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The Planet

April 1998, Volume 5, Number 3 ICTORY



By John Byrne Barry

    A Contribution is not the Solution to Pollution
    “What’s next,” sneered Virginia Chapter lobbyist Albert Pollard to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Saddam Hussein being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize?” That was Pollard’s take upon learning that Smithfield Foods, which was fined $12.6 million last year by the Environmental Protection Agency for pollution violations, had been nominated for a national philanthropy award. The meatpacking company is the largest employer in Smithfield, Va.

    The fine on Smithfield is the largest ever levied in a federal water-pollution case. Regardless, town officials believe that “Foods” — as the company is called to distinguish it from the town — should be recognized for its investment of millions of dollars to spruce up Smithfield’s downtown.

    Pollard disagrees.

    “The company has made money by polluting and has given some of that money back to the community,” he told the Times-Dispatch. “We think they should have been giving clean air and clean water first and money second.”

    Wimp Walk or Death March? Your Choice
    The Kentucky Chapter says its Feb. 29 “Wimp Walk” (hint, 1998 is not a leap year) is “for all those who have signed up for a hike, but didn’t show up because there was a cloud in the sky, a raindrop was felt . . . or the temperature was forecast to drop below 72 degrees.”

    A description of the outing in The Cumberland, the chapter newsletter, says, “We will drive to the main entrance of a local mall . . . take one lap around the mall, then sit on benches. Rating: very easy, only 300 yards, suitable for beginners.”

    For something tougher, try the April 4 “Superstition Death March Dayhike,” led by Ken McGinty of Phoenix, Ariz. Listed in the Canyon Echo, newsletter of the Grand Canyon Chapter, this hike — for “strong, fast, crazy, undaunted and intrepid hikers only” — will go up and down the “steep, slick, slippery slopes” of Superstition Mountain (3,000 feet in elevation gain) through “spiny, prickly, thorny, barbed and bristly plants.”

    “Gloves recommended,” says McGinty.

    Have You Ever Been Threatened?
    That’s what Ohio Political Chair Richard Clark, a sociology professor at John Carroll University outside Cleveland, asked more than 500 Club leaders. In his recently released draft report, “Harassment and Intimidation of Environmental Activists,” Clark found that 18.7 percent of the 225 respondents from across the country had been threatened as a result of their environmental advocacy and 4.4 percent had been attacked.

    The leaders in the sample averaged 17 years of involvement in environmental activities and eight years of leadership.

    The issues most likely to lead to threats and intimidation were private-property related, says Clark, like endangered species protection, wetlands and forests. Harassing phone calls were the most common threat.
    Activists reported being angry about the intimidation and attacks, but more than two-thirds said that such occurrences would not deter them from future environmental advocacy.

    For a copy of the full report, contact Clark at (216) 397-3341 or

    Have You Ever Been Honored?
    The deadline for nominations for the 1998 Sierra Club Honors and Awards is June 1. Forms will be mailed to Club leaders and are available on the Club’s Web site at
    Awards will be presented at the annual meeting Sept. 26. Questions? Call Ellen Mayou at (817) 283-5489.

    Newt Gingrich, Sierra Club Share a Toast
    It’s rare that the House speaker and the Club find common ground. But on Feb. 11, when the states of New York and New Jersey announced the purchase of Sterling Forest, a rugged, pristine 15,800-acre woodland preserve 40 miles northwest of New York City, both of these unlikely allies uncorked the champagne.

    Gingrich’s support came about through a serendipitous phone call about three years ago. His environmental credentials were badly tarnished then — deservedly so — and he needed some green veneer. Ella Filippone, executive director of the Passaic River Coalition, an ally of the Club, managed to get Gingrich’s direct line, and when he answered, she was so surprised she went right into her spiel and they talked for half an hour. Gingrich visited the forest several months later.

    The federal government ponied up $17.5 million for the purchase, New York and New Jersey kicked in $16 million and $10 million, respectively, and foundations and hundreds of individuals contributed the remaining $11.5 million. The new park will not only provide hiking, fishing and skiing opportunities, it will also protect the drinking-water supply for 2 million residents of northern New Jersey.

    Not everyone in the New Jersey and Atlantic chapters is celebrating. John Gephardts, executive director of the Sterling Forest Partnership and vice chair of the Ramapo-Catskill Group, says this is a partial victory. There are still 2,220 acres to acquire, he says, and many of the forest’s supporters won’t rest until the remaining acreage is saved.

    Name That Gas Guzzler
    Next year, Ford Motor Company plans to roll out a 7,000-pound, 19-foot-long sport utility vehicle — the latest in a line of larger, more polluting and more profitable SUVs. But Ford’s new personal global-warming machine doesn’t yet have a name.

    To the rescue comes Steve Pedery of the Club’s Global Warming team in Washington, D.C. with a contest to help Ford name the new monster.

    Entries so far include: “The Ford Deluge” (What did the future ever do for you?), Vicki Watson; “The Ford Saddam” (The truck that’ll put America between Iraq and a hard place), D.B., New Columbia Chapter; and “The Ford Valdez” (Have you driven a tanker lately?), Steve Paglieri.

    To enter, just visit the Club’s Global Warming Web site at You can fax your entry to (202) 547-6009 or e-mail
    First prize is a doctored photograph of Saddam Hussein and Ford CEO Alex Trotman holding hands. Second prize is a five-gallon gas can — enough to get the unnamed new Ford out of your driveway.

    April Film Fests
    On April 18, the Wisconsin Academy, in cooperation with the Sierra Club, will present the premiere of the film, “The Boyhood of John Muir,” as part of a program highlighting the legacy of the three renowned Wisconsin environmentalists — Muir, Aldo Leopold and Wallace Stegner. Club Executive Director Carl Pope will deliver the keynote address and Midwest Director Carl Zichella will moderate one of the panels.

    For more information, call (608) 263-1692.

    On April 17–19, the New York City Group is hosting its second film and video festival at the New School for Social Research. This year’s event features “Rubber Jungle,” a tribute to Chico Mendes. For more information, call Shelagh Nitze at (212) 869-1630.

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