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Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis coverA Book of Interest

Our Choice:  A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis
by Al Gore
Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA
416 pages (2009)

When it comes to climate change, Al Gore is surely a long-distance runner.  He just keeps on trying to educate and convince.  In this book, in addition to persuasive prose, he employs numerous photographs, charts, tables, diagrams, and graphs in an attempt to get the job done.  And the tone of the book is more upbeat than many published recently.

As expected, Gore discusses fossil fuels and the types of pollution associated with their use.  He also discusses several other topics, including the greenhouse gases, other sources of energy, forests, soil, human population, the electrical grid, energy conservation, costs (including economic externalities), and political obstacles.

Gore states:  "[I]t is now abundantly clear that we have at our fingertips all of the tools we need to solve three or four climate crises -- and we only need to solve one.  The only missing ingredient is collective will.  But we are getting closer to a political tipping point, beyond which enough people in all of the key countries recognize the reality of this global emergency and accept the challenge of working together to rescue our civilization.

"We can solve the climate crisis.  It will be hard to be sure, but if we choose to solve it, I have no doubt whatsoever that we can succeed."

Gore concludes by posing, and answering, two questions that might be asked by those who follow us:

  1. If we fail to act -- "What were you thinking?"
  2. If we take positive action -- "How did you find the moral courage to rise up and solve a crisis so many said was impossible to solve?"

In his responses, Gore mostly addresses the second question, and does so by discussing several of the social, economic, political, and technological issues addressed in order to be successful.

Submitted by David Newton

Local Hiking Trail Society Activities

The Tennessee Valley Chapter of the Alabama Hiking Trail Society put in a full day of trail work in November in the Walls of Jericho. The members spent several hours trimming back growth, clearing blow-downs, and doing general maintenance on the main trail down into the Walls.  The group will begin working on the new long trail in the Walls in January and is looking for volunteers to help. Sierra Club members are especially encouraged to come out and help since the group sponsors frequent hikes in the Walls. No prior trail work experience is needed. 

The group meets in the Gander Mountain meeting room in the store on North Parkway; the next meeting dates are Tuesday, January 18 at 7:00pm and Tuesday, February 15 at 7:00pm.

The next work day will be Saturday, January 29 when the group will be working on the new long trail section being put in the Walls. Please come out and lend a hand. When you are out enjoying a hike, remember that people were out before you building the trail and keeping it maintained for you to enjoy. You can be a part of this.

To find out more about the local trail work group, go to, or email Lucas Veverka at
from The Editor, North Alabama Sierra Club

Whooping Cranes Migrate Over North Alabama

Do you remember the movie “Fly Away Home” where a father and his daughter train a flock of abandoned geese to imprint on a small airplane so they can help them migrate south? In case you weren’t aware, this was based on a true story and that endeavor turned into Operation Migration which has since worked to lead flocks of endangered Sandhill and Whooping Cranes on safe migration routes.

For years there was one flock of wild Whooping Cranes migrating between Canada and a wildlife refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast. That group has grown from 15 birds to over 180. In order to help diversify the wild stock, a second migration route was mapped between Wisconsin and a refuge in the west coast of Florida. Cranes have been led on this route using an ultralight aircraft. This second flock of Whooping Cranes passed through North Alabama near Russellville just last.

The effort to bring the Whooping Crane back from the brink of extinction has been truly inspiring and it is exciting to now have a flock passing through our area each year. You can follow the migration of this flock at and even watch a live feed of the birds in flight on the site’s CraneCam.


January 2011

Sierra Club Outings

Made those resolutions yet? The New Year is here! Take a hike into the Little River Canyon, learn to find your way with an orienteering class, do some cold weather canoeing or just enjoy gathering with friends to discuss environmental issues! Come join us on the trail, in the water or just out for a stroll down the street! more>>>

Help Look for Sick Bats This Winter

Have you ever seen bats flying around on warm summer nights, swooping around to catch a pesky mosquito? You probably have! Alabama is home to 16 different species of bats, and they help control a wide variety of pests that annoy people and farmers. But our bats may be in trouble. White Nose Syndrome, or WNS, is a deadly disease affecting bat populations in the eastern US and it may arrive in Alabama this winter.

We need your help to keep an eye out for sick bats, and report anything suspicious. What should you look for? We'd like to hear from you if you've seen any of the following:

You can visit the Alabama Bat Working Group's web page at to see pictures of what bats affected by WNS look like. If you see anything suspicious, don't touch the bats. Please take pictures of the bat(s) and make a note of the street address if you're in a city. If you're out hiking, try to get a GPS location, but if you can't, please try to be as specific about the area where you saw the bat(s). Then report the bat(s) to us.

Visit our web page and click the button titled Report a Bat. There, you'll find forms that you can fill out to provide more information about the suspicious bats, and an email address to send the report and pictures.
 Also, let your friends, colleagues, scouting groups and church groups know about this effort. If the community can help wildlife biologists track WNS, it will be easier to figure out where the disease is moving, and learn more about it. Thank you for your help!
- Jennifer Pinkley - Alabama Bat Working Group

A GASP for Clean Air

from GASP on Vimeo.

This film was produced in honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Air Act and the citizens and allies of GASP, whose efforts forty years ago paved the way for cleaner, healthier communities in Birmingham, Alabama.

While our air quality is significantly better than it was 40 years ago, the citizens of the greater Birmingham area still suffer from unhealthy air.

A new grassroots group committed to improving air quality in the greater Birmingham area has adopted the name GASP, giving a rebirth to the spirit and tenacity held by its original founders.

To learn more and get involved, please visit

Plug-In-Alabama Readiness Kick-Off

Electric CarOn December 1, the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition (ACFC) presented, in Prattville, a workshop on electric vehicles.  While the organizers and presenters admitted it will take time and a significant amount of effort to bring large numbers of electric vehicles to Alabama, they seemed optimistic it would happen.  The ACFC press release that appeared after the workshop indicated "the event was held to formulate a plan of action to facilitate the successful introduction of Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEVs) in Alabama."

The somewhat more than 100 participants were able to actually kick the tires of an up-scale all-electric Tesla Roadster (from Tesla Motors) and Chevrolet's gasoline assisted Volt.  Although not physically present, Nissan's Leaf was described by a representative, who reported the Leaf is to be available in Alabama in April, 2011.

Participants were told to expect 47 models of electric vehicles to be available to U.S. consumers in the next couple of years.

Mark Bentley, Executive Director of ACFC stated:  “It is a reality that electric vehicles are headed for Alabama, and they will be coming fast.  In order to respond to the influx of EVs, . . . the state must have a plan of action in place. . . . The two most important ways that we can address that influx is to lay out a plan that will increase access to public EV chargers, and create a mechanism that will streamline the inspection and permit processes for EV owners who wish to install advanced EV chargers in their homes or businesses.”

The major stated advantages of EVs were improved national security, because of reduced dependence on foreign oil, and also the favorable cost advantage of electricity when compared to gasoline.  Global warming was barely mentioned.

The sponsors and partners for the event were Alabama Power Company, TVA, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, Alabama Municipal Electric Authority, Nissan North America, General Motors, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Submitted by David Newton

Sierra Club's State Lobbyists Meet

Focusing on state conservation/environmental issues, the annual meeting of the Sierra Club's state level lobbying "corps" was held December 8-10 in Santa Fe, with almost all of the states represented by Club employees, contract lobbyists, and/or volunteers.  Topics addressed by knowledgeable presenters were mostly related to energy, i.e., the role of the states in climate change, utility finance, distributed generation of solar power, offshore wind, nuclear power, national political trends, shale gas extraction/hydro-fracturing, electric vehicles, transportation, extended producer responsibility in waste disposal/recycling, and biofuels.

According to Executive Director Michael Brune and National Political Director Cathy Duvall, the lack of significant action on energy policy by the U.S. Congress, has resulted in increased interest in political action, e.g., lobbying, at the state level.  (The Alabama Chapter is represented in Montgomery by Conservation Alabama.)  One example of a very significant state-level success is the recent defeat, in California, of Proposition 23, which would have suspended California's landmark climate change law.

With help from others across the nation, such lobbying programs are organized by former lobbyist Paula Carrell, Director of State Programs, in the Club's San Francisco headquarters.

Alabama members who want more information on energy should visit the Club's website at  Also, you may contact David Newton at  Please include your USPS address and telephone number.

Submitted by David Newton

Cane Creek

A Recent Pinhoti Challenge Hike

photo courtesy Kim Waites

News from Conservation Alabama

Alabama ranks 42nd on emissions
A report released by Smart Growth America, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and locally by the Conservation Alabama Foundation targeted the country's inadequate transportation policies related to the environment. The report, entitled "Getting Back on Track: Climate Change and State Transportation Policy" ranked Alabama overall 42nd in the country for transportation policies that address climate change. With nearly 32 percent of carbon emissions being generated by the transportation sector nationally, states and the federal government need to focus more on walking and biking trails, complete streets policies, greater investment in transit, and reducing vehicle miles traveled. The release of this report is just one step in the Conservation Alabama Foundation's focus on transportation and smart growth in the coming year.

Voters reject Amendment 3
Despite the backing of powerful interests in the state, the $1 billion for roads plan was soundly defeated by the voters, 57 percent to 43 percent. Citizens saw that there were no guarantees that the worst roads would be fixed first; that transit funding was only given a cursory contribution; and funding for Forever Wild would be cut. Conservation Alabama consistently opposed this proposal because of the aforementioned problems with Amendment 3. However, we want to work with all interested parties to fix the worst roads and bridges before building anew, fund transit adequately to move citizens and goods around the state, and to continue Forever Wild at full funding level.

Hagood stepping down from ADEM
John Hagood, the general counsel at ADEM for nearly six years, has announced he will be leaving the agency to join the private sector. While disagreements between environmentalists, agency staff, and the regulated community could get heated at times, Hagood always kept his sense of humor with his home-spun metaphors. Over the years, John has brought a new civility to the discourse between the regulated community, the regulators, and the advocates. As a sign of his sense of humor and goodwill, John presented Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper Mike Mullen and Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen with the "Golden Horse's Ass" for environmental advocacy award. Best wishes Mr. Hagood - you will be missed.

AHTS 10th Annual Conference in Huntsville

The Alabama Hiking Trail Society will be holding a conference in Huntsville at the Monte Sano Lodge the weekend of February 25-27, 2011. Mark the date on your calendar now. The theme of the conference will be Building Trails to Our Past and the Future. There will be three tracks of speakers, presentations, hands-on demos, hikes, entertainment, food, prizes and a special key note speaker.
More details will be available later at

The Alabama Hiking Trail Society and its members are dedicated to planning, building, and maintaining safe hiking trails for all to enjoy and educating the public of the careful use and enjoyment of Alabama's great outdoors.