Andy Selters - Bishop, Calif.
Wilderness activist, Range of Light Group
Andy Selters deeply appreciates the gifts found in true wilderness. But he recently survived the terrifying side of a wild place when he and climbing partner Bill Pilling were in a plane crash in the Yukon Territory in which the pilot was killed.
On July 20, the climbers had summitted the north buttress of Mt. Kennedy. As arranged, the pilot fetched them from a glacier, but upon take-off the plane failed to leave the ground and instead crashed into an 80-foot-deep crevasse. Wedged between the pilot's body and the door, Selters called for help from Pilling, who had freed himself and was walking around.
"Bill looked at me and said, 'How do you know my name?' I knew then it was a life and death situation. I didn't expect to live through it," says Selters.
But he helped Pilling find their sleeping bags, and after a frigid night they were rescued and flown to Anchorage. Pilling suffered a concussion and broken collar bone. Selters broke three vertebrae and is in a torso cast for four months. But he is able to work on a Sierra Club proposal to expand the John Muir Wilderness Area in the Sierra Nevada, and put finishing touches on his book about the history of mountaineering in North America.
Any epiphanies? "I've been given an extra inning, maybe seen the other side a bit, but the only wisdom survivors really gain is that we know we're not here forever," he says.
Keith Smith - Oklahoma City, Okla.
"I'm an environmentalist, civil libertarian, pro-choice advocate and openly gay man," says Keith Smith, who lobbies Oklahoma decision-makers for a variety of clients, including the Sierra Club. "I'm a screaming liberal in a conservative state, and that I have any victories at all is surprising."
Why does he keep at it? "They desperately need me - and I'm effective," he says. "I became an activist in college, and I've been a volunteer or paid lobbyist ever since." Smith's favorite fight is over concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, and the public seems increasingly interested in booting them from the state. "It's an issue that lets me build trust and alliances with farmers and decision-makers who are conservative on other legislation," he says. "It's good for Republicans to see family farmers hanging out with Keith Smith at the capital."
Smith was born in Oklahoma and is part of a farming family, which helps open the doors of lawmakers.
"I grew up in a rural part of the state, and that's where the big CAFO conflicts are, so it helps that I know what life is like there. Probably the scariest thing to an Oklahoman is an outside agitator. I'm a weird liberal, but I'm their weird liberal, and that makes a difference."
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