By Della Watson
Grilled | Otero Mesa
Invading the Privacy of the People Who Make the Club Tick
Name: Victoria Pan
Location: Ridgewood, New Jersey
Contribution: High school coordinator for the Sierra Club's New Jersey Executive Committee; founder of Students Saving Energy
Tell me about Students Saving Energy.
For the Turn Off the Lights project, every Friday after school I organized groups of students to go around to classrooms and turn off the lights. It's so simple yet something a lot of people forget to do. It's not only reduced the electricity bill but also raised awareness around school for students, teachers, and janitors. Now we're continuing the idea with recycling. It's called Recycle Cycle.
Isn't school the last place you'd want to be on a Friday Afternoon?
We chose Friday because it's the most relaxed day, and everyone's like, "Yay, time for the weekend." And we always bring food so people can come and just chill, hang out, eat some refreshments, and go run around the school and have fun.
Would you go to prom with someone who doesn't recycle?
I wouldn't say, "No, sorry, if you don't like the environment, I'm not going to go with you." I would respect their opinions and see them for who they are. And then maybe down the road try to change their beliefs.
Do you have an eco-activist crush?
I don't know about a crush. I do have a couple of role models. You know James Hansen? He came to our local community college to make a speech, and I was really inspired. I also met Robert Kennedy Jr., and I think he's a good role model. And when I went to San Francisco, I met Bill McKibben. I actually got to sit at the same table as him [at the Sierra Club awards banquet, where Pan won the Joseph Barbosa Earth Fund Award, for eco-service by those under 30]. I felt really honored.
So, are you calling him up now, like best friends?
Oh, well, I wouldn't say I can reach out to him that easily. But I have contacted the young people he works with, and they're going to help me expand Students Saving Energy.
What are your other interests?
I'm an athlete. I do cross-country and track. I'm the editor in chief of my school newspaper, and I'm part of ALPS, which stands for Adventure Leadership Peer Support. I also like baking.
Ever considered running for class office?
I'm actually involved with Student Congress as a delegate but--
Oh, another activity. Let me write that down.
[Laughs] I've never actually thought of [running]. I'm already co-president of the Environmental Club, so I want to focus in that area.
What do you say to people who think teenagers only care about Justin Bieber and Twilight?
OK, first of all, why would people think that teenagers don't care about the environment? I know there's the stereotype, like teenagers are lazy and we're not very aware of what's going on in the world, but I don't think that's true at all. We can really make change. Who else powers the future? It's us. —interview by Della Watson
The Land Before Time
A group of pronghorn—the fastest land mammals in the western hemisphere—gather in Otero Mesa, New Mexico. | Joe Adair
The hushed, gray-green plains of southern New Mexico don't look like they were once a hub of cultural activity. Rocky slopes give rise to an endless expanse of native grasses punctuated by the occasional yucca or cactus. But Otero Mesa, the country's largest public desert grassland, defies first impressions.
This barren-looking landscape was once home to the Apache, who left behind thousands of petroglyphs. The stark white outlines of owls and pronghorn are a testament to the area's biological richness--and the history that could be lost if mining and drilling companies have their way.
Otero Mesa is one of several threatened locations that Sierra Club activists across the West are encouraging President Barack Obama to declare a national monument under the Antiquities Act.
Read more and see photos of these threatened American landscapes in our multipart Explore blog series at sierraclub.typepad.com/explore. —Erin Weeks, Sierra Club Lands Protection Team apprentice