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  November/December 2000 Features:
Generation Green
Nature 101
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Branding Baby's Brain
No Place to Call Home
Inside Sierra
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Sierra Magazine
Inside Sierra: Generation Green

By Joan Hamilton

This special issue began to take shape more than a year ago in a field in the English countryside. Gathered around a campfire were some 70 young people from six continents. As they broke bread and ate hummus together, they discussed how to defend human rights and protect the environment. There were rumblings about the demonstration against the World Trade Organization in Seattle three months ahead. But the group also pondered more personal questions: How should we begin our working lives? How can we build a community that respects other people and the earth?

At 24, Assistant Editor Jennifer Hattam was one of the older participants in the Awakening Conference and Camp sponsored by World Voices, an international youth group dedicated to social change. As she talked with activists, Hattam was quietly considering a different question: How should Sierra introduce a new green generation to our readers? She knew it was time to shatter the stereotype of the young knee-jerk activist who will show up shouting at any protest. She wanted to examine youth accomplishments and motivations. What makes a person knock on doors, or sit in a tree, or pull weeds, rather than do none of the above? In addition, she wanted to provide something useful for the dedicated people she had met, and thousands like them.

The result is Generation Green by freelance writer Heather Millar -- an on-the-ground, in-the-tree look at young environmentalists -- and a tool kit for activists, which Hattam painstakingly sifted from a mountain of material.

Hattam's partner in preparing this issue was Managing Editor Robert Schildgen, who approached our theme from a different stage in life. He's worried about his grandchildren, the youngest generation. They are growing up in a world dominated by commercial culture, as Constantine von Hoffman pointedly observes in "Branding Baby's Brain." Schildgen sees hope, however, in youth activists' pragmatic response to corporate rule. "They are smarter than we were in the sixties," he says. "They are much more inclined to draw on the wisdom of their elders, less involved in cultural wars, and better at using organizational muscle."

When asked how he would answer the questions young people were raising around the campfire, Schildgen (who grows his own vegetables and doesn't own a car) scarcely hesitates: "Live as frugally as possible so you can find out what's really important," he says, "and take the time to be a good citizen."

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