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Moving Fast on Our Agenda

This year, 2009, will be a year of great change. After eight long years of delay, denial, and damaging inaction, we have every reason to believe our new president, his administration, and the Congress will move, and move fast, on our agenda.

Already, we find ourselves in a transformed landscape -- having to be proactive, not defensive, and be faster and more flexible than ever before in our 116-year history.

We are now at the center of a once-in-a-lifetime reinvention of the American economy. Clean energy will be a primary driver of this new economy. The Sierra Club has worked for decades to create demand for renewable power and energy efficiency. But Barack Obama -- in one five-minute speech on a Saturday, five weeks after being elected -- completely changed the dynamic by announcing his plan to invest billions in retrofitting public buildings. Now states and cities are hustling to line up energy-efficiency projects that qualify for these funds. We used to drive our issue, now we have to outrun it or it will get ahead of us.

This is big and exciting and will require changes in the Sierra Club. Over the past century, we have become very good at slowing down and/or stopping bad things, using tools like environmental impact statements, public hearings, and lawsuits. Now we have the opportunity, indeed the responsibility, to lead by working with the new administration, with local governments and businesses to enact bold, effective solutions for climate recovery.

In the past two years, we have taken the re-organizational steps necessary to position the Sierra Club as a leader of a nimble and powerful movement. Through the Climate Recovery Partnership, we have identified and are implementing six national campaigns to reduce carbon emissions; change how we build our cars, buildings, and communities; and ensure that the wildlife and wild places we have worked so hard to protect for more than a century will survive global warming.

We also have much to celebrate, not the least of which is that a staggering 130,000 of our members volunteered in last year's elections. That's walking our talk, to be sure.

I want to refer you as well to a summary of our successes in the three years since the Sierra Summit.

And through Project Renewal we have reshaped and streamlined our organization to increase the effectiveness of our decision-making and our ability to deliver. I am confident the changes we have made will make us go-to partners for the Obama administration, helping to build the public support he needs to advance his agenda, while exerting our influence to keep that agenda on the ambitious track it needs to be. In these several months between the election and inauguration day, the Sierra Club has already been involved in frequent and deep discussions with the transition team. Instead of pushing for change from the outside, it is clear that instead we will have a core and critical purpose working on the inside. 

The changes that are coming are to be welcomed and embraced, even though they will stretch us and test us. But with the internal changes we have made and our role helping shape national energy and climate policies, I believe we are moving into what will prove to be one of the most dramatic and dynamic chapters in the Sierra Club's storied history.

Keeping the Club abreast of all of these changes and opportunities will require more and different internal communications from the Sierra Club's president and board of directors. We need to dedicate ourselves to communicate more intentionally within the Club -- to listen to our grassroots and track progress on our shared, national goals. That's why I'm going to be writing to you every two weeks -- to share what's happening in our work with the Obama administration and the progress we are making with Project Renewal, to tell stories about our successes on the ground, all over the country and to encourage all of you to share your stories with us.


I want to share with you two opportunities to make a difference as we approach Inauguration Day next Tuesday, and one piece of excellent breaking news.

  • The good news first -- today, the U.S. Senate voted to protect millions of acres of new wilderness, hundreds of miles of rivers, and expand Everglades National Park, the biggest wilderness protection bills in decades.
  • I urge you to participate in President-elect Barack Obama's National Day of Service on Monday,  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The Sierra Club family is hosting a variety of service events, like stream monitoring and weatherization projects, and there are thousands of other events to choose from. Find an event near you here.
  • As soon as he takes office, President Obama can take four actions to cut global-warming pollution and spur a clean energy economy. You can watch our Executive  Director Carl Pope explaining our Clean Slate Energy Agenda below and take action today to make it happen.

I urge you to share this with your Sierra Club colleagues so we can keep more of us connected as we embark on this new journey.

You can reach me via email at or add your comment below.

Allison Chin,
Sierra Club president


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