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These Girl Scouts are saving wild bees, one ‘hotel’ at a time

Last month, millions of youth activists around the world took to the streets to fight for their right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and not have to suffer the wrath of the climate crisis.

But that’s not the only way kids are taking climate action into their own hands. In Colorado, the task of saving bees from the consequences of climate change has fallen to the girls who sell us the best cookies. Yes, you heard that right. Over the summer, at a Girl Scout day camp in Denver, Girl Scout troops fashioned tiny homes for wild bees called “bee hotels” to fight the depopulation of bees across the country.

Bee hotels are like birdhouses for wild bees. Since wild bees don’t make honey, they don’t live in hives, but they’re always in need of a suitable habitat. Out in the wild, these bees often nest in holes in fallen logs, dead trees, and broken branches of bushes. But natural habitats can be hard to come by in developed areas, which is where bee hotels come in.

The troops repurposed cardboard boxes, old paper straws, toilet paper rolls, and other materials to create homes for bees in their local community. The project is part of a new initiative called Think Like A Citizen Scientist Journey, in which girls from grades 6 through 12 develop real-world sustainable projects to create change. After some brainstorming and research, the scouts at the day camp chose saving the bees.

Girl Scouts Imani and Aimee with a bee hotel.

“There were times it was hard because there were so many girls and lots of ideas, but we worked together, and it was fun,” said 11-year-old Imani, one of the girls who participated in the project. “We found a way to come to a compromise and work together to make a fun bee hotel so the bees can fit their fuzzy little buns in.”

Working with bees can be a daunting task for kids around Imani’s age. Many children are afraid of bees, because they only know them from the pain of their sting. But Girl Scouts learn to overcome their fears. “I’m afraid of bugs, so it was hard for me to go look at the bees and learn about them,” said Imani. “I’m glad I did. I’m still scared, but I understand how we need bees for food and flowers and that they have a purpose.”

The U.S. has more than 4,000 wild bee species, and 40 percent of them are now facing extinction. The depopulation of bees is due to a number of factors including human activity, pesticide overuse, disease, and the changing climate.

Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an associate professor of entomology at the University of Maryland, College Park, says that bee hotels can play an important role in maintaining bee populations. Bee hotels aren’t only habitats but also a safe haven for bees to lay eggs. If built correctly and well maintained, vanEngelsdorp said, bee hotels can attract new bee species to areas that need pollinators.

“Bees, in general, not just honeybees, are keystone species,” he said. “They’re the ones that keep ecosystems together, they allow for trees to grow, and so, really, they’re cornerstone species.”

After building their bee hotels, the girls went out to install them in green pockets of their community, such as community gardens and the local botanical garden. They also donated one to a local beekeeper who spoke to the troops. “The most interesting thing I learned is probably when you think of bees, you just think of honeybees, but there are so many different types out there,” said Aimee, another 11-year-old Girl Scout.

In addition to helping maintain bee populations, the bee hotel project plays an important role in building a new generation of engaged citizens. “I want to show the girls that they have so many different opportunities to make the world a better place, and that they have many different assets already in their strengths that are all so viable,” said Tiffany Stone, one of the troop leaders.

VanEngelsdorp said it’s important for kids to learn that “every effort counts.” “What you’re seeing is that you need bees to survive, and so who better to be concerned about that than the people who are going to inherit the next generation?” he said. “These efforts are really good because hopefully they set up a lifelong commitment to preserving biodiversity.”

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These Girl Scouts are saving wild bees, one ‘hotel’ at a time

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The Ocean Cleanup project finally cleaned up some plastic

Well, folks, there’s a first time for everything — the Ocean Cleanup project has successfully deployed a device that collects plastic pollution.

It only took six years, tens of millions of dollars, and a few unsuccessful attempts (or “unscheduled learning opportunities,” in the words of 25-year-old founder and CEO Boyan Slat). The nonprofit’s prior, unsuccessful designs failed to catch any plastic, broke, or overflowed.

The new system even managed to pick up 1-millimeter microplastics, which Ocean Cleanup described as “a feat we were pleasantly surprised to achieve” in a press release.

Now that it finally has working technology, the Ocean Cleanup project hopes to scale up its fleet of 2,000-foot long, plastic-capturing, floating booms. The goal is to remove 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the next five years, and 90 percent of ocean plastic by 2040, an effort it estimates will require around 60 devices.

The project has drawn criticism over the years from scientists who argue it provides false hope and is disruptive to marine life. All that money and effort would be better spent diverting the 8 million tons of plastic that enter the oceans every year, the thinking goes.

To his credit, Slat acknowledges the importance of preventing pollution, not just cleaning it up. And his team of more than 80 scientists and engineers have also done some research that has contributed to what we know about the sources, scope, and nature of ocean plastic pollution — although their conclusions are controversial.

The first pieces of plastic gathered by Ocean Cleanup are on their way back to the U.S. to be recycled. Is it a perfect solution to the problem of ocean pollution? Probably not. But at the very least, we can all celebrate today knowing that the Dutch 18-year-old from that TED Talk, who saw plastic while scuba diving and asked, “Why don’t we just clean it up?”, is that much closer to his dreams coming true.

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The Ocean Cleanup project finally cleaned up some plastic

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How to Compare Solar Energy Bids & Select a Solar Installer

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More home and business owners are installing solar panels than ever before. And we now have a greater variety of panels and solar equipment to choose from than ever before. Depending on where you live, you probably have at least two or three solar installers that service your area. This means you have a lot of options when installing a solar energy system — which can be overwhelming.

Let’s explore some of the items to consider that will help you select a solar energy installer that can meet your needs.

Research Solar Installers

Like with any other home improvement project, it is wise to get at least two or three bids from licensed solar contractors with liability insurance. Here are a few ideas for finding potential installers.

Seek Recommendations & Online Reviews

If you know people with solar systems, you can ask them about their experience and possibly get referrals that way. Online reviews are also a good way to find some of the best installers in your area. Consider how long the company has been in business, the depth of their experience, their credentials, and their reputation.

Consider Local Businesses

Whenever possible, support small, locally-owned businesses. This is beneficial for your local economy and maybe even your pocketbook. A study from the National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) found that small- to mid-sized installers charge 10 percent less than big installers.

Review Solar Contractor Qualifications

Another important thing to consider is the qualifications of a given solar contractor. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certifies solar PV installers. Their requirements involve passing a written test and accumulating a certain amount of solar field experience. NABCEP certification doesn’t guarantee quality workmanship, but it does ensure a certain level of solar energy expertise and installation experience. Ideally, a NABCEP-certified professional will oversee your solar installation — or you will even have a NABCEP-certified installer on the roof.

Check Installer’s Use of Subcontractors

It is also helpful to know if a solar installer subcontracts out some or all of the solar installation. If so, find out what work the contractor will do themselves and what they outsource to a subcontractor. Subcontracting part of the job isn’t necessarily bad news. For example, they might subcontract a roofer to flash around the installation, which could improve the quality of the final results. 

Compare Project Quotes

Now that you have received quotes from at least two or three reputable solar installers, it is time to compare them. This could be a bit more difficult than you might expect because it is rarely an apples-to-apples comparison.

Some of the most crucial things to consider are the warranties, quality of the solar equipment, appearance of the solar panels, financing, and when they can complete your installation.


The solar equipment will come with its own set of warranties — this varies by the manufacturer and equipment model. There should also be a warranty on labor. Keep in mind that equipment failure can often require a couple of people to climb up on your roof to repair it. This can get expensive if labor is not covered. The more reputable equipment manufacturers and solar contractors are more likely to honor their warranties and to be in business down the road.


Solar installers tend to have solar panels, inverters, and racking equipment that they prefer using. If you are particularly excited about a particular solar product, you can ask the contractor if they will use this equipment. This can also make it easier to make a more accurate comparison between installers’ quotes.

If you don’t have particular products in mind, it is still important to consider the quality of the equipment and that it fits your priorities. Some of the most relevant considerations for solar panels are their long-term power generation, product warranties, environmental performance, appearance, and module testing performance. Cheaper solar panels have a lower upfront cost, but they may also produce less power down the line. Some panels might be more expensive partially because they have a sleek, all-black appearance, which may not be a top priority to you.


Many solar installers partner with financing companies. If you need a loan to install your solar system, consider the financing company they use. For example, what are their rates, fees, and monthly payments? This not an issue if you do not need financing or you are not going through the solar installer to obtain a loan.


When comparing bids, it is also helpful to know when a given installer can get started. Because solar is booming, some contractors have a very full schedule for months. When your solar system is installed can also impact the percentage of the federal solar tax credit as it will taper down for the next several years, effective on the first of each year.

Power Generation

Another thing to consider is power generation. Many contracts will offer estimates on how much electricity a given solar system will produce. Some installers use more conservative methods when estimating this than others, so you do not want to take their estimates literally. For example, one installer may estimate that your roof is more shaded than another installer’s estimate. This means you may want to verify these numbers to make a more accurate comparison between bids. To do this, visit PVWatts Calculator by NREL.

It is a good idea to consider your future electric needs. If a given solar system is estimated to produce more than 100 percent of your electricity needs, it may be larger than necessary. Do you plan a purchase in the near future that will increase your power consumption, such as an electric vehicle or a heat pump? If so, it is useful to slightly oversize the solar system for the time being.

Electric Bill Savings

Also, installers may estimate your electric bill savings. Make sure they used an accurate power rate by viewing your electric bills.

Examine the Contract

It is common when reading solar installer reviews to find dissatisfied customers. In many cases, the salesperson promised the customer something verbally that they didn’t deliver on.

Make sure everything that the salesperson promised is included in the terms in the contract. For example, if your solar installer promised the solar company would remove and reinstall the solar system when the roof is replaced, make sure it is in the contract. If the salesperson promised the system would be installed by December 31, before the federal tax credit tapers down a few percentage points, look for that in the contract.


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Top Ways the World Will Manage Climate Change (Beyond Reusable Water Bottles)

We all know we need to do our part to manage climate change?well, almost everyone knows this scientific fact. We know we need to drive less, recycle, stop using plastic, eat organically and opt for less packaging and reusable bags. And, if you?re like me, you?re trying to do all of these things. But, what if we ? as citizens, business owners, policy makers, or government leaders – knew the most important ways to manage climate change? Then, we could be sure we?re each doing as many of them as possible to make the greatest difference.

The group Project Drawdown ranked the most effective climate change solutions, dividing the many activities under categories such as the best ways to manage climate change based on food, movement of people and goods, homes and cities, land use, electricity use, waste management and empowering women.

Here are some of the top-ranked selections under each of the categories:

Under Project Drawdown?s food category, the organization ranked eating a plant-based diet, throwing away less food, composting waste and cooking over cleaner stoves among the top solutions. Check out my blog, ?New Study Found Plant-based Diet Reduces Heart Failure Risk by 41%? to not only help climate change but to help improve your health, too.

Project Drawdown also looked at the way we move people and goods around the planet and found that we could all help climate change by flying less and flying on more fuel efficient planes when we need to fly. It also recommended that we invest in high-speed trains, ship goods more efficiently and drive electric cars. It seems to me that there is an obvious trend toward decreasing our use (and waste) of fossil fuels and decreasing emissions of these greenhouse gases.

The homes we inhabit and the cities we live in also contribute to climate change and it astounds me that so many town, city, state and national governments continue to institute laws, regulations and policies that restrict people and communities that want to ?go green.? From outdated building codes to front yard vegetable gardens, government officials need to get informed before they get their heels in to support the status quo. Some of the top-ranked ways to fight climate change under the ?Our Homes and Cities? category include green roofs, smart thermostats and LED lighting, as well as designing (or redesigning) cities to be more walkable.

The United States has lost millions of acres of prime agricultural land to development in the last few decades. That doesn?t include wilderness lands that have been developed or opened up for development by governments that don?t understand climate change science. Project Drawdown ranks the protection, preservation and restoration of important ecosystems like coastal wetlands and tropical forests, as well as the return of lands to indigenous peoples as top ways we can combat climate change. The organization also ranked the planting of bamboo because of the plant’s rapid growth and capacity to absorb greenhouse gases at a much higher rate than most plant and tree species.

Our rapid pace of development also leads to challenges with materials and waste management. Top-ranked solutions in these areas include building with greener cement compounds. Cement is ubiquitous in our lives and most of us don?t give it a second thought. But the cement industry is the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide on the planet next to two countries (China and the U.S.), not two other industries. Cement making requires huge volumes of water (another climate change alarm bell) that could be used for drinking and growing crops, and it creates large amounts of dust that increase respiratory problems. Its negative impacts on the natural environment are innumerable. While we must address this massive threat, Project Drawdown also suggests we demand government and industry clean up chemicals in our air conditioning and refrigeration. On a more personal level, we can do a better job of recycling or repurposing more of our household goods and cutting back on rampant consumption.

It is almost impossible for most people today to imagine life without electricity even though its widespread use in society is less than a century old. Electricity generation and use is often sold as ?clean energy? but its impact on climate change is real. Among the top-ranked solutions regarding electricity use, Project Drawdown included wind, wave and solar power as better ways to generate electricity. As an added bonus, none of these energy generating options have been proven to cause cancer despite the ?windmill? claims of a high-ranking government official. Project Drawdown also included nuclear power in the rankings but the images from Chernobyl remain a horrific reminder of the dangers of this form of energy generation.

Last but not least, kudos to Project Drawdown for recognizing that empowering women will have a positive impact in our fight against climate change. Increased access to education, increased access to family planning and closing the gender gap in small-scale farming are some of the solutions the organization ranked high.

Check out all the rankings and let us know what things you are doing to combat climate change and help the planet.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM shares her food growing, cooking, and other food self-sufficiency adventures at FoodHouseProject.com. She is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World?s Healthiest News, founder of Scent-sational Wellness, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, & Cooking. Follow her work.

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Top Ways the World Will Manage Climate Change (Beyond Reusable Water Bottles)

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Genome – Matt Ridley



The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

Matt Ridley

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: March 26, 2013

Publisher: Harper Perennial


The genome's been mapped. But what does it mean? Arguably the most significant scientific discovery of the new century, the mapping of the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes that make up the human genome raises almost as many questions as it answers. Questions that will profoundly impact the way we think about disease, about longevity, and about free will. Questions that will affect the rest of your life. Genome offers extraordinary insight into the ramifications of this incredible breakthrough. By picking one newly discovered gene from each pair of chromosomes and telling its story, Matt Ridley recounts the history of our species and its ancestors from the dawn of life to the brink of future medicine. From Huntington's disease to cancer, from the applications of gene therapy to the horrors of eugenics, Matt Ridley probes the scientific, philosophical, and moral issues arising as a result of the mapping of the genome. It will help you understand what this scientific milestone means for you, for your children, and for humankind.

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Genome – Matt Ridley

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Remember that $20 million ocean cleanup project? It isn’t working.

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The $20 million effort to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has hit a bit of a snafu.

Organizers for The Ocean Cleanup, which launched the project in September, already had their work cut out for them — the floating garbage patch is made up of an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, which has coalesced into a field of debris twice the size of Texas, weighing in at 88,000 tons (that’s the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets, yikes).

In order to clean up the massive garbage island, engineers at the non-government organization built a U-shaped barrier, which they hoped would act like a coastline, trapping the plastic floating in large swathes of the patch. The system can communicate its whereabouts at all times, allowing a support vessel to come by periodically to pick up all the junk in the device’s trunk, so to speak, for recycling.

The highly anticipated endeavor deployed out of San Francisco in September, when the floating device — known as System 001 or Wilson — was towed out to the island of rubbish located between California and Hawaii. The goal of The Ocean Cleanup is to remove up to 50 percent of plastics in the area within five years.

But so far, the giant garbage catcher is having issues holding on to plastic waste.

George Leonard, chief scientist of the Ocean Conservancy, a non-profit environmental advocacy says the organization’s goal is admirable, but can’t be the only solution to ocean plastics pollution. He said a solution must include a multi-pronged approach, including stopping plastic from reaching the ocean in the first place. Humans dump more than 8 million tons of trash into the ocean each year — the equivalent of one dump truck full of plastic every minute.

“The clock is ticking; we must confront this challenge before plastics overwhelm the ocean,” Leonard said.

The Ocean Cleanup Fonder Boyan Slat said the slow speed of the solar-powered 600-meter long barrier isn’t allowing it to scoop up plastic from the swirling trash island. Over the next few weeks, a crew of engineers will make tweaks to the system. Slat says it’s all part of the process when you take on a project this ambitious (Forbes called it “the world’s largest ocean cleanup”).

In a statement released on December 20, Slat said that he always expected it was going to be a bit of an ongoing experiment. “What we’re trying to do has never been done before,” he said. “For the beta phase of [the] technology, this is already a success.”

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Remember that $20 million ocean cleanup project? It isn’t working.

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North Dakota tribes issue thousands of IDs to stop voter suppression

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If North Dakota tribal members show up to the polls today without proper ID, indigenous leaders are determined to make sure they’re still able to exercise their right to vote.

The Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal of the state’s new, restrictive voter ID law, which requires the listing of a valid residential address. Since many tribal members use P.O. boxes, the law has the potential to disenfranchise a large portion of the state’s Native community. But organizations have been rallying to help tribal members meet the requirement, even as late as Election Day.

“It’s an absolutely critical election. We won’t sit quietly and let our people be denied their right to vote,” Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Mike Faith said in a statement.

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In the days leading up to the midterm election, indigenous leaders rallied to issue thousands of new ID cards for would-be voters. The campaign, dubbed #StandingRockTheVote, is the result of a partnership between several North Dakota tribes and nonprofit advocacy organizations fighting voter suppression. As of last week, the Standing Rock Sioux, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, and Three Affiliated Tribes had distributed more than 2,000 new ID cards to their members free of charge so that they won’t be turned away at the polls. Through a GoFundMe page, the group raised more than $230,000 for the initiative in 17 days. The Native American Rights Fund also donated $50,000.

“We are modeling how we can work together to ensure our Native vote is as a large as possible,” said Phyllis Young, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and a field organizer for the coalition that is mobilizing voters.

Young is working alongside Four Directions, a nonprofit that supports Native voting rights, and Lakota People’s Law Project, which works to protect Lakota land and resources. Together they’ve devised a “failsafe” plan to make sure no native voters fall through the cracks on Election Day.

For anyone who still doesn’t have a qualifying ID when they show up to vote, tribal officials and volunteers will be present at polling places to issue documents on the spot that comply with voting laws. As long as voters in need of ID can verify their tribal membership and point out where they live on a map, officials will help them find a corresponding residential address and issue a letter verifying their eligibility.

Matt Samp, an organizer at Four Directions says his group successfully tested the method of issuing documents on the spot at the state auditor’s office last week. It’s a technique that hasn’t been tried before this year — and can work, in part, because North Dakota is the only state that doesn’t require voter registration.

“Our first effort has been getting people new IDs. We don’t want to have to use this letter one time, but if we have to we have it,” Samp said. “I shouldn’t have to be on the ground doing this, but that’s the law they made, so we’re complying with it.”

In 2016, members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa sued the state over the residential address requirement, arguing that the rule would disproportionately impact Native American voters who faced additional barriers to securing the necessary ID. Some critics contended that the law was aimed at suppressing the Native vote. Eighty-three percent of Sioux County, where the Standing Rock reservation is located, voted for Democratic candidate Heidi Heitkamp for in 2012. She ended up winning her Senate seat by just 3,000 votes, and her victory is largely attributed to the support she received from the indigenous community.

Daniel Hovland, chief judge for the U.S. District Court in North Dakota, initially ruled that the new voter ID law placed “excessively burdensome requirements” on the state’s Native American voters. That decision allowed people with mailing addresses on their IDs to vote in the primaries. But the state appealed, and a higher court sided with them this September, putting the restrictive law back into play for the midterm election. The Spirit Lake Tribe filed another suit in federal court asking for emergency relief from the mandate, but Judge Hovland denied their emergency request last week, on the grounds that such a last-minute change would cause “confusion.”

It’s unclear what the new law (and the efforts to issue new IDs to tribal members) might mean for the election. Heitkamp is running for reelection in a close race against Republican candidate Kevin Cramer. Although Heitkamp has been vocal about some issues important to tribes in North Dakota — like addressing the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women — she received criticism for failing to back Standing Rock opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Heitkamp’s campaign website also says she supports oil and coal.

But just because of Heitkamp’s stances have left a sour taste with some Native American voters doesn’t mean they won’t show up at the polls. Because of the lengths Young, Samp, and others have gone to get out the vote, Native Americans are now expected to have a higher-than-normal turnout in the North Dakota election on Tuesday.

“We’re trying to turn a challenge into an opportunity,” says Daniel Nelson, Program Director at the Lakota People’s Law Project, adding that the sentiment on the ground is actually pretty jubilant. “Democracy is alive and well at Standing Rock.”

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North Dakota tribes issue thousands of IDs to stop voter suppression

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Minnesota just approved a new tar-sands pipeline. Activists say they will fight it.

On Thursday, the Minnesota Public Utility Commission gave the green light to Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 — a new Canadian tar-sands pipeline that would replace a deteriorating pipeline that’s currently running at half capacity. It’s the most recent development in an ongoing dispute over the Canadian energy company’s plan.

The decision isn’t totally final, according to the state’s governor. But it allows Enbridge to now apply for 29 other permits it needs to build the pipeline, which would run from Superior, Wisconsin, to Alberta, Canada.

Despite Minnesota’s decision, pipeline resisters say they’ll keep fighting.

In the early ’90s, a pipeline spilled 1.7 million gallons of oil in northern Minnesota. Activists worry that a major spill could happen again, potentially affecting river health and indigenous practices. Although the proposed route doesn’t go through reservations, it would cut through places where indigenous groups harvest wild rice and hunt.

Environmental and indigenous rights activist Winona LaDuke has been fighting the Line 3 project for five years. She tells Grist she’s disappointed in the public utility commission’s decision. But she’s still optimistic that the new line won’t happen: LaDuke called the project “Enbridge’s most expensive pipeline that will never be built.”

Margaret Breen of Youth Climate Intervenors — a group of young activists who have been working to oppose the pipeline — says that her organization remains motivated to stop the project, too.

There’s also the possibility of legal action. Cathy Collentine of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign says that the Sierra Club is exploring options to halt the pipeline’s progress, such as petitioning for a reconsideration of the decision.

LaDuke says her group, Honor the Earth, has a legal team that plans to take action. The group is inviting water protectors to come to Minnesota.

LaDuke expects more resisters to join in the wake of the most recent decision. “We think water protector tourism should be at an all time high,” she says, and warns that a Standing Rock-like protest may be on the way.

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Can Oakland still stop the coal trains?

When a federal judge struck down Oakland’s ban on coal shipments this week, it represented a setback for environmental advocates. Nearly two years ago, the local city council had voted unanimously to keep coal out of a proposed redevelopment of the Oakland Army Base — pushing the argument over the dirty fuel source into the courts.

A quick survey of advocates in the wake of the new ruling indicates it is not a crippling loss. That’s because the proposed port to ship coal out of Oakland hasn’t been built yet, and the people who want to stop it have several more cards to play.

“It doesn’t mean we are going to have coal trains going through Oakland,” says Erica Maharg, managing attorney for San Francisco Baykeeper.

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Margaret Gordon founder of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, says that the port still faces a high hurdle in the form of mitigations for pollution from the new facility. If approved, the port would be built in West Oakland, a historically polluted, and historically African American, neighborhood. And those mitigations — Gordon would like to require zero-emission technology on all the equipment at the port and all the trucks and trains serving it — could be economically prohibitive.

“We knew we were going to have to have more mitigations, win, lose, or draw,” Gordon says.

On the other side, a representative for Phil Tagami, the port developer, says his client was “still digesting the decision and had no comment at this time.”

The current case was really about a contract between Tagami and Oakland. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria explained that the city made a deal with Tagami that it would not add any new regulations on port operations unless those new regulations were required to prevent a “substantial danger” to the people of Oakland. And, in his assessment, Oakland just didn’t offer the evidence to show that a coal ban was required to protect its residents.

Chhabria was scathing in his appraisal of the evidence Oakland presented: It was, he wrote, “riddled with inaccuracies, major evidentiary gaps, erroneous assumptions, and faulty analyses, to the point that no reliable conclusion about health or safety dangers could be drawn from it.”

That assessment came as a surprise to Earthjustice staff attorney Colin O’Brien, who worked on the case. “The science has long been unequivocal that fine particulate matter is harmful to human health,” he says. “I’m not sure that level of proof should be required of the city.”

Interestingly, San Francisco Baykeeper’s Maharg points out that Chhabria also explicitly opened the door to a defense of the coal ban with better evidence. The judge wrote that there may be sufficient evidence to prove that a coal port really is a health hazard, but the coal-ban advocates simply hadn’t presented it in court.

The coal-ban proponents could appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court, but they haven’t decided yet if they will do that. They have other options, and this ruling — which focuses narrowly on whether Oakland violated a contract — may not be the right hill to die on.

“In the big picture,” O’Brien says, “I’m not sure how much this decision matters.”

In that big picture, the West Coast is quickly turning into a coal blockade. As Jeremy Sussman, an analyst at Clarksons Platou Securities, told Bloomberg, “Most realists have come to the conclusion that West Coast states such as California, Washington, and Oregon simply aren’t going to allow a lot of coal exports now or in the future.”

This decision knocks a chink in that blockade, but it does nothing to change the political will that created it in the first place.

Excerpt from – 

Can Oakland still stop the coal trains?

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Scott Pruitt’s got 99 problems but Trump ain’t one.

Rick Scott, who has served as Florida’s governor since 2011, hasn’t done much to protect his state against the effects of climate change — even though it’s being threatened by sea-level rise.

On Monday, eight youth filed a lawsuit against Scott, a slew of state agencies, and the state of Florida itself. The kids, ages 10 to 19, are trying to get their elected officials to recognize the threat climate change poses to their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

18-year-old Delaney Reynolds, a member of this year’s Grist 50 list, helped launch the lawsuit. She’s been a climate activist since the age of 14, when she started a youth-oriented activism nonprofit called The Sink or Swim Project. “No matter how young you are, even if you don’t have a vote, you have a voice in your government,” she says.

Reynolds and the other seven plaintiffs are asking for a “court-ordered, science-based Climate Recovery Plan” — one that transitions Florida away from a fossil fuel energy system.

This lawsuit is the latest in a wave of youth-led legal actions across the United States. Juliana v. United States, which was filed by 21 young plaintiffs in Oregon in 2015, just got confirmed for a trial date in October this year.

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Scott Pruitt’s got 99 problems but Trump ain’t one.

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