Dick Colby - Egg Harbor City, New Jersey
Newsletter Editor, New Jersey Chapter
When Dick Colby was a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, the Sierra Club was working to protect Northern California's old growth redwoods. Colby joined a trip to see the threatened forest firsthand, and was awestruck by its beauty. After the campaign resulted in the creation of Redwood National Park, Colby felt he owed it to the forest, and to the Sierra Club, to get more involved in environmental issues.
In the 30-plus years he has worked with the Sierra Club, Colby, a college professor, has served as chapter chair, chapter political chair, South Jersey Group political chair, and as a group and chapter ExCom member. His main project for the past 20 years has been the creation and management of the first in a new class of Wild and Scenic Rivers, known as Partnership Rivers.
Colby also serves as chairman of the city planning board, trustee of a local land trust, and as a member of the County Parks Commission.
His personal life also reflects his dedication to the environment: his annual gift to himself is the allowance to generate one bag of trash per year. (According to Colby, it's easy, thanks to a superb local recycling program and lots of composting.)
So how does Colby, with three decades of environmental activism under his belt, manage to avoid burnout? "By acting locally," he says. "New Jersey is a small state, which has enabled a relatively small number of activists to have a big impact. We have been very successful on local issues."
Kevin Hall - Fresno, California
Air Quality, Transportation, and Global Warming Chair, Tehipite Chapter
Four years ago, a typical family night out turned into a life-changing evening for Kevin Hall. After watching a movie, Hall, his wife, and their son (now 11), stopped at a bookstore. Hall's wife happened to pick up the book "Maybe One," by Bill McKibben.
"We thought it was about being an only child," says Hall. "And it was - for a few chapters. Then it went into its main thesis - that because of global warming and other pressures on the planet, no family should have more than one child."
"My wife and I began an intensive self-education effort about climate change," says Hall. Other influential readings included "The Heat is On," by Ross Gelbspan and "Curbing Global Warming by Curbing Urban Sprawl," an essay by John Holtzclaw.
A San Joaquin Valley native, Hall had also witnessed firsthand the dangers of ground-level air pollution-caused by many of the same factors that contribute to global warming.
"Asthma is an epidemic here. A fourth of the kids in my dance classes have inhalers," notes Hall, a third-generation teacher of Irish step dancing.
"In 1999, I went to the Tehipite Chapter and told them about everything I had read. I said, 'I want to be active in the chapter,'" recalls Hall. "They said, 'Great. We need an air quality chair, and you can be one.'"
A few months later, Hall convinced Earthjustice to work on air quality issues in the San Joaquin Valley. Earthjustice and the Sierra Club have since won four lawsuits against the EPA and the local air quality district for violations of the Clean Air Act, with victory anticipated in a sixth lawsuit and one settlement pending.
"After essentially ignoring the valley for more than a decade, the EPA finally has a presence here," says Hall. Thanks in part to a family night at the movies.
Hilary Morris - Fayetteville, Arkansas
Sierra Student Coalition President, University of Arkansas
Before Hilary Morris joined the Sierra Student Coalition in 2000, her activism involved "maybe going to a protest, or signing a petition." A lot has changed since then. A year after joining the SSC, Morris was elected SSC president at the University of Arkansas.
Highlights of her tenure as president include organizing a "demonstration for democracy" on a week's notice when Vice President Dick Cheney came to town (the demo drew more than 400 people) and organizing a fax- and letter-writing campaign on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that tied up Senator Blanche Lincoln's fax machine for more than two hours (Lincoln subsequently voted against Arctic drilling).
"Being involved in the SSC has changed my life," says Morris, an honors student. "I learned a lot about leadership, organization, responsibility, and communication. It has made me more resourceful. And I learned a lot about people. I developed a lot of new friendships."
Morris, who will graduate next spring with a double major in French and Music, will step down as SSC president this month so that she can serve as a resource for new ExCom members before she graduates.
After graduating, Morris, a lifelong resident of Fayetteville, plans to travel and join the Peace Corps or a like-minded group to do work in Asia. When asked if her work will focus on the environment, Morris replies, "Maybe. But mainly I just want to help people."
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