WITH THE UNITED STATES facing a double whammy of global warming and a faltering economy, labor and environmental leaders are uniting to find alternative energy solutions that will revitalize our economy and benefit people and the planet. On March 13 and 14, more than 80 groups convened in Pittsburgh for the first national conference on work that benefits the environment. "Good Jobs, Green Jobs" was coordinated by the Blue-Green Alliance, a partnership of the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers.
Bringing together investors, labor representatives, environmentalists, elected officials, and others, the event showcased policy initiatives that will ramp up ecofriendly economic development and create "green-collar" jobs such as installing solar panels, building wind farms, and reusing construction materials. "Just about everyone" stands to gain from such an economic renaissance, said Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope, one of more than 75 speakers at the conference.
"Literally billions of investment dollars are pouring into clean tech," said Van Jones of Green for All, which advocates for job-training programs for low-income communities. The Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are talking about a clean-energy economy, and entrepreneurs are rushing in to profit from the opportunities, Jones said. "The question," he added, "is how to translate all the economic activity into jobs for real people."
In his closing speech, Pennsylvania governor Edward G. Rendell (D) explained how his state has encouraged innovation. "Since 2003 we've helped create 3,000 new jobs in the alternative and renewable energy sectors--many of which are good-paying, skilled manufacturing positions--and $1 billion in private investment," Rendell said.
The conference demonstrated that "it's not about the environment or jobs--it's about both," said attendee Debbie Sease, the Club's legislative director in Washington, D.C. "What we have to do to save the planet is also what we have to do to save the economy."
Share the Faith
A growing number of evangelical Christians are testifying that their faith encourages responsible stewardship of the earth--a goal environmentalists of every creed share. To encourage such cooperation, the Sierra Club is cosponsoring an 11-city book tour for pastor Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change (Thomas Nelson, 2007). McLaren argues that a "holistic, integral, balanced" Christian faith can address social inequities and environmental degradation. By recognizing that solutions must be spiritual as well as political and economic, "we have the possibility for a real change of consciousness," McLaren said in an interview on Sierra Club Radio.
The tour will wrap up in New York City (May 2 and 3) and Goshen, Indiana (May 9 and 10). For more information about the Club's Environmental Partnerships Program, go to sierraclub.org/partnerships. —Karina Kinik
Sure, social-networking sites can help you gain friends and Internet buzz, but how about environmental cred? Show yours by becoming a "fan" of the Sierra Club on Facebook and joining our online community. There you can promote our planet-protecting work and network with other green members. Sign up for a free account at facebook.com, then search for "Sierra Club" and select "Become a Fan." Want tools to become an e-activist? Visit apps.facebook.com/actioncenter/fb_homepage, choose "Add Application," and learn how you can make a difference. —K.K.
It's not too late for spring cleaning--and now you have more healthy products to choose from. Earlier this year the Sierra Club launched a partnership with Clorox to promote Green Works, its line of ecofriendly all-purpose, toilet-bowl, glass, and other cleaners. The biodegradable products carry the Club's logo and the EPA's Design for the Environment label indicating safer ingredients. All priced under $3.50, they can be found in 24,000 stores throughout the United States and Canada. Says Carl Pope, the Club's executive director, "These products are environmentally safe, will be available to millions of people, and support the good work of the Sierra Club." —K.K.
Kudos to Clubber
Proof that Sierra Club activists are truly cool: Joan Saxe, a coordinator for the Maine Chapter's Cool Communities initiative, was a semifinalist in the sixth annual Volvo for Life Awards, which honor "hometown heroes" advocating for the environment, public safety, and quality of life. Saxe was recognized for helping persuade cities and towns in her state to commit to reducing their global-warming emissions. For more information, visit coolmaine.org. —K.K.
It's enough to make anyone sick: Last winter the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that trailers the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided for Hurricane Katrina evacuees had high levels of carcinogenic formaldehyde--almost two years after Sierra Club testing first revealed the health risks. "Instead of covering up information about the dangers," says Club executive director Carl Pope, "FEMA should have acted immediately to protect victims of natural disasters from being victimized again." Read more about this toxic legacy at tinyurl.com/ywfeb6. —K.K.
Georgia: Belle of the Bottle
Famed for its Southern charm, Savannah, Georgia, nonetheless lacked gentility in one regard: It had no curbside recycling for its nearly 130,000 residents. Thanks to Sierra Club activists, however, who spearheaded a petition drive late last year to put a recycling referendum on the ballot, the city will soon deal with its trash more civilly. While the mayor initially called the campaign "elitist," he eventually promised a recycling program by January 2009. "But it wasn't election-year promises we were after," says Stacey Kronquest of the Club's Coastal Group. "We wanted this put into policy." A week shy of the petition deadline, with almost 10,000 signatures in hand, Kronquest and fellow volunteers negotiated with the city manager. With his support, the city council revised its garbage ordinance last December to create a curbside-recycling service. "It took a citizen-initiated referendum--the first ever in Georgia--to get the attention of city leaders," Kronquest says. "Curbside recycling will now be a reality in Savannah." —Tom Valtin
Alaska: Commender in Chief
The Sierra Club's Alaska field office knows that a healthy salmon population benefits local communities--and its efforts to safeguard the fish are winning praise from unexpected high places. In February, President George W. Bush and Coastal America gave an award to Salmon in the City, an Anchorage program that works to preserve Pacific salmon. (Coastal America is a federal government initiative established to protect and restore the nation's coasts and Great Lakes.) The award recognizes all the program's partners, including the Club, which co-organizes an annual salmon festival and holds watershed walks and creek cleanups. Says Club staffer Katherine Fuselier, "Never did I think I'd receive a letter from President Bush recognizing my 'dedicated efforts to help keep America beautiful.'" —Heather Conn
California: Waves Beat Asphalt
It's going to be a swell summer at Trestles, a secluded surf spot some wave riders call the Yosemite of beaches. Thousands of volunteers, including members of the Sierra Club's Friends of the Foothills, jammed a hearing in February to stop construction of a six-lane toll road through San Onofre State Beach. After years of community protest, the California Coastal Commission voted against the 16-mile highway extension, which would have paved 320 acres of the Southern California park. Surfers feared the road would alter sediment flows, ruining one of the nation's finest surf breaks. The project also threatened the habitat of such endangered species as the least Bell's vireo. Says Robin Everett of Friends of the Foothills, "The victory is proof that when people speak out, they really can make a difference." —H.C.
Illustrations, from top: Ryan Burke, Lloyd Dangle; used with permission.