NO ONE UNDERSTANDS the catastrophic potential of global warming and the benefits of energy independence better than the residents of the Holy Cross neighborhood in New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward.
One of the city's historic districts--and home to R&B legend Fats Domino--Holy Cross suffered severe flooding from Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The Category 3 storm's ferocity was consistent with scientific findings that have linked higher ocean temperatures to more-intense hurricanes. While many of the Lower Ninth Ward's dwellings withstood Katrina, residents had to wait up to eight months for the city to restore electricity and water before they could go home. As they trickled back, long after other New Orleanians, one thing became clear: "If we wanted to survive, we had to do something different when we rebuilt," says Pam Dashiell, president of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association (HCNA).
Now, two years after Katrina, the area is coming back to life--greener and stronger. Bolstered by grants from the Sierra Club's Smart Energy Solutions Conservation Initiative Committee and the Delta Chapter, the HCNA is working to create a carbon-neutral community using solar power, insulation, and Energy Star appliances. The neighborhood association, with help from the Club's New Orleans Group and others, has installed solar panels on nine homes, and in April it opened a green-built community center that will provide resources for low-cost, sustainable home building.
The Lower Ninth Ward has demonstrated its self-reliance before: It boasted one of the city's highest rates of home ownership even though it's among the poorest neighborhoods. Residents hope their vision of a resilient, sustainable community will spread to other parts of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. "We feel like we're really creating a buzz down here," says HCNA vice president Charles Allen III, whose house was damaged in the hurricane. "We're rebuilding this community so everyone else can come home."
This article has been corrected subsequent to publication.
Our New Directors
In April, Sierra Club members reelected three incumbents and voted in two new representatives to the Club's volunteer board of directors. The 15-person board sets conservation priorities, approves the annual budget, and oversees staff and volunteer activities. Each year five seats are up for election. The winners for 2007 are:
SANJAY RANCHOD, a current Club director and consumer attorney from San Francisco (35,034 votes)
ALLISON CHIN, a Club Inner City Outings leader and biologist from Stanford, California (30,816 votes)
DAVID KARPF, a current Club director and political science doctoral candidate from Philadelphia (30,368 votes)
LISA RENSTROM, a current Club director and Sierra Club Foundation trustee from Charlotte, North Carolina (30,323 votes)
ROBERT COX, a former Club director and a professor of rhetoric from Chapel Hill, North Carolina (30,209 votes)
"Grassroots leadership is the core of the Sierra Club, and we're proud that the five board members elected have such strong records of service in the Club and in their communities," says board member Jim Dougherty. To recommend candidates for 2008, e-mail Nominating Committee Chair Richard Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A federal appeals court chose environmental justice over snow sports--by blocking a ski resort expansion on Arizona's San Francisco Peaks, held sacred by 13 Native tribes. In March, the court upheld a Sierra Club lawsuit against the project, which would have used reclaimed wastewater to make snow, ruling that it violated the tribes' religious freedom--and posed health risks because of the insufficiently treated water.
More than 100 activists converged on Washington, D.C., this spring to explore the link between population growth and the environment. Cosponsored by the Sierra Club, the One Voice Summit brought together diverse advocates for youth, reproductive rights, and environmental protections to address what makes for truly healthy communities--including increased access to family-planning services. Learn about the Club's Global Population and the Environment Program at sierraclub.org/population.
Want to share your old family movies of sitting by a Yosemite campfire? PBS is looking for footage from 1920 to '89 of visitors enjoying our national parks. Selected clips will be featured in a new history series by filmmaker Ken Burns (Jazz, Lewis and Clark) that will air in fall 2009. The deadline for submissions is August 1. For guidelines, visit
MICHIGAN Motor-Free City
Every summer more than a million car enthusiasts flock to the Motor City suburbs for the Woodward Dream Cruise vintage-car rally. Since 2005, the Sierra Club's Building Environmental Community (BEC) Campaign has been celebrating cleaner alternatives to hot rods at the Green Cruise (above). Having fun is key: Many participants wear costumes, and all travel by non-fossil-fuel-burning methods, including bicycles, Rollerblades, and even wheeled canoes. Organizers expect a crowd of 700 at the Ferndale, Michigan, event, which takes place August 11, a week before the Dream Cruise.
Participants who sign the Green Cruise Pledge agree to use nonpolluting forms of transit at least once a week. They can also chart their annual green miles, and the Oakland County BEC office will calculate how much carbon dioxide they save. "The Green Cruise reminds us that we all can opt for pollution-free forms of transportation," says Green Cruise cofounder Shirley Bavonese. "Not only make the switch but also celebrate the choice." For more information, visit sierraclub.org/community/oakland/green_cruise.asp. --Monica Woelfel
SOUTH CAROLINA Don't Dump on Me
LFor more than three decades, a landfill in rural Barnwell County, South Carolina, has accepted the nation's low-level radioactive waste--28 million cubic feet of it. State law mandated a severe reduction in such waste imports by 2008, but in February state representative William D. Witherspoon (R) sponsored a bill to keep the welcome mat out for another 15 years. The Sierra Club's South Carolina Chapter went into high gear, sending e-mail alerts, contacting key legislators, and attending hearings. The effort paid off: The bill was defeated 16-0 in March by an industry-friendly state House committee. "There were a dozen Sierra Club members at the committee meeting," says chapter director Dell Isham. "Democracy belongs to those who show up." --M.W.
MISSOURI Powerful Precedent
Coal burning remains a part of our energy mix, but the Sierra Club is working to ensure the environment doesn't get burned too. After five years of advocacy, the Club's Midwest Clean Energy Campaign persuaded Kansas City Power & Light to offset all the carbon dioxide emissions from its new coal-fired plant. By investing in wind power and energy efficiency, KCP&L will offset some 6 million tons of carbon annually by 2012. The Club and the company are also collaborating on initiatives to reduce the CO2
releases from all of its plants by 20 percent by 2020. Says Club executive director Carl Pope, "Our agreement with KCP&L demonstrates just how much we can achieve when utilities and groups like the Sierra Club work together." --Karina Kinik
Join the Sierra Club's Take Action Network at sierraclub.org/takeaction, where you can send e-mails and faxes to your elected officials.
For the latest on Club campaigns, go to sierraclub.org/email, where you can sign up for our biweekly e-newsletter, the Sierra Club Insider, and other Club e-mail communications.
Photos, from top: Darryl Malek-Wiley, Jay Pliskow; used with permission.
Illustration by Debbie Drechsler; used with permission.