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A Book of Interest

The Price of Civilization:  Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity
by Jeffrey D. Sachs
Random House, New York
324 pages (2011)

The opening paragraph (below) provides the overarching message of this book.

"At the root of American's economic crisis lies a moral crisis:  the decline of civic virtue among America's political and economic elite.  A society of markets, laws, and elections is not enough if the rich and powerful fail to behave with respect, honesty, and compassion toward the rest of society and toward the world.  America has developed the world's most competitive market society but has squandered its civic virtue along the way.  Without restoring an ethos of social responsibility, there can be no meaningful economic recovery."

This statement flows from the author's extensive experience as a macroeconomist advising dozens of national governments and international organizations.  He decided to address issues he felt existed in this country.

Using the tone of a Dutch uncle, Sachs discusses issues such as citizen discontent, income distribution, election campaign financing, lobbyists, long term planning, governmental regulations, immigration, globalization, corporate influence, hyper-consumerism, and a distracted citizenry.

As one would expect, the author also offers advice on how to correct our problems.  He does this, in part, by discussing "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Government:"  1) Set clear goals and benchmarks; 2) Mobilize expertise; 3) Make multiyear plans; 4) Be mindful of the far future; 5) End the corporatocracy; 6) Restore public management; 7) Decentralize.

This book is a very worthwhile contribution to the public discourse on what should be done to deal with the serious difficulties before us.

Submitted by David Newton

ADEM Cuts Funding for Water Watch Program

In spite of a three-month campaign to convince ADEM that the funding for Alabama Water Watch should be continued, the AWW Program at Auburn University will not be receiving a 319 grant from ADEM this year. Cuts to ADEM from both the Alabama Legislature and the EPA have caused them to cut their core 319 program projects. This grant has been the primary funding for AWW since it began, and it represents about 25% of total funding for AWW and all related programs - watershed projects, international work, etc.

Alabama Water Watch is a citizen volunteer, water quality monitoring program covering all of the major river basins in Alabama. The program trains volunteers to use standardized equipment and techniques to gather credible water information using quality assurance protocols, and to use that data for environmental education, waterbody restoration and protection, and watershed stewardship. Volunteers may participate in AWW by becoming certified and regularly monitoring their waterbodies. They may also identify problems by analyzing data and taking action steps to resolve water quality problems.

For more information about Alabama Water Watch and how you can help by volunteering or becoming a member, please visit the web site at There is information on how you can help financially and by attending a workshop to become a certified volunteer.
- Bill Deutsch.

Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail

birding trail logoAlabama’s newest birding trail officially opened on Nov. 17, 2011.

The nine counties that make up the trail are Autauga, Chambers, Clay, Chilton, Coosa, Elmore, Lee, Randolph and Tallapoosa. Three years in development, the Piedmont Plateau trail features 34 approved sites covering an area of 3.5 million acres. Take a look at the Alabama Birding Trail website, offering detailed information about birds and habitats found along the trail. The counties offer wildlife experiences such as Cheaha State Park (Alabama's highest point), Lake Martin, Fort Toulouse National Historic Park, and many others worthy of a visit.

The Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail is one of eight organized trails that will ultimately cover the entire state of Alabama. Other trails currently in operation are the North Alabama Birding Trail and the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. When completed, the eight trails are expected to be collectively marketed as part of a statewide system of cohesive birding trails.


December 2011

download Jay Hudson's Amazing Biodiversity PowerPoint Presentation Here!

Seriously, you don't want to miss this! Beautiful pictures and truly the story of Alabama's critically important place in the biodiversity of the world! Download it and watch it now! (It is a large file--35 megs)

Margaret (Maggie) Johnston describing the images associated with the tribute to Jay Hudson at the Alabama Sierra Club retreat at Camp McDowell in North Alabama in mid November.

2012 Alabama Legislative Session Is on the Way

Most would agree that getting to know the elected officials who represent you is an important component of protecting the things you care about, e.g., air, water, and land -- the special places in your life.

Of course, among those elected officials are members of the Alabama State Legislature -- in particular, your Alabama State Senator and your Representative.  If you don't know who they are, you should visit:  If you need contact information for them, visit the web pages that contain the rosters of the Alabama senate and the house of representatives. Links to these rosters are often available along the left  side of the legislative web page you are currently consulting.

As you recognize, all of this is to help prepare you for a visit with your legislators.  If you need tips on how to proceed to make arrangements and how to conduct an interview, you can learn more from this handout.  You may want to include one or two friends in the meetings.  Tip:  Meet well in advance, and decide on issues and presenters.

One thing you should do while you are visiting your legislators is to share with them the document on climate change indicators, available here.  You can indicate that this one-page document can be useful in providing "sound science" to constituents who need information about climate change.  Of course, it can also be useful in making the case about climate change to the legislators.

Another item that can strengthen your position is a bar graph concerning the frequency of tornadoes in Alabama over the last 60 years. 

This graph obtained from the U.S. National Weather Service in Birmingham.  Notice the marked increase in F0 and F1 tornadoes, beginning in 1995.

The 2012 Regular Session of the Alabama State Legislature begins February 7.  It is now time to get to know your legislators or to renew your acquaintance.  Be ready and go do it.  It is important.

Submitted by David Newton

National Sierra Club supports the "OCCUPY" movements

The Alabama chapter of the Sierra Club would like you to be aware of the following position reproduced from the main Sierra Club website. Most polls show that the majority of Americans support the goals of the movement. Understanding that there will be differences of opinion, go to our Facebook page for discussion.!/groups/108650485837116/

Sierra Club Stands in Solidarity with Occupy Wall Street Protests
TO: Sierra Club Staff and Volunteers
FR: Sarah Hodgdon, Conservation Director and Dave Scott, Vice President for Conservation

For the past several weeks Occupy Wall Street protesters have peacefully held vigil in support of a broad vision for financial, political, and environmental reform in America. From this creative hub of activity, a diverse group of students, members of labor unions, environmentalists, and concerned citizens have helped this grassroots protest spread to more than 1,400 events nationwide. Many Sierra Club staff and volunteer leaders have participated in and/or lent support to these demonstrations standing up for the end to corporate greed. The demands and values of the protesters are very much in line with Sierra Club's strategic priority of confronting the power of the coal and oil industries.

Volunteer leads and staff around the country have requested that we make clear where the Sierra Club stands on these protests. This memo is designed to provide our initial thinking and guidance.

In a vibrant democracy, peaceful protest and demonstration is among the highest form of citizen engagement in the democratic process. Since the founding of our republic, ordinary citizens have accomplished extraordinary things by joining together to express their convictions. It is our heritage to speak truth to power, and our nation's historic respect for peaceful dissent has helped the United States enact civil rights legislation, promote human rights internationally, and end unjust wars. Citizen engagement has brought this country out of its darkest hours and helped us fulfill our promises of justice and equality to millions.

The Sierra Club affirms its support for the exercise of political expression through the Occupy Wall Street protests. Corporations that pollute our air, land and water, that put greed ahead of community good, public health and the nation's economic well-being must be held fully accountable. In our work around the country, we have seen first-hand how international coal and oil companies have wrecked communities, polluted our environment, and dominated the political process. We stand with Occupy Wall Street protesters in saying "enough."

Finally, we want to make clear to all Sierra Club staff and volunteers, that you are authorized to participate in lawful and peaceful Occupy Wall Street protests in the name of the Sierra Club.

The corporate accountability message these protests are carrying fits very well with our strategic priority of confronting the power of coal and oil and contribute to our strategic priorities of building a movement and fostering key partnerships. We will shortly be providing further message guidance and support materials to help the Sierra Club add its voice to this powerful choir.

Interest in New Rails-to-Trails Corridor

There is some interest in the possibility of establishing a multi-access non-paved Rails-to-Trails corridor between the following locations in northeast Madison county:
Start: 741 Naugher Road, Huntsville
End: 858 Colman RD, Huntsville, or to extend all the way into New Market. A map is being drawn up to help highlight the location.

Right now there is a railroad easement where the track has already been removed, but the easement remains. This would be a great location for a trail which would end near Sharon Johnston Parknear New Market and it could eventually run all the way to New Market (7 miles). There would be readily available parking along the trail, particularly at Sharon Johnston.

If anyone is interested in helping to analyze and possibly help pursue this project, any feedback and advice are welcome, especially from like minded organizations looking to preserve beautiful hiking land in Alabama. For more information or to get involved, please contact Jason Rupert at 256-479-5034 or
For anyone who is interested, here are some GPS points along the possible trail:

+34° 48' 31.00", -86° 30' 0.00"
+34° 48' 49.4", -86° 29' 30.10"
+34° 49' 9.8", -86° 28' 55.3"
+34° 49' 27.9", -86° 28' 25.7"
+34° 49' 52.6", -86° 27' 47"
+34° 50' 35.9", -86° 27' 25.1"
+34° 50' 59.6", -86° 27' 16.8"
+34° 51' 28.7", -86° 27' 7.0"
+34° 51' 39.3", -86° 27' 3.4"
+34° 53' 2.1", -86° 26' 34.4"
+34° 53' 49.4", -86° 26' 21.4"


Sierra Club Outings

Fall is Here!! Take a great hike! Or just enjoy gathering with friends to discuss environmental issues! Come join us on the trail or just out for a stroll down the street! more>>>