By Della Watson
Grilled | On Tour | Northern Light
Invading the Privacy of the People Who Make the Club Tick
Photo by Beth Rooney
Volunteer activist with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal
WHAT'S THE BEST THING ABOUT LIVING IN CHICAGO? Neighborhood festivals, because of the food and music. Every week there's something new.
I SAW AN INTERESTING PHOTO OF THE BEYOND COAL BOOTH AT THE CITY'S FIESTA DEL SOL IN WHICH YOU TURNED THE GAME CORN HOLE INTO "COAL HOLE." At the festival, we collected signatures, and our booth had a game where you try to throw beanbags through a slot that represented the Fisk power plant. Each beanbag represented a poison—mercury, lead, arsenic—produced by the coal plant. We were less than 1,000 feet from that plant.
SO IF SOMEONE HAD AIMED AT THE ACTUAL COAL PLANT, THEY COULD HAVE HIT IT? We weren't within beanbag-throwing distance, but you could see it in your sights.
WHY DO YOU CARE SO MUCH ABOUT COAL? I grew up in a neighborhood called Little Village, which is near the Crawford coal plant. That's why it's so close to my heart. What gives me the momentum to keep going is my 18-year-old son.
IS FIGHTING COAL A FULL-TIME JOB? I have a full-time job at an office. The good thing is that I work nights, so I can attend press conferences and participate in protests and marches during the day. If these polluters knew how many people donated their soul and sweat to this campaign...well, they probably wouldn't care.
SOME LONGTIME ACTIVISTS CAN LOSE THEIR SENSE OF HUMOR. WHAT DO YOU LAUGH ABOUT? Sometimes I'm running from one event to the other and I realize that my socks don't match. There's no time to look pretty. You just put on whatever it takes to get out the door.
IF YOU HAD A SUPERHERO COSTUME, YOU COULD JUST DUCK INTO A PHONE BOOTH.
I would love to have a cape.
—interview by Della Watson
Peter and Maria Hoey
A giant inflatable hand clutching a big red inhaler is the season's must-have accessory—or so it seems from the prop's presence in clean-air activists' snapshots. Designed to draw attention to the connection between coal pollution and asthma attacks, the 18-foot-tall prop has made appearances at Sierra Club events in Arkansas, Florida, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. —D.W.
The spirit bear (or Kermode bear), found only in the Great Bear Rainforest, will be protected if Elizabeth May gets her way.| Ian McAllister/Pacific Wild
Canada Green Party leader Elizabeth May is determined to stop proposed oil-tanker traffic on British Columbia's coast.
May, former executive director of Sierra Club Canada, recently became the nation's first Green Party member of Parliament and an influential voice in the climate-change fight. During her 17 years at the helm, she transformed the Club's Canadian arm into a national force, with six offices and a $3 million budget.
As MP, she plans to challenge a proposal to pipe Alberta tar sand oil to the British Columbia port of Kitimat—from where it would be shipped to Asia. Supertankers would navigate about 250 miles of fragile waterways in the Great Bear Rainforest, the world's largest intact temperate coastal rainforest.
May is considering introducing a bill to ban oil-tanker traffic in British Columbia and says she'll support any related legal, peaceful protests: "We can't afford to take chances with our coast." —Heather Conn