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From the Political Chair

By Glynn Wilson

It's been one of the most interesting years in a long time for environmental activism, environmental journalism and the Sierra Club.

Since I joined the club and became Political Chair in January, I've made the trip to Washington, D.C. twice.

In February, I drove my camper van to D.C. and braved the bone-chilling cold to cover the climate change march on the White House led by the Sierra Club and the grassroots organization 350.

During President’s Day weekend and in freezing temperatures and against a brutal wind, more than 35,000 activists marched from the Washington Monument around the White House to support immediate action to contain climate change due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels.

Then in April, I flew to Washington and covered the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference where I witnessed the BlueGreen Coalition of union leaders and environmental group leaders come together to build a political coalition to create the green jobs of the future and talk about saving Democracy itself.

Some of the most powerful union leaders and environmentalists in the country came together in the nation’s capital to find common ground on the critical question of how to create jobs and improve the economy while at the same time protecting the environment of the U.S. for the future. And everybody there also talked about reclaiming democracy, a subject I've been writing about for years.

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The central message was that the country faces significant challenges in trying to create jobs, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and prepare for the inevitability of climate change due global warming from the burning of fossil fuels. That is the question for the leaders of the nation’s largest environmental organizations and labor unions as they struggle to build a national movement to combat climate change while creating good-paying jobs in every corner of the country.

I saw and captured on video the Sierra Club's Michael Brune at the same table with United Steelworkers president Leo W. Gerard and Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America.


Then I saw something extraordinary: the head of the largest and most powerful coalition of unions in America voiced his unequivocal support for the growing alliance between organized labor and the environmental community under the umbrella of the BlueGreen Alliance, a 15 million member national organization represented by environmentalists and union members.

In the closing session, the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka acknowledged climate change due to global warming is a serious problem backed up by science, and agreed to join hands with national environmental groups like the Sierra Club in the fight to create high paying, green jobs for American workers.

“For the record, I want to make it crystal clear that we firmly believe in and trust a science based approach to regulating our environment and we know that climate change is real,” Trumka said. “We also know that responding to climate change will give America a competitive economic advantage in the global marketplace.”

Also in April, I investigatived news the U.S. Forest Service-Bureau of Land Management plan to open up the Talladega National Forest for oil and gas exploration with the potential for hydraulic fracturing or "fracking."

In late April, I traveled to Montgomery and caught Forest Supervisor Steve Lohr admit on  video that he alone came up with the flawed map for the potential fracking zone.

In response to that reporting, the Alabama Sierra Club  wrote a letter formally asking the U.S. Forest Service to withdraw a plan to lease 43,000 acres for oil and gas exploration in the Talladega National Forest, adding our voice to other environmental organizations protesting the proposal

In early July, the Forest Service issued a statement withdrawing the proposed lease-sales in Alabama.I Furthermore, they indicated that not only the 43,000 acre map in the Talladega National Forest is a dead issue for the meantime, but that no oil and gas leases will be issued for any national forest in Alabama this year. This is how it's done, folks. 

Also in July, I traveled to Mobile, Alabama to cover the big town hall public meeting on the proposal to build an oil pipeline through that area's drinking water reservoir and the alarming expansion of petrochemical storage and transportation hubs in the city

Even the national Sierra Club leadership Tweeted this story, realizing for the first time that even if the Keystone XL pipeline is stopped, Canadian tar sands crude is already making its way to the Gulf Coast by rail.  For more detail, read related article in this issue of the Alabama Sierran.

Back in June, it was almost astonishing to cover President Obama's major speech on Global Climate Change, since some of the language came right out of comments made by Sierra Club Executive Director, Michael Brune'

It is obvious that the new management of the Sierra Club in San Francisco and Washington is making a difference and getting the pressure directly on the White House to begin to deal with global warming and climate change for the first time.

And it is now clear that new efforts on the part of the Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club are also beginning to make a difference. Let's keep it up and continue the good work into next year and beyond.