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The Planet
Who We Are

Brian Scherf - Hollywood, Fla.
Chair, Biodiversity Committee of the Broward County Group

Brian ScherfWhen American Automobile Association members reach travel counselor Brian Scherf on the phone to help them plan a vacation, they get more than highway routes and discount motels. They get an environmental education as well.

"I talk about national parks all day, and I always work in a conservation message," says the Florida activist. "So you're going to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Do you know about the work that they're doing there to reintroduce elk? Bound for Yosemite? Are you familiar with the efforts being made to reduce the impacts of visitors there?"

Some are interested, some are ambivalent - it just depends on the person, says Scherf. "There's a quote: 'Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.' That's the price of our public lands, too, and I'm just asking people to be vigilant."

When he's not working, Scherf is the Sierra Club's point man on protecting the Big Cypress National Preserve, which he calls the Rodney Dangerfield of the park system: "It gets no respect because it's overshadowed by the Everglades." His wife Rosalyn is his partner when it comes to writing comments and working with the agency. "She helps tone me down when I get out of hand."

Roberta Brashear - Puna, Hawaii
Chair, Hawaii Chapter

Roberta BrashearsIt took a while to get a hold of Roberta Brashear for an interview about her off-the-grid lifestyle in a Hawaiian rainforest - not because of a lack of any equipment, but rather because she was shooting photos of surfers in Indonesia. Photography is her hobby; teaching environmental studies and biology at Hawaii Community College in Hilo is her profession. And living in a 608-square-foot cabin without electricity has been her education.

"I was a city slicker from New Jersey who learned real fast," she laughs. Ten years ago, when she moved from Oahu to live on six acres she owned on the "Big Island," Brashear discovered it would cost nearly $5,000 to hook up to electricity, plus $2,000 per power pole. That's when she decided to make use of the island's abundant sunshine.

A friend helped her set up four solar panels, four batteries and a converter, which provide ample power for her television, VCR, computer and several lights. Her water source is rainfall stored in a 4,500 gallon catchment, and propane supplies her water pump, refrigerator and stove. The telephone and e-mail access make it easier to chair the chapter from her homestead.

"Sure, I gave up my toaster, rice cooker and hair dryer," says Brashear, "but you really don't need much to live sustainably - and very happily - in a pristine rainforest."

Dian Avriett - Lufkin, Texas
Member, Piney Woods Group

Dian AvirettThe word "boycott" doesn't scare Dian Avriett. Ever since the third-generation Texan got involved in environmental activism - most recently by helping to launch a campaign to end commercial logging on federal lands - industry officials and the chamber of commerce have told employees to avoid Avriett's bakery, deli and catering service. The forest issue is so controversial in town that when the Piney Woods Group organized a meeting to kick off the campaign, the Texas Forestry Association held a rally across the street.

"The boycott hasn't hurt me," she says. "I'm starting to believe there's no such thing as bad publicity. Every time my face is in front of the camera, a dozen new people pop into my place the next day." (It could also be that word is spreading about her award-winning "Nut-n-Special" cake.)

"All I want is to see our national forests in a natural state, and our water - like Lake Sam Rayburn, which is about 10 miles from here - cleaned up. Many of us won't eat fish from the lake the way it is now."

It seems those goals will be more easily achieved than wresting that cake recipe from Avriett's clutches.

"I might ship someone a cake, but the recipe's a secret," she blushes. "It has this unique frosting...."

Know someone whose story is deserving? Contact us at The Planet, 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105;

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