WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Sierra readers share personal stories of what motivated their environmental activism.
I think my first thoughts towards the environment and animals came from my parents. My father taught me compassion for animals and my mother taught me how to look closer at nature and appreciate how beautiful it is. As I got older I began to realize that everything I did had an effect on the world around me. For me this concept is inspirational to know that I can choose to act in a positive way towards all things around me and it "does" have an effect. Everyday I try to make choices that make a difference from composting, to buying products from environmently concious companies, to thanking the store managers for carrying these types of products. I believe that change can be made through positive action. I am continuously working on ways that to make the world a better place by being a better person and making right choices.
I have always had a love for nature and making sure we don't destroy our natural resources. I am extremely interested in hazardous materials. Working at Fort Morgan High School for the past eleven years also made me have a desire to protect public health. In the fall of 1999, after FMHS did an extensive asbestos abatement, we started school in what I believed was an asbestos filthy building. I expressed my concerns to administration many many times- only to be told that it was not my job to worry about the asbestos and also none of my business. I studied up on asbestos, took some samples out of the ventilation system at the school, had them tested. They came back at a very high concentration of asbestos. I also met with the Colorado Dept. of Health, and on February 1, 2000 they closed our school down. It was a very hard time for our community. FMHS is the largest school in northeast Colorado. I continued studying all that I could about asbestos and its effects. I had to leave my position at FMHS in the fall of 2000, due to harassment by staff and administration. I was very saddened at my decision. Something good always seems to come out of bad situations - I started college (at 42 years young!) and I am pursuing a degree in environmental science. I wished I could somehow make people understand that in order to have good health we must also keep our environment clean and healthy.
Fort Morgan, Colorado
As a child I was allowed to explore the world around me--much like an amateur biologist. I looked at things, examined them, and tried to piece together how my natural world fit together. What was it that made me an environmentalist? Perhaps it was the wild nature of the Potomac River, which was fairly close to my home. Perhaps it was the nearby natural creek (still untouched by concrete culverts)crayfish to pick up, deep pools watching for small fish. Perhaps it was my High School teacher who taught Thoreau in a very lively, idiosyncratic way. Or, perhaps it was just me. As a child, when I played with other kids, we explored this nearby world, but for me the fascination seems to have been a much deeper, continuing process. My old creek explorers have found other interests, but for me my one constant joy is the natural, wild world. So, I really don't know what made me, or why I am an environmentalist. That is just the way it happened.
My Love for what God has made in the form of nature and wanting to protect it has made me an enviromentalist.I feel this is what God would have me do.
I am an environmentalist in the making. My family has always been environmentally aware and as a consequence I have been exposed to environmental issues from a young age. I spend my early life in the woods hiking, on the sea sailing, and at my cottage where we have no electricity and no modern conveniences. When I became a teenage I rejected much of this up bringing as I got caught up in ME. When I was in university I became quite involved in environmental issue such as global warming and community action programs. I made it my mission to find out as much as I could about the world around me. But then I began to have panic attacks and nightmares at the thought of the planets ultimate doom. I found I had to put the environmental movement out of my head for a while so that I could manage my life. Then I became a teacher and realized it was my responsibility to inform my students about environmental issues and help them feel like they can help. However, the biggest impact to date is having children of my own. I have two small boys whom I love beyond belief. Now I must find away to make a better world for them. Currently I am researching a way for my family to make a difference. My husband and I are planning to create a family mission statement that will commit us to a new and improved lifestyle - one that is enviromentally responsible. By being active I think I can remain hopeful and avoid the panic and fear that overwhelmed my when I was younger.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
I have always loved the out of doors, so my first hike with the local Sierra Club started me on the journey to becoming an environmentalist. I learned so much about the natural history as well as the political history on hikes that I wanted to help. When I was asked to write a letter to my congressman, I did. To my surprise, he answered, and I was hooked. People speaking out could make a difference! From then on, there was no stopping me. I got involved in the Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter's innovative program for High School Hikers, then became an outing leader for the Chapter, served as Chapter Chair during a very exciting time of the precedent setting Palila lawsuit, saw the need to strengthen the Chapter by forming groups on each island, then moved to national level, serving on the Membership Committee. Those were great years, and most of my friends are people from Sierra Club because we all have the same values, a love for the wild places and nurturing and caring for those places. I still lead interpretive field trips and service trips for the local group because I feel that it is important to share my knowledge of the native Hawaiian ecosystems with others.
Your small blurb on what inspired Sierra readers to become environmentalists caught my eye. It easily triggered a frequent memory of a movie shown in my 7th grade classroom 25 years ago. So, what inspired me about a school movie? It was the harshness, the realness, the fear of that world being ours. "The Ark" was set 50 years in the future. It portrayed an Earth so completely poisoned by human abuse that oxygen tanks and masks meant life. The central character, an elderly man, had built an enormous glass green house - his escape and haven from a world no longer viable. When he entered his greenhouse, filled with plants and small critters - with life he came alive. It was the only place he found peace and happiness. But no one else had such a special haven, such grand privileges. Amid such horrible living conditions, great discontent and anger had grown worse in society. In the end, a crowd gathered and angrily stoned his greenhouse while he was inside. Filthy air, looking like a London fog, swirled into the greenhouse. The old man died on the floor gasping for air. That movie had a huge impact on my psyche and my life. For me it was my environmental catalyst, though my parents had already instilled in me a great love for the mountains and outdoors. It was like a jolt in my life which gave me true focus and has sustained my environmental ethic and soul ever since. I thank the teacher wise enough to trust 12 year-olds with such deep and critical symbolism about humanity's possible fate. The movie was dark and brooding, heart wrenching to my young soul to watch a world beyond hope and repair. Since then I have been unable not to take a stance regarding a myriad of environmental issues. I know, without endless hard work from everyone, our world could indeed end up like "The Ark." I knew it then and I know it now. So in order to preserve (reverse...) what we have left it will take all of us. I am steadfast in my love for nature and its ultimate preservation. No matter what I do, I always want to do more. I am grateful our present Earth is still as viable as it is. I am able to immerse myself in incredible wildness and show my 2 children the greatness of the natural world. It seems impossible there could be anyone who doesn't feel the same. Good luck with the compilation of your future article. Thank you for your time in reading my letter.
What made me an environmentalist? Rush Limbaugh. In the early 1990's I found myself listening to and agreeing with the political commentaries of this radio news talk show host whom I had never heard before. He rallied the virtues of individual responsibility and fighting against the spread of countries that deny their citizens the right to leave, as they desired. It made sense to me. How could anybody argue against this? Why, … It'd be like arguing against a clean environment. I listened on. Before to long the subject of the environment came up. Mr. Limbaugh blasted the environmental community (which at the time I thought was everyone on the planet) for its support of the endangered Spotted Owl and the endangered species act. In all my naiveté I was shocked. How could anyone argue against the endangered species act or any issue of environmental stewardship. I didn't even think we needed a word "environmentalist", I don't even think I knew the word existed. Its very existence suggested the unimaginable possibility that there were people who weren't environmentalist. I had always assumed everyone was supporting the environmental movement. How could this be? Like individual responsibility, who could argue against environmentalism? It was at that time that I realized there were actually people who didn't agree with environmentalism per se. I always knew that there were corporations and things like landfills that weren't any good for the environment. But they simple were the necessary results of human civilization not individuals intentionally bent on environmental ruin without purpose. I continued to listen to the Rush Limbaugh show and continued to be impressed by the multitude of people who called to support his shortsighted, greedy and anthropocentric view of the environment. So while I guess I always was an environmentalists I never really knew I was one. It was Rush Limbaugh who made me realize I was indeed an environmentalist and in fact that I needed to be one. He made realize that the word environmentalist needed to exist for the same reason the irresponsible people made the word responsible necessary.
As a healthy, active thirty-five year old, I was set free like never before. I got my own off-road motorcycle and for the first time, I felt somehow free of my own weight and at the same time more powerful than ever before as I rode like the wind over the desert landscape. The sand washes proved thoroughly challenging and took all my concentration. I was initially successful enough to think that this could be a long lasting and exhilarating activity. And it was for several years, as I raced to catch up with the guys on their more powerful bikes. One particularly memorable ride and a turning point occurred in 1979, the first spring after moving to the Mojave Desert from Orange County. I recall vividly that it was a gorgeous day in this place we'd come to call home. My husband, my bother-in-law and I set out for a ride. Our route, as usual, took us north past Giant Rock and on to the sand dunes. Coming back we crossed a vast expanse of low sandy hummocks covered with sand verbena. To this day, I can see the lavender carpet beneath me and smell the wonderful fragrance as the tires of my motorcycle crushed the blossoms. I knew I was in the midst of true beauty. Something clicked very shortly thereafter and I realized with just a few more riders like me, all the beauty I saw and felt that day could be destroyed. Since 1979 my husband and I have walked in the wash in from of our home and from our property above, can detect our own foot tracks across Pipe's wash. We know the impact we have on this place and can no longer ignore our responsibility to its preservation.
Ruth E. Rieman
My mother really inspired me to be an environmentalist. When I was a little girl, I lived across the street from a river/parkway. My mom used to take my older sister and I over there to play on the bank of the river. I would have so much fun being outdoors. My mom and dad saw this love for the outdoors in me and sent me to an overnight camp in rural Wisconsin. I immediately grew a huge appreciation for that camp and all it had to offer me. A few years after I started going to this summer camp, my mom started working at a non-profit environmental education organization. Recycling became a moral for me and a natural part of life. I knew I wanted to do something that involved the environment when I got older but I wasn't sure what. It was my second year in college that I started to become an "official educated" environmentalist. I had this intro class and we did a HUGE section on wolves and I fell in love. I was introducted to Aldo Leopold, along with many others. I love being outdoors and try to go hiking and camping as much as possible. There really is no other place I would rather be! I am starting out now in the post college "real world" and got my first real job with the Dept of Natural Resources. I only hope one day I can make a difference on a large scale!
I believe the person who influenced me and many others in the 1970's and 80's to be aware of the environment was John Denver. Through his music and documentaries he made us aware of what a wonderful and fragile world we live in. I don't know of anybody else who brought environmental issues to more people than he did. Not only was he concerned about the environment, but also human rights. As the first person appointed by the White House to head the World Hunger Organization he brought to our attention that the earth can provide for everyone, it is governments that allow hunger and human rights violations to go on. I hope that someday John Denver will be recognized in history as one of the most important influences of the environmental movement of anyone else that I can think of. One of his last songs was "Let This Be A Voice". It was, it is and always will be.
Barbara E. Kuhn Grosse Ile, Michigan
When I was young, a neighbor would dump his garbage in the creek near my home. Every time I crossed the bridge, I would see how ugly it was. As I got older, I wondered what this garbage did to the water on its way to the Missouri river. I also loved the pasture where my Dad's cattle grazed. Pure prairie. Never plowed. It was breathtaking. When our farm became a casualty of the 80's farm crisis, another man bought the land, and plowed one-third of it up to plant corn. It broke my heart. Most recently, I've been concerned about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I wrote a letter to the editor of my city's paper expressing my concerns. About a week later, a young man from the Alaska Wilderness League contacted me about my letter. Sean gave me information and told me how I could help. Another week passed by, and Sean called again. This time asking me to go to Washington,D.C. to speak to my Senators and Congressmen about the issue. I never dreamed that my letter would get me to this point! Speaking out can make a difference!
Theresa Tibbels Lincoln, Nebraska
Ten years ago a woman came to give a speech about environmentalism at the community college that I was attending and she changed my life. In that one brief lecture I transformed into someone who cared about the earth. I guess no one had ever explained to me the destruction that man has been causing the planet. Within the year I had gotten rid of my automobile and commuted everywhere on my bicycle because I saw the car as the number one pollution creator. I soon realized that living in the United States, means creating pollution meerly by existing. Something simple like buying food from the grocery store can indirectly wreck environmental havoc. Shipment of the food to the store requires automobiles. Growing of the food requires pesticides. Packaging of the food requires chemical engineering to produce plastic and metal containers. Finally, heat and electricity from sometimes nuclear or fossil fuel power plants are required keep the store running. Despite these glaring truths I persevered and continued to ride my bike for nine years, year round even throughout northern Michigan winters. Now I would like to continue my crusade but I'm not sure how. I have not convinced anyone that what I am doing is correct. No one I know has joined me. Most of the people in the small town in which I live think I'm a little looney. I guess maybe I just care too much.
Mount Pleasant, Michigan
My name is Brandon Prince, and I was inspired specifically by a book called "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn. In his book, Mr. Quinn points out those small, inarticulated facts of modern day life that we overlook as a basis for our society. The amazing message in this novel is delivered powerfully, not because it is so much revolutionary new ideas, but because you have always known what he tells you, but you never realized the magnitutde of your knowledge. (Much the same as how gravity was no big deal, until Newton decided to point it out and name it.) This book, and its sequels, have brought me to tears more than once, and I shudder to think that I might have easily passed off my friend's recommendation (as you might do to mine), and missed so much truth. The book is not an environmentalist book, per se, but a human book, about how important we are, and how important the world is to us. If I only had the money to distribute free copies around the world, simply to give everyone a chance to hold it in their hand and rid the excuse of "not enough time/money" . . . Gentlemen (and women, of course), I fear the ignorance fueling our government and views towards this planet. I find solace in your establishment, its common sense, and the hope that others will one day enjoy the splendors we work so hard to protect. Until that day, "do as you will, but harm none".
In '97 I took a special trip, returning to Viet Nam and seeing a bit of Cambodia, Thailand and China, too. I couldn't help noticing how dirtier the air was in Bangkok due to the automobile and I especially couldn't help noticing how the people of China were raher amused by me traveling cheaply in their land; they would love travel cheaply in mine and in short, have everything I have. Air conditioning, tvs, cd players and suvs, the bigger the better. If 1.1 billion people get only a small percentage of what we have and use the oil we use this old world is in big trouble. Sorry about the errors but I think you can get the idea.
Scotia, New York
I have always respected our place on this planet. I feel greatful just to be able to see some of nature. I've always enjoyed being outdoors and have tried to have as little impact as possible on my surroundings.
When I am outdoors, in the forest especially if it's an older growth forest, near water I feel a kind of "high". The feeling is spiritual, more spiritual than I feel in any church. I get a very thankful attitude, I want to preserve the environment so others may find that beautiful space. For me it's the forest, for others it could be the ocean, or desert that brings on this wonderful feeling.
I grew up on an organic farm in Northern California. I have always enjoyed being outdoors in a clean,smog-free environment. I have a great appreciation for sunsets and sunrises, for the crops I helped to raise, as well as the animals who lived on the farm with us. Upon graduating from high school, I attended a university in Southern California. There, I was exposed to traffic, smog, road rage and a faster pace of life in general. When I graduated, I returned to the family farm to discover that our neighbor had sold his farm and the land had been subdivided into four large lots.(All of these lots are adjacent to our land.) Over 20 major chain stores had opened up in town. There are now metal detectors at the local high school. The majority of the infrastructure has remained the same, and as a result there is plenty of TRAFFIC for everyone. I now live in Northern Nevada, and I love it!!! I am enjoying the great outdoors and the absence of state taxes!! I am an environmentalist because I don't want to see another awesome corner of the earth ruined by all the things that now surround our organic farm. I have learned a lot from this organization, and I greatly appreciate the letters provided for us to email legislatures on critical issues that affect us all.
Aliza C. Scherer
WHAT INSPIRED ME WAS THAT, I PLANTED MANY TREES YEARS AGO, NOW
THEY ARE 30 TO 40 FEET TALL, I HAVE MANY KINDS OF BIRDS, I EVEN HAVE
HAWKS, OWLS THAT COME TO FEED ONCE IN WHILE ON THE SMALL BIRDS, I FEED
THEM BIRD SEED AND I MAKE UP OWN MIXTURE AND THEN I USE PEANUT BUTTER AND MIX SEED WITH THE MIXTURE OF PEANUT BUTTER, AND I BUILD ONE WITH A WATE FALL AN ON OTHER ONE THAT WILL HAVE A POND IN IT, AN I BOUGHT READY MADe POND I HAVE TO PUT UP TOO THIS YEAR, NOW THAT WHAT HAVE YOU ABOUT ME. REST OF IT IS ABOUT ENVIRONMENT, I DON'T CARE ABOUT MUCH PEOPLE, EXCEPT THE ONES THAT ARE INTEREST IN WILDLIFE AND THE WILDLIFE HABITAT, AND THERE ISN'T THAT MANY PEOPLE AROUND, AN I INTEND TO ARGUE THEM, I WISH I HAD 2 OR 3 PEN PALS THAT INTERESTED IN WILDLIFE AND THEY CAN BE FROM ANY PLACE IN THE U.S, I LIKE TO THINK THAT I HAD SOMETHING TO DO TO KEEPING THE WOLVES IN THE YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, AND I TRY TO WRITE ALL OF THE POLITICIANS IN THE U.S. FROM MAINE TO CALIFORNIA AND LET THEM I CARE ABOUT THEIR WILDLIFE, EVEN IF DON'T LIVE THEIR. I TRY GET INVOLVED IN EVERY THING THAT HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH WILDLIFE, FIRST THING THAT I LIKE TO DO IS CLEAN UP IS THE FOX RIVER, [A RIVER THAT IS 38 MILES LONG AND HAS GOT ABOUT 38 PAPER MILLS IN THE FOX
RIVER VALLEY ] , THE PAPER MILLS DUMP P.C.B.s WHICH IS [POLYCHLORINATED
BIPHENYLS]. THE CHEMICALS ARE LINKED TO REPRODUCTIVE PROBLEMS AND
DEFROMITIES IN WILDLIFE, AND TO DEVELOPMENTAL PROBLEMS IN BABIES EXPOSED TO THE CHEMICALS WHEN PREGNANT WOMEN EAT CONTAMINATED FISH. AND THEN THEIRS THE CRANDON MINE OF WISCONSIN, THE WOLF AND WISCONSIN RIVERS IS WHERE THEY WANT TO DUMP SULFER, AND WHEN THEY USE SULFUR AND THEN IT HITS WATER OR AIR THEN IT BECOMES [ SULFURIC ACID ], THEN IT IS DENSE, OILY, HIGHLY CORROSIVE ACID. THEN THEIRS THE COAL-FIRED BURNING POWER PLANTS, THEY WANT TO PUT PRESSURE ON CONGRESS AND THE EPA. BECAUSE COAL IS ONE OF THE CHEAPER FUELS TO USE. THE LAST DAYS WHEN CLINTON WAS IN OFFICE, HE MADE THE MONUMENTS OUT OF THE BARE LAND, HE MADE LOGGING IN SOME PLACES OF LIMITS TO THE LOGGERS, AND NO ROADS IN THE FORESTS, AND ABOUT THE FIRES, 99% ARE STARTED BY MAN ANYWAY IF THEY WOULD KEEP THE TOURISTS OUT OFF THE PARKS, THE PARKS ARE FOR THE ANIMALS ANYWAY, THEN THEIRS MERCURY THAT COMES FROM THE SMOKE STACKS, AMD MERCURY IS A VERY DANGEROUS IT IS MAN-MADE SUBSTANCE, AND THEN WHAT ABOUT ALL THE ANIMALS THAT ARE VERGE OF EXTINCTION, THE BISON, THE WOLF, THE LNYX, THE GRIZZLY BEAR, THE PRAIRIE DOG, THE RED WOLF OF THE SOUTHEAST OF THE U.S. THE EAGLE BACK IN EARLY 60's, ANG THEN THEIR IS RACHEL CARSON BOOK, [ SILENT SPRING,] HOW MUCH LONGER DO WE HAVE TO PUT UP, WITH THE FIFLTLY MESS THAT WE CAUSE, REMEMBER CHIEF SEATTLE SAID IN 1854 [ WE DO NOT OWN THE EARTH, THE EARTH OWNS US], AND SAID THAT TO FRANKLIN PIERCE THE 14TH U.S. PRESIDENT, 1853 TO 1857, THE NATIVE AMERICANS WHERE THE ONLY ONES THAT PLACED THE ANIMALS IN HIGH REGARD.
CLARENCE F. KRAUSE JR. GREENILLE, WISCONSIN
On one of my earliest hikes I took an approach trail to the Pacific Crest intending to explore several of the high lakes in the southern Cascades. The trail took some climbing, so when I reached the Crest Trail, I thought I¹d earned a rest. I shed my pack and was having some water and chocolate. I looked up from managing my stuff and found myself staring at a doe. Actually, the doe was staring at me. My camera was hanging from my pack; slowly I moved my hand toward it, and the doe moved away, but only a few yards. I managed to get my camera focused, and she moved away again to some distance. Somewhere sometime someone had told me to get the picture you can and then try to get closer. The doe was agreeable. I took three shots, and the last was within about 30 feet. The click of shutter on that last photo was enough for my doe, and she "high-tailed" and ran. There was something arresting, something compelling, something connecting in that exchange of stares that grasped me. In those few moments I identified with Thoreau's passion for the wild, and, in the fragmentary way I described, felt what he must have felt. Now, some years later, I am a volunteer Forest Service information officer in the Three Sisters Wilderness passing on to those entering the wilderness the need to walk gently and carefully, respectfully aware of wild things.
Growing up in New Jersey, I didn't have much experience with or appreciation for nature or environmental issues. During graduate school in New Hampshire, I dated someone who introduced me to the outdoors: hiking, cross-country skiing, star-gazing. He also made me aware of consumption in general: We were at a New Year's eve party (in 1989). I asked him why he hadn't taken a piece of cake - it surprised me as he liked sweets. He replied, "Styrofoam." I put a piece of cake for each of us on one napkin. We broke up the following year, but ever since that event I have made a serious and consistent effort to reduce my impact: I gave up fast food and avoid over-packaging; I only get coffee to-go if I've brought my own container; I try to remember to bring
Tupperware when I eat out, so I can bring home the leftovers; I bring canvas bags to the grocery; I co-own a car and only use it when absolutely necessary (I usually walk, bus or bike)..... Perhaps I would have become an environmentalist anyway, but I believe that moment changed my life and I know I've had an impact on others as a result. In fact, now I'm a teacher and I try to model environmentally responsible behavior; I'm also developing a new course in Ecological Psychology.
Thanks for the chance to tell my story!
When I was in middle school our shop teacher taught a unit on waste management. At the time I wasn't all that interested, but as I matured a little more when I got to highschool, I realized that it really is a problem that affects us all. Unfortunately, also by the time I was in highschool most of the trees in the county were cleared out for houses and stores. I can clearly remember the times when I saw deer watching the traffic go by as they stood in a barren field, where just days before there was a forest.
When I was in college, I met a guy who inspired me to go out onto the mountains in the same manner as did my native American ancestors traveled many generations ago. Alone and in search of their own spirit. For weeks, I thought about nothing but going out into the mountains to challenge myself and experience the beauty of the mountains. Dreams of myself standing on the mountain top kept me up in the night and after I had a plan, I was off to the mountains of New Mexico's highest summit, Wheeler Peak. It was on this trip that I learned a deep respect and appreciation for the environment, and ever since then I have been a pro-active environmentalist.
What inspired me… first of all my parents were members of the sierra club in So. California, and I remember the outings we went on as a child, the nature hikes, camping in the redwoods etc. as I grew older sierra was something I forgot about in my busy life rasing children and working full time. Then when I found the Sierra Club fighting "bush" and what he is trying to do to Alaska..well..I found thru the internet the "sierra club" and found a local chapter here in Oklahoma, of which I plan to attend my first meeting this Thursday. I do not agree with any of Mr. Bush's philosophies nor on any subject he believes in. So thru the Sierra Club I will be able to stand for what I believe in and fight against the wrong of the big oil company's and industrial waste that has ravaged our world. Besides I'd like to leave this world knowing that my children and their children will have a safe environment, and so will all the animals.
I've worked as a secretary most of my life, and raised 4 children and am now divorcing. I have long desired to do something of benefit to humanity with the skills I can offer. Several years ago I became a vegetarian for the very reasons that threaten our water today. I want to help support a change in this arena. In order to do that, I need to educate myself as much as I can on this topic and in joining the Sierra Club, I have taken an active step in this process.
Fairview Village, Pennsylvania
From as far back as I can remember, my family has always traveled around the country on vacations, visiting state and national parks, camping and seeing historical sites. My family is also a big part of Boy Scouts (and i was in Camp Fire) so I was taught to respect and enjoy the outdoors. Standing on top of Skyline Drive in the Appalachians, or watching the ocean from Cape Cod gives you a great sense of how incredible our environment is, and how much we are a part of something bigger that needs our protection. Knowing that thousands of rare animals are being senslessly killed by oil in the Galopogas Islands breaks my heart. In college, I had to take a philosphy class and ended up with one taught by a total "tree-hugger" and loved every minute of it, including Gore's book Earth in the Balance. That helped shape my adult views on environmental responsiblity. My father helped make me aware of our political responsibilities toward helping the environment, and the Sierra Club magazine spurred me on towards making my feelings known by giving me a focus and outlet with my senators and the president. By doing my best to help protect what we have been given, I hope that my children will someday get to enjoy camping in the mountains, nature hiking, and watching the stars, not sitting in the middle of another oil spill watching the smog choke the life out of whatever animals are left!
I am a lover of the outdoors and enjoy may activities in Americas protected wilderness. After being outdoors a lot, you tend to notice the intrusion of humans on the environment. For example, I was standing in a spot deep in the wilderness, I think no other has been, I see a piece of trash blow by on the ground. In a way it makes me sick and I wonder why some people do what they do. Another issue I am not happy with is the fact that commercial loggers have the right to tear raods through National Forests only to gain further harm to the water, soil and wildlife. One would figure that the government would protect the National Forests from that, but they sure don't. These are just a few reasons why I became an environmentalist and joined Sierra Club. I encourage more to join so we can accomplish more. There are strength in numbers!
What first inspired me were the Greenpeace campaigns in the '70's to save the whales, and to keep dolphins out of tuna nets. I grew up in Seal Beach, California, and always had a great love of nature. My father, sister and I would body-surf at sunset every day, even in winter, as our way of celebrating the great beauty of sky and shoreline. As a high-school freshman, I got involved with a local Greenpeace chapter and raised money by selling t-shirts. Four years later I was still at it: in my French class, we had to give an oral report, and I gave mine on a Paris Match article about Bridgette Bardot and green-stamped baby seals (useless to fur hunters). Recently I moved back to the States after ten years abroad, and went to Arizona for the first time. I was knocked out by the beauty and majesty of the red rock formations in Sedona, and had my first experience hiking on the beautiful trails in the area. As for my just having joined the Sierra Club, my reasons are threefold, the first being a recent trip to a wetlands wildlife sanctuary in upstate New York. My husband and I were amazed upon entering to be told that we couldn't walk in the sanctuary, because it was deer season. I asked why hunting was allowed in the sanctuary and was told that the deer needed culling. After driving through the sizable sanctuary, and spending considerable time on viewing platforms, we spotted only two small does, each with a single baby deer. My other two reasons: Bill Bryson's book on hiking the AT (detailing logging in our national parks), and George Bush's spurious claim to the presidency. The latter has really mobilized me: I immediately got on the Internet and found groups like Working Assets, PFAW, and Michael Moore's site, and became an active member of e-mail and telephone campaigns.
Lisandre van Leeuwen
New York, New York
I grew up spending much of my time outdoors, taking walks with my mom, enjoying the sun, and observing many types of animals. When I was in elementary school, I remember my brother sitting indoors on beautiful summer afternoons, while I played outside, pretending to be a Native American. Also, when I was in elementary school, we had environmentalist speakers come in and tell us how important places like the rainforest are. My dad's attitude toward life also contributed to my environmentalism: he belives in leaving the world a better place than he found it, and he hates it when people litter. Aside from parental influence, I think there is something deep within all of us that connects us to the natural world, or the circle of life. When I am out in the wilderness, I feel so connected to that circle, and so incredibly alive. Sure, I want my kids to breathe clean air, but I think there is something fundamentally deeper in the concept of environmentalism than our own well being: we have a duty to protect nature and the earth because it is something that is connected to the inner core of our being. I have been an environmentalist for much of my childhood, but I finally became an activist when I attended the Sierra Student Coalitions's Public Lands Action Summit and learned how to better fight for what I believe. Putting environmentalism to activism has allowed me to take a stand and speak out for change for something that means the world to me.
It started for me back in the late 80's when I developed an interest in birdwatching. I did a lot of camping and met someone who turned me on to this new hobby. I began attending local Audubon meetings, where I learned about environmental issues, the importance of protecting habitat for birds, and what happens when that habitat is destroyed. Also, the Exxon-Valdez oil spill is one major event that increased my awareness of the things that can happen to this planet. The more I learned about issues, the more I got involved with being an activist, with letter-writing and supporting organizations such as the Sierra Club.
Los Angeles, California
I'm a 40 year old Safety and Health Management student about to graduate. I guess I have developed into an environmentalist over the past few years due to my own economic conditions before and during my college years (I have literally had to live outside enduring all kinds of conditions). As I was dealing with some of those conditions I began to notice that I was beginning to take notice of the environment around me (if that makes sense). I began to notice the crows flying around and their characteristics... I began to see too many people driving alone in their cars going short distances (like 3 blocks, etc.) instead of walking to places. I always noticed I was basically the only adult in town who walked. I began to notice that none of my friends and acquaintances recycle their garbage... Things of that nature. So, now I guess I'm living, atleast in my own little world, as an environmentalist. And I believe that my degree in Safety and Health will help continue to guide me even further into this critical stages of conservation and environmental protection that all of us are going to seriously get involved in if we want are futures to be worth living in. Briefly stated (I could go on for pages about how I developed into an environmentalist citizen.)
I was raised in northern Maine, where getting out into the backyard meant wandering around a 200 acre farm which bordered a 1700 acre wooded area. There were streams, lakes, logging roads and a father who knew every plant, bird and track. The ones we didn't know were brought back (by photo or memory) for investigation and research. We grew up with a respect for the natural environment and a realization of how lucky and unique our upbringing was. As I have aged and interacted with people I have come to realize that there is an ignorance by many people of just how important our natural treasures are and how fragile is their existance. Many understand the need to protect the Grand Canyon but not the need to protect a watershed, local bog, a nesting sight, or feeding ground for an endangered species. My greatest fear are men like G.W. Bush. Men who are powerful but ignorant - men with an agenda that involves no personal sacrifice, only accumulation of wealth or to please the wealthy. No vision of the future that involves concervation. Men who see open land as another opportunity to subdivide or drill. This next four years frighten me.Will there be no wild land left for my grandchildren to walk with there fathers or mothers and discover a new plant, stream or track?
I became and environmentalist after becoming seriously ill hence being exposed to an insecticide used by my employer. Although the ceased using the product it was too late to undo the damage. Up until that point in my life I was ignorantly unaware of the absolutely absurd amount of dangerous chemicals and environmentally damaging items we use on a daily basis. As a mother I have committed myself to education my family and myself, along with everyone we have the opportunity to pass our knowledge on to. We have learned to adapt to a new lifestyle. One which is friendly to ourselves and to our Earth.
Blue Springs, Montana
Ken Becker. He was my environmental sciences teacher at Lake Oswego High School. He formed the recycling center, and the ecotactics club, both had a pretty big impact on the community and the school(back in the 70's this was actually very farsighted), he taught us about ecosystems, pollution, the importance of nature and perserving it. Being from Oregon I have always loved the outdoors, but this class solidified my love and respect for nature and the desire to see it perserved in many ways. At 40, I can say he influenced my life more than he will know, and had a lasting, far reaching affect on preserving nature through all his students. I don't know what he is doing now, but he should know his work as a enviornmental sciences teacher has affected my political and lifestyle choices with respect to the environment my whole life and will continue to do so for a long time.
On television, my generation is portrayed as a materialistic group, intent on pursuing wealth and success in a self-centered world. Perhaps I grew tired of the stereotype. Perhaps I became increasingly frustrated as I watched dozens of injured birds and mammals pour into the local wildlife rescue center. Perhaps I realized that one person is capable of making any difference they believe possible. I am a sophomore in college; I have been an environmentalist (particularly concerned with preservation of wild species) since gradeschool. I remember watching a little-known movie called "Medicine Man" in sixth grade and realizing with new clarity how much damage our progress-hungry culture has done to the planet. I tried to tell my friends about it, but they laughed and said that there would always be rainforests; I was not so certain. I want to dedicate my life to restoring and preserving the environment for future generations. I love to write, and I hope that I will find a way to combine my passions for wildlife and words. I have found great solace in the words of Paul Gruchow, Peter Singer, and Jane Goodall, and in the work of tireless biologists like David Meech. I truly believe that it will take fundamental changes in Western cultural values for this to happen on a wide scale. From the Enlightenment and beyond, animals have been viewed as lesser beings, the environment seen as a means to further our own successes. Yet, in the natural world lies the answer to saving ourselves. We destroy each other in needless wars over trivial causes, but inhumanity will remain a part of human nature until we recognize that respect and compassion must extend to all living creation.
The inauguration of George W. Bush. This President and his team present us with a choice; to do everything we can to limit their mandate to exploit our environment, or suffer the consequences if we take no action.
I grew up on a farm in West Tennessee--the great great granddaughter of a Cherokee woman and a Scotch-Irish settler. Maybe my reverence for the earth is genetic from my Native American roots. I don't remember a time when I didn't know in my soul that respect must be paid to the earth--our provider. Reading Thoreau only deepened this conviction. I can still smell the warm dirt as Dad plowed the garden in the spring. I was privileged to hold his calloused hand as we sat in the swing watching the men spread lime on his fields while he was dying of cancer. He was a true "caretaker" of the earth. I also have early childhood memories of the day our back porch was enclosed and indoor plumbing was installed. I shudder to think of the creeks in that area. Mom was the county recorder years later and read about Tennessee state grants for small communities to build sewage treatment plants. She spearheaded the effort and the plaque on the facility bears her name. Mom and Dad always tried to leave the earth better than they found it.
As a first grade teacher I shared my love of nature with hundreds of children for 22 years. They all learned that every breath we take originates with the oxygen given us by the trees on this planet. I married an aerospace gypsy and we traveled the country with our children stopping at every National Park, Monument and many other obscure places that we joke are "often overlooked by tourist". I've always wanted to publicly thank the Rockefeller family for the Teton National Park that became our summer destination for over 25 years. Our daughter and her husband often meet us there to share hikes, rafting, and sunsets on the deck overlooking Jackson Lake.
St. Louis, Missouri
I read the book Ishmael. That was all it took to open my eyes and see the mess we are making of the world.
Lithia Springs, Georgia
When I was a child, my mother gave me a subscription to Ranger Rick, the children's magazine put out by the NWF. Reading the articles and stories there shaped the way I saw the environment, and made me feel closer to nature. In high school I read Never Cry Wolf and Watership Down, which left a lasting impression on me that has survived to this day. So overall, I would have to say that what I read in my younger days is what inspired me to become an environmentalist. I guess we should be putting our environmental message in video games if we want to reach todays' generation.
My story begins on the Eastern front of the Rocky Mountains at the Pine Butte Guest Ranch and Nature Preserve owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy. If you have not had an opportunity to visit Pine Butte, I hope you will sometime. I was fortunate enough to visit the ranch during the last summer its founder and benefactor lived on the property. Her name was Alice. Alice Gleason was a woman with vision who loved her land and all it represents. She was a rancher, a school teacher in a one room school house, a mother, a wife and when the district bought a school bus, she was also the first school bus driver. When she lost her husband to cancer approximately 10 years ago, she wanted to do something to protect the ranch she worked with her husband for 49 years to save it from subdivision and fences. The Nature Conservancy recognized the importance of her property because it is reported to be the last place on the eastern front where grizzly bears are still able to migrate from the prairie and fens at the base of the Rockies to the mountain heights each year. It was essential to the grizzly's survival to continue this migration pattern. The Nature Conservancy worked with Alice to deed the land to The Conservancy and to allow her to remain with a life estate to live on the property until her death. In short time, The Conservancy worked with Alice to develop the dude ranch she and her husband operated during summer months into a guest ranch with an emphasis on the environment. Each summer, workshops are held for guests to learn photography, paleontology (the University of Montana operates a large dinosaur dig where the fossil dinosaur eggs were first discovered near the ranch), and the biology of grizzly bears. Open weeks in the summer allow guests to learn something about all of these things while hiking near the Bob Marshall Wilderness with dedicated naturalists leading hikes and serving as horseback guides. Alice's granddaughter worked in the ranch kitchen on her summers off from college to serve the guests hearty meals each evening after a day on the trails. While my husband and I enjoyed our week of learning and hiking, the director of the ranch explained the importance of the preserve in the life of the grizzly bears. Every evening, we sat family style for dinner at the lodge and I managed to sit with Alice Gleason every night to hear her stories of raising a child in grizzly country and managing a working ranch while teaching school and raising a family. She talked about her love of her land and how she had come to decide to deed the property to The Nature Conservancy to protect it as it is forever. I marveled at what TNC had accomplished and continues to do to save ranches from evolution to ranchettes through the use of conservation easements. The easements are acceptable to ranching families because they allow a family to retain the ranching operations of their land and to pass on the land to heirs with significant tax savings. The land is then protected from subdivision and timber harvests by the terms of the easement agreed upon by the parties. What a great idea! I returned to my home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, fired up by the many ideas I could foresee implementing with the use of conservation easements. I anticipated that such land interests would be appealing in Oklahoma because of the similar western rancher/rugged individualist mentality here that TNC encounters in Montana. As an attorney, I had served for several years on the Oklahoma Bar Association's Uniform Laws Committee. I knew that we were one of few states that did not have modern conservation easement legislation and that the Uniform Conservation Easement Act was available for us to consider in Oklahoma. I was appointed to head up the efforts to gain passage of the Act. It took three years of tireless effort to get the bill passed, and much wrangling with the oil and gas interests, the utilities and transmission companies, the ranching community, and especially the Farm Bureau, but in June, 1999, Governor Keating signed the bill into law. Today, both the Oklahoma Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land have utilized the conservation easement legislation to protect property in Oklahoma for generations to come. I serve on the Advisory Boards for both organizations in Oklahoma and have been working with TPL for the past year to use conservation easements to protect the watershed areas of Tulsa's watersupply lakes and streams from the effects of the poultry industry. We will attempt to do the same in Western Oklahoma with the corporate hog farms. We are developing plans to use the conservation easements to protect working vegetable farms south of Tulsa in Bixby from urban sprawl as Tulsa grows ever closer to the fields. And it all came to pass because of the time I spent with Alice listening to her stories of life on the Eastern Front of the Rockies and her desire to preserve her home for future generations.
I was thrilled to learn yesterday that Alice Gleason's memoirs were preserved and TNC has published her stories and photos in a book called Starting from Scratch. I will be buying copies of the book for those who were instrumental in working with the legislature to win conservation easement laws in our state. The first book will go to my co-author of the 2000 Golden Quill award-winning article published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal last spring, "Doing Well by Doing Good: Conservation Easements in Oklahoma" in which Jim Sneed and I taught our fellow lawyers how to draft conservation easements and help families take advantage of the many tax benefits now available to them. The word is out....and Oklahomans are saving their land and heritage. Thank you, Alice! And thank you, Sierra, for reminding me to share her story.
Teresa Meinders Burkett, RN, JD Tulsa, Oklahoma
"One person will make a difference." When I heard Illinois environmental visionary William Rutherford speak those words, I became an environmentalist. I became that one person who would make a difference. I was a sophomore in high school attending a summer week-long conservation workshop at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. Rutherford was the final speaker of the week and told a story that I remember clearly after 30 years. He told a story about an election for precinct committeeman in which one vote -- the only vote cast for that particular office -- decided the winner. "Most people don't participate in the election process -- offices go lacking for want of candidates. One vote will make a difference. One person will make a difference," he said. I tested Rutherford's theory when I could vote and promptly elected my father as precinct committeeman in Greene Township with one write-in vote -- the only vote cast. I learned that one person can make a difference for the environment. Rutherford, a Peoria attorney, would go on to be Director of Illinois Department of
Conservation, head of the Forest Park Foundation, push for the Rock
Island Trail, and open Wildlife Prairie Park. I've just celebrated my
25th anniversary of membership in the Sierra Club thanks to one person making a difference by speaking to young people.
Lately I've been wrestling with these various labels--environmentalist, Green, naturalist etc. I really don't believe in categorizing oneself, but, yes, I feel the most comfortable with THEM above all others (like writer, activist, entrepreneur etc.) Living in and growing up in the city (Pasadena, CA) challenged me to find nature within the "cracks." I became a butterfly collector and was thrilled when I found developing pupae on native vegetation adjacent to roads and even housing developments. I dragged sand from the local Arroyo Seco, a drainage canal from the nearby mountains (now cemented over), to make an estuary and fish pond in my suburban backyard. My parents took me camping in the Sierras and I loved the coniferous smells, the then fire falls (in Yosemite), and the crystal clean creeks and rivers. Later as a college student I worked two summers in Yellowstone Park--not as a ranger, alas, but in a gift shop overlooking Yellowstone Lake. That really cemented my feeling for the outdoors. I vowed very early on to find a way to make a living outside of big urban areas--after working in L.A., New York and Chicago, I finally gave the city up for good. A few years later I started the Greener Pastures Institute, which made me kinda famous as the guy who was helping rat race victims get back to the land and small towns (I am author of Moving to Small Town America and The Eden Seeker's Guide, among others). I've fallen off the wagon a few times (went to work in advertising and health care, for instance), but am consciously trying, every day, to be an Environmental Good Citizen. I'm building a strawbale house in Mexico, among other things.
William L. Seavey
When my brother and I were growing up, we joined the scouting movement and spent a lot of time hiking and camping around Southern Calif. As we grew older, we each went off to college and got deeply involved in our careers and building our families. Occasionally we were able to get together for some hiking, but it wasn't much.
After completing medical school, my brother set up a clinic in Santa Barbara, and we resumed our hiking together in the SB backcountry. One summer we were able to get together in the Sierras for a couple of days. By this time, my brother had become quite a guru to some, and a radical in his outlook on life. All of this intensity was reflected in his hiking and he became fearless, leading me up some very steep cliffs and over some very rough country in his quest for ??? That was the last time I saw him whole. A week later, he was climbing near the top of Mt. Shasta with a companion and they were both wiped out in a rock avalanche. My brother spent the next six months in a coma, from which he never fully recovered. He never regained his ability to walk or speak and he suffered massive brain damage. Needless to say, his life was ruined. His companion was killed outright. The effect of this tragedy on me and our family was devastating, and it took me years to get my life back on track. It was in the time between my last hike with my brother and his accident on Mt. Shasta, that I received what became my inspiration for a lifetime dedication to conservation. My brother had sent me a postcard from Mt. Shasta, the day before his climb. In it, he mentioned the incredible beauty of Mt. Shasta, as well as the other incredibly beautiful places he'd been, and that "THEY MUST BE PRESERVED". I saved and guarded that postcard like it was a precious bible: for me it became a commandment from my brother that I would carry with me forever. I was determined to carry on what he and I had always wanted, but he no longer was able to do. To this day, I am still doing whatever I can so that the beauties of nature will be preserved. I became a life member of Sierra Club and help out with money and letters as much as I can. I also became steward of a 50 acre wetland in the Sierras, and my work has helped restore it to a nearly pristine condition. I am still inspired by my brother, and his spirit is in my thoughts even now as I write this letter. He was an inspiration to all who knew him, and I often feel that "we" are doing these things; I'm not alone. Joan, I hope you enjoyed reading this, and maybe if you print it, it will be inspiring to others to work for the preservation of the incredible beauty of nature.
Los Angeles, California
The year was 1979. I was in Newark, N.J. representing my Boston law school during a weekend of interscholastic competitions. It was a Saturday night when I asked the employee of the hotel at the desk,
"What's that neon-green and purple ditch that runs along the side of the hotel. "That's our river," was the response. At that moment I knew that when I returned to Fredericksburg, Virginia after the completion of school, that I would work to make sure that my "home river," the Rappahannock, would not suffer the same future as that tortured river in Newark. For the past twenty-two years, off and on, I have volunteered to help preserve and protect the Rappahannock and other rivers in my home state. And I don't regret one moment!
Thomas "Thom" Savag
It was 1974. In my reading for Constitutional Law class I was fascinated by a group of creative environmentalists making the radical argument to the United States Supreme Court that "standing" -- the legal ability to bring a case into court -- should be granted not just to people but to nature as well. Justice William O. Douglas agreed and wrote that "trees, rivers, beaches, alpine meadows," etc. should be allowed make an appearance in court to protest their own destruction "before these priceless bits of Americana...are forever lost or are so transformed as to be reduced to the eventual rubble of our urban environment..." The group making this argument before the high court was the Sierra Club; the name of this now famous case: Sierra Club v Morton (director of the U..S. Forest Service at the time). Just a few years earlier in undergraduate school I read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and had been stunned by the reality of environmental devastation. Now, in law school, I learned about an organization that used the legal system to halt this destruction. The Sierra Club made a monumental first impression on me and over the years I've watched in admiration as the Club -- on both a national and local basis -- took the lead role stepping into the fray to protect our natural wonders.
The Sierra Club is the greatest environmental organization in the world. Its storied history includes the influence of legendary giants such as David Brower, Ansel Adams, and John Muir. The geographical stages of the Club's struggles are legendary: Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Dinosaur National Monument, the Everglades. But it is not just the great characters acting on the national scene who have inspired me; as I've become more active in local environmental concerns I've been impressed by the tireless work of local heroes like Dan Donaldson, Maurice Coman, Linda Bremer, Janet Stenko, Deborah Andrews, Brian Vonn ........people who use their "extra" time and energy for difficult, visionary missions -- often confronted by organized, well-financed opposition. I've enjoyed learning about the decades of service to the Club from folks like Brian Paradise and Bob Nied. Yes, our organization is a great one, one for which we can be truly proud. I am honored and, yet, humbled by the board's decision to make me Chair of your organization. I hope to help our Northeast Florida club increase our historic ability to be zealous advocates on environmental matters while still retaining the Club's reputation for integrity and credibility. I've studied the membership list -- 1300 strong -- we are a diverse group, with many different occupations, living in places scattered all over Northeast Florida. But, of course, we have a special unity - our love of the natural world and a desire that these treasures be preserved for the future. I hope to help foster a new sense of community within our club -- to encourage more attendance and participation in our general monthly meeting, to help increase our enjoyment in outing programs, and to support the many other activities that are so special about the Sierra Club. But I know that many of our members, busy in their own lives, who care greatly about the goals and purposes of the Sierra Club, simply cannot attend meetings or even take time to go on organized hikes and kayak trips in the beautiful areas of our home. Thus, I hope to pursue developing technology to help bring the Sierra Club experience closer to the rest of us who have these time and distance limitations. We'll explore these ideas in the coming months. Finally, I have especially appreciated the warm courtesy and offers of assistance so many of you have extended me these past few weeks as I've prepared to become the Chair. Despite the obvious concerns about the state of environmental affairs in both national and state politics, I am optimistic and hopeful. As you know, we live in paradise here in Northeast Florida. I vow that the Sierra Club will continue to do our best to preserve this paradise.
Warren K. Anderson, Jr.
I have always being fond of losing myself outdoors, fishing, hiking and birdwatching being my usual activities. What really pushed me to get active was the appointment of James Watt as Secretary of the Interior. I have slipped in my active participation this past 8 years, but this summer I told my wife, that if GW won the election that I would have to get more active... With Mr. Bush's nomination for his secretary of the interior...and her history with the legendary Mr. Watt, I guess my prediction was correct.
Dale A. Bodmer
Lately I've wondered if my love of the outdoors - the freedom and peace and sense of myself that I feel when I'm outdoors and nowhere else - comes from the fact that so much of my childhood play centered around being outside. Or whether I played outside because I loved it from the beginning, instinctively and with a child's joy and wonder. I grew up in suburbia (outside Washington, DC), but was fortunate enough to have a small plot of undeveloped land next to my house. My younger sister and I played there for hours, in all kinds of weather. It was wild but not overgrown -- there were no brambles or old rose bushes (though we did find the remnants of a barn and a tattered barbed wire fence). There were just trees and patches of moss and the paths we made through constant use. Our favorite spot was a dirt hill that sat like a hollowed-out bowl. We'd crouch down and peer over the dusty lip to spy on commuters walking home from the bus stop at the end of the road. We imagined ourselves Indians witnessing the arrival of Europeans, and the thin rocks we found were the arrowheads of our ancestors. Then some friends of ours left the Washington, DC, area to live on a 100-acre farm in upstate New York, near a town so small that it wasn't on the map back then. On our weeklong summer visits, I found myself in a natural playground that couldn't be traversed in a few short minutes. My sisters and I and our friends would be outdoors from right after breakfast till long after dark - picking wild raspberries by the railroad track that cut through their property, munching on mint leaves or swimming in the ice-cold gorge at the end of a long, steep road. I developed a great fondness for nature and being outside. So when Robert Redford said we should stop using aerosol sprays to protect the ozone layer, I abandoned them and never looked back. I have not taken the advice of a celebrity before or since, but this was Robert Redford! and I was a crush-prone teenage girl. Besides, what he said appealed to a noble sense of preserving something grand and timeless. It was the first of many choices I made to stand on the side of those who were trying to protect and preserve the natural environment. Unfortunately, land isn't left in its natural state for long in the suburbs, and we always knew our woods were living on borrowed time. When developers finally tore down the trees and leveled our hill to put in houses, I was at college hundreds of miles away from the sound of bulldozers and chainsaws. But it was heart-breaking just the same. For a long time after, I could not look at those houses without feeling unbearably sad for the natural landscape they had replaced. When we were teenagers, I gave my sister a poster (from the Sierra Club, I think) of slender tree trunks shrouded in mist with the words, "In wildness is the preservation of the world." For me, nature is inextricably linked to imagination. And I believe that when nature is damaged, so too is the rich landscape of the mind.
Terri J. Huck
As a child, I had a what seemed to be an inborn interest in the natural world, which I am now attempting to pass along to other children as an elementary principal. For example, I remember having pet store red-eared sliders and a kidnapped (I didn't know better) box turtle which are now studied, observed, and cared for by third graders in our turtle habitat (we are permitted, of course) located on our school grounds. Kindergartners and first graders tag and release Monarch butterflies, fourth graders are "For the Birds", fifth and sixth graders are planting a mini forest on campus in memory of one ot their teachers during "Creation Care Week." With all these activities I hope to plant a seed in the heart of children which will grow and mature in time so that they may be stewards of creation for their lifetime.
I began canoeing Ozark rivers in 1960, and found out these streams were threatened by dams and development. Members of the Ozark Wilderness Waterways Club suggested that I read Aldo Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac" and books about canoeing by Sigurd Olsen. I joined efforts to preserve the Current and Jack's Fork rivers in Missouri and the Buffalo River in Arkansas. Since then I have joined many convservation organizations, studied ecology, and drawn cartoons about nature and outdoor recreation. The spirits of Aldo and Sig live on as characters in Wally's Woods comic strip published on web site
http://www.beavercreekfeatures.com. One of my most memorable Ozark canoe trips is featured in a Wally's Woods story that begins today(Jan 8),
"Jacques & Pierre's Winter Canoe Trip". I used to paddle the Big
Niangua and Current Rivers every month of the year where the rivers with natural anti freeze made this possible.
In 1997 I was a 26-year-old Harvard graduate just beginning to realize that my blooming business career was not bringing me the happiness I hoped for - and certainly was not benefitting anyone else on the planet (except for my bosses and my clients, and then only in the short term). My credo to that point had been simple: "work hard, achieve much." My main concern was proving to myself and my parents that I could succeed financially; though I had always done volunteer work, it was definitely "on the side." In the fall of 1997 I started casting about for a career that could help people, and had just started looking into teaching credential programs in the Bay Area when my fiance proposed a Thanksgiving trip to Hawaii. I agreed(of course), and packed my credential applications and subject matter proficiency booklets for English, my undergraduate major. We decided on Maui, and I bought books on the area, eagerly planning for our trip. On our second night in Maui we decided to drive up Mount Haleakala to see the sunrise, and then hike down into the crater for the day. Still on California time, we arose at 3:30 in the morning for our trip, and witnessed a gorgeous salute to the dawn. As the mists cleared, we were able to see much of the park at the top, and I saw -- to my sorrow -- the signs around the silversword plant alerting tourists to their scarce status and the need for protection. More signs warned of other species nearing extinction, and I descended the crater with a slightly heavier heart. On successive days, we walked in national parks, snorkeled around reefs, and visited the Robert Lyn Nelson Gallery in Lahaina. Everywhere we saw beauty -- and signs of endangered species. That year was the year of the coral reef, and Nelson's gallery told us that part of his profits were being donated to save the reefs. We bought a beautiful print, which still hangs in our bedroom and helps remind us of what is being lost. Most sorrowful to me was the threat to the sea turtles. I wished so much to see one of these lovely animals, but they were becoming more scarce around the islands and I failed to see any on two snorkeling trips. This disappointment, in addition to the beauty around me, sent my emotions spiraling continuously between joy at the beauty around me and tears at its loss. I told my fiancee - I cannot believe the beauty here, and I cannot believe that our children may never be able to see it for themselves. On our last full day in Maui, I went snorkeling by myself and encountered two sea turtles. Ecstatic, I followed them at a considerable distance, taking pictures and trying to imitate their fluid motions in the water (impossible, of course). I was left with a message of hope, and the desire to do something - anything - to preserve the wonders I had seen for my own children. When I returned to San Francisco, the only place I knew to turn was the Sierra Club (even I had heard of them). I got myself signed up, and began receiving your magazine. When I saw the articles, I knew I was onto something big, and that I could help. In later months, I joined a few other conservation organizations, and I began to revisit my teaching plans. In one of those odd moments when life hands you what you need, I was offered a job teaching science to middle school students in the spring of 1998. I did this for two years, learning much and also starting a recycling program, a school garden, and an ecology unit at the school. Now I am enrolled at San Jose State University, taking Environmental Studies courses in preparation for a Masters. Nearly everything in my life has changed since fall of 1997 - I am now married and we are expecting our first child. I thank god that I found this path in life and will apply my "work hard, achieve much" motto to this field with all my heart.
One of my major environmental influences was what I had read long before I joined, or had heard of, the Sierra Club. For example, I would read about the channelization of rivers and streams and the slaughter of wild horses and other wildlife, and feel angry about the destruction of our natural world in the name of "progress." Other "starters" included my early introduction to the joys of reading National Geographic, Natural History, and other nature-oriented magazines. Joining the Sierra Club after college graduation gave me a focus for my energies and concerns. I began writing about, and participating in, the New Orleans Group's Outings program, and eventually became a New Orleans ExComm board member. (My Sierra Club work also led me to working on nuclear disarmament/nuclear energy issues.) I am currently both New Orleans Group Treasurer and New Orleans Group Waste and Recycling Committee Chair.
New Orleans, Louisianna
I decided to be an environmentalist after i found two turtles which had become tangled in lily pads after swallowing fishing hooks. One of the turtles was dead and the other was near death, but i took him home and fed him for a week and he seemed to be healthy enough to be released, so i placed him in a creek where no one would bother him for a while. it really bothered me to see that someone would cut their fishing line just to get rid of a turtle, so now i pick up trash and fishing tackle
Elizabeth R. Davis
My friends and I started "The environment club". We meet in a tree every Friday. We will occasionally pick up trash and plant flowers. We have different days for different months. Like in July we have "Water Day" where we go to streams and pick up the trash that is around the creek. We also have "Animal Day" where we read about endangered animals and find out what we can do to help. Usally we just donate money to try and help them survive. We will do what we can to help the Environment. We also hope that you are successful in trying to save Atlanta's trees. Remember, we are with you 100%. GO SIERRA CLUB,GO!!!!!
Avondale Est., Georgia
I guess the first time I started to seriously care about the state of our Planet was when I heard about 3 Mile Island. It's not that far from where I live, so I tried to find out more. The Sierra
Club sent me enough information to convince me that the fight for the environment was the most imporant one facing the next generation of Americans.
Little Silver, New Jersey
My desire to preserve nature stems mainly from my intense love for the outdoors. Having grown up in Utah, the majority of my youth was spent in the mountains or the Southern Desert. At every opportunity I head outside to enjoy the remarkable mountainous landscape Utah has been blessed with. Being able to escape to these wild places is simply something I am not willing to give up. My motivations for protecting the wild earth are fairly selfish. However, they have grown to encompass a number of reasons beyond my personal enjoyment including biodiversity and the ability of the earth to sustain life. People tend to want to preserve that which they love and enjoy, that which they see as beautiful, people protect that which they value. Some may want to preserve a painting or an old building, while I wish to preserve wild places and the wild creatures that dwell within them. The serenity and peace found on a mountainside has no replacement. A stream singing as it heads into the valley accompanied by the haunting cry of a flock of geese as they make their way to their winter home. I breathe in life and the crisp pure air dances in my lungs, the smell of life invigorates me giving me the strength to make it to the next mountain peak, snow crackles softly beneath my boots. I stare in amazement at a juniper back-dropped by the majestic blue sky, a sunflower frozen in perfection. I delight in the biology and geography that envelop me on this mountain ridge. I am overwhelmed by my surroundings. This euphoria is worth fighting for. Not only is the earth a beautiful place of enjoyment, the earth is our life support system. The human species is reliant on the natural world to fulfill all of our fundamental needs. We have too lightly valued the most basic resources upon which we depend. The earth has provided us with food, shelter, and water; all that we need to survive as well as countless luxuries. Yet we continue to want more. Nature is something we have used, manipulated, exploited and imitated but have forgotten to appreciate. Mother nature cannot continue to keep up with our rate of consumption and destruction. We have seen the earth only as a resource to suit our material needs. We need to begin preserving our habitat now before we will have exhausted all of earth's resources. After all that earth has supplied us with it deserves our gratitude and respect. The Earth's ecological integrity is at the threshold of ruin. We cannot continue to expect technology to save us from our own destruction. Biodiversity is essential to the health of the earth's ecosystem. Earth's vitality affects all creatures and humans have behaved as if they are the exception. The wonderment of a bird soaring in flight is beyond human comprehension and beyond our ability to create. I become connected with this beautiful creation by working to protect it. Through my public involvement and research, I feel that I have played a vital role in efforts to stop the Legacy Highway. I believe it is within our power and control to ensure that tomorrow's generation has the chance to be awe stricken by witnessing an eagle in flight. For centuries human development has encroached upon, diminished and destroyed wilderness and wildlife habitat all in the name of progress. Now it is time for us to revere these precious wonders. I want to focus my talents and energy, in an effort involving others of like mind, on the preservation of raptors and their habitat.
Amber Lynn Ayers
Salt Lake City, Utah
Over the years, I've always leaned towards supporting environmental causes, but my experience with breast cancer has brought the environment more sharply into focus with me. Now I'm working on a book called "Cancer Ridge Society: thoughts on causes and the healing journey." Here is my nutshell version of what led me to my take on the environment and some of the things I'm writing. For decades tobacco companies denied that cigarette smoking was harmful to health. They are having to pay large sums of money now because of lawsuits. When the same thing happens to chemical companies, whose executives deny the hamful effects of these chemicals, there will be much bigger lawsuits than tobacco companies ever had to face. (And it is not just breast cancer but every kind of cancer.) Two years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I underwent treatments and am now celebrating my second year of being cancer-free. When five women were gathered around my hospital bed after my lumpectomy, I told all of them to go get their mammograms. My best friend Teresa did that. They discovered a lump in her breast too, which was diagnosed as cancer. During the next few months Teresa and I suffered chemotherapy treatments together, lost our hair together and spent many long hours discussing the situation. We especially noted that at least a dozen people in the neighborhood where we grew up all had cancer. People who lived within two miles of each other and all close to our age (in our mid-forties) all had cancer. My brother's farming partner had died at age 45 two years earlier. Three members of one family had leukemia. One of them has died since then. Another woman was diagnosed with breast cancer about a month before we were. She is now dead. The cancer had spread rapidly through her body. Another friend of ours suffered a three-year battle with melanoma. Her funeral was about a month before the woman who died of breast cancer. Another woman was recently diagnosed with the same kind of cancer that killed my brother's farming partner.The list goes on. The people on our list did not smoke or drink and led health lifestyles. The one thing all of us have in common is we all lived on farms and spent lots of time working in the fields. Teresa and I spent a lot of time in the mid-1980s talking about our fears that someday we would all get cancer. We noticed a lot of small animals dead in ditches. We saw that many of our farm cats were developing growths and dying. We wondered what effect constant spraying of farm chemicals had on those who were exposed to them. Teresa's family owns a small country store, where people stop for refreshments.. It bothered us that when chemical men -- who were in the neighborhood to push yet another chemical on the farmers -- came to the store and she asked them if the chemicals were bad for our health, they would laugh and say they could drink a cup of it and it would do nothing. She never said, "Go ahead and enjoy a cup and prove it to me." I'm wondering if the same companies that produce pesticides and herbicides also produce chemotherapy drugs to poison the cancer in the people who got the cancer from exposure to the pesticides and herbicides? Farmers will tell you that we have to have chemicals on the crops or the people of the world will go hungry. At least that is what they have been brainwashed to believe. For the past four years there has been such a huge surplus of crops that farmers are going out of business. It costs them more to produce the crops than what they are making. Do we need to rethink the way in which crops are produced? Teresa and I wonder if the people who have developed cancer in our neighborhood over the past couple years are the second generation of Cancer Ridge. Fifteen years ago there was another group of people who died of cancer in our neighborhood -- which came to be known as Cancer Ridge. We are still seeking answers to our questions as we celebrate our second cancer-free year and prepare for whoever's funeral may be next. It is interesting to note that when the nurse-practitioner discovered the walnut-sized lump in my left breast she told me there was ONLY a three-percent chance that it was cancer. After I learned it was cancer, I reasoned that if a three-percent chance was not much, then it was a good weekend to go to Jackpot, Nevada and play the slot machines. I won $125 on a quarter machine that weekend. But I think the people who have won the real jackpot are the owners of chemical and chemotherapy companies.
Although growing up on a farm, with woods and creek probably contributed,I have become an environmentalist in a series of small steps. First, my household started recycling. At the time, we had a recycling center that paid for all types of recyclables, including paper, glass, and, of course, metal. When we moved, it was such a habit, it seemed wrong to suddenly start throwing away the items we had been recycling. Then, when I became interested in gardening, I started composting, mostly because it was good for my garden and I had learned to hate waste. Also, when I moved to Hawaii, I made a conscious effort to live close enough to my job and stores, schools, etc. that I wouldn't need a car for 99% of my commutes. I either bike or walk, and am healthier for it. I don't own a car at all, but will occasionally rent one or take a cab, if going on a longer trip somewhere. Also, living in Hawaii, I don't need to either heat or air condition my home. It's always very close to the perfect temperature. By this time, I started looking for ways to become more conserving. The upcountry area suffers from almost yearly droughts, and the local paper suggests ways to save water. Even though the area i live in has abundant water, the plight of the people upcountry, would make me feel like a pig if I didn't conserve. We bought cloth napkins and cleaning towels and use those instead of paper towels (unless the cat barfs. for that I'll break down and use paper). So as you see, it's been a gradual process, partly inspired by my own stinginess, and partly by my hope for the world. I truly believe that we, as humans, must stop thinking that we own the world, and start realizing that we must share it. Not just so other animals can survive, but also so we can.
Joy Harris Wailuku, Hawaii
I was a student at Marquette University, a conservative Jesuit school that required 4 philosophy classes for a B.A. Since I'd already had 3 theology classes, I was having a hard time summoning the enthusiasm for Aristotle's proofs of god's existence. On a whim, I signed up for Environmental Philosophy, hopeful for something different. I suppose I had already experienced early, quiet stirrings of an environmental consciousness--I tried not to waste water or electricity, thought the whales should be saved. That sort of thing. But on the first day of class, my professor posed us a question. "The world has been bombed," he said. "There are only two living things left on the planet, you and one tree. You have 12 hours to live, and you have a choice. You can burn the tree in order to stay warm during your last 12 hours, but if you do so, all life on earth will end forever. Or, you can save the tree, freeze your last few hours, and allow the earth to regenerate itself from that tree. What do you do?" My response was instinctive and required no thought. Of course you save the tree, what kind of dumb question was that? Unfortunately, the majority of my class didn't agree. "Why do I care if life continues?" one girl said. "I won't be around to know so I'd rather be warm." And I realized that my fundamental outlook on life differed from most people's. The remainder of the class provided me with a philosophical foundation for what I discovered were radical and passionate environmental beliefs, and started me on a course of environmental studies. When I retire as a competitive speedskater after the Olympics in 2002, I plan on doing a masters and doctorate in wildlife ecology. With a little luck, I'll be able to pose a few questions to others along the way that inspire as much thought as that first professor did for me.
The other day, saw "Medicine Man" for the first time. I was moved to tears by Sean Connery's desperate effort to save the precious wildlife. After reading "The Crucible", I had the urge to run around and dance in the forrest to celebrate it's beauty, which would not be possible if efforts to preserve this wildlife had not taken place. I would just like to add that your website is truly and inspiration to people like me all over the world!
Los Angeles, Texas
I'm not sure what came first, the private art lessons or the Brownie box camera. Both were gifts from my loving parents.
My art teacher, Fred Hassebrock of Pensacola FL (now deceased), taught kids in his uniquely-painted garage studio. But we painted outdoors and from picture postcards as well. I still love being outdoors, and although I didn't get serious about photography until 1987 (when I got into the darkroom), I still consider it a personal treat to capture a moment on film in available light.
My grandmother lived with us from the time I was about 4. We lived on a small vegetable farm (for canning, and some sales for second income). She and I would walk along the country road, looking at wildflowers and anything else of interest. We would walk through the garden, where she'd talk about the flowers (peonies were her favorite, and mine) and the fruits I would help her preserve (elderberries, rhubarb, strawberries). (My dad would do the same for the vegetables, but that was more mundane -- how to raise and pick them -- less lyrical, and more like hard work!) When I was a bit older, she made a special effort to start a National Geographic subscription for me (my first subscription, and one I still maintain) -- one that took me far beyond the confines of the Hudson Valley. She loved the beauty and the wonder of nature -- I've tried to pass that love on through my professional life (20+ years of conservation work for the federal government), through volunteering (formerly led a regional environmental newspaper; ten years as a Girl Scout leader), and in my personal life.
Ironically, I'm one of those people who, in our consumer-based economy, probably does more harm to the environment than good. I drive into work alone rather than carpool or take the bus. I work in an industry (the law), that goes through paper at an astounding rate. I throw plastic trays from my frozen dinners into the trash without thinking. There are probably a million more things that I do that harm our environment that I don't even know about right now. I'm not perfect. But I also know that we only have one planet that not only we have to live on, but that all future generations are counting on. Since the dawn of the Industrial Age, we have put this planet on an environmental spiral in every area that we touch. We seem to have technology which we use with reckless abandon and that results in mucking up the planet. It seems to me that we also have the capacity to have technology to prevent or clean up our messes, but don't use it because "it's not cost-effective". This is short-sighted thinking. The costs and consequences are far greater down the road. What's the old saying, "An ounce of prevention..." But I also know the power of the ballot (I vote Democrat religiously) and of the pen (I send in my Sierra Magazine activist postcards and E-Mail the President and Senators with regularity, as well as use it to cut checks to Sierra Club, Yosemite Fund, and other organizations). The ballot and the pen are such easy ways to, if not balance out, than at least to soften my impact as a consumer, and to hopefully elect leaders who will keep those companies that are irresponsible in check and held accountable. If that's a guilt-complex, so be it. But every time I go hiking in some new place away from the sprawl of the city, or think about some far-flung beautiful spot in the world I could go camping, I feel good knowing that maybe my voice or little money has helped to protect it - - that there are places you can go to escape for a little while, and that nature has a chance to do as it will without interference.
San Diego, California