A Book of Interest

Merchants of Doubt:
 How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming
by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
Bloomsbury Press, New York, 355 pages (2010)

Five years in the making, this book is an interesting and well documented (65 pages of notes) account of the struggles to change public policy associated with second-hand smoke, acid rain, the ozone hole, and global warming, plus a revisionist attack on Rachel Carson.

What may be surprising to some is that a rather small, but effective, group of scientists of some note were involved as contrarians in these controversies. They had significant support, financial and otherwise, from those with economic interests in preserving the status quo. "In case after case, . . .a handful of scientists joined forces with think tanks and private corporations to challenge scientific evidence on a host of contemporary issues."

Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at the University of California in San Diego, and Conway, a science writer, have provided an insightful account of 40 years of campaigns to delay changes in public policy supported by scientific knowledge.
Submitted by David Newton

Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge Seeks Public Input on Proposed Expansion at Open House Meeting

Brent Elementary School, 160 4th Street, Brent, Bibb County, Alabama. Mon., July 26th, 2010
4:00 – 7:00 p.m.  
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will be hosting an open house meeting to request input from the public on the Draft Environmental Assessment and Land Protection Plan for the proposed expansion of Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge and the proposed establishment of the Cahaba River Conservation Area.  The Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge headquarters is currently located in Anniston, Alabama, but the refuge is located along the Cahaba River in Bibb County, Alabama. more>>>

3rd Annual Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival

Join the Alabama Rivers Alliance and Alabama Environmental Council as they host the 3rd Annual Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival On Tour at the Harbert Center on August 19 from 6:30-9:30pm. Wild & Scenic On Tour brings together a selection of films from the national festival held annually in Nevada City, Calif.
“We can all take simple steps to help curb our ecological footprint. The featured films at Wild & Scenic take it one step further, sharing issues on how we can get involved locally or nationally in our community,” says Tour Manager Susie Sutphin. “Our films help people see how we can fix the system to have more collective power. It's an empowering and motivating experience.”

The Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival was started by the Nevada City, Calif. watershed advocacy group, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) in 2003. SYRCL is sharing their success as an environmental group with other organizations to bring the festival to over ninety communities nationwide. It is building a network of grassroots organizations connected by a common goal of using film to inspire activism. The festival reaches an even larger audience in tour venues coast to coast with the support of their National Partners: Clif Bar, Tom's of Maine, Osprey Packs, Patagonia and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

The festival is a natural extension of the work of the Alabama Rivers Alliance and the Alabama Environmental Council to inspire people to take action for the environment.

“The heart of our work at the Alabama Rivers Alliance is motivating citizens to act on behalf of their rivers and waterways,” says Executive Director Cindy Lowry. “The Wild & Scenic Film Festival is a unique event that makes learning about important issues, like river protection, fun, and the films help inspire people to action!”

Date and Time: Doors open at 6:00pm and shows start at 6:30pm.
Location Address: Harbert Center
Ticket Prices: $10 General Admission. $25 Admission + Membership in the Alabama Rivers Alliance and Alabama Environmental Council ($80 value) includes access to special members-only VIP room with complimentary food and beverages. Tickets can be purchased at Sojourns Fair Trade Store at 17 North 20th Street Birmingham, Ala. or online at alabamarivers.org

For more information, contact Katie Shaddix, kshaddix@alabamarivers.org, 205-322-6395.

From the Coosa Valley Group

In June we had a return visit from Dr. Bob’s Traveling Snake Show.  Dr. Bob is always a popular speaker and he always brings an assortment of snakes.  He even brought some venomous snakes like the copperhead and rattlesnake for those who wanted to learn what to watch out for!  We all had a wonderful visit with Dr. Bob and his snakes.  Find out more about all the outings around the state here.

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August 2010

Sierra Club Outings

Don't miss a chance to really get outside, meet like-minded folks and reconnect with old friends. Come join us on the trail, in the water or just out for a stroll down the street! more>>>

Adventures in Dismals Canyon

by Dexter Duren

On June 19th the West Alabama Group arrived at Dismals Canyon Park to the sound of thunder and then a brief but heavy shower of rain. While we waited for the rain to end, some of us enjoyed ice cream bars. Then we went down the stairway into the canyon and began to soak up the cooler air.
Some of us immediately noticed that the Oakleaf Hydrangeas inside the canyon had just freshly bloomed, whereas the ones that were outside the canyon had already matured and turned green.

The Midland Watersnake (pictured here) was one of three of the same species we saw that day, but this was the largest one. It was incorrectly identified by someone – not part of our group – as a Copperhead! The photo of the group was taken at the “Dance Hall”. more>>>

A View of Offshore Drilling

by David Underhill, Environmental Chair. Mobile Bay Sierra Club
Presidents request money for distant wars, the congress appropriates it, and this is said to show that The People support those wars. In a true democracy that would be true. But here and now it ain’t necessarily so.

Locally, the refrain is repeated like a litany at a religious service that we support the oil and gas industry, including offshore operations, that we need the products and jobs it generates, that we accept the risks inherent in it, and that there is no alternative. All bow their heads and mumble along with the memorized recitation—or seem to. Because the leaders of this chorus are loud, persistent, and powerful: the chamber of commerce, the politicians, the major antique media. Their opinions echo through all the public discourse, creating the illusion that The People support them. But it ain’t necessarily so.

Many folks used to favor drilling for oil and gas offshore simply because they had never paid close attention to it. They just assumed that the companies and agencies engaged in these operations were competent and careful. Now that automatic trust is gone, replaced by questions and doubt if not accusations and fury. This shift in attitudes hasn’t yet been quantified in polls nor revealed in elections, but it is real and will endure to some degree long after BP’s runaway well is plugged or gushers dry.


The Push for Federal Climate and Energy Legislation This Summer

submitted by David Newton
At this writing, we anticipate the U.S. Senate will consider climate-energy legislation this summer. Given progressives no longer have a 60 vote majority, plus the potential for defection by those whose states mine and/or burn significant amounts of coal, the passage of a totally comprehensive bill will be very difficult.

However, the Sierra Club is urging the passage of a comprehensive measure. In a letter dated July 2 to President Obama, Executive Director Michael Brune urged support for a bill that includes the following:

"We [in the Sierra Club] remain strongly supportive of comprehensive climate and energy legislation. We will be measuring success on the results that the bill can achieve. Specifically, it must reduce oil dependence substantially, create clean energy jobs, and reduce global warming pollution. more>>>

Farmers Jay and Les Rivett with a table displaying some of their herbs.

August on the Farm: Making a Difference for the Environment with Our Food Choices!

By Peggie Griffin

As a result of the disastrous oil spill,  Alabama Sierra Club Chapter Executive Committee members have had an on-going discussion of the ramifications of the oil spill:  how it should be cleaned up and what regulations/rulings are necessary to prevent future oil spills.  Of course, these discussions always end with the thought that we as a nation need to be less dependent on oil.      

Industrial agriculture is embedded deeply in this struggle – beginning with the tremendous oil requirements of Big Ag.  The Sustainable Table website is a good resource for learning more about Big Ag and its downfalls.  more>>>

Threats to Health and Welfare of Gulf and Communities

By Carol Adams-Davis

On day 77 of the Gulf Crisis, the July meeting of the Mobile Bay Group Sierra Club featured a presentation by Dr. Riki Ott and Dr. J. Steven Picou.

Dr. Riki Ott, is a marine toxicologist with a specialty in oil pollution. She experienced firsthand the devastating effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and chose to do something about it. She has founded three nonprofit organizations that deal with the lingering harm from man-made environmental disaster.

Dr. J. Steven Picou, a Professor of Sociology at the University of South Alabama, is currently working on the human response to the BP oil catastrophe. He has studied the social fallout from Hurricane Katrina, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound, and other man-made and "technological" disasters. Dr. Picou draws a sharp distinction between natural and technological events. The drawn out recovery period and the uncertainty that comes with it make technological disasters much more threatening to the health and welfare of the affected people and communities. more>>>

A Letter to the Editor:

The letter below was sent to U.S. Senators Richard Shelby, Jeff Sessions, and our Congressman, Mike Rogers. Consider sending letters to your congressional representatives and to your local newspaper, too!

Energy innovations by the people of Samso Island, Denmark, include:

In 1997, Samso was 100 percent reliant on coal and petroleum for its energy.

We ask that you help to pass, this year, legislation to improve the economy, national security, and human health by mandating energy conservation, efficiency, and alternative (renewable) energy, plus limiting greenhouse gas emissions.


Raye and David Newton
Auburn, AL


Coosa Valley Locatarians have their picture made with Chef Chris Hastings. Left to Right: Peggie Griffin, Chef Chris Hastings, Martha Ann Burgard, Vicky Harris, Cindy Garrison, and Steve Garrison

A group of Coosa Valley ”locatarians” met early in the morning of Saturday, July 10 to participate in an outing that would focus on shopping and cooking with local foods.  The first shopping experience  was at McEwen and Sons Mill in Wilsonville, where organic, locally-grown corn is stone ground into cornmeal and grits.  The mill store also carries other organic or naturally-grown grains and flours, as well as gardening supplies. 

The next stop was the heirloom nursery, Petals from the Past, where we all participated in a cooking class led by Chef Chris Hastings from the Birmingham Hot and Hot Fish Club.  Chris demonstrated the preparation of dishes featuring local produce, including herbed free range chicken served on a couscous and vegetable medley and a fig tart.  We learned tips on preparing produce fresh from the garden – such as slicing small pods of okra length-wise to put in vegetable stir-fries – and that those freshly picked vegetables  add wonderful flavor to the dishes.    And then. . . .we were served generous samples of these tasty dishes.

We couldn’t go to Petals from the Past without shopping for plants.   Following the cooking class, we all headed for the plant displays to select  plants to take home with us. What an outing – no heat. . . no mosquitoes . . . a cool van to ride in . . . a fun cooking class. . .delicious food. . . and “good stuff” shopping.  

Living Lightly On the Earth 2010 Alabama Sierra Club Retreat

Hosted by Coosa Valley Group
Desoto State Park Nov. 5 – 7
Exciting programs and activities! Some meals will feature local foods.
Retreat registration and lodging will be Separate – watch mail & website Alabamasierraclub.org for form.
Limited Space – make lodging reservations by calling 1-800-568-8840 Double rooms $76/night Chalets and cabins (sleep 4) $128/night Camping also available.

American Trails Symposium in Chattanooga

Every other year American Trails brings together trail enthusiasts for a weekend of workshops and outings. This year the conference will be in Chattanooga, November 14-17, and it will be a while before it is in our area again. There will be many opportunities for networking with trail enthusiasts from all over the country.
 The American Trails National Symposium is your best opportunity to network with the nationwide trails community and learn state of the art trail planning, development, and management techniques. The Symposium addresses both non-motorized and motorized issues and our vision for trails and greenways nationwide. Dozens of speakers and keynote presenters will join us from the trails community across America.

The theme for this year’s symposium is Trails, The Green Way for America. This symposium's theme evokes the benefit of trails to America’s economy and environment. As we evolve toward a green economy, trails are the way for outdoor recreation and alternative transportation. Trails provide access and connections to many of this nation’s most incredible green spaces: parks, forests, and wildlands. Trails are a critical component of green infrastructure within communities, tying homes to businesses, schools, and workplaces, and empowering clean human-powered mobility. Trails support the new American dream which is built upon environmental and economic efficiency. Trails are, very simply, the green way for America.

For more information and to register, go to http://www.americantrails.org/2010 or call 530-547-2060.