Greetings of the Season

12/20/2012

Greetings of the season! On the one hand, it's hard to believe the end of another year is right around the corner. On the other hand, I am personally ready for a break! I'm looking forward to quality time with family and friends, time to reflect, and time to recharge. And, of course, time to be outdoors!
 
To all of you, my Sierra Club family, thank you for your gift of friendship, partnership, and service. Warm wishes for safe, peaceful, and joyous days as we close out 2012.

See you in 2013!

-- Allison

With Gratitude...

11/21/2012

This Thanksgiving, I have a lot for which to be thankful. I am thankful for family and friends, I am thankful for my health, and I am thankful for you. Thanks to you, the Sierra Club presses forward on its mission:

    To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth;
    To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources;
    To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human     environment, and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.
 
The urgency of climate disruption makes our work both tremendously challenging and deeply rewarding, and only made possible by your engagement and support. I am grateful to be working with you to inspire, build, and empower a renewed movement, one that is diverse and inclusive. Your commitment, tenacity, and collaboration at so many levels inspire me every single day.  
 
Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

-- Allison

Choosing Revolution: Time to Reject Tar Sands and Solve Climate Disruption

11/16/2012


Live video from your iPhone using Ustream

On Sunday, November 18, I join 3,000 activists, Bill McKibben from 350.org, writer Naomi Klein, Oklahoma environmental leader Earl Hatley, and others for a march on the White House and a rally at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Ave in Washington, D.C. Our goal is open dialogue with President Obama and the American people on solving climate disruption and stopping tar sands and other extreme oil. We are asking for the President to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, but we also asking the President to embrace a positive, solution-oriented climate legacy.

Today we stand on the frontline of the fight to stop climate disruption. But I have some good news. We are also standing on the cusp of a clean energy revolution that will transform our nation, slash greenhouse gas pollution, and turn this climate disaster around.

It's not too late to prevent the worst consequences of climate disruption. We can and we will solve this, but it is urgent that we act right now.

A year ago, President Obama sent the Keystone XL pipeline back to the State Department for a new environmental review. The President put off deciding whether tar sands crude, and this tar sands pipeline, are in the interest of the American people.

We knew then that the pipeline was a very bad, very dangerous idea. But today, we understand that tar sands and Keystone XL is frontline in the fight to save the climate. The extreme weather of 2012 — a devastating nationwide drought and the Sandy superstorm — bring home the urgency of solving climate disruption.

The key to stopping extreme weather is stopping extreme oil… and getting fossil fuel extremists out of the way of our government, out of the way of clean energy solutions.

Tar sands is the dirtiest oil on Earth. We don't need it, we don't want it.

We're here today to support the President. To give him with the courage to stand up to the oil, coal and gas industries. Mr. President: Reject the Keystone XL pipeline and keep dangerous Canadian tar sands out of America.

It's the climate, stupid.

Today, with 350.org, the Sierra Club is announcing the beginning of a major climate agenda, leading up to rally in February — a President's Day march on Washington for Climate Solutions.

Mr. President, the tar sands are your climate legacy. It's what you do here that history will remember.

Solving climate disruption is must be one of our nation's top priorities, and those climate solutions will create the jobs we need, they will free our democracy from Big Oil and Big Coal's control.

No one should doubt for a second our ability to solve this problem.

The clean energy technologies we need to reverse climate disruption exist, they are affordable, and they are ready for primetime.

- We've doubled our wind power and we now generate five times more solar power than we did just a few years ago.

- That's explosive growth in renewable energy, but we haven't seen anything yet — renewables can power America and they can do it without greenhouse gases or any other kind of pollution.

We also need to use a lot less oil.

- President Obama's new car standards will double the efficiency of cars and light trucks, and slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. That's the single biggest step any nation has ever taken to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

There's one last piece of the climate solution puzzle — we need to get Big Oil and King Coal out of the way of climate solutions.

- It's time to break fossil fuel industry's stranglehold on Washington. We can build a secure, affordable energy future and solve climate disruption if we put people, not fossil fuel companies, back in charge of our democracy.

The frontline in the fight to stop climate disruption runs right through Freedom Plaza today, it runs around the White House, and up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capital. It hits every state, every home, every boardroom, every school, and every kitchen table in America. We need to make a choice right here, right now, about whether we will hand the keys to our nation to oil companies, or stand up and reject this ridiculous pipeline. Will America be the victim of climate disruption, or will we be the hero of a clean energy revolution? I choose the revolution.

The TPP Trade Pact: An Affront to Democracy

09/07/2012

TPP1Few are aware that Virginia, the birthplace of American democracy, is playing host to international trade negotiations that challenge democracy as we know it.

From September 6 through 15, representatives from the United States and eight Pacific Rim countries are meeting in a private and secluded resort in Leesburg to advance a trade agreement that could impact nearly every aspect of our lives. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact could subject environmental and public interest laws and safeguards to attack by foreign corporations, threaten our air and water with toxic pollution, and lead to more American jobs being shipped overseas. Possibly most troubling, however, is that the TPP is shaping up to be a stealth affront to the principles of our democracy.

As president of the Sierra Club, elected by the membership of the nation's largest grassroots environmental organization, I value the fundamental elements of democracy -- including openness, transparency, and participation -- that help ensure fairness and equity in how rules are made and whom they protect.  

So I was bothered to learn that, while the negotiations for the TPP are taking place just a short distance from my home in Leesburg, I can't actually participate in -- or even observe -- any of the talks. In fact, none but TPP government trade negotiators, hundreds of elite business executives, and a handful of noncorporate advisors can even read any of the draft texts. It's all hidden from the public, and negotiations are conducted behind closed doors.

Members of the public who register with the U.S. Trade Representative are allowed limited face time with the negotiators: They can display information at a table for a couple of hours, make a short presentation, and attend a briefing by trade negotiators. I appreciate these opportunities, and I'll take advantage of them. However, presence is not the same as transparency and participation. And when nearly every American is shut out from seeing the language of the pact, it's impossible to call this an open process.

Continue reading "The TPP Trade Pact: An Affront to Democracy" »

Calling All Fracktivists!

07/23/2012

As president of the Sierra Club's Board of Directors, I want to invite you to attend an event that's very important to me and to the rest of the Sierra Club: the Stop the Frack Attack rally in Washington, D.C., on July 28

At the rally, I'll speak alongside other environmental activists and families whose water and air have been threatened by the dirty practice of fracking. You'll have a chance to share your stories and concerns with leaders, while marching from the West Lawn of the Capitol through the city. 

Fracking is a violent process of extracting oil and gas from shale rock formations beneath the surface of the earth. The practice is known to contaminate drinking water and pollute the air. But the rush to frack is sweeping across the country and endangering the health and safety of millions of Americans. Natural gas companies exploit government loopholes, ignore life-saving environmental protections, and disregard the health of entire communities. 

As a scientist, I appreciate the importance of thorough research a process the oil and natural gas industries sometimes completely ignore. 

The fossil fuel industries have failed to measure adequately the extent of the damage that fracking inflicts on the water, air, climate, environment, and health of families. In fact, a recent report from Earthworks shows that more than 75 percent of New York's active oil and gas wells go uninspected each year. Careful inspections are crucial since substantial amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, escape from natural gas production into the atmosphere, causing major problems for our climate. 

The lack of oversight and public health protections on fracking is alarming. As we move away from coal-fired power plants, we have to ensure that we're not replacing one fossil fuel, like coal, with another, like oil or natural gas. Instead, we should leapfrog oil and natural gas wherever possible, use what we have as efficiently as possible, and invest in forms of clean energy that we know are safe, such as wind, solar, and geothermal. 

As environmental activists, we'll never be able to match the oil and gas industry's record-breaking profits. But we are rich in numbers. Many of Sierra Club's 1.4 million members and supporters come from states where fracking has already taken a heavy toll on the land, air, water, and public health. And fracking is on the move, coming soon to other states unless we can stop it. Fracking is growing at an alarming rate, and, if it hasn't already, it could reach your backyard next. 

That's why I'm urging all of you to attend the rally against dirty and dangerous fracking or, if you're unable to come to D.C., lend your support in other ways. Contact your local Sierra Club chapter or group to see if transportation to the rally is available, and consider donating to help organize the National Day of Action on July 28. If you can make it to Washington, D.C., you'll have the chance to rally to move our country toward a clean energy future free from fracking and drilling that threaten our health, environment, and climate. 

RSVP and join me in Washington, D.C., on July 28 to rally to end dangerous oil and gas fracking. 

Pennsylvania Sierra Club Exposes the Truth of New Fracking Law

03/12/2012

It is great to see the Natural Gas Reform Campaign, the Hydrofracking Activist Network Team, and Sierra Club activists coordinating great work at local, state, and national levels to rein in the natural gas industry. I want to highlight the PA Chapter's latest effort in particular.

Today our Pennsylvania Chapter launched a new tool in the fight against the State's latest effort to cozy up with the natural gas industry. A factsheet designed to fight back against the new, pro-fracking state law Act 13 of 2012 or, more accurately, the "Mad Rush to Frack Act." This mythbuster factsheet gives us the facts we need to reveal the ugly side of this new law.

As a resident of Pennsylvania, I've seen the fracking boom in this state firsthand. I've visited with families in Dimock and with others across the state who have been forced to live with the many problems that come with fracking. But instead of correcting these problems and preventing future ones, Governor Corbett and our state leaders have chosen to give the industry even more power to force fracking on Pennsylvania communities.

The Sierra Club's Pennsylvania Chapter is setting the record straight. Act 13 has many appalling features -- this is just a sampling of what's explained in the mythbuster factsheet:

  • The Mad Rush to Frack Act effectively ties the hands of local municipalities that want to protect their communities from the health and environmental dangers of fracking.
  • The Mad Rush to Frack Act allows the industry to claim multiple harmful fracking fluids as a "trade secret" and not disclose what the chemicals are or how much are pumped into the ground.
  • The Mad Rush to Frack Act even forces doctors treating you for sickness to sign a gag order if they are to know the content of the toxic fracking fluids. Apparently, this chemical cocktail is so dangerous that even our health care providers aren't allowed to disclose its contents to other medical professionals.
  • The Mad Rush to Frack Act also allows a driller to put a frack pad only 300 feet from your house. That's just a football field away from where your children play.

The Pennsylvania Chapter and its coalition partners battled hard to prevent the Mad Rush to Frack Act from being forced through the Statehouse by pro-drilling lawmakers and industry lobbyists. Now, the fight continues as we hold supporters accountable and educate the public on the real dangers of this law.

Join me in sharing this document with friends, family, and other activists. We cannot allow the natural gas industry and those who supported the Mad Rush to Frack Act to get away with putting the health of our communities and environment at risk.

-- Robin Mann

Moving Planet, Moving Tributes — Plus October 3 Open House Call

09/30/2011

I'd like to report on our Board of Directors meeting last weekend, but I want to start by inviting you join me for an Open House Conference Call Monday, October 3 at 5 pm Pacific/8 pm Eastern. Call (866) 501-6714 — 1892-005#. RSVP.

Picture 64

We took a break midday Saturday during our board meeting to join the Moving Planet march in San Francisco, one of more than 2,000 events in 175 countries — all to call attention to the need to move beyond fossil fuels to clean energy. (Above are directors Allison Chin, Donna Buell, and Aaron Mair carrying our banner down Market Street.)

Our Club contingent included the Council of Club Leaders, so we were representing nearly all 50 states plus Puerto Rico. Executive Director Michael Brune and Bill McKibben, winner of the Club’s 2011 John Muir Award — more on the awards below — spoke at the rally at the Civic Center that followed the march. (You can read about other Club Moving Planet events in Scrapbook.)



McKibben said we needed to send a message to President Obama about the urgency of addressing climate change:

"We took him seriously when he said let’s be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil. We took him seriously on the night of his nomination when he said when I’m president the rise of the oceans will begin to slow and the planet will begin to heal. You should not say stuff like this if you don’t mean it."

You can see more in the video below.

McKibben was one of the 23 annual award recipients honored over the weekend. This year, we held two awards celebrations, paying tribute to the amazing work of both relatively new and longtime Club leaders and others in the movement. You can read about all the recipients here.

But we did more than march and pay tribute to environmental heroes. At the annual meeting, we discussed a new initiative to strengthen chapter national relationships, we accepted the Council of Club Leaders' recommendations of issues for Board attention, and chapter delegates and directors met in small groups to discuss chapter-specific issues.

The board also received briefings on several topics: the second annual Chapter Assessment, the overall Communications program, the initial planning for the 2012 political year, and the draft strategy of the new Beyond Oil Campaign. We agreed to move forward with developing an organizational strategic plan.  We also made some appointments to key positions, including the new volunteer leader of the Activist Network, Clayton Daughenbaugh, the Business Partnerships Committee, and the Ballot Statement Review and Audit Committees.  I’ll be talking more about the board's discussions and taking questions on the call. (Monday at 5 pm Pacific/8 pm Eastern. (866) 501-6174 — 1892-005#. RSVP.)

Robin

P.S. One thing several delegates said would be useful is a chart showing staff members and what they do. Well, we have that, but we found out some of our leaders don’t know about it, so we'll be telling you over and over again in the coming months until everyone knows. You can find it on Clubhouse at http://clubhouse.sierraclub.org/people/staff/hierarchy.aspx. (There's a link in the left column of the home page — the second item under "other helpful links.")

-- Robin Mann

Environmental Justice: Promises Made ...

09/09/2011

Environmental Justice: Promises Made ...

I had the great opportunity to join Sierra Club's Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships (EJCP)team in Detroit before Labor Day for the 2011 Conference on Environmental Justice: One Community–One Environment, sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency. And the Sierra Club — we were a co-sponsor.

EJCP Director Leslie Fields and staff members Rhonda Anderson and Spillman Truhart worked closely with EPA staff to plan the conference and Sierra Club contributed significantly to the presentations. These included technical trainings — by Beyond Coal Campaign volunteer leader Verena Owen on air permitting, and by EJCP staff member Rita Harris on using the toxics release inventory to chart local pollution. Melissa Damaschke provided a training about the People's Water Board Coalition and strategies for reducing water waste in support of the coalition's overall drive to avert the privatization of Detroit's water service. And both Melissa and Rita provided one-on-one coaching to attendees of the Eco-Cafe exhibition session.

Picture 59

The national gathering featured a luncheon that honored University of Michigan Professor and author Bunyan Bryant, left, leaning out, and lifelong Detroit activist and author Grace Lee Boggs, center, both central thinkers in the development of the environmental justice movement. Faciltator Donell Wilkins is at right.
____________________________________________________________________________________________

Michelle Martinez, a local organizer with the Beyond Coal Campaign, addressed the linkage of workforce development and transitioning to clean energy.

I appreciated the opportunity to join Sierra Club EJCP  organizer Rhonda Anderson's tour of the "48217" area in southwest Detroit, a case study of a community ravaged by  environmental injustice. Rhonda very compellingly presented an established, culturally rich and diverse community, now largely converted to an industrial zone, threatening the health and economic viability of its remaining residents. 

Marathon Oil has already placed its bets on dirty tar sands oil, expanding its refining facility a few years ago in southwest Detroit, where the legacy of environmental racism in the poisoning of the land, the air and the water should have made additions to Marathon's toxic releases inconceivable. Sierra Club and the 48217 community fought against it but were unsuccessful in blocking the expansion. The coalition did manage to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement, to provide among other things for an emergency response plan for the refinery's neighbors. Yet even with our tour in progress, Marathon had a huge flare and release and sent its workers home, but failed to honor its agreement and inform the neighbors.

A longtime community leader, Rhonda has been in the forefront of the effort to give voice to the disempowered, stop the assault on Detroit's poorer communities and turn them around. Rhonda has also mentored and encouraged others to step up to community activism, including Vincent Martinez, who joined her in leading the tour.

A major blow to the cause of environmental justice was dealt right in the midst of the conference. The EPA announced its settlement with the State of California in the civil rights case Angelita C. v. California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act VI is a potentially powerful lever for promoting environmental justice, authorizing federal agencies to withdraw funds from any recipient of federal funding, including state agencies, whose activities have a discriminatory impact based on race, natural origin or color. As detailed at the conference, despite concerted pressure over the years from EJ activists, EPA has allowed a flawed complaint investigation system to let cases languish and deny relief to communities disproportionately harmed by pollution. In the Angelita C. settlement, EPA found that California's Department of Pesticide Regulation violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by allowing unhealthy levels of the highly toxic fumigant methyl bromide near schools with predominantly Latino children, while children in majority white schools were not put at risk. Nevertheless, EPA failed to refer the case to the Justice Department and instead concluded a backroom deal that provides no relief to the families and requires little more than monitoring. Conference attendees deplored the settlement and resolved to demand that EPA redress the further injustice in this case, and more generally fulfill its obligation under the Civil Rights Act to effectively process and prosecute similar complaints.

I came away from the conference with my understanding deepened of the disproportionate toll — in sickness, lost lives and lost communities — being paid for our addiction to dirty energy of all kinds. It was gratifying to see the recognition of the Club's active role in the environmental justice movement and to be associated with the Club's dedicated EJCP volunteers and staff, whose persistent efforts over many years have established the Club's as a credible voice for justice and community empowerment. As the stories and presentations of the EJ Conference made so very clear, the ravaging of low income- and people-of-color communities is all about power. Power in the wrong hands. Power in right hands supports and creates sustainable communities. The EPA One Community–One Environment conference illustrated both realities.  

In the intervening days our attention has been considerably focused on the demonstrations and rally in Washington, D.C. against the Keystone XL pipeline, and the Obama administration's decision to shelve the ozone rule. Clearly the President needs to hear in the most-certain terms that embracing the dirtiest oil on the planet and betraying his commitment to clean up the air and water pollution harming the least responsible people the most is the wrong path. For background and what you can do, go here.

Fortunately, we also had some good news last week, with the announcement that three coal plants in Virginia, including two of the nation's most polluting, will be shut down in the next five years.

Picture 60

Club activists rally in Alexandria, Virginia, with the Sierra Club's traveling giant inhaler, to move beyond coal.

Two upcoming events I urge you to participate in:

September 24: The Moving Planet Day of Action to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels is immediate opportunity we must maximize to demonstrate the broad public support for choosing the right, clean energy path. Find an event in your community here.

October 3: Join me for an Open House Conference Call. I'll be reporting on the Club's Annual Meeting September 22-24. (And yes, the board will be participating in a Moving Planet event in San Francisco.) RSVP here.

Robin Mann

 

‘Shindiggers’ Shake St. Louis

08/25/2011

What a great privilege to spend two days last week with Sierra Student Coalition leaders at their annual Shindig.  National SSC Director Quentin James and SSC ExCom Chair Adriana Gonzales and their team assembled a wonderful group of new and veteran student leaders in St. Louis for this annual gathering to design their campaign plans for the coming year. 

This year's Shindig was also the launch pad for the SSC's new 5-Year Vision and Organizational Plan. The SSC's goal "to train and empower youth and to run effective campaigns that result in tangible energy and climate change victories," will be accomplished through the four programs of youth empowerment, energy, anti-oppression and training.

No question, the SSC knows how to have fun! But don't be misled by their wacky humor, ebullient camaraderie, and enjoyment of late-night dancing. This is as serious and passionate a group of activist leaders mobilized to confront coal and oil and bring on the clean energy future as there is. They were fired up about building on their highly successful Campuses Beyond Coal work — to get a full third of the campus coal fleet offline by 2020, building the new Campuses Beyond Oil and Stop Oil Sands campaigns, and expanding their capacity to mobilize more campuses and collaborate with more chapters and groups.
   Picture 41

[Snapshots from the Shindig's Ustream video — there was lots of planning footage, too, but these captured the fun.]

Reflecting on my two days with the "Shindiggers," two images come to mind that reflect their character. The first is from a session convened on instilling anti-oppression into their training programs. SSC members are highly motivated to respect difference and ensure inclusiveness in all they do. Even after an already long meeting day, the assembled group brought the same intentionality and intensity of focus to this task as was brought to discussions of campaign strategies and tactics. The SSC wants to win, but the victories must be for all to share.

Another lasting image is from the COP-17 planning session. A dozen leaders crammed into a hotel room for a late evening, two-hour planning session for the upcoming climate talks in Durban, South Africa. Two additional participants joined via Skype. A climate briefing for newcomers was followed by talk of strategy. The SSC aims to build on their successful efforts in Cancun to engage with Chinese and other youth delegates in collective calls for action.  Then came a frank exchange about individual motivations for going to Durban — there is a keen sense of responsibility for the carbon emissions it will take to fly there. Let there be no doubt that the students attending Durban on behalf of the Club are passionately committed to making the most of the opportunity to build the international youth climate movement and secure the planet's future. 

It is hard not to come away from that gathering inspired by the capability and determination of what has been called the "student arm of the Sierra Club" yet what is, really, the organization's lifeblood.  

The planned demonstrations in Washington calling on President Obama to turn down the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline were much on the minds of the activists at Shindig, and our attention is focused on them this week.  The students are highly motivated to go back to their campuses and help build the groundswell of demand for the president to do the right thing by denying this environmental outrage.

How welcome it was to hear our friends in the Transport Workers Union and Amalgamated Transit Union voice their opposition to the pipeline, invoking the "J" word the other day.  Larry Hanley, president of the ATU was quoted as saying,  "We think there are lots of ways to produce lots of jobs, and you don't have to foul the environment. We think there are issues that trump the simple question of jobs." Amen!

-- Robin Mann

Q and A on Bloomberg Gift with Robin Mann and Michael Brune

07/28/2011

Please join Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune and me for a special Club-wide call to discuss the very exciting $50 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies to the Beyond Coal Campaign announced on July 21.

We will provide initial details on plans for putting those funds to work, and answer your questions.

The call is on Thursday, August 4, at 5 pm Pacific/6 pm Mountain/7 pm Central/8 pm Eastern. Call 1-866-501-6174 — 1892-005#. (Full schedule of conference call here.)

RSVP so we know how much popcorn to make.  :)

—Robin

P.S. If you want to be better prepared for conversations about Beyond Coal with neighbors and friends, you may want to vist the Talking Points section of Clubhouse for the excellent Coal Messsage Box and Hard Questions (and Answers) about Coal.

-- Robin Mann


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