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Navajo Nation Passes Green Jobs Bill

September 15, 2009

The Navajo Green Economy Coalition. Photo by Wahleah Johns.

This post is written by Andy Bessler of the Sierra Club's Tribal Partnerships Program in Arizona

From Window Rock, Arizona: On the great Navajo Nation, “green” is a concept that is not new. Traditional Navajos have always conserved resources and had a light footprint on the land. Navajo grassroots leaders of the Navajo Green Economy Coalition, of which the Sierra Club is a proud member, have built upon this Navajo philosophy and passed historic legislation this summer to help Navajo communities move us towards a clean energy future.

For the past year, we have been working with the Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, Lawrence T. Morgan, to create the Navajo Green Economy Commission and Green Economy Fund that will help Navajo communities create and fund green jobs to keep young people in their communities working on wind and solar projects as well as other green projects. This is the first Green Jobs legislation to pass across Indian Country and it is uniquely Navajo.

Continue reading "Navajo Nation Passes Green Jobs Bill" »

ICO Service Outings Forge Bonds, Broaden Horizons

September 10, 2009

Pictured: Chaperone Jennifer Greiber, Meng Yang, Pang Thao, Kia Lor

This summer, the Sierra Club's Inner City Outings Program (ICO) sponsored two national service trips: one to the Marble Mountains of far-northern California, and one to the Club's Clair Tappaan Lodge in the Sierra Nevada.

"I'd never been to the mountains before, so seeing them and being in them for the first time was mind-blowing," says Kia Lor, one of three Hmong youths from Minnesota who did trail work in the Marble Mountains, part of the Klamath National Forest. Lor is at right, above, and at center in brown shirt, below.

Pictured: Brian O'Neil, Pang Thao, Kia Lor, Meng Yang, Sam Chavez, Adam Nekimkin

Kids from Southern California, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Louisville, Ky., and the Orlando, Fl., area, ranging from 14 to 19 years old, participated in the service trips. All travel expenses and trip fees for the kids and adult chaperones were covered by ICO after the program received a $40,000 bequest from a donor.

On receiving the bequest, ICO asked its leaders around the country to identify students and chaperones who they felt would most benefit from the service trips. Eight kids ultimately participated, and all received 10-year Sierra Club memberships.

"I've always wanted to get involved with the Sierra Club but never knew how, so this was an amazing opportunity," says Lor. "I learned so much, including how to survive in the wilderness. The trip really broadened my horizons about the world around me and the earth I live on. It was an awesome, awesome trip!"

Says fellow Hmong teenager Meng Yang: "This was my first time out of the Midwest, my first time on an airplane, and my first time being away from home for a week. The trip was one of the hardest, dehydrating, exhausting, scariest, and greatest things I've ever done. If given the opportunity, I'd do it all over again." Yang is second from left in top photo, and third from right above.

On the Clair Tappaan Lodge trip, participants helped clear the forest around the lodge to reduce the risk of forest fires. They also finished a task they were only expected to begincreating the new Valencia Vista Trail.


"It felt so rewarding when we finished the trail," says Giao Tran of Garden Grove, Ca., above at right, who was joined on the trip by schoolmate Lucy Lang. "Lucy and I have never built trails before, so the skills we learned will benefit us in our roles as officers for the Wilderness Adventure Club at our school."

Others on the trip hailed from Florida and Kentucky. "It was amazing how a group of kids who didn't even know one another bonded so quickly within the first day," says Tran. "We were all from different parts of the country with different backgrounds, spoke different languages, hung out with different types of people, yet we managed to connect. We learned a lot from each other."

Below, Jakliene Lado of Louisville at work on the Valencia Vista Trail.


"We were all extremely proud of our accomplishments," says Louisville ICO chair Josh McMinn, who came on the trip as a chaperone. "What was built on the trail can't be measured in steps we took, the mosquito bites we endured, or the hours we spent in the woodsit can only be measured in the memories we share, the satisfaction we feel, and the friendships we made."

Learn more about Inner City Outings and how you can get involved.

Teaming Up With LIUNA to Weatherize Homes

September 04, 2009

This post was written by Allison Forbes of the Sierra Club Labor and Workers Rights Program

While there is considerable concern about the speed of our green economic recovery (it just can't happen soon enough), public expectations for green job creation are high.

Key players are stepping up to help expand clean energy industries and maximize the benefits of federal recovery dollars: private businesses, non-profits, youth employment programs, community groups and labor unions. The "green" from the federal government may provide a big boost, the challenge is to jumpstart growing industries and secure long-term economic and environmental benefits.

DC green group
The weatherizing crew and the homeowners post in front of the house.

Wednesday, down the street from the Sierra Club office in Washington, DC, a labor union turned up to help one couple address their steep energy bills and stay warm this winter. The Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) announced that its job training programs, training expertise and infrastructure would be directed toward upgrading, or "weatherizing," energy-inefficient homes.

Continue reading "Teaming Up With LIUNA to Weatherize Homes" »

Ready, Set, Grow in Kentucky

August 31, 2009

Girls inc
This is a guest post from Winny Lin, a Kentucky Sierra Club volunteer

What do you do in a hot and sizzling summer?  Instead of being bored, it is a perfect time to grow some fresh produce, or plant some annuals and perennials. This is exactly what the girls at the Girls’ Inc. and women at the Oasis Spouse Abuse Center in Owensboro, Kentucky, did with the help from Pennyrile Group of Sierra Club.

First, volunteers Winny and Kenny Lin literally knocked on the doors of these two organizations and sold the idea. Second, Aloma Dew, local representative of the Sierra Club, gathered help from the club to find a master gardener to draw a plan, secure donations from members, and get support from the director of the club.

The Owensboro Lowe’s donated six bags of potting soil, three bags of humus, six huge clay pots and two small butterfly bushes.  Donations also helped secure some tomato plants and annuals at a discounted price from the store.  All of it was enough to start off our summer “Go Green” project!

Continue reading " Ready, Set, Grow in Kentucky " »

Las Vegas Rallies for Clean Energy

August 14, 2009

NV clean energy rally close-up people

Bright and early Monday morning, hundreds of clean energy and green jobs supporters gathered to rally on the steps of the Cox Pavilion at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas campus.

The rally was to counter an anti-American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) rally some dirty energy supporters conjured up at Senator Harry Reid's "National Clean Energy Summit 2.0." Speakers at the summit included Vice President Al Gore, T. Boone Pickens, Kathy Zoe, Senator Reid, President Bill Clinton, and many others - all there to support clean domestic renewable energy development. 

NV clean energy rally road

Emily Rhodenbaugh, a clean energy organizer for our Nevada chapter, said the Sierra Club joined many other groups for the rally.

"The unlikely coalition included IBEW, Plumbers and Pipefitters, Sheet Metal Workers, Carpenters, Nevada Conservation League, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), OFA 2.0, Democratic Black Caucus, Allied Trades, and many other progressive organizations," she said. "Together it was the power of all those organizations which allowed for our one clear voice to be heard: 'Green Jobs!'

NV clean energy rally

"We broadened our coalition in Nevada, and paved the way for a more sustainable future for our state.  I believe it set a great example of the power the can be built, and it’s been said that this was one of the largest pro-green jobs rally to date that the Sierra Club has put together."

~NV clean enery rally speaker
Danny Thompson, head of the AFL-CIO in Nevada, speaks to the clean energy rally.

Congrats, Nevada organizers!

Photos by Emily Rhodenbaugh

Michigan to Granholm: We Want Clean Energy

August 12, 2009

MI Rally Bruce
Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, speaks at the rally.

On July 29, under a beautiful summer day in Lansing, Michigan, more than 500 activists from all corners of the state lent their voices at a rally to a call for a massive investment in clean energy and moving the state beyond coal.

Clean Energy Now, a coalition made up of over 40 environmentalist groups including Sierra Club, organized this Rally for Clean Energy Jobs to support Michigan’s clean energy future – and as a grassroots response to the proposal of new coal plants in Michigan.

The rally speakers and activists in particular took aim at plans in Michigan to build at least six more massive coal plants. At the rally, citizens spoke out for a clean energy economy in Michigan, which will create jobs and bring money into the state, rather than the construction of new coal plants, which will continue to weaken its economy.

Michigan residents want Gov. Jennifer Granholm to get that message loud and clear: No more coal – We want clean energy!

Rally-goers report that the event was not just inspiring, but also a lot of fun – as people listened to great musicians, browsed informational tables from various clean energy industries, used our communications tent to send in comments and letters to Gov. Granholm, signed the clean energy petition, and even threw a few baseballs at dunk tank where folks were dressed up as various dirty energy villains.

MI Coal rally dunk tank
The dunk tank featured at the rally.

Michigan Chapter head Anne Woiwode credited a great team of Sierra Club organizers and volunteers for getting such a huge turnout - not to mention all the coalition partners.

"(Thanks to) our fabulous rally planning partners, including Clean Water Action, Progress Michigan, West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Citizens Exploring Clean Energy, Lone Tree Council, Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition, the Ecology Center and more. July 29th rolled around as a gorgeous day to gather on the Capitol lawn with 500 of our friends and supporters! 

"Buses were arranged from Traverse City, Bay City, Royal Oak, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids....We had good participation and a sense of engagement and excitement that led people at the end of the day to start asking about next year."

MI coal rally vendors
The rally featured clean energy vendors as well.

The rally received great media coverage as well. See some articles here, here and here.

Congrats, Michigan!

Crowd Thanks Luján for ACES Vote

August 06, 2009


Article by guest writer Shannon Goggin.

On July 2nd, shortly after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), members of the environmental community were celebrating around the country. New Mexico House Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-3-NM) was celebrating too- by holding a Town Hall meeting to get a discussion started about the steps necessary to build a clean energy economy in New Mexico. It also focused on the work that Representative Luján has been doing to promote a clean energy economy and create green jobs.

The Town Hall was attended by nearly 50 citizens, who got together to discuss what they wanted to see happen and talk to Rep. Luján. It was a great success. Rep. Luján thanked Sierra Club several times for our hard work and support in getting ACES passed. Then, Rep. Luján and Sierra Club representatives Molly Brook, Margaret Gray, Michael Casaus, Rep. Luján, Norma McCallan, and Shrayas Jatkar and took this great picture.


Lujan townhall 7.2.09-1a

Representative Luján was a champ on ACES from the outset. He worked with Representatives Waxman (D-30-CA) and Markey (D-7-MA) to be sure that green jobs training was included in the bill, and fought to keep it strong as it worked its way to the House floor. He has consistently fought for positive environmental change, and renewable energy solutions throughout his career. His environmental leadership is a great thing for New Mexico and the United States.

This is just one example of the kinds of mutual recognition of hard work that have been taking place all over the country. If you get a chance, make sure to thank your Representative if they voted for America’s clean energy future! To do that, you can click here to reach your Representative.


Missouri Agency Embroiled in 'E. Coli-gate'

August 03, 2009


The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) knew that a top tourist destination was awash in sewage and fecal matter over Memorial Day weekend but didn't tell the public, and its subsequent refusal to release the report is leading to charges of a cover-up.

Lake of the Ozarks, a 55,000-acre reservoir in west-central Missouri with 1,150 miles of shoreline, bills itself as the Midwest's premier lake resort destination. Memorial Day weekend always sees some of the year's biggest crowds.

This May, unusually heavy rains washed dangerous amounts of E. Colia reliable indicator of fecal contaminationinto the lake just before Memorial Day. DNR, which oversees the Division of Environmental Quality, knew the lake was testing well above safe levels, but chose to keep mum. E. Coli can cause gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections, kidney failure, and neonatal meningitis, among other afflictions. Some strains can be fatal if swallowed.


"DNR knew that Lake of the Ozarks was teeming with sewage and E. Coli bacteria over Memorial Day weekend and they sat on the information," says Missourian and Sierra Club Water Sentinels Director Scott Dye, above. "They then refused to share the report for four weeks in spite of citizens asking to see it."

DNR officials say they withheld the information because they were concerned about the effect it would have on tourism. "Business and tourism was a consideration," a DNR spokesperson told Karen Dillon, environmental reporter for the Kansas City Star, who broke the story on July 15. "We didn't want to panic people."


Ken Midkiff, above, a longtime Missouri clean water activist and author, told Dillon the DNR's action-or lack thereof-ammounts to polluter protection, not pollution prevention. "All the reasons they gave for not releasing the report have to do with the economy," he said. "The DNR is supposed to protect water quality and the environment."

It was Midkiff who filed a complaint with the Attorney General's office alleging the DNR had violated the state's Sunshine Act. This in turn set of a flurry of media coverage, including an excoriation of DNR's "dangerous" decision by newspaper editorial boards throughout the state.

Continue reading "Missouri Agency Embroiled in 'E. Coli-gate'" »

Students and Sentinels Plant Rain Garden in Seattle

July 29, 2009


Three years ago, Seattle Sierra Club volunteer Rebecca Phelps revived the Cascade Chapter's dormant Water and Salmon Committee, building it to around 20 members. She and others on the committee were soon representing the Sierra Club in various local and state venues around the Puget Sound region.


Through her work with the Water and Salmon Committee, Phelps, above, learned about the Club's Water Sentinels Program, set about creating a local affiliate, and applied for a $5,000 Water Sentinels grantwhich she securedto build a rain garden at a public school in Seattle.

Rain gardens are landscaped areas, typically in urban or suburban settings, planted with wildflowers and other native vegetation that soak up rainwater. During a storm, the garden fills with water that slowly filters into the ground rather than running off to a storm drain.

The rain garden project quickly evolved into a collaborative effort between the newly-created Washington Water Sentinels, the Seattle Public School District, and the Community Day School Association, a non-profit after-school program. Phelps' vision was realized at the end of the school year with the installation of the first Seattle public school rain garden at Montlake Elementary School.


Continue reading "Students and Sentinels Plant Rain Garden in Seattle" »

Landmark Agreement Restores Flows In Spokane Falls

July 23, 2009


Thanks to a settlement between the Sierra Club, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, and Avista Utilities, water will flow year-round over Spokane Falls in downtown Spokane, Washington. Flows in the Spokane River have been interrupted for nearly a century by water diversions for hydropower, leaving the falls high and dry for much of the year, as seen below.


For decades, an upriver dam operated by Avista has diverted all the water in the Spokane River from the falls during the summer months. After Avista's operating permit for the Upper Falls Dam was renewed, the Sierra Club appealed the permit under the Clean Water Act, arguing that factors other than maximizing power generation needed to be taken into consideration.

The settlement to keep the river flowing year-round is of national significance because the legal basis of the Sierra Club's appeal was that the Clean Water Act protects not just water quality, but also water quantity flowing in rivers and waterfalls. Below, another view of the falls, full (at left) and empty (right).


Continue reading "Landmark Agreement Restores Flows In Spokane Falls" »

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