I’m talking about those of us who came from the Gulf Coast region affected by Hurricane Katrina. Your lives have been disrupted, but you are here. I know it can’t have been easy. But know, that all of us, are so glad you are here!
Hurricane Katrina has been the biggest single environmental disaster America has ever faced. And your presence brings meaning to our mission and efforts. Thank you from all of us! Thank you for being here!
Carl will say more about this tomorrow but I want to take this opportunity to announce the creation of the “Sierra Club Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Project.”
The effort has not yet been fully defined but we know that the fund will support the environmental work of Sierra Club staff and volunteers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama as they restore their communities in a sustainable way. This fund will be a priority of our ongoing "Building Environmental Community" program as we work with local communities to help them recover from this tragic event.
America will learn from this tragedy. The Sierra Club will help those affected seek inspiring opportunities for renewal.
Tug on anything at all and you'll find it hitched to everything else in the universe. (John Muir)
It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear. (Thoreau)
Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. (Teddy Roosevelt)
Muir, Thoreau, and Teddy Roosevelt were visionaries.They forced a nation to protect its natural heritage. They protected the places that embody the American soul.
113 years ago, the Sierra Club was founded by men who knew that “in wildness is the preservation of the world.” This realization was the birth of the environmental movement. The Sierra Club was at its core.
In this first era of the Sierra Club and of the environmental movement, we recognized the value of protecting special places. This recognition went beyond preservation; it spilled over into literature and the arts. It became a permanent part of the American culture.
The next era, the 2nd era of the environmental movement was a reaction to pollution Brown air and burning rivers, Love Canal and Three Mile Island caught our attention. The industrial assault on our air and water quality, and unregulated chemical dumping rekindled America’s environmental awareness. The Sierra Club responded. Modern environmental activism was born.
In the 1960’s and 70’s the Sierra Club took on the responsibility of protecting not only our special places, we took on the responsibility of protecting the health of Americans. The health of the planet.
This challenge, this responsibility, seemed colossal. It was literally and figuratively David versus Goliath. The villains though, were easy to see; the pollution, easy to identify; the cause and effect between toxins and life obvious.
People just like us, in fact many of us, faced the enormous challenge of educating Americans and enlisting them in environmental protection. Still true to Muir’s vision of saving our natural heritage, the Sierra Club became the acknowledged leader in this second Era. We were bold and aggressive - adept at championing, passing and enforcing environmental legislation.
We succeeded. Let’s fast forward to today.
We have new challenges.
Today we are dealing with broader, more complex environmental issues. Problems like global warming and ecosystem collapse require us to change the way we think. They are hard to grasp and hard to solve. They demand an array of solutions. Solutions like energy independence, new technologies, and collaboration among nations.
They require us to bring people together, to work together ourselves, in new ways. We, within the Sierra Club, must connect, mingle, mesh, and inspire the many facets of America. We are not an independent entity, we are not alone, we are America.
Today we begin the third era of the environmental movement.
The Sierra Club may be the only group in America that has the ability to reach out to Americans to solve the challenges of this third era. Across the country, person-by-person, community-by-community, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, the Sierra Club needs to enlist and engage Americans in the work of this movement.
The Sierra Club may be the only environmental group that can paint America not red, not blue, not even Barak Obama’s purple, but green.
Think of the three era’s of the environmental movement as waves. When you in the trough between waves, all you can see is water.
It feels, it is, overwhelming.
It engulfs you. You can’t see the horizon or what is ahead.
In the trough you feel pressure.
Between the waves, sometimes you panic. But if you steer the right course, you can get out of the trough and view the horizon.
This is where we are today. As we entering the third era of the environmental movement. Our challenges are bigger than those faced by the Sierra Club a century ago, or in the 1960’s.
To be successful in this third era I want to draw our attention to the 3rd line of the Sierra Club’s mission statement. Enlisting humanity, engage Americans. The energy of this wave is the momentum brought by new ideas, new solutions, new expectations, and new people to our cause.
Let’s look to the Sierra Club’s mission statement. There is inspiration and guidance here.
We have been successful in exploring, enjoying, and protecting wild places, We have worked hard to practice and promote responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources. We have educated people about environmental responsibility.
Past successes have depended on inspiring Americans and enlisting them in our cause. In this third wave of the environmental movement, we need to enlist them again. It is today that we become missionaries rather than prophets.
The Sierra Club is the oldest environmental and the largest grassroots organization in America. As I said before, the Sierra Club may well be the only group in America that has the ability to reach out to Americans to solve our current, formidable environmental challenges.
The national and global problems we face demand our best and brightest solutions, and the most effective responses we can develop.
They demand that we enlist all reaches of society and reconnect with our core values.
The Sierra Club IS the backbone of the environmental movement.
You are the core leaders. You make up the core of the moral leadership that defends our planet. Through your commitment, we have access to the best minds, yours; creative, stubbornly persistent, full of passion, able to hold opposing ideas in mind, committed to integrity and open to possibility.
A generation from now - there will be names from THIS crowd spoken next to those of Ansel Adams, David Brower, Wallace Stegner and Ed Wayburn.
We are the Sierra Club. We will build this third wave of the environmental movement.It is my personal mission to make you successful. I want to enable you to enlist humanity, your neighbors, co workers and friends. It is my job to understand what you need and see that the Sierra Club delivers it.
You are the wave, I am your advocate
My job is to empower you, your job is to empower others. To move the movement we need the best forms of communications, the best tools, stories and messages that resonate with everyone from farmers to opera singers.
We can move the movement by listening so we can be heard. So, I challenge you to move forward today and choose the conservation initiatives that resonate with our activists and with the American public.
A focus that inspires, gives hope and most of all empowers.
Choose the capacities that leverage our strengths and enable us to reach out, and choose to reach out to those who are most strategically important to the movement.
Acknowledge our INTER dependence and bring out the best in our staff and in our volunteers so that we can accomplish the goals we set for ourselves
And fulfill our mission.
No longer can we rest on the knowledge that we are correct.
No longer can we simply tell more of the truth, louder.
The consciousness of America is a river that’s been dammed. We have to set it free, otherwise the American Wilderness will continue to shrink, the planet drift toward decay, broken incrementally, traded to line the pockets of compromise.
But the work of a movement – our movement – is about getting our nation and our neighbors to embrace our environment and its protection.
Therefore, The Sierra Club will continue to battle for preservation. The Sierra Club will continue to battle as activists and organizers.Tomorrow the Sierra Club will battle for their hearts and mind of American’s to join us in our work and mission and in our cause of saving the nation and the planet.
photo by John Byrne Barry
Up to Top