Filmmaker Robert Greenwald profiles environmental heroes in Sierra Club Chronicles.
Stories of everyday heroism become art for Robert Greenwald. Whether examining right-wing media empires (Outfoxed) or corporate greed (Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price), the 62-year-old director-producer draws in viewers with his compelling portrayals-- and convinces them to take action. In January, Sierra Club Productions and Greenwald's Brave New Films launched Sierra Club Chronicles, a seven-part series on satellite network LinkTV that profiled ordinary people tackling environmental problems in their communities--from Mississippi residents uniting to protect a national park from offshore drilling to Southern Californians fighting shipping-related air pollution.
Sierra: Why did you produce Chronicles?
Robert Greenwald: Because we had human stories that lent themselves really well to a TV series. They pulled us into the human, which then leads to the political. If you can touch people's hearts, their minds will follow.
Sierra: How does the program inspire those facing environmental crises?
Greenwald: The solution is not to run around saying, "The sky is falling"--or as my grandmother would say, "Oy vey." A great positive of having the Sierra Club involved is viewers can say, "Oh, I can go to the Web site, or contact this chapter, or support this action."
Sierra: What about critics who accuse the series of being one-sided?
Greenwald: A democracy means having varied points of view. I think that a mixture of shows is very positive. What's unconscionable is pretending to be an unbiased news show, like Fox News.
Sierra: Why have you promoted home screening parties for your films?
Greenwald: They're an amazing tool. They're a way to do something besides writing a check, a way to build community. What I hear over and over again is, "I found new folks, I built a community, and I'm staying in touch with people." And that's as good as it gets in terms of democracy.
ON THE WEB
For more on Sierra Club Chronicles and to watch or order episodes, go to sierraclub.org/tv.
Do the Math
High prices at the pump and ongoing evidence of global warming mean that driving is costlier than ever--for your wallet and the environment. If U.S. automakers improved fuel efficiency, drivers could save hundreds of dollars and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by thousands of pounds each year. To find out exactly how much, enter your car make and model, annual mileage, and gas cost at the Sierra Club's online mpg calculator: sierraclub.org/mpg.
A rodent helped spare Alabama communities during Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. Because new seaside developments were sited farther inland to protect the habitat of the endangered Alabama beach mouse, they avoided the brunt of the storms and saved millions of dollars in property damage. This key finding from a recent report by the Sierra Club and the Gulf Restoration Network, "The School of Big Storms," underscores how smarter planning can protect coastal areas--and people.
Part of the Club's efforts to promote a greener Gulf Coast (see "Sierra Club Bulletin," March/April), the report also features case studies of towns in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Rebuilding tips include discouraging development in floodplains, ensuring that oil and natural-gas rigs and pipelines are designed to withstand the toughest hurricanes, and enforcing building codes that protect structures from windblown debris. Read the full report at sierraclub.org/gulfcoast/bigstorm.asp.
Happy Birthday, Ed!
It's a milestone a century in the making: Edgar Wayburn, honorary president of the Sierra Club, turns 100 on September 17. A tireless conservationist, Wayburn joined the Club in the late 1930s and later served as a board director for nearly 40 years, including 5 years as president. He spearheaded successful campaigns to protect 100 million acres of Alaskan wildlands and to establish Northern California's Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the world's largest urban parks.
Upon presenting Wayburn the 1999 Presidential Medal of Freedom, Bill Clinton said, "He has saved more of our wilderness than any person alive."
Read more about Wayburn in Your Land and Mine: Evolution of a Conservationist (Sierra Club Books, $35), his 2004 autobiography; in Amy Meyer's recent New Guardians for the Golden Gate (University of California Press, $30); or at sierraclub.org/history/wayburn.
CALIFORNIA: Surf and Turf
It's enough to melt your wax: One of the best surfing spots on Earth could be permanently wiped out if a controversial six-lane toll road is built in Southern California. The 16-mile highway extension would slice through San Onofre State Beach, potentially ruining the Trestles Beach surf break by altering the flow of sediment to the shoreline--and threatening the habitat of such endangered species as the least Bell's vireo, a gray-green songbird, and the Pacific pocket mouse. In March, a coalition of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation, sued the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency to block the project. "Building a road though the middle of a state park sets a really bad precedent," says Brittany McKee, an organizer for the Club's Friends of the Foothills. Visit taskforce.sierraclub.org/friendsofthefoothills. --Ethan Klein
Philip Hyde's images of the Grand Canyon helped preserve the park.
A Life Through a Lens
The environmental movement lost an influential comrade when nature photographer Philip Hyde, 84, died March 30 of stroke-related complications.
In 1946, on the advice of Ansel Adams, Hyde enrolled in the newly formed photography department at the California School of Fine Arts, where he studied under such masters as Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston. Hyde's career was launched when his pictures of a Sierra Club outing in Yosemite National Park were published in the 1951 Sierra Club Bulletin, the precursor to Sierra.
For the next half century, Hyde lugged his camera equipment throughout the American West. According to his son, David, he was known as a "mountain goat" who would climb anywhere to get a shot. One of the primary conservation photographers for the Club, Hyde had more of his work published in its Exhibit Format Series of stunning coffee-table books than any other photographer. His color landscapes of Grand Canyon National Park, from the 1964 Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon, helped block proposed dams on the Colorado River. Other wilderness areas that benefited from his work include California's Redwood National Park and Point Reyes National Seashore and Utah's Dinosaur National Monument.
Photos, from top: Sarah Feeley; Special Collections, UC Santa Cruz Philip Hyde Archive
Illustration by Debbie Drechsler