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The Planet

    Taking It to DuPont

    In April, Florida Chapter volunteer Maurice Coman ventured from his home in Jacksonville into hostile territory. It was an auditorium in downtown Wilmington, Del. The stage looked like a game-show set -- three executives sat behind desks with a backlit white screen displaying the company logo behind them. Plainclothes security personnel lurked at every entrance. Moving through the audience were ushers carrying lanterns.
    Coman stood up to speak.

    ìI grew up in Jacksonville,î he said, ìjust south of the swamp. I spent many days of my childhood canoeing and camping in the swamp, and I would hate to see anything that would disrupt it. Once itís gone, itís gone.î

    The event was the annual shareholdersí meeting of Du Pont and Coman and other Sierra Club members were there to push a shareholder resolution urging the company to abandon its plans to build a titanium dioxide mine next to the Okefenokee swamp in Georgia.

    Coman also presented 15,000 signatures, 4,000 postcards and 300 letters as evidence of massive opposition to the mine. Four others also spoke in support, including Seattle attorney Bruce Herbert, who had placed the resolution on the ballot, Georgia Chapter Chair Sam Booher, Public Education Coordinator Josh Marks, and Judy Jennings, a volunteer from Savannah.

    The resolution was defeated, receiving 3.4 percent of the vote. ìThat sounds small,î says Marks, ìbut itís more than 51 million shares and enough to qualify us for next yearís agenda.î

    It was also enough to give Du Pont a black eye in the media in Delaware and Georgia, which also covered the pre-meeting protest in Rodney Square across the street from the Du Pont Hotel.

    Using shareholder resolutions to promote social causes has a long history. Activists have used this process to oppose the Vietnam War, fight apartheid in South Africa, remedy workplace discrimination and promote human rights. The Sierra Club has also participated in shareholder campaigns against Chevron and General Electric.

    The shareholder resolution is only one prong of the broader campaign to save the swamp, which has grown into a cause celebré in southeastern Georgia. Thereís even a group called Dentists Defending the Swamp (DDS -- get it?) with petitions in their waiting rooms.

    Club Regional Representative Sam Collier also goes down to the swamp from his Atlanta office every month to meet with Du Pont -- ostensibly to explore ìhowî to mine. But, says Collier, ìwe are pushing for a parallel track to talk about no mining at all. Weíre saying to the company that we can make you look like the good guy if you do the right thing.î

    To take action: Write a letter to Du Pont and send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Say that no amount of study by Du Pont will change the fact that the company has picked the worst place to put a mine. The Okefenokee is too fragile, too unique and too popular to risk. Urge Du Pont to permanently abandon the mine project.

    Chad Holliday, CEO, Du Pont Corp.
    1007 Market St.
    Wilmington, DE 19898.

    Send a copy of your letter to
    Sierra Club
    Okefenokee Campaign
    1447 Peachtree St. NE, #305
    Atlanta, GA 30309.

    For more information: Contact Maurice Coman at (904) 620-2936,; or Sam Collier at (404) 888-9778,

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