Where we're going in the next five years and how we get there
by John Byrne Barry
The damage done by global warm is now indisputable and spreading.
American consumers are paying record prices for home heating oil and gasoline. Volatile energy markets roil our economy. And even President Bush admits our nation’s energy “addiction” has left us vulnerable and dependent on oil from dangerous regions of the world.
It is now obvious that nothing threatens the future of our planet, the security of our nation, or the health of our air, water, and wildlands more than the way we produce and consume energy. Continuing down the same path is no longer an option and America has hard, urgent choices to make about how to move past petroleum.
That’s why the members of the Sierra Club have made the push for “Smart Energy Solutions” its highest priority over the next five to ten years. After an almost year-long deliberative process, grassroots members of Sierra Club chapters and groups and their delegates to the Sierra Summit in September 2005 voted to make three
Conservation Initiatives the centerpieces of our national conservation agenda:
“Smart Energy Solutions” calls for a bold shift from reliance on fossil fuels to a safe, clean energy future built on efficiency, renewable fuels, and innovative technologies.
“America’s Wild Legacy” focuses on protecting wild and special places, and preserving our wildlife and their habitats.
“Safe and Healthy Communities” fights pollution of our water and air and toxic threats to communities across America.
In addition to identifying what the substance of our work will be between 2006 and 2010, members of the Sierra Club also adopted strategies to help us accomplish our goal of building power for our cause and our organization Those approaches include:
- Using the media to communicate sensible solutions. We already know how to increase the energy efficiency of our cars and buildings and protect the quality of our drinking water; we need to create visibility and demand for those solutions.
- Broadening our base and building new coalitions. The Club is committed to building grassroots power in our communities by strengthening alliances with hunters, anglers, the faith community, unions, and communities suffering from pollution and environmental injustice, and reaching out to family, neighbors, and co-workers who share our values but do not consider themselves “environmentalists.”
- Connecting the dots, engaging and empowering people to take action together, as neighbors, as voters.
Finally, the Sierra Club agreed that we have a huge opportunity to make progress in two key forums. Since the federal playing field is highly unfavorable, we are emphasizing work at the state and local level. This plays to the Sierra Club’s strength: our members and activists already working at the grassroots in all 50 states and hundreds of cities and towns. Our strategy is to push states to take small and large steps that add up to big national changes, and to pressure federal policy makers to follow suit.
We will also be working in the political arena, educating and engaging citizens to increase the environmental vote.
Smart Energy Solutions
We already have the technology to tackle some of our most pressing problems, like global warming, air pollution, and our dependence on oil and coal. The Smart Energy Solutions Conservation Initiative aims to strengthen the political will to adopt them. Key components include:
- Pushing for “Clean Car” laws in more states. Eleven U.S. states and Canada have enacted measures to require the auto industry to produce cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks than federal standards mandate. Adding more states will force the auto industry to make all cars sold in the U.S. and Canada meet these standards.
- Encouraging more states to adopt aggressive energy efficiency and renewable energy programs and goals—21 states now require local utility companies to derive a specified percentage of energy from renewable sources. Our goal is to have more states and ultimately the entire country adopt a standard of at least 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 and to increase electric energy efficiency by at least 2 percent per year.
- Expanding the “Cool Cities” campaign. The Sierra Club has dubbed the nearly 200 cities that signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and pledged to reduce global-warming pollution as “cool cities.” The campaign aims to help these cities fulfill their pledges through energy efficiency and renewable energy, and encourage more cities to get “cool.”
- Stopping the coal rush by opposing as many strategically important coal plants as possible and cleaning up existing plants. We also want to have states and the federal government cut mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 90 percent.
- Protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, coastal waters, and other sensitive lands from coal, oil, and gas development.
- Promoting the job-creation potential of clean energy using our key partnerships with labor and consumer groups.
America’s Wild Legacy
This initiative seeks to engage a broad spectrum of citizens around the value of public lands and special places and block threats to these lands from commercial logging, mining, abusive recreation, and overgrazing. Key components include:
- Protecting wildlife and their habitat by pushing for strong enforcement and funding of the Endangered Species Act and resisting attempts to weaken it. We also want to increase protection for wildlife habitats on public lands by creating new wildlife refuges and other protected habitats.
- Protecting and defending state and federal wildlands, including the more than 60 million acres of roadless national forests. We are also working for full protection of Bureau of Land Management Wilderness Study Areas and endangered wild private lands such as the Maine Woods.
- Investing in America’s crown jewels, and ensuring that our parks, monuments, and wildernesses have the necessary resources and management to protect them in perpetuity. The newest national monuments that President Clinton designated are at risk from logging, energy interests, and off-road vehicles. Even treasured national parks such as the Everglades and Yellowstone are threatened by exploitation.
Safe and Healthy Communities
The overall goal of this initiative is to foster vibrant, healthy communities with clean water and clean air, and that are free from toxic chemicals. The initial focus will be to work at the state and local level to protect sources of drinking water from pollution, and to address the largest sources of water pollution: sewage and storm water runoff. Key components include:
- Making sure that the Clean Water Act and other laws are enforced to protect our sources of drinking water. We will focus our efforts on protecting headwaters streams and wetlands and eliminating harmful levels of nutrient pollution that threaten our water supplies.
- Working at the local level to ensure that sewage treatment facilities are upgraded and maintained, and that storm water runoff and sewage overflows are controlled.
- Advocating local ordinances that require utilities to inform the public about sewage overflows.
- Encouraging communities and developers to increase their investments in “green” infrastructure to minimize storm water runoff.
- Providing citizens with a toolkit to help them advocate for sound local water protection measures.
You can help us fulfill these visions. Contact your local
chapter or go to sierraclub.org/vision to find out more.
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