Sierra Club Newsmakers -- 2.29.08
Longtime Mississippi Sierra Club activist Becky Gillette, above left, who led the fight against toxic FEMA trailers on the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, has earned a new moniker: The Erin Brockovich of Formaldehyde. In a bizarre twist, Gillette had scarcely relocated to the Arkansas Ozarks when tornadoes struck the state earlier this month, and FEMA is sending victims unused trailers ordered for Katrina and Rita evacuees.
Next door in Mississippi, avid hiker, traveler, and youthful environmentalist Travis Hunsicker, above center, was featured in a Voice of America news story, "Tupelo, Mississippi: Cool City," for spearheading citizen efforts to green his hometown.
South Dakota Chapter activist Mahala Bach, above right, handed out compact fluorescent light bulbs and spread the gospel of energy efficiency at a "Being Green" forum in Rapid City. "When people are informed about environmental issues," she said, "they want to do the right thing."
Montana Sierra Club organizer Bob Clark was taken aback when an angry blogger, seething after a federal judge agreed with the Club that timber sales must be subject to environmental analysis, wrote: "If you know a Sierra Club member, please feel free to set their home on fire." Clark, who keeps a file of death threats in his office, responded, "He's connecting dots that don't exist."
In California's Sacramento Valley, life member Eric Rey and his company Arcadia Biosciences are crafting "green" rice that thrives on half the standard dose of nitrogen fertilizer, a source of global warming emissions on a par with all the world's automobiles.
Further south, the Club is fighting to protect the Tejon Ranch, still a working farm and ranch and at 270,000 acres the largest contiguous parcel of privately-owned land in California, from industrial overdevelopment by the Tejon Ranch Company, which has recently built three massive warehouses on the property. "There is no other place like this in California," the Club's Bill Corcoran told the New York Times. "What is needed is a conservation plan for the entire ranch."
In another Times story, on how upstart Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is shaking up the state's famously brazen political culture by ramming through a series of ethics bills, Delta Chapter lobbyist Darrell Hunt called the move "huge. This is a sea change. This will seriously, dramatically change things."
Speaking at a Madison, Wisconsin, town hall meeting, National Coal Campaign Director Bruce Nilles and fellow Club organizer Jennifer Feyerherm promoted renewable energy and urged an immediate move away from coal. The State and the University of Wisconsin are embarking on a feasibility study of energy options compelled by the recent settlement of a Sierra Club court challenge.
Kansas Chapter leader Tom Kneil advocated a cap on greenhouse gas emissions after a spokesman for Sunflower Electric, which is seeking to expand a coal plant in the state, questioned whether regulating CO2 is a good idea. "Really, utilities don't have a carbon footprint, their customers do," the Sunflower rep said. Also in Kansas, chapter lobbyist Tom Thompson urged state lawmakers to do more to promote conservation and renewable energy sources instead of passing incentives for nuclear power.
The Massachusetts Sierra Club is fighting a proposal by developers to conduct environmental reviews of large development projects behind closed doors. "There's no valid reason that we can see to exclude the public from that part of the process," said chapter director James McCaffrey.
In Connecticut, where many housing developments and community associations have bylaws prohibiting outdoor clotheslines, the Club is supporting a "right to dry" bill that would allow people to dry their laundry outside. "The real driver to this is the global warming crisis we face," said chapter leader Martin Mador. "This bill goes to what an individual can do—it doesn't force anyone to use a clothesline."
And in a riff on James Carville's famous exhortation to candidate Bill Clinton in 1992, Club Executive Director Carl Pope authored a piece on the Huffington Post entitled, "It's Green Jobs, Stupid."