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A Book of Interest

The Big Thirst:  The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water
by Charles Fishman
Free Press/Simon & Schuster, New York. 387 pages (2011)

One of  the first things one notices about this book on water is it was written by a fellow named Fishman.  He does not seem to be an avid fisherman, but he surely has studied water and the ways we view and deal with it.  Early in the book Fishman observes:  "Given that water is both the most familiar substance in our lives, and the most important substance in our lives, the really astonishing thing is that most of us don't think of ourselves as having a relationship to water. . . . [I]n the United States and the developed world, we've spent the last hundred years in a kind of aquatic paradise: our water has been abundant, safe, and cheap. . . . It has created a kind of golden age of water, when we could use as much as we wanted, whenever we wanted, for almost no cost."

The author expects this to change.  He builds the case for that position by examining the state of water in several locations around the world.  There are the rice farms and extended drought in Australia, the mismanagement of water resources in India, the intensive and expensive conservation efforts in Las Vegas, and the significant measures by certain industries to conserve and treat water.  These and other situations suggest we will be paying more attention and more cash for water in the future.

Submitted by David Newton

Protecting the Grand Canyon

The Obama Administration took a critical step in finalizing protections to keep more than a million acres of public land around Grand Canyon National Park free from mineral exploration and new mining. The decision comes as the lands around the Grand Canyon are threatened by thousands of new uranium mining claims.

"The Sierra Club applauds the decision to protect these precious public lands. The Grand Canyon is a crown jewel of our national park system, and an important piece of American history, culture and economy," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. "These public lands are no place for destructive energy and mineral development."

Each year, nearly 4.4 million people come to experience Grand Canyon National Park, contributing over $680 million to the Northern Arizona economy. These visitors come from across the nation and around the world to enjoy the grand scenery and outdoor recreation opportunities, and to see a wide array of wildlife, including the desert tortoise, the California condor, the northern goshawk, and the Kaibab squirrel--found no place else.

Extensive uranium mining in the plateaus surrounding the Grand Canyon would industrialize wild lands and Native American sacred sites, destroy areas important to dozens of rare plants and wildlife and permanently pollute groundwater and springs. The Colorado River watershed provides water to millions of acres of farmland and people living throughout the Southwest.

"Today's decision protects drinking water for millions of people in southern California, Arizona and Nevada who rely on the Colorado River. Radioactive uranium mining should not happen near our water or next to Grand Canyon National Park," said Sandy Bahr, Director of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter.

The Administration's announcement follows efforts by Congressman Grijalva (D-AZ), scientists, tribal and local government leaders, businesses and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens to secure protections for the region and its waters. The federal protections granted today respect permanent uranium mining bans put in place by the Hualapai, Havasupai, Kaibab-Paiute, and Hopi tribes, as well as the and Navajo nation on their lands in northern Arizona and near the park.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is expected to formally finalize today's decision in 30 days.

Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail

birding trail logoAlabama’s newest birding trail will officially open on Nov. 17, 2011, when representatives from nine east-central Alabama counties launch the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail. A ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. CST at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park near Alexander City, Ala.

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 35 approved sites covering an area of 3.5 million acres. When completed, the trail website, www.piedmontplateaubirdingtrail, will offer 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.




Fri.-Sun., Nov. 18-20, 2011

There are still rooms available. (HURRY! It is going to be great!)

The retreat will feature speakers on the butterflies of Alabama, political updates on Alabama environmental issues, Cane Creek Canyon and the state of Gulf Waters. And of course there will be hikes in the woods around Camp McDowell and opportunities for getting together with fellow Sierrans from around the state. Camp McDowell has lodges with common rooms, kitchens and a wonderful porch for sitting and enjoying the woods and there is good camping as well. Meals are provided at the camp dining facility.

agenda & directions | map of Camp McDowell

@ Camp McDowell,
105 Delong Rd, Nauvoo, AL
hosted by the
West Alabama Sierra Group


  • Paulette Haywood Ogard & Sara Cunningham Bright - authors of Butterflies of Alabama
  • John & Rosa Hall - "Supposed Discoverer of Alabama/ Prince Madoc/ 1170"
  • Jim Lacefield - Cane Creek Canyon
  • Bill Hamner, Prof Emeritus, UCLA - Marine Biologist "From the Watershed to the Deadzone"
  • David Newton - Conservation Alabama -"The Political Climate for Alabama's Environment"

Visit the retreat web page here.

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)


Council of Club Leaders Report-2011

Council Delegate Robert W. Hastings

The Council of Club Leaders (CCL) met in San Francisco September 21-24 in conjunction with the Sierra Club Board of Directors meeting. The Council is made up of delegates from each of the Chapters nationwide and meets once per year to discuss issues relating to Chapters and to present recommendations to the Board regarding grassroots concerns. I attended as the Alabama Chapter Delegate.
The meeting began with a brief discussion of the “Move to Amend” campaign and the need for Sierra Club support of this movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to remove “personhood” from corporations and limit their political power.
The annual report on the State of the Club by President Robin Mann emphasized the progress made in diversity training, fund-raising, and Chapter assessments. A new “Digital Strategy Department” has been created and will be available to assist with the Activist Network. The Climate Recovery Partnerships can provide funding to Chapters for campaigns aligned with National priorities. A Chapter-National Relationship Task Force has been appointed to improve trust between National and Chapter leaders.
John Barry again emphasized the potential for the Activist Network as a way for members from various Chapters and Groups to interact and communicate in areas of common interest. Sierra Club members can join the Activist Network at Select “activist network” in left column, and log-in (Username-“clubhouse” and Password-“explore”). Click on “Activist Network Teams” to see a list of current teams; or click on “Activist Network Online Community” to join the Network. There is also a shortcut via


Carol Adams-Davis honored by National Sierra Club with 2011 Environmental Alliance Award:

At the annual awards ceremony on September 23, Carol Adams-Davis of the Mobile Group was honored with the National Sierra Club Environmental Alliance Award. This was indeed a well-deserved honor and we congratulate Carol for this recognition of her energy and dedication to the Club. The following is the statement submitted with her nomination for this award:

From 2008 through 2011, Carol Adams-Davis has been a leader in developing Environmental Alliances for the Mobile Bay Group Sierra Club and the Alabama Chapter Sierra Club.

In January 2008, Carol Adams-Davis was the Mobile Bay Group Sierra Club’s liaison to set up a 501(C)(3) non-profit Sierra Club Foundation account to give temporary non-profit status to a newly formed organization called Earth Day Mobile Bay, until it could achieve non-profit status. Today Earth Day Mobile Bay is a stand-alone non-profit, no longer under the Sierra Club Foundation umbrella, but still sponsored by the Mobile Bay Group and the Alabama State Chapter Sierra Club. Representing Sierra Club, Carol Adams-Davis has worked year-round for five years to produce the South’s largest and most exhilarating annual Earth Day experience. With more than 10,000 attendees, Earth Day Mobile Bay has grown the environmental movement on the Gulf Coast through involving community groups, environmental organizations, (federal, state, county and city) government agencies, museums, schools, local businesses, and leadership of Mobile and Baldwin Counties in environmental education throughout the year.

Until the BP oil spill, Carol worked on climate change as the most serious environmental challenge facing our world. Representing Sierra Club, Carol has campaigned for Renewable Energy Legislation in the state of Alabama for years. read more>>>

Letter to the Editor: The health of polluters pocketbooks vs. the health of families?

Why would members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Alabama vote against improvements in the health of their families, constituents, and other citizens?  All but one did that earlier this year in a series of votes primarily associated with clean water.  Apparently they concluded public health and regulation of pollutants are not particularly important.  You can read about the issues at:

Recently, they did it again by voting for H.R. 2273, an inadequate measure to protect us from essentially unregulated toxic coal ash.  See the U.S. Library of Congress Website:

Could it be that contributions to election campaigns play a role here?  You be the judge.  Visit these websites that use data from the U.S. Federal Election Commission:  Center for Responsive Politics,; Oil Change International,


David Newton

BACKGROUND: 1. A recent E-Newsletter from Cong. Mike Rogers (Ala. 3rd Dist.) gives a summary of the way most Ala. Congressional members feel about environmental issues, especially the EPA. Rogers' phone number in DC is (202) 225-3261; in Opelika the number is 334-745-6221; his website for email is Contact information for other Congresspersons can be found with Google. Just tell your representative that environmental regulations are necessary to protect our health and to avoid spending additional funds on health care. Also, there is no evidence that environmental regulations "kill" jobs.

2. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson pushed back in the L.A. Times. Her article contains a good summary of the current attacks on the EPA.

Birmingham's Dirty Air

from GASP (formerly Alabama First) Temperatures have dropped, the leaves are falling and finally, ozone season has ended! This season was an intense one in the Birmingham area and we wanted to give you a synopsis of the challenges we faced. In total, there were 18 orange alert days (older adults, children and those with lung disease are at risk) and 52 yellow moderate days! Unfortunately, we even had 1 red day, in which everyone was at risk for adverse health effects.
We at GASP used some of this time to channel our energy, reflect and address the issue somewhat through writing blogs. They are permanently on our website but we wanted to make sure you have the opportunity to read them now! Especially since one of our new board members, Dr. Erin Thacker has joined us in covering such a pertinent issue!
"Collecting my thoughts on a yellow day" was written with relief after a string of orange days that had me sheltering my kids and feeling imprisoned in my house.

Save Our Gulf Waterkeepers Release Comprehensive State of the Gulf Report

Released 10/4/2011, "The State of the Gulf: A Status Report from the Save Our Gulf Waterkeepers in the Wake of the BP Oil Disaster "

New Orleans, LA - October 4, 2011 - Save Our Gulf, a collaborative initiative of Waterkeeper Alliance, including the seven member organizations on the Gulf Coast (Galveston Baykeeper (TX), Atchafalaya Basinkeeper (LA), Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper (LA), Louisiana Bayoukeeper (LA), Mobile Baykeeper (AL), Emerald Coastkeeper (FL) and Apalachicola Riverkeeper (FL)) today released "The State of the Gulf: A Status Report from the Save Our Gulf Waterkeepers in the Wake of the BP Oil Disaster". This report documents the progress, current conditions, actions of the Gulf Waterkeepers, and makes recommendations for restoration efforts after the Gulf Coast region experienced the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States, caused by the fatal blowout on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

Download the Complete Report at:

"The State of the Gulf - highlights the oil contamination found in the water, sediment, seafood, and sea life across the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the BP Spill. One troubling finding is that contamination in some seafood species may be increasing over time," said Renee Blanchard, Waterkeeper Alliance's Save Our Gulf Coordinator. "We are using this report to hold the oil industry and government accountable for a thorough Gulf Coast restoration."

Key Findings:

  • Long-term environmental monitoring is needed
  • The BP oil disaster is ongoing
  • This disaster affects both the nation and the Gulf Coast States
  • There is a critical need for Citizen participation in the restoration decision-making process
  • The growing public health concerns in Gulf Coast communities must be addressed
  • All Clean Water Act fines must be dedicated to Gulf Coast restoration
  • The Gulf Region must show leadership by rebuilding, recovering, and restoring sustainability

Topics & Discussions:

Citizen Monitoring; Results of Save Our Gulf's Sampling & the Examination of Government Sampling:
According to the testing results collected and analyzed by the Save Our Gulf Waterkeepers, the proclamation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the Gulf seafood was and continues to be safe for regular consumption may have been premature.

Health Concerns in the Communities:
Residents who live and work on the water, particularly people in fishing communities and the first responders to the BP oil disaster, are increasingly falling ill. They are being ignored by the BP Victim's Compensation Fund and denied health claims by Kenneth Feinberg and the GCCF. These victims are being dismissed and told to seek help elsewhere, without any referrals, suggestions, or support.

BP's Public Relations Machine:

The great disappearing oil trick: now you see it now you don't! Through a strategic and very expensive public relations campaign, BP has managed to magically convince much of the country into believing the oil is gone. The reality is the oil is not gone, and the long-term impacts are still largely unknown. Leading scientific studies demonstrate that three-fourths of the oil still lingers on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, creating an unprecedented and unknown new environmental reality for the Gulf Coast.

Where Do We Go from Here? Creating an Action Plan for Recovery & Preventing Future Spills:
After a short off-shore oil drilling moratorium, permits are being issued with no significant technological procedures adopted to prevent future spills of this magnitude from happening again. The BP oil disaster proved that the industry and the federal and state government agencies regulating and monitoring these permits were not, and are still NOT prepared for oil spills of National Significance. Lessons not learned are bound to happen again. Save Our Gulf believes that comprehensive long-term environmental monitoring will be essential to understanding, protecting, and restoring the Gulf Coast ecosystem going forward.

Download the Complete Report at:

A Canadian Perspective on Climate Change

Okay, first of all, we Canadians feel cheated. It was originally called "Global Warming" which caused great excitement up here in the frozen north. Was this the end of long, hard Canadian winters? Would we beat our shovels into ploughshares? Did this mean our credit cards would only be used to buy our insanely expensive gas now instead of scraping frost from our windshields?

Seriously though, we know mankind is hurrying the climate change process along, but on the other hand, we see the improvements we have made over the past fifty years in Canada and realize that we are serious about doing our part. For example, Nova Scotia has a far-reaching pesticide ban becoming law on April 1st. We already have tough laws in place protecting our forests, lakes and streams and although, like the US, we are a race of consumers, we temper that with rules governing our waste, such as the use of clear garbage bags (and how many you can place at the curb) to ensure people are not throwing things into the landfill that do not belong there.

Upon seeing what acid rain was doing to our lakes, streams and rivers, we enacted more laws in order to protect them. Farmers were hit with tough new rules covering the types and amounts of fertilizers that could be used on their land. Our automotive safety inspections had exhaust measurements added to the checklist of items which must be passed before a vehicle is allowed on the road. Canada is a clean country. Maybe not quite "Disneyland" clean, but pretty close.


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>>>