Wild JourneysBy Joan Hamilton
We stride into classic Sierra Club territory this issue: the Sierra Nevada, the California coast, Alaska, and (in our annual test of wilderness savvy) the deserts of the American Southwest. Many of you have already explored these areas. But even if you've been there, have you tracked bighorns, hunted for bugs, or weighed the value of sea lions against imitation crab? In the end, we hope you'll come away with fresh insights about these well-loved places.
One locale featured in the issue may be new to you: Oktoc, Mississippi. This quiet little town is home to Everett Kennard, a fifth-generation farmer. When we sent Sierra writer/editor Marilyn Berlin Snell to the South to get a story about corporate hog-farming, she ended up at the Kennards' kitchen table. Though a veteran journalist, Snell had never been to the region and knew little about farming. So it was with some trepidation that she traveled to a Sierra Club meeting at an elementary school in Montpelier, Mississippi, and started listening for compelling stories about how farm communities were changing. After a while she worked up the courage to ask the difference between a pig and a hog. ("About 200 pounds," a farmer told her.) Soon she moved from the school auditorium to a church and local farms, interviewing people who were troubled by the invasion of big corporations in a once close-knit community. A visit with Kennard enabled her to put all the dramatic pieces together in the profile.
Profiles and interviews are Snell's specialty-not the celebrity fluff that fills so many pages these days, but insightful writing that helps you see the world and its complex issues clearly, through another person's eyes. Snell's work has appeared in publications such as Mirabella, Mother Jones, and New Perspectives Quarterly. She has a fondness for subjects who have taken risks for important causes-people like Nelson Mandela, whom she interviewed for the L.A. Times on the day the last apartheid law fell in South Africa. Her first profile for Sierra, which appeared in our November/December issue, described the successful mountain-saving collaboration of Navajo and Hopi activists Sammy James and Bucky Preston. In future issues, she'll introduce us to a Holocaust survivor devoted to bringing nature into the city and an Ethiopian environment minister crusading against bioengineered food.
Since she came to Sierra last June, Snell has been helping us make the conversations in our pages bigger and more inclusive. "I want to build bridges to issues and people not usually associated with the Sierra Club," Snell says. It's not your standard wild journey. But it's an essential place for environmentalists to go.