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  Sierra Magazine
  September/October 2007
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Bulldozers and Blasphemy
Hawaii's Next Top Models
Bio-Hope, Bio-Hype
From Pumpkin Seed to Piehole
Completing Colin Fletcher
Eyes in the Sky and on Your Desktop
Ways & Means
One Small Step
Lay of the Land
Good Going
The Green Life
Hey Mr. Green
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Sierra Club Bulletin: News for Members
September/October 2007

Camping in the Green Zone | The Coal Truth | EZ Activism | Cool Cornellians | Big Hopes for Big Easy | Take Action | Grassroots

Camping in the Green Zone
By Tom Valtin

"WHEN MY DAD WAS SENT TO AFGHANISTAN, I was afraid because I didn't know if he'd come back," says ten-year-old Carly Rippel of Chatham, New York. For kids like Carly, spending time in nature can be a welcome break from worrying about the safety of parents serving overseas. Thanks to a donation of more than $1 million from the Sierra Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors program, this summer an additional 1,000 children of deployed service members were able to attend the National Military Family Association's Operation Purple camps.

The free camps, which this year hosted nearly 4,000 children nationwide, help kids cope with having a parent in harm's way by connecting them with the outdoors and providing support from others in their situation. In addition to activities like horseback riding and hiking, the 2007 season featured a pilot program in Southern California for children of wounded service members. Held at a ranch near San Juan Capistrano, the program incorporated additional counseling services into the daily camp activities.

"Now I know if my dad goes overseas again, I'll have friends to talk to," says Carly, who attended a camp with her 12-year-old sister, Cydney, in 2006 and 2007. "At camp, the counselors helped us open up and talk about what it was like," adds Cydney. "It made a huge difference to be with other kids who knew what we were feeling."

Among those kids are 13-year-old Caroline, 12-year-old Katherine, and 10-year-old Kendall Zotti of Crofton, Maryland. Carly and Cydney met the Zottis last year, and they now stay in touch by e-mail. "The camp empowered my kids by helping them congratulate themselves for their sacrifice and service," says Priscilla Zotti, a political science professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, whose husband, Steven, served in Iraq and Southeast Asia. "It was kind of astounding to them to think, 'Wow, someone thinks I'm special for what I did.'"

ON THE WEB To learn more, visit and search for "Operation Purple." Read about the Sierra Club's efforts to get kids outdoors at

The Coal Truth

From destroying the Appalachian landscape to exacerbating global warming, our coal addiction is costly. And with the United States planning to build more than 150 coal-fired power plants in the next few years, the threats to our environment are even more pressing. "The Dirty Truth About Coal: Why Yesterday's Technology Should Not Be Part of Tomorrow's Energy Future," a recent Sierra Club report, explains why we must shift from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives. If all the proposed plants were built, the study notes, they would increase U.S. carbon dioxide pollution from electricity production by more than 25 percent above 2004 levels, a 10 percent increase in total U.S. CO2 emissions. Visit

EZ Activism

No longer just the purview of Web-addicted teens, now online chatting can help protect the planet. In partnership with the Sierra Club and nine other organizations, Microsoft has launched the "i'm Initiative" to benefit social causes through its Windows Live Messenger program. When signing up for the free instant-messaging service, customers select the group that's closest to their heart; every time they chat online, Microsoft will donate a portion of the program's advertising revenue to the organization. Want to put your acronyms and emoticons to work for the environment? Just download the software, choose the Club as your cause, and type away. For more information, go to

Cool Cornellians

For most students, acing final exams means a chance to catch up on sleep. For those at Cornell University, it means a $10,000 eco-renovation of their student center. This spring Cornell's KyotoNow, a Sierra Student Coalition affiliate, was a grand-prize winner of MTV's "Break the Addiction Final Exam" contest, part of its challenge to colleges to reduce their global-warming pollution. In addition to getting nearly 5,000 students and faculty members to sign a petition calling for a climate-neutral campus, KyotoNow helped pass a referendum for a $5-per-semester student "green fee" to fund renewable energy projects.

Big Hopes for Big Easy

Two years after Hurricane Katrina, many New Orleans communities are struggling to rebuild. Show them you still care by joining a Sierra Club restoration team. As part of National Public Lands Day, Club volunteers will spend the last weekend in September trail-building and replanting in local parks and assisting with energy-efficiency projects in the Lower Ninth Ward (see "Sierra Club Bulletin," July/August). Modest accommodations and some meals will be provided, but volunteers are responsible for their own transportation costs. Applications must be received by September 15. For more information, contact Jill Workman at (503) 654-8670, or e-mail Keren O'Brien Murphy at

Take Action

Join the Sierra Club's Take Action Network at, where you can send e-mails and faxes to your elected officials.

For the latest on Club campaigns, go to, where you can sign up for our biweekly e-newsletter, the Sierra Club Insider, and other Club e-mail communications.


Swans Win Dogfight

Tundra swans aren't delicate creatures. Weighing up to 25 pounds, the birds are called "whistling swans" because of the sound made by their powerful wings. But they're no match for the roar of fighter jets flying overhead. So when the U.S. Navy proposed building a landing field for its Super Hornets just miles from North Carolina's Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge--the winter home of some 100,000 tundra swans and snow geese--a diverse coalition cried foul. The state Sierra Club chapter, the National Rifle Association, and other groups were concerned about noise and potential bird-aircraft collisions; they also objected to plans to rip out the crops the birds feed on. In May, they won a major victory to protect the refuge when the U.S. House of Representatives blocked funding for the airstrip. "We started as a handful of country folks, meeting to talk at the mailbox on Highway 32," says Club volunteer Jennifer Skvarla. "Now we've won an act of Congress. That we've succeeded is truly a testament to the perseverance of the people here." --Michael Parks

Go With the Wind

The "First State" of the original 13 colonies is again leading the way, by planning to build one of the country's first offshore wind parks. After the Delaware legislature mandated that the state's biggest power utility find alternative energy sources, the Sierra Club's Delaware Chapter promoted a bid by Bluewater Wind to build 200 turbines off the coast. Its efforts paid off in May when a Delaware agency ordered the utility to negotiate a deal with Bluewater to supply wind power for up to 17 percent of the state's electricity. Unlike the controversy over a similar project in Massachusetts, says the Club's Chad Tolman, "people in Delaware overwhelmingly favor this project--they've even said they'd pay $5 or $10 more on their electricity bill." --Tom Valtin

Gladder Glades

In a victory for swamplands over smokestacks, the Sierra Club's Florida Chapter and Calusa Group helped snuff out a proposal for a massive coal-fired power plant near Everglades National Park. Thanks in part to their efforts, in June a state agency denied a petition by the Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) to build the 1,960-megawatt plant, which would have been one of the largest in the country and released 14 million tons of carbon dioxide and 180 pounds of mercury annually. Even when activists did outreach in conservative Glades County, recalls Club member Rhonda Roff, residents unsatisfied with FPL's proposal wanted to know "if we had a 'petition or something' they could sign. It was so gratifying." --T.V.

This article has been corrected subsequent to publication.

Photo by Andy Olsen; used with permission.

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