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Sierra Magazine
Field Guide: Kids First

By Editor-in-chief Joan Hamilton

In this issue you will find associate editor Tracy Baxter paddling a canoe in the bayous of Louisiana. Usually an indoorswoman, Baxter braved the wilds and the water mainly because she cares about kids. Her first step was convincing us to build this issue of Sierra around "The Next Generation." Her next was immersing herself in kids' reality. That's not easy for any adult, but Baxter got her feet wet on a Sierra Club trip for inner-city youngsters last spring. In a year when activists from Puget Sound to the Potomac have been battling for stronger air standards to protect children's health, the timing of the issue turned out to be perfect.

We tapped Dianne Dumanoski to write our lead feature about kids and pollution. A former reporter and columnist for The Boston Globe, Dumanoski is a master at sifting and translating science for lay readers. She co-authored "Hormone Impostors," Sierra's January/February cover story about endocrine-disrupting chemicals. In this issue she writes about the problems these chemicals and other pollutants may be causing in kids, including increased incidences of asthma, cancer, learning disorders, and impaired immune and reproductive systems.

From there, we move to more positive trends. Perhaps you've heard the tale about how the Sierra Club's 24-year-old president, Adam Werbach, asked his second-grade classmates to sign a petition to dump Interior Secretary James Watt in the early 1980s. "I still had to ask for permission to ride my bike to the 7-Eleven," Werbach says, "but I could make a difference." He's been busy inspiring young people to save the planet ever since. And he's not alone, as you will learn in "Class Acts," a collection of youth profiles by Baxter and staff writer/editor B.J. Bergman.

Completing the package is Baxter's canoeing saga, "Into the Outdoors." Torrents, toothy alligators, boat races—even a dash of Creole cooking—can lead to greater nature know-how when Sierra Club leaders team up with lively kids.

The youngsters Baxter profiles are doing their part: they greet the day with openness and hope, even though the world we have given them is far from perfect. It's our job to make sure there are still wild places and plenty of clean air and water for them in the future. "If we don't put the security of our children first," Baxter counsels, "we severely diminish the well-being of all."

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