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Carl Pope

Carl's new weblog:
Taking the Initiative.

Field Notes Archive

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Carl Pope's Field Notes

Outside the Tent in NYC
31, 2004

The Republican National Convention is in full swing, of course, and the Sierra Club is there, if not quite inside the GOP's new "big tent." But then, I don't think John Muir always used a tent either. Here's an on-the-scene report from Club President Larry Fahn that speaks for itself:

My first day in New York for the Republican National Convention was exhilarating to say the least. Sierra Club activists began gathering Sunday morning in the Chelsea District at 7th Ave. and West 19th at 10 am, to coordinate our message and make plans for joining the huge march protesting various policies of the Bush administration. With new bright lime-green t-shirts featuring an artistic rendition of the planet on the front, and the Sierra Club logo on the back, with the message "The real compassionate conservatives -- Sierra Club, New York City 2004," we were hard to miss.

By the time the march began at noon, we had more than 250 Sierrans, plus dozens of others who didn't arrive early enough to get a t-shirt. There were dozens of locals from all of New York City's boroughs, a large contingent from New Jersey, and even a small group from Michigan. With dozens of signs, banners, and placards, we were a noticeable presence, even among the throng of more than half a million marchers. We were assisted by Sierra Club legal eagles John Klotz and Jim Lane, who volunteered (and received special training) as legal observers, in case trouble ensued and civil rights were jeopardized. Fortunately for everyone, it was a peaceful and orderly event, despite the enormous crowd.

The GOP's message was swept away by the huge peaceful march and other events in the streets as the media focused on the relative calm of the crowd and the cooperation of the police and the march organizers. Our media team arranged for me to do nine radio interviews, including KNX and KFWB in L.A., WBBM Chicago, WJY Detroit, as well as AP and CBS radio networks. In each one I explained that the Sierra Club was at the RNC to help spread the word about the shameful record of the Bush administration on environmental and natural-resource protection issues:

"Whether it's rolling back air pollution laws so as to triple the levels of mercury allowed to be emitted into our air and calling it 'Clear Skies,' or misleading New Yorkers about the safety of the dust and debris from the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings, this administration has been less than truthful to the American people. And the Sierra Club is determined the let the people know about it."

In many of the interviews, I highlighted that the GOP used to be conservation-minded, going back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt, when that GOP President worked with the Sierra Club's first President, John Muir, to protect Yosemite as a National Park. "We'd love to see more Republicans return to their roots as true conservationists."

Mostly, I've been focusing on the myriad ways the Bush administration has set back environmental protection, including removing protections from public lands, pursuing a policy of "explore and exploit," and going AWOL on energy efficiency and conservation.

Our Ground Zero Community Vigil also has been quite successful. The Sierra Club is manning a table overlooking the WTC site from dawn to dusk this entire week, to raise public awareness about how the Bush administration misled the residents and rescue workers about the safety of the air in the days and weeks following the attack, and to demand proper cleanup of the remaining hazards, as well as medical monitoring and treatment of the thousands of people exposed to the toxic contamination. Thousands of workers and residents in the neighborhood have expressed their gratitude for our presence, and the comprehensive report the Sierra Club issued on the subject last week. Even a few GOP delegates picked up our materials.

I'll be taking a shift at ground zero (on lower Broadway, between Liberty and Cedar) Wednesday afternoon in case anyone wants to stop by.

If you're looking for another way to connect with Sierra Club members in NYC this week, I know that local members are also planning a gathering to watch President Bush's acceptance speech on Thursday night. For more info, contact Tresa Horney at (212) 791-3600, ext. 30, or