By Nick E.
Last week, the Coal Export Action made history in Montana with 23 activists arrested in a sustained act of nonviolent civil disobedience aimed at drawing attention to the deadly impacts of coal exports and raising the stakes in the fight for a clean energy future.
Getting arrested is never a goal in itself—in fact, it’s something most people would rather avoid. But with climate change crisis worsening, and coal mining and transport threatening Montana’s agriculture and the health of communities across the greater Northwest, we simply have to raise the bar in the struggle to stop coal exports. We’ve tried lobbying, petitioning, and turning out to public hearings, and decision makers like the Montana Land Board have continued to side with Big Coal over communities.
When a government fails to respond to the people, we have no choice but to take matters into our own hands, and peacefully break laws enacted by that government. That’s what 23 people did last week in Montana. We raised the bar for climate activism in this state, and showed we’re willing to put our bodies on the line if that’s what it takes to stop a disaster.
Boy, did that feel good.
But the 23 arrests are only part of the story. Hundreds of people participated in the Coal Export Action in some way over the course of a week. We marched to the offices of the state Department of Environmental Quality, and spoke with the DEQ director. We delivered thank you letters to the two members of Montana’s Land Board who bravely voted against leasing Otter Creek to Arch Coal in 2010. And we protested outside the Montana Coal Council office in Helena…needless to say, they weren’t happy to see us.
Now the action is drawing to a close: the last major piece will be today, Aug. 20, when we’re asking people to show up at the Helena Court House at 9 a.m., to support the last group of arrestees being arraigned.
But in so many ways, this is just the beginning. Arch Coal has submitted their official application to mine the Otter Creek coal tracts, and we have from now until the land board makes a final decision on the permit, to stop that project moving forward. Last week’s action made sure we started this phase of the fight against coal exports with a bang, and in months ahead we’ll finish the job.
Expect to hear from the Coal Export Action organizing team and our partner organizations about how you can keep the pressure up in the coming months. We’ll be organizing actions and events throughout Montana and the Northwest, putting pressure on the government bodies and individuals who make the coal industry’s reign possible.
Stay tuned. We’ll see you in the streets and in the halls of government.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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