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A Book of Interest

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars:  Dispatches from the Front Lines
by Michael E. Mann
Columbia University Press, New York, NY. 395 pages (2012)

In the 1990s, early in his career as a climate scientist, Charles Mann, like most scientists, was mostly concerned with his teaching and research, not politics.  But that changed, when he was attacked by climate change deniers.

As he stated:  "My story is that of a once-aspiring theoretical physicist, driven by a curiosity about the natural world, who wound up as a central object of attack in what some have characterized as the best funded, most carefully orchestrated assault on science the world has known."  The central focus of the attacks was a graph of changes in Earth's temperature for the period from A.D. 1000 to 2000.  This graph, which came to be known as the "hockey stick" (because of its shape), resulted from data obtained from multiple sources, i.e., thermometers, tree rings, corals, ice cores, and historical records.

As a result of his ordeal, Mann wrote:  "Now that opinions about science have become just another way to wage politics and scientists have become subject to the sorts of attacks once reserved for the political sphere, there are some lessons to be learned from politics.  Chief among them is that a lie that is repeated often enough without refutation becomes perceived by many to be true."

The author also observed:  "Only an informed electorate can hold our policy makers accountable to represent our interests and values and insist on the development of a sensible climate change strategy."

This extensively documented book, provides useful material in helping to inform the electorate.

Submitted by David Newton

Comprehensive Two-and-one-half day Wilderness Medicine Course Offered by North Alabama Sierra Club

North Alabama Sierra Club is offering a comprehensive two and one half day course July 6-8 that will teach you the wilderness medicine skills you need to handle backcountry emergencies. This course is recommended for those that lead backpacks or even remote day hikes where EMS is two hours away.

From the Patient Assessment System through traumatic, medical, and environmental emergencies, you'll experience a wide variety of topics designed to prepare you to act if an accident occurs. This is a 20 hour course over two days and one half days. The course begins at 6:00 p.m. on Friday with Adult CPR/AED certification and at 8:00 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and runs through 5:00 p.m. You will have both classroom time and hands on practice scenarios.

Practice scenarios may take place outside in various weather conditions; be prepared for inclement weather. Participants will have to pass both a written and a practical test.

Red Cross CPR certification is a prerequisite for this course. Successful completion results in a American Red Cross Wilderness & Remote First Aid certification valid for two years. The cost is $80 for Sierra Club members which includes both CPR/AED and WFA certification or for applicants possessing a current Adult CPR/AED the cost is $60 and training will be Saturday and Sunday.

For non Sierra Club members the cost is $100 or $80 if CPR certified. The additional $20 may be applied toward Sierra Club membership if so desired. Proof of certification must be provided in advance. Lunch will be provided onsite each day. A non refundable deposit of $25 payable to the NA Sierra Club guarantees you a slot. Final payment is due two weeks in advance. Please send payment to Tom Burley, 11112 Memorial Parkway M 3, Huntsville, AL 35810. For further information contact Tom Burley at or at 256 883-4267.


July 2012

A Letter from Mobile

Kenyen Brown
United States Attorney
Southern District of Alabama
63 South Royal Street, Suite 600
Mobile, AL 36602

Dear U. S. Attorney Brown:

When you spoke at the recent Mobile Bay Sierra Club meeting (in June) I said evidence abounds that soot—from sources including Alabama Power's coal-burning plant in north Mobile county—causes thousands of deaths annually in America.  I asked whether this would be a basis for civil or criminal proceedings against the sources of the soot.

You said you would take into account any pertinent evidence we provided.  Some is enclosed, in the form of a story from today's online Christian Science Monitor titled “EPA issues new soot regulations.” 

It reports that “soot has been linked to thousands of premature deaths each year, as well as aggravation of respiratory illnesses, heart attacks and strokes.”  And it quotes the chairman of the American Lung Association saying, “The science is clear, and overwhelming evidence shows that particle pollution (soot) at levels currently labeled as officially 'safe' causes heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks.”

Isn't it true that behavior proceeding under color of law can nevertheless be found unjust, unwarranted, contrary to public policy, illegal, and/or unconstitutional?  Didn't this happen with the tobacco litigation in recent years, and with civil rights cases in previous years, and in countless other cases trained lawyers would be acquainted with though I am not?
David Underhill

EDITOR's NOTE: *What is the last letter YOU wrote to someone who could make a change? Isn't it about time we all exercise our hard won constitutional rights and get the attention of the big polluters?

Pollution in Perry County, Alabama

The following story first appeared in the June 17, 2012 issue of "Huffington." magazine for the iPad. To learn more about the magazine, visit

Booker T. Gipson, 71, owns a small piece of land directly across County Road 1 from the Arrowhead landfill, just outside of Uniontown, Alabama. He's got a modest trailer on the property, perched on thigh-high cinder block columns, and he keeps a few head of cattle in an adjacent field.
Off the front of the trailer he's built a broad wooden deck, which a few years back offered views of gently rolling scrubland and low forest. Today, the deck looks out on a small mountain -- now among the highest geographical features in the area.

It's built of coal ash.
"It will just about choke you," Gipson says of the stench that sometimes rises from the pile.
Patches of newly-planted grass and dozens of white, hook-shaped gas vents now cover the artificial butte, which was formed between 2009 and 2010. In that time, roughly 4 million tons of coal ash -- sometimes known as fly ash or, more officially, as "coal combustion residuals" -- were dumped here. Laced with a variety of heavy metals like arsenic, mercury and lead, it's what's left over after coal is burned to produce electricity, something the United States continues to do in prodigious amounts.

Read the full article here:

EDITOR's NOTE: Take time to read this full article. Shocking.

Governor Bentley Gives Up!

Sierra Club can't claim full credit.  Many have added their voices to the uproar.  But the Mobile Bay Group and the Alabama Chapter of Sierra have been persistent and insistent opponents of the proposed ruinous elevated highway across Gulf State Park.  Despite many potent supporters of this concrete atrocity, including mega real estate developers and the mayor of Orange Beach, governor Bentley has surrendered.  He conceded that his decision was influenced by "a lot of controversy."  That's us.
submitted by David Underhill

Clean Air: Another Letter from a Sierra Club Member

On June 20, the U.S. Senate, on a largely partisan vote, defeated Oklahoma Senator Inhofe's resolution (S.J. Res. 37) that would block the EPA's emission standards for hazardous mercury, some other heavy metals, fine particulates, and acid gas pollutants from coal and oil-fired power plants.  (Such standards were authorized by Congress in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.  Many power plants already have equipment that can be used to meet the new standards.)  The resolution would have also prohibited the EPA from adopting substantially similar clean air standards in the future.

Mercury is a neurotoxin in fetuses and young children.  Some other metals are known to cause cancer.  Fine particulates are linked to heart attacks, bronchitis, and asthma.

Because of these new standards, jobs will be created, public health will be improved, and health care costs will be reduced.

Alabama's Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby voted to block the standards.

David Newton
129 Carter St.
Auburn, AL 36830
(H) 334-821-9817

EDITOR's NOTE: Writing letters to the local newspaper is another way we can all get the word out that our environment is worth saving!

Bryan Burgess, Long Time Sierra Club Member Welcomes Agents to His Farm

When a small army of state and federal agents show up at a rural Alabama farm, you might expect a confrontation. But Bryan Burgess of Ashville has welcomed them.

Running through Burgess' farm is Big Canoe Creek, a relatively pristine Coosa River tributary that's home to more than 50 species of fish and an array of freshwater mussel species.

The government agents -- representing the Geological Survey of Alabama, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources -- have identified Big Canoe as one of the 50 best remaining aquatic habitats in the state. They'll need allies such as Burgess in the battle to preserve and improve water quality.

Read the full article at

Freeland heading up Forever Wild campaign

With the legislative sessions finally behind us, Conservation Alabama can concentrate on the most important environmental issue facing our state this year: renewal of the Forever Wild Land Trust.

Kathy Stiles Freeland, noted as one of several parents of Forever Wild when it originally passed 20 years ago, is shifting her roles at Conservation Alabama to be our Field Coordinator for the renewal campaign. She is implementing our grassroots effort to educate voters about the program to ensure passage of Amendment 1 on November 6. Our campaign is part of a larger effort being spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy and Alabamians for Forever Wild.

More News from Conservation Alabama

Conservation Alabama wins award for picnic table

Conservation Alabama was pleased to participate in and support The Nature Conservancy's Picnic for the Planet event on Earth Day. Our picnic table, designed and painted by Peggy Gordon and Jennifer Roe, won the award for the "Best Environmental Theme." We are deeply thankful to Peggy and Jennifer for their creativity and hard work in making our picnic table so outstanding. You can see a picture of our table here.

AARP honors Conservation Alabama

AARP Alabama honored Conservation Alabama last week at the 5th Annual UAB/AARP Aging Policy Conference. Conservation Alabama was recognized for its work advancing complete streets policies at the local level. We are humbled by the award, and we look forward to continuing our strong partnership with AARP to ensure Alabama's streets are safe for all ages of users.

Homewood latest to adopt complete streets

Last month, the Homewood City Council adopted a resolution in support of complete streets, becoming the seventh Jefferson County municipality to do so. Homewood already has a track record on being more walkable. Last year, ranked Homewood as the most walkable city in Alabama. This year, the city is investing nearly $1 million in more than two miles of new or repaired sidewalks.

Special thanks to Homewood City Councilor Fred Hawkins for his leadership in getting the resolution adopted.

Tentative Date Set for Alabama Sierra Club 2012 Fall Retreat

Stay tuned for more details in the months to come!

Event: Alabama Sierra Club’s 2012 Fall Retreat
Date: November 9, 10, 11
Place: Beckwith Camp and Conference Center
10400 Beckwith Lane
Fairhope, AL 36532-6008

Share Your Piece of America

This month, the Sierra Club launched My Piece of America, where we encourage you to share your favorite outdoor place and take action to protect special areas.

Many of our favorite wild places -- from the striking red rock deserts of the Southwest to the cool, leafy city park where you take your kids -- need your help to protect them from threats like oil drilling and climate change.

One way you can help right now is by urging President Obama to designate some of America's best wild places as national monuments.

Upload and share a photo of your favorite piece of America with your family and friends, and inspire them to take action, too. Visit "My Piece of America to send a letter to President Obama, upload your favorite photos and enjoy those submitted by others.

Sierra Club Outings

Summer 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 mountain! more>>>