By Della Watson
Grilled | Mountaintop Renewal | That's a Rap
Invading the Privacy of the People Who Make the Club Tick
Photo by Will Crocker
Sierra Student Coalition representative
There were a few occasions when girls just saw a bus and were like, "Oh my god, Ben Harper!" and came knocking on our bus. But Ben had his own bus. We thought about coming up with some story—"Yeah, I was playing keyboard in the back. You didn't see me." But eventually we were like, "This isn't Ben Harper's bus." And of course they thought we were lying.
I think it was a good thing that security was there.
Not really. The shows were all on college campuses. Well, what do you mean by "hedonistic"?
I never saw that.
We were with a bunch of people from environmental nonprofits on a veggie-diesel bus. I remember at one point one of the girls finished a drink and threw the bottle in the recycling bin, and the tour coordinator looked at her and just burst out laughing. He's like, "I'm sorry, y'all. I've been on so many tours and I've never seen anything like this." The crew talked about how on other buses there'd be booze and drugs and people going wild, and here we were recycling and drinking out of compostable cups.
I gathered signatures to get coal ash regulated. The students were really interested in the cause. I was surprised, particularly in coal country. Anytime I've ever done tabling before, a lot of people want to debate, tell you you're wrong. I almost never experienced that.
I mostly listen to funk and brass bands. Galactic and Rebirth Brass Band are two of the biggest down here. Papa Grows Funk is another one of my favorite local bands. Soul Rebels put on a great show—they play a block from my house like every week. That's New Orleans for ya. —interview by Della Watson
Do you know a Sierra Club volunteer who deserves recognition? Send nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Nancy Bonhaus
On a March morning, 60 volunteers gathered on a desolate mountaintop in Letcher County, Kentucky, to honor Sierra Club organizer John Cleveland, who died in September 2008 at the age of 55. They planted 7,000 native hardwood trees to commemorate Cleveland and his work.
The area had been decimated by a mountaintop-removal coal mining operation that had blasted the peak and pushed fertile topsoil into surrounding hollows and streams. At the time of his death, Cleveland was pushing to have the land reforested.
The property, which has been in the family of Cleveland's widow, Artie Ann Bates, for generations, had been mined since 1907, when Bates's great-uncle signed over subsurface rights to the coal below. The couple became vocal anti-coal advocates when they moved back to the homestead in the late 1980s and saw the devastation wrought by mountaintop-removal mining.
"I knew this holler the way it had been for hundreds of millions of years," Bates, said. "But my son never knew that, because it was irreparably changed in a generation." The couple's outspokenness hadn't always won friends in a small, impoverished community where mining means jobs.
So when Bates gathered with volunteers to honor her husband, the planting became a deeply moving act: "It can never go back to the way it was, but this is the best that can happen," she said. "There's something different happening now—something restorative." —John Heckman Wright
That's a Rap
More than 800 young people sent in video applications for the Best Internship on Earth, vying for a chance to spend the summer hiking, rafting, and camping as an Outdoors Youth Ambassador for the Sierra Club. Evan Geary, a 23-year-old NYU alum, scored the eight-week gig with his witty eco-rap. You can see the winning entry, and watch his video blogs, at sierraclub.org/bestinternship.