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  March 2003 Features:
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The Planet
by Tom Valtin

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Steelworker Alliance

Tanya Tolchin reports from Missouri on the successful joint training between the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers of America in February. The event, focused on building alliances and solving global warming, was sponsored by the Labor Institute, which provided materials and trainers from labor unions around the country. Dave Foster, the regional director of the Steelworkers, spoke on the need for workers and environmentalists to overcome barriers and join forces for workers' rights and environmental protections, as well as holding the government and corporations accountable.

Participants found plenty of common ground-raising the visibility in affected communities of toxic chemical dangers, focusing on energy solutions that provide good jobs and curb global warming, and swapping secret organizing tips and favorite fishing spots. Plans are underway for teams of one Steelworker trainer and one Sierra Club trainer to host similar events in 30 locations around the country.

Explore, Disfrute y Proteja Nuestra Planeta

Javier Sierra
Javier Sierra
For years, Javier Sierra wrote a weekly column for the Hispanic Radio Network that appeared in dozens of Spanish language papers around the country. The column, "La Columna Vertebral" (The Spinal Column),which touched on themes of importance to the Hispanic community, inspired thousands of readers to respond with thanks and comments. Sierra is now writing a monthly column for the Sierra Club in Spanish, to be syndicated to 200 newspapers, that focuses on the Hispanic community and environmental issues.

Camilla Feibelman of the Club's Washington, D.C., office says polls have shown that the Latino community cares deeply about the environment: A Latino Issues Forum survey in California found 96 percent of Latinos believe it is important to preserve the environment, and 91 percent say it's possible to protect the environment and build a robust economy at the same time.

Emergency 'Poppycock'

Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge's advice to stock up on duct tape and plastic is old news to residents of North Memphis. Chemical companies in the predominantly African American neighborhood have been suggesting the duct tape remedy for years. To put the emergency kit to the test, Sierra Club organizer Rita Harris and the Concerned Citizens of Crump, a neighborhood association, staged a drill in March at local resident Balinda Moore's home.

venting their feelings
Venting Their Feelings: Young residents of Memphis' Crump neighborhood, adjacent to a number of chemical companies, give their evaluation of the federal government's home security measures.

The goal: Duct tape plastic to three windows, a door, and an air vent in less than ten minutes-the amount of time federal officials say you have to safely seal your home. After six minutes, Moore had one window partially completed. After several more minutes, with the other windows, the door, and an air vent high on the wall still unsealed, she threw in the towel.

"This is poppycock," Moore said, exasperated. "I don't see how I could get up there and tape those vents."

No one from Veliscol, one of the largest chemical companies in the neighborhood, was available to answer questions about the reliability of duct tape in the event of a chemical spill.

Students Rally for Wildlands

For its fifth annual Public Lands Action Summit, reports Meighan Davis, Sierra Student Coalition's Conservation Chair, the SSC brought 150 high school and college students from more than 30 states to Capitol Hill to rally for public lands protection. Following a training that featured Representatives Ed Markey (D-Mass.), cosponsor of the Arctic Refuge wilderness bill, and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), cosponsor of the National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Act, the students took to the halls of Congress to lobby for Arctic and Utah wilderness bills, as well as issues like public lands protection in Puerto Rico.

"As students," says Davis, a senior at Peace College in North Carolina, "we're trying to ensure that these wild places are protected for future generations."

Now, from Hollywood...

The Sierra Club isn't just a powerful environmental advocate in real life; we also play one on TV. Jim Dougherty of the Club's Conservation Governance Committee, reports on an exchange on NBC's new political sitcom "Mister Sterling," about a dashing young senator.

Lobbyist to Senator: "I heard the Sierra Club is going to come out tomorrow morning against the nomination of George Kelly. They're not a fringe-ish group. They have a lot of clout." Next, a political consultant says to a staff member: "Have you heard the Sierra Club came out against Kelly? There's no way he can survive politically in California if he votes for Kelly." The senator took the consultant's advice.

Meanwhile, on NBC's long-running hit "West Wing," the Sierra Club was mentioned as one of the groups endorsing congressional aspirant Sam Seaborn in Orange County, California, Now, if only the Club had someone in real life like President Bartlett to endorse....

And Finally...

Sierra Club Prairie Chapter (Canada) Director Sonja Mihelcic reports the February passing of "one of our most committed volunteers," Professor Chuck Chamberlain of Edmonton. The Edmonton Journal reported that Professor Chamberlain was the city's most prominent defender of the urban environment. He was 67.

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