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by Sierra Club Webmaster Mike Papciak

Saving the planet takes a fair amount of work, and writing letters and licking envelopes can seem so 20th century. Fortunately, the Internet makes activism a little easier and more efficient. This is why the Sierra Club has created its Take Action site,, which exploits the workhorse of online activism: e-mail.

Signing onto the site helps you sound off on some of the Club's critical campaigns-ending roadbuilding and commercial logging in national forests, and addressing global warming, water quality, suburban sprawl, population stabilization, and human rights. There's plenty of background information for each topic, and a prepared letter to send to officials or lawmakers with the click of a mouse. For example, if you want to do something about clean water, but aren't sure where to start, the site's letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman lets you speak your piece about factory-farm pollution.

Leaders pay attention when they hear from people with considered opinions, so you can customize each letter by highlighting your particular interests. Or, if pressed for time, you can simply send the prepared message. In either case, the site will locate the appropriate officials and identify you as a constituent.

Take Action also provides tips on writing powerful letters. You'll learn that typed or handwritten letters (mailed or faxed) still carry the most weight. E-mail, in fact, follows phone calls in leverage because it doesn't require as much commitment from the sender. But don't be put off: the potential to mobilize hundreds or even thousands of messages makes e-mail an indispensable tool. (And soon, you'll be able to print out the customized letters at home and mail them yourself for that extra effect.)

If you need a bit of inspiration before firing off that e-missive, click on the site's victories page, where you can read about Club successes decade by decade since the 1890s. Then imagine your pet project added to that list, and make it happen.

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