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Don't Forget to Vote for Alabama Sierra Club Leaders!

Ballots were mailed last month, along with information about Forever Wild and the upcoming Annual Retreat. Please take a moment to vote and mail your ballot back in!

A Book of Interest

Unaccountable:  What Hospitals Won't Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care
by Marty Makary, MD
Bloomsbury Press, New York
246 pages (2012)

Unaccountable Book Cover

You know the author is on a mission when he writes in language this direct:  "As a busy doctor, I have watched patients increasingly fed up with a fragmented health care system littered with perverse incentives.  It's an industry that does not abide by the same principles of accountability for performance that govern other industries.  Instead, our health care system leaves its customers walking in blind.  All while simply rewarding doctors for doing more."  Strong words, indeed.

This was penned by a practicing surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  Author Makary backs his accusations with situations at several hospitals and with data from surveys of hospitals , e.g., surgical outcomes, employee concern for safety.  As you would expect, he doesn't identify specific patients, health care workers, or hospitals.  However, he decries the lack of public information that would, he believes, help patients make informed decisions, save money, result in fewer tests and procedures, and lead to better healthcare outcomes.  Makary's concerns and actions led to his being named director of surgery quality and safety at Johns Hopkins.

Makary is convinced we need much more transparency in medicine.  "Transparency has the power not just to improve the experience of patients, but to transform the business of health care in America.  . . .The simplest, most economical solution to the problems of our complex system is to empower patients with information. . . . With accountability, medicine can address the cost crisis, deliver safer care, and earn once more the trust of the communities we serve."

Submitted by David Newton

Stop the Blank Checks

The natural gas industry wants to ship fracked liquefied natural gas to other countries to profit even more, while leaving our communities to deal with consequences -- including poisoned drinking water, air pollution, and destroyed coasts.

It is up to us to tell President Obama the natural gas industry does not deserve a blank check to put our communities at risk.


December 2012

Alabama Wins with Forever Wild

by Robert W. Hastings

Thanks to a coalition of almost 200 organizations which came together as Alabamians for Forever Wild, the constitutional amendment to renew the Forever Wild program for another 20 years was approved by over 75% of Alabama voters. With funding from a National Sierra Club grant, the Alabama Chapter was able to take an active role in lobbying for renewal of Forever Wild. Special credit must be given to David Newton, longtime Sierra Club member, who took the lead in requesting the grant from National. In addition, our newsletter editor Joe Watts worked tirelessly to get publicity mailings out to our members in the weeks prior to the election. We should also thank Adam Snyder and Kathy Freeland of Conservation Alabama, Tim Gothard of Alabama Wildlife Federation, and Bee Frederick, campaign manager for Alabamians for Forever Wild, for their leadership in lobbying for Forever Wild. For the next 20 years, Forever Wild will continue adding to Alabama’s inventory of public lands for hunting, fishing, hiking, birding, and other outdoor recreational activities.

During the previous 20 years, more than 227,000 acres of land has been purchased by Forever Wild and made available to the public for state parks, wildlife management areas, and nature preserves. These have included some of the favorite outings sites for Sierra Club members, such as the Walls of Jericho and the Mobile/Tensaw Delta. And yet Alabama continues to trail other southern states in the amount of public conservation land, with only 4% (compared to 6-9 % for other southern states). The state now has the opportunity to continue correcting this deficiency by purchasing additional natural areas from willing sellers at no cost to taxpayers. Forever Wild purchases are funded by interest earned on the Alabama Trust Fund account supported by payments from offshore drilling. All Alabamians, as well as tourists who visit the state, benefit form this program. Alabama is a beautiful state with fantastic natural resources and scenic areas.  Forever Wild helps to protect these areas for future generations.

Report from the Montgomery Group: Outing to Fort Toulouse

We had a great hike out at Fort Toulouse historic site the other day. As a joint 4-H hike, it did not turned out as planned. But they did feed us and no one claimed about Brenda’s fair! Some photos of the event.

I have an idea for a new TV series starring Roger and Jackie. We can call it “CSI: Leaves”. As God is my witness, they would pick up a fraction of a decayed leaf and debate its origin! I wish I was half that smart.

Highlights from the 2012 Annual Retreat

The Mobile Bay group organized a great retreat for all who attended. Thank you, Carol and her crew! Every detail was covered and in place. Nicely done! You can see more from the retreat at the Locust Fork-Journal: Article and Video from the Alabama Sierra Club Annual Retreat (video)

2013 Alabama Sierra Club Work Plan

Now that we have been successful in our joint Forever Wild campaign, it is time for us to undertake another statewide campaign. National Sierra Club is offering limited staff support in developing a statewide plan if it is in line with one of National campaigns. Bob Hastings, Peggie Griffin, and Margo Rebar were given the task to consider several options: Beyond Coal; Clean Energy; Protecting Water.

After discussion and after considering the emphasis of several retreat speakers on water issues in Alabama, we settled on a campaign to convince the state to adopt a water management plan which includes good protection for environmental flow of streams throughout the state. Alabama Rivers Alliance (ARA) has been working on this issue for a decade or so. We propose that Alabama Sierra Club work with the ARA coalition to educate our citizens and officials about the importance of a management plan and to influence the language included in the management plan to protect natural water flows which protect species. By way of background, Alabama is the only state without a statewide management plan which puts our state at a great disadvantage in our "water war" with Georgia and in encouraging clean industries, improving agricultural practices, protecting our drinking water supplies, and providing protection for species diversity.

2013 Annual Retreat Planned

North Alabama group will host the next annual retreat at Camp McDowell the weekend of October 5-6, 2013. Set aside the date now....

Climate Change Hits Home

Last month, for the first time since Hurricane Sandy hit, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune visited the beachfront community in New Jersey where he grew up. The damage was so extensive that the area is closed off and there is still no power or clean water. Brune's family and their neighbors were allowed to enter the barrier island for just seven hours.

Visit our new website, Climate Comes Home, to read what he and others had to say and see the devastation.

Choose Revolution

Sierra Club President Allison Chin joined 3,000 other activists on November 18 for a march on the White House and a rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. Chin and others -- including founder Bill McKibben -- called on President Obama to stop tar sands development, reject the Keystone XL pipeline, and promote clean energy solutions to combat the climate crisis.

"Will America be the victim of climate disruption, or will we be the hero of a clean energy revolution?" Chin asked. "I choose the revolution!"

Huge Victory for Our Mountains

One can only imagine what John Muir would have thought of mountaintop removal coal mining. But he'd certainly have celebrated this month’s announcement that the Patriot Coal Corporation has entered into an agreement with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups to end its involvement in this destructive practice.

But other coal companies are moving forward with plans to blow the tops off mountains and bury streams all across Appalachia. Send a message to the EPA, letting them know that protecting Appalachia from destructive coal mining should be a top priority for the next Obama administration.

Sierra Club Outings

FALL is Here and Winter Just Around the Corner!! 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 mountain! more>>>