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Notes from the Sierra Club's Annual Meeting & Awards Celebration

The Sierra Club Board of Directors just met with volunteer leaders from chapters across the country for one of our most important traditions, our Annual Meeting.  Joined by members from the Sierra Club Foundation Board, we started by sharing thoughts on how to best achieve our goals in 2015.  We also took steps to better assess and strengthen our chapters' crucial grassroots work.

The Board took several important actions. We’ve long recognized the threat posed by the natural gas fracking boom – tens of thousands of new fracked wells now threaten our water, our air, our health, and the public lands our activists have fought so long and hard to protect.  We know that carbon emissions from burning natural gas and from methane leaks make reliance on natural gas a major threat to Earth’s climate.

Chapter leaders asked for a shorter, clearer, more emphatic national policy on fracking, and the Board adopted one --- making it abundantly clear that the Sierra Club opposes fracking due to its unacceptable pollution and climate threats.  The new policy will give our grassroots chapter leaders more discretion to decide the most effective ways to fight fracking in their own states.

We’re solutions-oriented, and the solutions we support are increased energy efficiency and clean, carbon-free energy sources such as solar and wind power.  Consistent with that approach, the Board also adopted policy calling for a 100% carbon-free electric power sector by 2030, and reiterated our aggressive goal for cuts in oil consumption as well. Ambitious?  Sure.  But the growing climate crisis calls for bold action.  We don’t need energy tweaks – we need a new clean energy economy.  We need to promote leaps in clean energy adoption and new, innovative technologies. 

The board also adopted the 2015 budget.   Our campaigns to speed the transition to clean energy will of course continue, as will our work to keep dirty fuels such as coal, oil, tar sands and natural gas in the ground.  

Successes such as President Obama’s designation of the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument near Los Angeles will help spur our work to protect even more natural areas that provide recreational opportunities near where people live.  Of course, we will also keep campaigning for permanent protection of more wilderness and public lands, for protection of our national forests, and for protection of the wildlife that depends on those lands and forests to survive.

The Board approved a new initiative to help our grassroots leaders build a diverse, broad-based climate movement.  We also heard from the staff and volunteer leaders of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee, who presented a bold set of recommendations on how to reach our goal of making the 122-year old Sierra Club the multicultural, inclusive organization that success in the 21st century demands. 

Our annual Awards Event honoring “Modern-Day Muirs” would merit a blog post of its own. Let it suffice to say  that this year’s event was as inspiring as any I’ve been part of.  Environmental activist and author Terry Tempest Williams received our highest honor, the Muir Award, and she gave a speech both lyrical and challenging – a call to for activists to “lay our bodies down," a call to fight for a planet in crisis and for economic justice.  Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota received our Edgar Wayburn Award, honoring environmental accomplishments by a public official.  He inspired us with his own call to meet the challenges of 2015. 

Most importantly, we took an evening to recognize great activists –  the students, the volunteer rganizers, the photograhers, journalists, and lawyers, leaders ranging in age from their early twenties to their nineties --the people whose dedication makes the Sierra Club the force for change that it's been ever since 1892.  It was a great night to be part of. 

For more information, and for a list of all the 2014 honorees, see content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2014/09/sierra-club-announces-2014-national-awards or https://www.facebook.com/sierraclubawards


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David Scott

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