Save the Date, Save the Climate

06/16/2014

Where will you be on Sunday, September 21?

I will be in New York, marching with tens of thousands of Sierra Club activists and others from hundreds of other organizations. People from environmental, climate justice, labor, and faith groups; young people; people of color -- all of us will be coming together to support and demand action in The People's Climate March.

I will never forget the pride and excitement on people's faces last February, when 50,000 of us gathered in Washington, D.C. Now, as Antarctic ice sheets collapse, as droughts and other extreme weather events threaten the U.S. and the world, as warnings from scientists grow ever more compelling, the need for action has never been more urgent.

The world will be watching New York City this September. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has summoned global leaders for a historic climate summit. The Sierra Club will be joining an equally historic demonstration of broad-based support for climate solutions.

We can show President Obama that we want him to deliver on tough, effective carbon-emission standards. That we want the swiftest possible transition to safe, clean, renewable energy sources like solar and wind. And that we want our public lands protected -- not drilled, fracked, and exploited.

We can show the strength of our commitment to climate action that protects vulnerable communities, both here at home and around the world. We can grow and strengthen the Sierra Club's chapters and groups by engaging new activists and using our greatest asset -- people power.

And we can show the world that we're helping to lead and build a movement that's broad-based, diverse, and powerful -- a movement that won't back down about getting action on climate.

We'll have more details about this one-day event soon, but it has been confirmed that it will take place on Sunday, September 21, and I wanted you to be among the first to know about this important and historic march. I hope to see you in New York. Learn more and RSVP here.

Highlights from the May Board Meeting

05/19/2014

As recent reports confirm, the climate crisis is upon us here and now, and our May board of directors meeting came at a historically challenging time for the Sierra Club and the environmental movement as a whole.  I’m confident that our unique, 122-year old organization can and will continue to evolve, grow even stronger, and lead the way toward solutions.

We took several steps towards that goal at our May meeting, including steps towards strengthening and expanding our organization so that we’re up to the task.

First, we committed to a year-long strategic planning process, exploring what changes might make us even more effective in our advocacy work. 

We committed to continue work towards building the broad-based, diverse climate movement we must help create if we are to meet the enormous challenge of ending dependence on fossil fuels. After reviewing recommendations from a specially appointed task force, the board authorized formation of a Next Steps on Climate Committee to see that key recommendations are implemented. Among those recommendations was a request to provide more support for our chapters in their own efforts to engage new activists and allies.

We agreed to come up with proposed language for a revised policy on fracking, with an eye towards addressing the broad desire for a clearer and stronger policy.  In keeping with our board-adopted policy revision guidelines, proposed policy language would be posted for comment by volunteer entities and leaders and other interested members.

We explored next steps towards making the Sierra Club a genuinely multicultural organization, an effort aided and guided by recommendations from the Sierra Club's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team.    

We discussed how we can best assure the effectiveness of initiatives designed to make it easier and more rewarding for new and current activists to find information and join with others who want to work on the environmental issues they care about most.

And we went to a ball. All work and no play would make for a dull meeting, and our retreat was anything but.  The Sierra Club’s first Trailblazers’ Ball, a fundraising event, drew a packed and enthusiastic crowd, and the event got glowing reviews from board members and other attendees as well.  It also gave board members at a laid-back May retreat an excuse to go into the city, don formal dresses, neckties and -- in Jim Dougherty's case, black patent leather shoes – and prove that you’re only as old as you feel.

And then there was the stuck bus. But Sierra Club board members roll with the punches, and no trivial detail like a burned-up bus transmission is going to stop us from doing the organization’s work and saving the planet.

BoardPhotoModified

I'm honored to continue serving another year as Sierra Club president, along with returning officers Spencer Black (vice president), Lane Boldman (secretary), board fifth officer Susana Reyes, and newly elected treasurer Loren Blackford.  The board also welcomed newly elected directors Michael Dorsey, who has served two previous stints on the board, and Dean Wallraff, who joins us for the first time. (Learn more about the Sierra Club Board of Directors here).

With new board members comes the departure of others. Longtime board member and past president Larry Fahn termed off the board after his latest six year run, and Larry received a well-deserved and enthusiastic appreciation from his colleagues.  Rob Wilder also leaves the board, and he was recognized for his contributions as well.

This is a hardworking, collegial board that has taken on many challenges on behalf of the organization.. I look forward to its anticipated success in the coming year.

Righting Wrongs

08/25/2013

August 28th will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Some who know its historical significance don't realize that King's speech is also a remarkable piece of rhetoric. The speech drew its power from King's rich metaphors, such as his comparison of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to a promissory note that it was long past time for Americans to make good. "We have come to our nation's capital to cash a check."

King's speech drew its power from his deft use of alliteration and parallel structure, and his keen Baptist preacher's sense of cadence and sound. "I have a dream...that the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood..."

But most of all, King's speech drew its power from the moral force of his demand that a nation's elected leaders right a glaring and egregious wrong: their failure to assure all Americans equal protection under the law.

Were he alive today, I believe that King would have demanded that our leaders act on climate. Social and economic justice was his cause, and the injustice of our present course can't be denied. From the heat wave that killed hundreds in Chicago to Hurricane Katrina killing thousands in the American South, people of color and the politically disenfranchised suffer disproportionate harm from extreme events that we can no longer dismiss as natural disasters.

In global terms, some of those most threatened by our carbon pollution -- including indigenous people of the far north, residents of the low-lying Maldive Islands nation, and the hundreds of millions of people who live in low-lying areas near the Indian Ocean -- face a climate crisis not of their making.

So will those who stand to inherit a climate-damaged planet -- including species like the polar bear, already struggling in an Arctic that may see temperatures rise by ten degrees Fahrenheit. Not to mention all the other species facing one of the worst waves of mass extinction in Earth's history, this one unique in that it's driven entirely by human activity.  

Surely few things could be more unjust than that.

Environmental activists have sometimes been discouraged from using words like "climate catastrophe" or speaking of climate disruption in moral terms. Understandably, some have advised environmentalists to emphasize the potential for new jobs instead. And of course, the real economic benefits to be gained from moving to a clean energy economy are well worth emphasizing. Organizers of the 1963 March on Washington called it the March for Jobs and Freedom for good reason.

But I believe that people join the environmental movement for the same reason they join any social movement -- out of a desire to right wrongs. People see wolves needlessly slaughtered and they know it's wrong. They see pollution sources concentrated in low-income neighborhoods and they know it's wrong. They see once-pristine public lands -- our lands -- riddled with thousands of oil and gas wells. Appalachian mountains and streams lost forever to mountaintop removal. Water, air and quiet threatened by fracking. And they know it's wrong.

Speaking earlier this summer, President Obama said that "We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that's not polluted or damaged...." He said that "ultimately, we will be judged as a people, and as a society, and as a country on where we go from here" regarding climate. He surely knows that his presidency will be judged by that standard as well. He needs to make good on his promises -- and to rethink his commitment to nuclear power and natural gas -- but his framing of the crisis in moral terms couldn't be more apt.

A sense of moral imperative -- King's "fierce urgency of now" -- has driven social movements throughout our nation's history. It was and still is the force behind the struggle for civil rights and economic justice. It is the power that will ultimately allow us to win our struggle to leave a livable planet for generations to come. 

 

A Welcome (But Less Than Candid) Case for Climate Action

08/10/2013

I'm sure many of you saw "A Republican Case for Climate Action," a signed op-ed piece that ran in the August 1st NY Times. No sensible environmentalist would fail to take heart when four former EPA administrators, all of them officials who served in Republican administrations, state that there is no longer any credible scientific debate about climate change, that action can't wait, and that congressional leaders should both support President Obama's proposed administrative actions on  climate and start the debate over the bigger steps we will need to avert catastrophic warming.

But even as I applaud, I'm struck by the bizarreness of a political landscape where Republican officials' simple acknowledgement that we should listen to climate scientists about climate science -- and actually do something -- is newsworthy. Today's Republican politics is life imitating a Vonnegut novel -- think Slaughterhouse-5's bitterly comic take on the WWII firebombing of Dresden, Germany -- and when the very ability of government to function depends on a House dominated by antigovernment zealots and a Senate paralyzed by GOP filibusters, life imitating a Vonnegut novel isn't funny, it's terrifying.

House Speaker Boehner called the proposal for new carbon regulations "absolutely crazy." Senate Minority Leader McConnell ripped the president's "war on coal." Senator Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, has called climate change "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated." All three men's statements reflect the general  posture of a Republican congressional delegation that's been staggeringly irresponsible about climate. Those three men aren't some crazy backbenchers -- they're crazy chosen leaders.

Don't misunderstand. I'm genuinely grateful that four former officials from Republican administrations told the truth about the science and called for action. But in failing to even mention many congressional Republicans' open skepticism (and worse) about climate disruption-- in ignoring House efforts to stop even the basic climate research we need just to know what's happening -- the four former EPA officials failed to tell the truth about  the worst poltical obstacles to getting deep cuts in carbon emissions.. And in calling upon generic "congressional leaders" to support President Obama's proposals, they implied that Representative Pelosi or Senator Reid or Senator Boxer pose the same threat to presidential action that Speaker Boehner or Senator McConnell or Senator Ihnofe do --  which is absurd.

When a planet is literally at risk of environmental catastrophe, this kind of polite but timid evasion matters.. I thank Mr. Reilly, Mr. Thomas, Mr. Ruckelshaus and Ms. Whitman for standing up, but it's long past time to tell the whole truth, to hold elected skeptics, deniers and obstructionists accountable, and to name names.  A real Republican case for climate action needs to begin by acknowledging the obvious -- that taking the "bigger steps on climate" these former EPA officials call for will depend upon politicans like Boehner, Inhofe and McConnell either undergoing drastic changes of heart or -- perhaps more plausibly -- losing power.

Historic Times

07/05/2013

 

I write this as Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with its majestic opening: “When in the course of human events…” As we recall the 150th anniversary of a battle that inspired Lincoln’s words about a war “testing whether that nation, or any nation … can long endure.” With the ringing phrases of President Kennedy’s inaugural address in my mind: “We will pay any price, bear any burden...” 

Presidents don’t talk like that anymore -- ringing oratory belongs to a long-vanished, less cynical era.  But that doesn’t mean America’s great moral challenges have gone away.  Far from.    

President Obama gave a speech of his own last week.  About enacting carbon pollution standards for power plants.  Ending funding for new coal-burning power plants overseas.  Building enough new wind and solar installations to power millions of homes.   And preparing for the inevitable impacts of climate disruption we can no longer avoid. 

Promises of carbon rules for power plants and solar panels on public housing may not rank alongside Churchill’s “We shall fight them on the beaches…." Talk of new appliance standards may not inspire a generation in the way Kennedy’s pledge to put an American on the moon once did. We face a different kind of struggle. As President Obama himself noted, “The challenge [of cutting carbon pollution] will not reward us with a clear moment of victory.  There’s no gathering army to defeat.  There's no peace treaty to sign.” 

But make no mistake.  Getting standards that will slash carbon pollution from power plants matters enormously.  Power plants are the largest concentrated source of greenhouse gas emissions, and Sierra Club has led the fight to end industry’s free ride.

President Obama’s pledge to judge the Keystone XL pipeline on its climate impacts matters -- so long as he understands those impacts and follows through. We’ll keep pressing to see that he does.  It wasn’t the climate plan we’d have written, but the President’s proposals for near-term, achievable actions give real grounds for hope.

That the steps President Obama proposed are entirely within his powers is good, because that makes them doable.  That he needs to rely entirely on executive actions is a damning indictment of those in Congress and elsewhere who would, in the President’s words at Georgetown,  “condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing." 

No caring nation would do that, and we are a caring nation -- albeit one with badly broken institutions.  But just as surely as Lincoln’s America did, we face a test – literally a test of whether our democratic institutions can still function.

President Kennedy ended his inaugural with the ringing lines “Now the trumpet summons us again…  with a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle….” In confronting those who would block action on climate, we face a long twilight struggle of our own.  

President Obama’s climate plan would move us forward in that struggle, with steps he can take within his authority.  We don’t agree with everything he proposed, such as expanded roles for natural gas and funding for nuclear energy.  But he proposed many actions we have urged him to take for years now. 

We’ll keep supporting him in the fights ahead over power plant standards and other measures that will actually move the needle on cutting carbon. And I know we’ll ardently and thoughtfully press for more, as well we should.

 

A More Diverse, Inclusive, and Welcoming Sierra Club

04/01/2013

The Sierra Club is committed to creating a culture in which all people feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. I was pleased to publish this LTE in response to a recent article about the lack of diversity in environmental groups.

Thank you for shining a spotlight on an issue the Sierra Club has identified as a key priority for 2013 and beyond: bringing diversity to the environmental movement (March 25, 2013).

Communities of color are disproportionately affected by the health problems caused by pollution, particularly the production, transportation, and burning of dirty fossil fuels including coal, oil, and natural gas. These same communities are also often at greater risk from the extreme weather and other threats posed by climate disruption that dependence on these fuels has spurred.

The Sierra Club is investing in diversity and inclusion not only because it is our job to fight for everyone's right to clean air and water, but because we recognize that within these communities are millions of allies with whom we share values and whose support we will need to continue to win the battle against climate disruption.

What would REALLY be newsworthy, however, is what organizations like the Club are doing to become more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming. Join me for an Open House call on Monday, April 8, 5-6pm PST to learn just that!

The Club's diversity program has evolved significantly over the past few years. Although we have a long way to go, the progress is substantive and rewarding. Much of the success comes from weaving diversity and inclusion into the campaigns, programs, and capacity building, as opposed to isolating these initiatives. Moreover, the Sierra Club's leadership - staff and volunteer alike - needs to reflect the communities we serve, support and partner.

For at least two decades the Sierra Club has worked side-by-side with activists and organizations in these communities to take on polluters and encourage clean energy prosperity. Together we have won victories against coal interests in Chicago, Detroit, and other major cities. We have challenged oil companies threatening indigenous communities in Alaska. In Port Arthur, Texas, we've partnered with local restaurant owner Hilton Kelley in defeating an enormous petrochemical refinery expansion. Last Friday, we stood with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and dozens of local activists to announce that America's second-largest city will be coal-free by 2025.

Since 1976, our Inner City Outings program has provided tens of thousands of urban youth with outdoor experiences, fostering new generations of environmental activists who want to preserve our country's natural heritage.

Join me to hear from Sierra Club staff and volunteers about what's working in their neck of the woods to recruit more youth and people of color, to engage new audiences, and to strengthen our outreach.  And, bring your stories to share!

Open House Call
Monday, April 8, 5-6pm PDT
Toll-Free Dial-In: 1-866-501-6174
Conference Code: 455-0000-1892#

Confirmed Guests:
Adriana Gonzalez: Sierra Student Coalition ExCom
Cliff Cockerham: Water Sentinels Youth Project in TN
Aisha Farley: Youth Organizing Project in CA (Angeles) 
Flavia De La Fuente: Organizing in TX (1-day trainings, family-friendly events, working with millennials and college students)
Jessica Ronald: Sierra Club Diversity Effectiveness Representative

Here's the Sierra Club's Diversity Resources page.

No Rest for the Determined: Building and Keeping the Momentum

02/28/2013

Coming on the heels of the largest climate change rally in history and the Sierra Club's first authorized act of civil disobedience, the Board of Directors spent some time debriefing these efforts. But no sooner did we cheer and celebrate the rally success than all attention and the vast majority of discussions shifted to focus on the opportunities and challenges ahead of us — expanding the climate focus, continuing to build power, and scaling up our campaigns, programs, and capacities. Highlights of the Board meeting last week (Feb. 21-23) included meeting and hearing about the work of our San Gorgonio Chapter leaders, and enjoying hikes in the Wildlands Conservancy Whitewater Preserve or Joshua Tree National Park.
 
Join me for an Open House call on Monday, March 4, from 4-5 pm PST / 7-8 pm EST, for a Climate Rally Debrief and a look forward to what's next.

Call-in number: 866-501-6174
Conference code: 455-0000-1892

I'll be joined by Sarah Hodgdon, Michael Bosse and others to discuss:

- What did the rally success look like and what did it take to deliver that?

- Who won the contest to bring the most people to the rally and how did they accomplish this?

- The Forward on Climate rally was the first big push in the Obama Climate and Clean Energy Campaign. What's next? How do we keep and build on the momentum?
 
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C., and around the country on a cold February day to call for and inspire bold and decisive leadership on climate. I look forward to talking with you about how to harness that hunger for our movement.

-- Allison

P.S. This is the second in a revival of the first-Monday-of-the-month President's Open House Call!

Looking Back at Yesterday's Climate Civil Disobedience

02/14/2013

Allison ChinYesterday, close to 50 people from a wide variety of backgrounds came together outside the White House to engage in peaceful civil disobedience for the climate.
 
I was proud to represent Sierra Club's 2.1 million members and supporters in calling for the president to take on climate change and to match his words with action -- starting with the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. I was inspired to be in the company of   ranchers and farmers, civil rights and social justice leaders, poets and actors, scientists and businesspeople, and union and faith leaders.
 
A global crisis is unfolding before our eyes. To stand aside and let it happen -- even though we know how to stop it -- would be unconscionable. That is why I was willing to be arrested. It was clear to me that each of the 48 arrestees held the same conviction.
 
I am hopeful that President Obama is willing to tackle climate change. I am looking for the president to step up and LEAD -- to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and take us into the future by doubling down on clean energy, not backward to dirty fossil fuels; to stop the rush of oil and gas exports; to protect our lands, water, and wildlife from the impacts of fossil fuel development. I am prepared to push him to make hard decisions and use every resource at his disposal. I am ready to support bold leadership on climate.

I am humbled by the many expressions of appreciation that I have received for getting arrested for civil disobedience, but it's you that I want to thank. Thank you for giving me the courage to take action, for being my inspiration to step it up, and for the honor to serve. Thank you most of all for the commitment and tenacity you bring as we take this challenge to the president and all our elected officials.

See more photos of the civil disobedience in this gallery.And here's a great video of the event from photographer Jay Mallin.

Sierra Club Civil Disobedience from Jay Mallin on Vimeo.

Today We Take Part in Civil Disobedience for the Climate

02/13/2013

This morning I will join 50 other people from diverse backgrounds in risking arrest outside the White House. We are demanding serious action on climate disruption from our elected leaders -- especially President Obama.

Our goal today is to both challenge and support President Obama.  During last night's State of the Union, we applauded when spoke about the need for action on climate disruption 'before it's too late.' We couldn't agree more that the time to act is now. 

It's time for him match his rhetoric with action.

Specifically, President Obama must reject the dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would enable extraction of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet. He must double down on clean energy and cut carbon pollution from smokestacks across the country. And he must stand up to fossil fuel companies that would rather drive us over the climate cliff than adapt and evolve.

We're asking the president to use every resource he has at his disposal -- from the bully pulpit to the executive order -- to take climate action now. And we’re telling him that our planet and the American people can’t wait for the political dust to settle, for Congress to wise up, or for another devastating storm to strike before we do something.

This call for climate action is important enough that, for the first time in our 120-year history, we have suspended the Sierra Club's long-standing policy that prohibits civil disobedience. Today is a one-time event to face arrest in order to elevate discussion about a critical issue.

The reason for our decision should come as no surprise. Nothing is more important at this moment in history than for President Obama and all of our elected leaders to take on the threat of climate disruption. Climate-fueled freak weather like record droughts, wildfires and Superstorm Sandy has destroyed communities, economies, and the safety of American families. 

Unless we act now, and act with strength, this could become the new normal. We must demand bold climate solutions and clean energy innovation.    

The decision to suspend our provision disallowing civil disobedience did not come lightly. In order to justify civil disobedience, the wrong must be so profound that it demands the strongest defensible protest. For Henry David Thoreau it was ending slavery. For Martin Luther King, Jr., it was ending institutionalized racism and securing civil rights for all Americans.  

We recognize that civil disobedience is not something that everyone can endorse; that it will be controversial. But we believe the future of our planet demands no less. 

We are watching a global crisis unfold before our eyes. To stand aside and let it happen -- even though we know how to stop it-- would be unconscionable. Enough is enough. Today at the White House, I am standing up and doing whatever it takes to fight the climate crisis and stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

Feb. 4 Open House Call: Obama Climate and Clean Energy Legacy Campaign

01/30/2013

I will be hosting an open house conference call to provide an overview of the Obama Climate and Clean Energy Legacy Campaign on Monday, February 4, at 8:00 PM EST / 7:00 PM CST / 6:00 PM MST / 5:00 PM PST. 

Phone-in number: 1-866-501-6174
Conference code: 455-0000-1892
 
Learn how you can be a part of this campaign. Please join us!

We will devote some time at the end of the call to the February 17 Forward on Climate Rally in Washington, D.C. New Club Deputy National Program Director Michael Bosse will give an update and answer questions.
 
Michael Brune has already hosted calls with many chapters east of the Mississippi, many of which are sending buses to D.C. for the rally, and more calls are coming up this week and next. Though the calls are targeted to specific chapters, all are welcome to join. See the schedule here.

-- Allison

P.S. This is the first in a revival of the first-Monday-of-the-month President's Open House Call!


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