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January 04, 2013

2012: A Great Year for a Bigger, Stronger, More Diverse, and More Effective Sierra Club

I'm sorry to disappoint anyone who believed the Mayan calendar prediction that the world would end this month, but the truth is, 2012 has turned out to be a great year for democracy, the planet, and the Sierra Club.

Our democracy had a great year because our citizens demonstrated yet again that they can't be duped by slick ads and shameless spin from a fossil-fuel industry that is more than willing to corrupt the democratic process in pursuit of profit.

The planet had a great year because American voters, by and large, elected leaders and passed initiatives that will accelerate the move from dirty, economically questionable 19th-century fossil fuels to wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources that are rapidly leading us to a healthier, more prosperous future.

And the Sierra Club had a great year on every front, from our successes in helping good, pro-environment candidates and initiatives win nationwide to our many victories against the forces that would pollute our air and water, undermine public health, and quicken the climate disruption that is already affecting so many of us with extreme weather events like the superstorm Hurricane Sandy.

We should all be proud of our accomplishments this year. Of course, to continue to succeed, we need the Sierra Club grow bigger, stronger, more diverse, and more effective, and so I'm particularly proud to note that in 2012 we have done just that.

A couple of years ago, Bloomberg Philanthropies gave a $50 million gift to the Club to support our groundbreaking work in taking on the coal industry. One of our commitments was to plunge into the places where young and diverse audiences gather these days and invite them to join us in our work.

Reaching out on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media hangouts, the Sierra Club persuaded a million new activists to take an action on our behalf this year. These folks have now added their voices to those of the 1.4 million members and supporters who already sign Sierra Club petitions to retire polluting coal plants, march against dirty tar sands pipelines, pitch in to clean up streams, lead hikes in California's San Gabriel mountains, or gather to discuss protection of beautiful places and wild creatures in Sierra Club chapters nationwide.

Like many nonprofit groups, the Sierra Club is eager to understand how this new breed of online activist prefers to participate in our efforts. Part of the reason we've worked so hard to invite new folks into our fold is so we can tap their ideas about how to engage, interact, and organize.

One thing we've already learned from our activists is that young people and people of color embrace our mission. The pollution from coal-fired power plants, for instance, disproportionately harms minority communities, and our coal work in cities like Detroit and Chicago, as well the southwestern U.S., has strengthened our ties to both Latino and African-American groups. A survey conducted jointly by the Sierra Club and the National Council of La Raza found overwhelming support for both clean energy and environmental stewardship among Latinos. At the same time, climate disruption remains a key issue for young activists, who have been strong supporters on the ground of both our Beyond Coal campaign and our work to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

Working with an ever larger and more diverse group of passionate activists is important. Thanks to the work of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, we are beginning to make meaningful progress in the daunting fight against climate disruption. In large part because of the Sierra Club's successful Beyond Coal campaign, the U.S. led the world in reducing carbon emissions this year. We also realized the payoff of a decades-long effort to encourage stronger mileage standards for automobiles. This victory alone will ultimately drive U.S. carbon emissions down by another 10 percent.

These important successes should encourage us all. Hard though it would have been to believe just a few years ago, we are beginning to win in the still-monumental effort to address climate disruption. Now, with more than two million members and supporters who embrace the Club's motto: "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet," we have even more to celebrate as we ring in 2013.

So please allow me to offer this toast: Welcome aboard newcomers! Now let's get to work. It's going to be a busy year.

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Michael Brune

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