Sierra Club to President Obama, "We've Got Your Back"

by: EJ on 02/15/2013
Posted in: Activism

The Sierra Club is 120 years old.  Founded by environmental giants, John Muir, Joseph LeConte, J. Henry Senger, Warren Olney and others it was incorporated in 1892.  The Sierra Club's purpose was  "to explore, enjoy, and render accessible the mountain regions of the Pacific Coast; to publish authentic information concerning them," and "to enlist the support and cooperation of the people and government in preserving the forests and other natural features of the Sierra Nevada."

In all of those 120 years, the Sierra Club refused to participate in civil disobedience.  But on January 23 of this year, Sierra Club Executive Director, Michael Brune, announced a change in policy.  At a delegates meeting in September 2012, members voted to ask the board of directors to allow the club to engage in civil disobedience. This is not the first time a vote had been put to the board, but this time it went through. 

Why the change of heart?  In short, climate change. In an interview with Jon Queally, published on Common Dreams, January 23rd, Michael Brune says, "The change in direction was spurred by recognizing the possibility that the United States might surrender any hope of stabilizing our planet's climate. We are watching a global crisis unfold before our eyes, and to stand aside and let it happen -- even though we know how to stop it -- would be unconscionable."

Wednesday, the Sierra Club participated in its first act of civil disobedience and it was a good one. Forty-eight people were arrested including civil rights leader Julian Bond, NASA climate scientist James Hansen, leader Bill McKibben, lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and actress Daryl Hannah.  I particularly liked the story from Friends of the Earth President, Erich Pica, who was arrested for the first time.  In her blog at Friends of the Earth she says,

"Sitting at the White House gates I felt as if I was giving voice to the communities in Nebraska and Texas fighting the pipeline at their personal risk. I felt that I was giving voice to the tens of thousands of Friends of the Earth members who have urged the president to deny the pipeline. I felt like I was giving voice to the Friends of the Earth groups around the world that are calling on President Obama and the American people to do more to fight climate chaos. Finally, I felt, in a very profound way, that I was standing up for the future of my son, Zander, who will have to live with the decisions that all of us make today."

I can relate to that.  I have a son too.  Right now, I am holding a study group with him and two of his friends.  We are watching the excellent documentary about global overshoot, "How to Boil a Frog", produced by Jon Cooksey.  The documentary has an accompanying study guide which we have been working our way through.  It is divided into ten sections, five problems and five solutions.  We are only up to the third problem but I have been feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of somehow injecting the boys with optimism and hope once they begin to comprehend the scale of what confronts us.

But not any more. Thanks to actions like the Sierra Club protest in Washington, I can point out to the boys that important and influential people are willing to put their careers, reputations and bodies on the line to demand action on climate change.  I can show them articles that demonstrate that climate change can be stopped.  I can encourage them that yes, their individual actions are adding up to a larger movement world wide.  In short, demonstrations like the one just held by the Sierra Club give them hope and at this stage, that is what they need most of all.

In this excerpt from Democracy Now, Michael Brune talks about Sierra Club's objectives in working with President Obama on climate change. You can see the entire show here.



This Sunday, February 17th, the Sierra Club is planning the largest climate rally in US history at the National Mall in Washington D.C from noon to 5:00 P.M.  If you are lucky enough and can make it to Washington by Sunday without generating large quantities of greenhouse gas, please gather at 11:30 A.M.

If not, use the tools you have - Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and good old face to face conversation.  Help spread the word - an alternative energy future is within our grasp.



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