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The Planet
Who We Are

by Jenny Coyle and John Byrne Barry

Alison Horton - Lansing, Mich.
Midwest regional staff director

The light and life found in vast and seemingly harsh landscapes captivate Alison Horton: the deserts of Southern California where she grew up; the arid, desolate terrain of Botswana where she traveled with her parents; the tundra of Alaska where she worked and lived for seven years.

"The quality of light in big open spaces is compelling to me," she says. "I suppose in a way it's a spiritual experience, because I don't know of anything more rejuvenating for my soul than sitting quietly in Southwestern canyon country, or on some hillside in Alaska, watching the day break or evening fall." With a home base in Michigan, however, it's more likely that she and her partner, Kathy Mitchell, will load their canoe on the car, pack the tent and bring along the dog for a weekend in the North Woods. 

She'd like to spend time playing the piano, baking bread and working in the garden, but the job keeps her busy. She's been with the Sierra Club since 1990. Lately she's become passionate about environmental justice work. "I guess I'm drawn to the kinds of fights that deal with fairness and equity," Horton says. "I feel for the underdog. It's easy to see, when you're on the streets in Detroit, that a lot of people are not getting a fair shake when it comes to pollution."

Len Broberg - Missoula, Mont.
Chair, Montana Chapter

Len Broberg calls himself things like "bio-geek," and "policy wonk." Okay, so he's an environmental studies science professor who loves reviewing technical planning documents and developing strategies to oppose or support agency proposals. But this guy used to surf the waves of the Great Lakes - yes, on a real surfboard! That was when he lived in Michigan. Now, as a resident of Montana, he gets his kicks telemark skiing, mountaineering and backpacking in the high country. Geek? Wonk? Not.

As Montana Chapter chair, Broberg digs into the paperwork, but also likes to get Sierra Club members to roll up their sleeves in the field. Once, he and others uprooted noxious weeds near a roadless area. More recently he helped round up volunteers to give Montana residents a hand clearing space around their homes when summertime fires came too close for comfort. "We like to take pro-active, positive actions," he says. "We're not just complainers."

Perhaps what he loves most, though, is teaching. And with an undergrad degree in zoology, a law degree and nine years of practice, and a Ph.D. in biology, he's got plenty of knowledge to impart. The students teach him a thing or two, as well. "They're so enthusiastic about protecting our natural systems," says Broberg. "They continue to be a source of invigoration. They really do carry the spirit of Earth Day forward with them and are passionate about these issues."

Yeah, but...can they surf a lake?

Clyde Butcher - Ochopee, Fla.
Winner, Ansel Adams Award 2000

When Clyde Butcher lugs his large format camera into the Everglades to shoot the rich black and white landscapes for which he is famous, he doesn't even look in the viewfinder.

"Many photographers look for the artistic composition of objects. I look for the feeling of a space," he says.

Butcher, a photographer for more than 30 years, received the Sierra Club's Ansel Adams Award for conservation photography in September. He has donated his photographs to the Sierra Club and other organizations working to protect the Everglades.

He and his wife Nikki live, and run a gallery, in Ochopee, Fla., on 13 acres in the middle of more than a million acres of national park lands. 

When visitors to the gallery step back to view one of his large images - the largest are 5 feet by 8 feet - he tries to stop them. 

"I make my photographs big so you can't see them all at once. In nature, your mind puts the scene together."

People in Florida don't know how special the Everglades ecosystem is, he says, and how critical it is that they help protect it. "So many of us don't realize that we are the government. I like to call it 'the God of they,' as in, 'Oh, they'll fix it.' No, it's up to us."

Know someone whose story is deserving? Contact us at The Planet, 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105;

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