by Jenny Coyle
Jackie McCort - San Francisco, Calif.
Youth in Wilderness Project Coordinator
It was during her "back to the land" experience in the early '80s that Jackie
McCort had dual epiphanies. She was living in rural Northern California on a wooded patch
of land with no electricity. Water for baths was heated over a wood stove and food was
stored in an ice box. "It was beautiful, but I really didn't have the skills to
support a life in the wilderness," she says. The epiphanies? "One was that I
should have a flush toilet and be able to take a shower whenever I want. The other came
from reading Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring.' The book woke me up to the fact that the
beautiful places I loved were being destroyed. I decided to do what I could to stop
that." So McCort went back to school and earned a degree in environmental studies.
The San Francisco Bay Chapter hired her in 1989, as a conservation representative. Four
years later she went to work for the Club's California/Nevada/Hawaii field office, where
she focused on wetlands and water-supply issues. Last year she became project coordinator
for Youth in Wilderness, the Club's new grant-making program that supports
environmental-education opportunities for low-income kids in Northern California. Has
McCort found her niche? "I have the best job at the Sierra Club," she says.
Albert Midoux - Anderson, Mo.
Volunteer, Ozark Chapter
If you aren't a vegetarian, a 10-minute conversation with Albert Midoux will probably
convince you to be one. Midoux is a retired food inspector for the U.S. Department of
Agriculture. And he's seen it all. He once condemned a truckload of chicken after finding
that carcasses had been gnawed and urinated on by rats. He returned the next day to find
out the load had been processed for sale anyway. That was 25 years ago, but, there's still
plenty of nasty stuff going on today, he says. For instance, industrial animal operations
want to irradiate food to kill bacteria. "The bacteria's there because they're
feeding the animals their own dead," he says. "From other processing plants they
bring in remnants and condemned carcasses, sometimes green and crawling with maggots. This
is cooked and dried and fed to cattle that humans will eventually eat." But aren't
cows vegetarians? "They used to be," says Midoux. "Also, in a plant just
half a mile from my house they make a mix of 80 percent chicken manure and 20 percent
grain and feed it to the cattle." All these processes occur near waterways so waste
can be dumped and carried away, he adds. "They're treating this planet like we have a
spare one," he says. Ozark Chapter Director Ken Midkiff encourages Midoux to write
letters to decision-makers and takes him on lobbying trips to Washington, D.C. Midoux also
serves on the chapter's Water Quality Committee.
Kate Spencer - Berwin Heights, Md.
ExComm, Prince George's County Group
Kate Spencer says she never thought she'd combine her two loves - biology and art - but
was thrilled when she went to work as a scientific illustrator for the Smithsonian
Institution Museum of Natural History, in the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians.
"It's on the same floor as the Division of Worms and the Registry of Tumors in Lower
Animals," she says. Spencer has since become a freelancer, illustrating such work as
a reference volume called "The Biology of Tadpoles." She came to the Sierra Club
through her efforts to protect a 240-acre woodland and wetland along Indian Creek in the
Beltway. "It's next to a Metro station, and the first time I got up the nerve to
climb over the guardrail into this forest, I saw a doe, her twin fawns and a
red-shouldered hawk, and I stayed to watch the sunset," she says. She describes the
life cycle of the spotted salamanders that live there as though it were an Academy
Award-winning movie. "They're so inspiring to me," she says. When Spencer
learned about plans to build a shopping mall at the site, she started Citizens to Conserve
and Restore Indian Creek. Jon Robinson of the Sierra Club's Prince George's County Group
in turn recruited her to serve on the ExComm. "I knew one day I'd work on
conservation issues," she says. "The universe has called me to start."
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