for Democracy and Rejection of the Military Coup, The Egyptian Parliament in Exile, The Conscious Front, […]
Friendships enhance and enrich our lives. Whether they arise from sharing a juice box during recess, a dorm room in college, or a cubicle and crazy boss, life is kinder, gentler, more interesting and more fun when you don’t go it alone. Today is International Day of Friendship, so it’s time to gather those juice box-sharing friends of yours around you and celebrate what it means to have these important people in your life.
By Dr Vandana Shiva – L’Huffington Post, 29 July 2015
Sources [Italian]: http://www.huffingtonpost.it/vandana-shiva/semi-suolo-agricoltori-rinascita-grecia_b_7888156.html http://www.navdanyainternational.it/index.php/news/209-i-semi-il-suolo-e-i-piccoli-agricoltori-sono-vitali-per-la-rinascita-della-grecia
I am in Nigeria to visit Ogoniland which has been devastated by Shell on the 20th anniversary of the execution of Nigeria’s leading […]
Just two years ago, the villagers of Magadi, Kenya, had to light fires at night or burn expensive kerosene so their children could read and do their schoolwork—that is, when they weren’t tasked with guarding the village livestock from leopards and hyenas making their stealthy attacks in the dark. Energy poverty is a major…
By Michelle Shermer, ONE member As a homeschooling mother of five children who are now teenagers and young adults, I’ve learned never to know what to expect. So when ONE approached us with curriculum developed by Scholastic designed to teach about energy poverty, I felt a bit hesitant. Would my teenagers understand the issues? Would…
Jesus can be found in the most unlikely places.
The post Satan vs. Seitan: May the Better Man Win! appeared first on PETA.
“[People] make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” —Harry S. Truman The Obama Administration is set to release the final version of the Clean Power Plan shortly. The eyes […]
We Need Strong Ozone Rules to Clear the Air in Our National Parks
Smog, caused by air pollution, is visible in this picture of the Grand Canyon.
When I think of national parks, the things that come to mind are huge rock formations, awe-inspiring natural features and memories of some of the best family vacations I experienced as a kid. Today, however, I’m struck by the news that the air in our national parks is likely to drive visitors away.
The National Parks Conservation Association released a report this week called Polluted Parks: How Dirty Air is Harming America’s National Parks. The report evaluates many of the country’s most iconic parks in terms of their air quality, and the results show that many parks are not making the grade. This is impacting how and whether people choose to recreate in our parks, and will be until we make it right.
The report card rates parks on a scale of “A” through “F” and shows that many parks are failing in terms of healthy air, visibility and mitigating the effects of climate change. The term “healthy air” refers to lack of pollution from ozone, the main contributor to smog, which is created by coal-fired power plants, vehicle emissions and other polluting activities. Emissions from these sources can travel miles into our towns and cities, and as this report confirms, into our national parks.
Half of the top 12 most affected parks received failing (“D” or “F”) grades for healthy air, and the majority of parks failed on visibility measures and impacts from the changing climate. Of the 48 parks evaluated in the study, 83 percent have unhealthy air at certain times of the year.
This pollution doesn’t just lead to bad views; it can also severely impact people’s health and ability to fully enjoy the outdoors. Ozone can exacerbate asthma and breathing problems, heart attacks, strokes and other heart conditions. Even a short hike in a park on a “moderate” ozone day could cause negative health effects for children, the elderly and other sensitive populations. Seventy-five percent of the most iconic national parks regularly have unhealthy air quality, and 36 out of the 48 parks studied experienced “moderate” or worse ozone pollution days.
Ozone isn’t the only pollutant in parks. Nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, mercury and pesticides also can cause harm to visitors, as well as the plants and animals that live in the park. Twenty-six million Americans have asthma. That’s a huge number of people who may not be able to enjoy our national parks because their vacations happen to coincide with a bad smog day. That number only gets bigger when you consider that even those who don’t suffer from asthma can still be negatively impacted by ozone. Our national parks are part of our natural heritage, and all people should be able to visit them without having to worry that a hike could trigger an asthma attack.
It’s time to clean up the air in our national parks. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently in the process of updating ozone standards, which limit the amount of air pollution allowed in our cities and national parks. Tell the Obama administration that we need a strong, protective ozone standard, one that considers the impact of pollution on our natural heritage.
To join the conversation about pollution in our national parks, tweet #CleanAir4Parks or #AsthmaFeelsLike and visit asthmafeelslike.org.