Sierra Club – Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet

What comes to mind when you read the words Sierra Club? Backpacking, John Muir, Yosemite, treehugger, what’s the Sierra Club?

As a kid growing up in California, I knew John Muir was a wilderness conservationist, had founded the Sierra Club, and was instrumental in establishing Yosemite National Park. I thought the Sierra Club was a group of hardcore backpackers and wilderness experts. Later, I discovered it was that and more. I became a Sierra Club member a few years ago but still didn’t know much about its history or the overall organization.

123rd Anniversary of Yosemite National Park Google DoodleOn October 1, 2013, a Google doodle appeared honoring the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite National Park which was created in 1890. Unfortunately, due to the federal government shut down the park was closed that day. The Google doodle induced me to learn more about the Sierra Club and John Muir. This post is about the Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club

Sierra Club SealThe Sierra Club currently has about 1.4 million members and local chapters in every state and Canada. Its mission is:

“To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth;
To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources;
To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.”

Sierra Club History Highlights

The Sierra Club inspires people to go outside and explore and enjoy the natural world. It plays a pivotal role in creating, expanding, and protecting national parks and national monuments. The Sierra Club’s influence and activism contribute to important environmental legislation being passed and strengthened.

A few of the many, many highlights from the Sierra Club’s 121-year history are noted below. Check out the Sierra Club history page for the full story.

  • John Muir by Mirror Lake in Yosemite, CA - Library of Congress1892: John Muir founds the Sierra Club on May 28th in San Francisco, California and is elected its first president.
  • 1901: 96 wilderness enthusiasts participate in the first Sierra Club outing, a trip led by William E. Colby to Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows; this marks the beginning of the annual High Trip tradition.
  • 1927: Aurelia Squire Harwood becomes the first woman president of the Sierra Club.
  • 1952: David Brower is named as the first executive director of the Sierra Club.
  • 1960: the Sierra Club Foundation is established to support charitable activities.
  • 1966: the Sierra Club begins using ads to influence and engage the public to push for environmental and conservation legislation; on account of its political activities the IRS revokes the Sierra Club’s tax-free status in 1967.
  • 1971: the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund is established to spearhead environmental litigation; it expands and becomes the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund in 1997.
  • 1976: the Sierra Club launches the national Inner City Outings program to provide outdoor adventures for low-income and urban youth.
  • 1980: Longtime Sierra Club member and photographer Ansel Adams receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom for “his efforts to preserve this country’s wild and scenic areas.”
  • 1991: Adam Werbach creates the Sierra Student Coalition; he becomes the youngest Sierra Club president in 1996.
  • 2000: the Sierra Club Environmental Justice program is formed to address the Michael Brune Speaking at Forward on Climate Rally - Sierra Clubdisproportionate amount of environmental pollution and health issues borne by low-income communities and people of color.
  • 2013: for the first time in its history, the Sierra Club engages in civil disobedience which leads to the arrest of executive director, Michael Brune, and president, Allison Chin, at the Forward On Climate rally in Washington, D.C. on February 17th.
Sierra Club Outdoor Outings

The Outdoor Outings program sets the Sierra Club apart from other environmental organizations. Hundreds of trips are offered every year across the U.S. and around the world. The wide variety of trips makes it possible for adventure experts and novices alike to enjoy a trip that suits their interests and skill level. Each year, thousands of kids discover and explore our country’s wilderness areas via the Inner City Outings program.

Sierra Club Programs

Advocating and litigating for environmental conservation and protection is in the Sierra Club’s DNA and supports its mission. The Sierra Club’s current priority campaigns are Beyond Coal, Beyond Oil, Beyond Natural Gas, and Our Wild America. Other programs include Electric Vehicles, Global Population and the Environment, and Responsible Trade.

The Sierra Club and Clean Energy

On Monday of this week, my spouse and I had the opportunity to hear Michael Brune speak in person at an event organized by the Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter and held at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, CA.

While listening to Brune talk about renewable energy, optimism, and action, I realized that clean energy is THE focus of the Sierra Club, at least right now. Perhaps I am wrong, but it makes sense. It is critical we move to clean and renewable energy, and soon. Without it, there may not be any wilderness trips or national parks to enjoy in the future.

The video below eloquently illustrates the message Brune delivered to us on Monday, “occupy the Sierra Club and think big.” Ready to join the Sierra Club and take action? Click Here.


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Bioneers 2013 Conference – Turning Vision into Action

Have you ever been to a business conference where presenters not only cried on stage but weren’t ashamed of crying? Bioneers is an annual conference unlike any you have ever attended.

Bioneers is not a business conference per se, at least not in the traditional sense. Attendees won’t hear speakers talk about how to increase sales or improve employee engagement. There are no workshops on how to effectively use Internet ads or find hidden profit dollars.

The Bioneers conference brings together people across the spectrum of humanity to work on the business of restoring and sustaining the planet we live on. Presenters do tear up and so do attendees.

What is Bioneers?

Bioneers is a nonprofit organization founded by Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons in 1990. Kenny coined the term Bioneers.

2013 Bioneers National Program National Cover - The Inquiry of Gaia ©Jo Whaley“Bioneers are social and scientific innovators from all walks of life and disciplines who have peered deep into the heart of living systems to understand how nature operates, and to mimic ‘nature’s operating instructions’ to serve human ends without harming the web of life. Nature’s principles—kinship, cooperation, diversity, symbiosis and cycles of continuous creation absent of waste—can also serve as metaphoric guideposts for organizing an equitable, compassionate and democratic society.”

I like to interpret the definition in its broadest sense. We can all be Bioneers.

A major Bioneers activity is an annual conference held in northern California. Beaming Bioneers organizations around the country host local conferences where attendees see and listen to the national speakers and performers via video and attend local workshops.

Central Coast Bioneers – Beaming Bioneers

2013 Central Coast Bioneers Program Cover - Beth AlexanderWe attended our first Central Coast Bioneers conference in October 2012. I read about the conference in the Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter newspaper and bought tickets for my spouse and me. We came away from the 3-day conference enlightened, inspired, and spurred to action. We actually did things we’d been thinking about. For instance, we bought a community supported agriculture share from the Los Osos Valley Organic Farm we had visited, and engaged A.M. Sun Solar to install solar panels on our roof.

Bioneers 2013 Conference – Turning Vision into Action

I bought our tickets for the 2013 Central Coast Bioneers conference almost as soon as the email announcement landed in my inbox. I started laughing when I saw the conference title Turning Vision into Action. We are still working on our list from last year, so I wondered what actions we would add to it after this year’s conference.

National Keynote Speakers and Performers

The keynote speakers and artists we watched via video were as diverse as their topics and performances. I was spellbound. A few of the many highlights included:

  • Janine Benyus describing biomimicry with such joyful enthusiasm I wanted to run outside and study a tree.
  • Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins talking about motherhood and leadership with tears running down her face. I felt a connection and understanding even though our worlds are far apart.
  • Alixa and Naima, the Climbing PoeTree duo, performing their spoken-word poetry and movement were beautiful and powerful, amazing.
Local Conference

Nina Simons - Bioneers Co-FounderWe were fortunate to have Nina Simons attend our local conference to share some stories in person. She is a gifted storyteller; she radiates warmth, joy, and genuineness. Nina talked about how humans are hard-wired for story. Information and facts do not change people’s minds. A more compelling story might. What she said resonated with me and is perhaps the most important thing I heard at the conference. I believe improving my storytelling ability will help me in my own work.

We attended workshops about co-ops, divesting investment portfolios of fossil fuels, electric car adoption, social and environmental implications of nanotechnology, and the flow of thinking in our minds. We bought several books, enjoyed music by local artists, and checked out the iFixit repair café.

It was another uplifting and thought provoking weekend.

We are thankful to Celia Mingus-Zaentz, Stacey Hunt, Michael Jencks, Amanda Smith, and all the volunteers for staging the Central Coast Bioneers conference. We are looking forward to attending again next year.

If you have not been to a Bioneers conference, mark your calendar for next October and check out the Bioneers website to find a Beaming Bioneers group in your area.

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