By Jenny Coyle
Camilla Feibelman - Providence, R.I.
National Director, Sierra Student Coalition
Winter had never felt so cold for Camilla Feibelman. A year ago January she went from the tropical jungles of the Peruvian Amazon to the SSC office in Rhode Island.
Feibelman, who earned a degree in environmental biology at Columbia University, went to the Amazon on a Fullbright Scholarship to study commercial fisheries and develop a conflict-resolution process for rural and urban fishermen, who have, at times, shot each other over territory rights.
She was based in a jungle-locked city accessible only by boat or small plane, and from there joined local fishermen on six- to 20-day fishing trips.
"We'd be in two wooden canoes, and they'd drop the net, then gather up tons of fish. There'd be fish spilling out, water splashing, gurgling noises - it was one of the most striking experiences I've ever had."
Well, there was the time she strayed from her normal vegetarian diet and ate what they told her was rabbit, only to learn the next day that it was actually monkey meat. Or the time a boa constrictor rose out of the water in front of her to attack the small monkey she held in her arms. A quick-thinking fisherman chopped off the snake's head.
Makes the her work for the SSC seem tame by comparison.
Rose Johnson - Gulfport, Miss.
Vice Chair, Mississippi Chapter
Rose Johnson, the first African American to serve on the Mississippi Chapter's executive committee, has only been on board since January, but she's been working many years to enhance the quality of life in her low-income, predominantly African American neighborhood. She joined the Club to help organize on environmental justice issues.
It was Becky Gillette, Mississippi Chapter chair, who alerted Johnson's neighborhood to a nearby development plan for a golf resort, office complex and distribution center.
"Part of the development plan is to fill more than 500 acres of wetlands," says Johnson. "Our neighborhood already has flooding problems because the city doesn't maintain our ditches and drainage systems. This project will just make things worse." The neighborhood organized and swamped the Army Corps of Engineers with comments. A decision is due soon.
Gillette then encouraged Johnson to run for the chapter executive committee. The rest is history. The story illustrates what Johnson believes is key to bringing minority citizens into the Club.
"I'd like to see the Sierra Club reach out to more people of color," she says. "These communities are full of good people with good ideas who want the same thing as affluent white people: clean air, clean water, decent housing, good schools. The way to bring them in is to reach out - just like Becky did to me."
Charlie Ogle - Eugene, Ore.
Secretary, National Board of Directors
You can't invent this stuff: Charlie Ogle is a fine woodworker who makes a stringed musical instrument called the viola da gamba, and before that he was an engineer who designed streetlighting controls, and before that he was a certified master clockmaker who ran a clock repair business in New York.
"I didn't get very far with the clock business, and I was only an engineer because they paid me to do it. I was stuck with the idea that you've got to be part of the corporate economy," Ogle says. Then he met a guy who was making viola da gambas and thought it looked interesting. So he tried it, got good at it and a dozen years ago quit the engineering job and started making instruments full time.
How many does he make a year? "Before or after I got on the Sierra Club board?" he asks. "In a good year I'd make a dozen, but now I'm much more into importing and dealing them." He even has a Web site: www.violadagamba.com.
Long before the music, streetlights and clocks, Ogle was an environmentalist. "When I was quite young," he said, "I got slapped on the butt and started breathing and crying and right about then realized I needed air."
Clean air, of course.
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Photo of Camilla Feibelman courtesy John Byrne Barry, Rose Johnson courtesy Ralph Salisbury, Charlie Ogle courtesy Kurt Janson.
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