by John Byrne Barry
Come up with a formula - like E=mc2 - to describe how the Sierra Club succeeded in the past year. Those were the instructions given to the more than 140 Sierra Club volunteers and staff gathered in Virginia the first weekend of December for a planning retreat. Each of the two dozen tables had to come up with a simple recipe.
While there were as many formulas as there were tables, most were variations on a similar theme. Media Team Director Allen Mattison, reporting for his table, shared perhaps the most distilled of them: "(G+C)M=S" - that is, grassroots activists (G) plus coalition-building (C) multiplied by effective media (M) equals success.
Look at the stories in this year-in-review issue of The Planet and you'll see that formula popping up all over the place.
See "Wild Forest Win" describing the Club's mobilization to support and strengthen President Clinton's wild forest initiative. When first proposed, the plan didn't include Alaska's Tongass National Forest and banned roadbuilding, but not logging. Thousands of Club volunteers and staff attended hearings - there were more than 400 - wrote letters to the editor, staged rallies and worked alongside other organizations to generate mostly positive media coverage. The final plan, to be announced before Clinton leaves office, will be far stronger than the original proposal, protecting almost 60 million acres of roadless lands in our national forests, including the Tongass.
(G+C)M=S is not a foolproof formula, of course - politics is more of a street fight than a science - but when we look at where we've won, more often than not we followed that recipe pretty closely.
This year-in-review issue of The Planet serves as a de facto annual report, a yearbook of the Club's accomplishments in the past year. For us at The Planet, it's an honor to pull all these reports together, to tell the Club's story. At the heart of each of them are the grassroots activists, the first and most important element of our not-so-secret formula.
Awe-inspiring as it is, the breadth of the Club's work makes it difficult to look like one organization. That's why the Club is exploring ways to present a more unified look to our members and the public. This month's redesigned Planet is part of that effort.
Let us know what you think.
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