Sierra Club

12:36 p.m. on November 24, 2009 (EST)
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Has the Sierra Club evolved into more of a Political Action Committee than a club with a broad scope of activities?

(I was a member for many years;I had to drop-out when I needed to severely pare my budget. I often enjoy perusing their web site. )

12:42 p.m. on November 24, 2009 (EST)
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The political activities attract a lot of attention, but local/regional chapters still have sections devoted to hiking, backpacking and other outdoors activities.

I'm told that some of the people at the political action level look somewhat askance at the people active in leading outings ("how can you hike at a time like this?"), but the Sierra Club hasn't given up its wilderness leadership component.

1:13 p.m. on November 25, 2009 (EST)
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As a member of the Sierra Club for close to 50 years, an outdoor activity leader for most of those years, and occasional elected officer of activity sections, my perspective is that the political activist side of the Sierra Club has come to dominate. That side has been there since the club was formed over a century ago (1892), of course, but not to the level of the past couple of decades.

A big reason is that the activists are just that - activists. So they are very visible and outspoken. They are the ones who do a lot of letter writing and visiting with the politicians.

Digression - the other night, Barb and I went to one of the local pizza parlors - yeah, we depart from healthy food occasionally. Anyway, they have a number of the wooden pizza paddles, the kind used to retrieve the pizza from the wood-fired ovens, on the walls with various sayings. One said the following:

If PRO is the opposite of CON, what is the opposite of PROGRESS?

Most in the outdoor activity side tend to go off into the woods and hills and do our own thing, while at the same time believing that if you don't show people what's out there that is worth saving and why it is worth it, all the rhetoric in the world won't convince people, especially politicians, to support preserving this tiny planet. In other words, yell at people and beat them over the head tends to alienate people. But show them and let them experience the environment in such a way that they have those occasional epiphanies that lead them to realize that humans are a part of and dependent on a healthy environment, and you get people who practice good stewardship and swing the politicians in the same direction. In Ken Burns' National Parks series, he pointed out how Theodore Roosevelt became such a strong supporter by being shown the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and other areas, and actually hiking and camping in them.

One problem that has developed is that the professional staff has a lot of people who got their degrees in political science (talk about a contradiction in terms!) and have little experience in the outdoors.

I don't know about what Tom M was told about the activists looking askance at the woodsy folk. But I have experienced myself some of the "office personnel" displaying the attitude that outings are really unimportant. At the same time, publications discussing the history of the club have a lot of photos and discussion of mountaineering in the club over the years.

1:21 p.m. on November 25, 2009 (EST)
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Considering that at its roots it was a 'tree hugger' group established by Naturalist John Muir as a way of preserving the Sierra Nevada territory, it is still a get into the outdoor organization.

I see it as two organizations that have some inter-exchange of concepts and activities. One is administrative and a lobbing functions, the other is more interested in kicking dust on trails. This is all bundled up in a hierarchy of groups, committees and sections.

Both ideology and exercise are good at what they do...just gives you a choice of how you want to be associated.

Southern California has active 'newbie' functions as well as world class mountaineering stuff going on. As an example.

and if you want to get to the hardcore:

The FWOC is an environmental active cooperative of which many Sierra Club chapters participate in.

12:08 a.m. on November 26, 2009 (EST)
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Your mention of the BMTC reminded me that back in 1961, I went through the original Angeles Chapter version of the BMTC, becoming an instructor the next time around, something I did for several years. I also participated in the writing of the original Basic Mountaineering text (the "red book", of which I still have a copy). I wasn't a "principal author" - the San Diego Chapter had charge of the overall project and provided the main authors. After many years, as the Sierra Club backed off of mountaineering as one of its main activities, the Seattle Mountaineers took over the book and renamed it Wilderness Basics (it covered much more than mountaineering).

The Mountaineers List is an interesting one, and set up in a somewhat arbitrary manner. I climbed and skied with about a third of the people on that list, but since I was really only active with the Angeles Rock Climbing Section for 5 years before moving to New England, and the list is only current members of the SPS, I don't appear on the list. Interesting that Bobby Lilley is on the list - she is well into her 80s now. And interesting that RJ Secor is there - according to him, I taught him how to climb when he was 16 years old and took him on his first multi-pitch climb (Ski Tracks at Tahquitz), along with Mike Sherrick (who lives in Sparks these days). I don't really remember that, though I do remember this 16 yo who showed up at one of our instructional climbs and was persistent enough to become pretty good, eventually writing several excellent guidebooks. I see him 2 or 3 times a year. He hasn't done much climbing since his spectacular accident on Baldy - a 2000 foot slide from near the summit down through the bowl above the Baldy Hut, followed by several months in a coma. That was on snow - I only climbed with him on rock.

Actually, the SPS isn't really hard core. The rock climbing sections were the hard core part of the mountaineering activities. But they were effectively booted out about 1984 or 85 when the insurance rules changed. There are a couple of SoCal clubs that are the successors to the RCS after leaving the Sierra Club (as well as 2 here in the SFBay Area). The present Sierra Club insurance rules do not permit "technical climbing", meaning anything above 3rd class (yeah, there are "outlaw" trips, and the Loma Prieta RCS is a "social club" of rock climbers who gather occasionally, but have an email list to arrange "private" trips).

6:14 p.m. on November 26, 2009 (EST)
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What catches my eye about the activist role of the Sierra Club is their all out war on coal and nuclear power. Without getting political here, I hope, there ain't gonna be an overnight change to green technology that will foster the recovery of millions of jobs lost in manufacturing and other industries.

6:41 p.m. on November 27, 2009 (EST)
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An interesting bit of history (since sabino mentioned coal and nuclear power) was part of the Dinosaur battle. What is now part of Dinosaur National Park was scheduled to be dammed, as was Glen Canyon. Glen Canyon, of course, was dammed, but Dinosaur was saved. During the battle, the Sierra Club, and Dave Brower, the Executive Director at the time (a paid professional position), were willing to support nuclear power plants in the Four Corners area as a compromise alternative to the dams and the coal-fired power plants. That area is where a large part of the uranium that is used in nuclear power plants is mined (some interesting and scary stories about that). The idea for the coal-fired plants was that there is a lot of coal mining there as well. In his later years, Brower did come to regret his having publicly supporting nuclear power, one of 2 or 3 things he listed as his major mistakes.

One of the big problems, of course, is that not everything is known about the potential consequences of using vs not using technology. The wind energy controversy is another example (the wind generators kill a very large number of birds, particularly raptors - something very visible in the Altamont Pass wind farms here in the SFBay Area). Hydroelectric plants have a high impact on fish, not only in the rivers, but in the ocean (a number of species, such as salmon, spawn and reproduce in rivers, while spending much of their life in the ocean). Hydro also leads to silting of the lakes and affects water quality. Solar electric requires many acres of panels and/or mirrors, which many urbanites oppose "not in my backyard", meaning that square miles of sensitive desert environment are severely impacted. Geothermal triggers earthquakes (some have been severe) and contaminates groundwater.

So the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Wilderness Society, Nature Conservancy, Audubon, etc etc etc have a serious problem trying to find technologies that solve one environmental problem while exacerbating another. It's the old wackamole game. The polluters, on the other hand have no problem, as long as the impact is not on themselves.

10:18 p.m. on November 28, 2009 (EST)
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Well said, Bill S., as China and India move ahead as they wish. I may rejoin the club because I agree with much of their agenda, in principle. We can't take our eye off the prize of alternative energy; how do we move ahead in the meantime?

7:11 p.m. on November 29, 2009 (EST)
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From 1990 till the middle of last year I lived in West Virginia.

The state economy is controlled almost entirely by coal extraction.

The preferred method of late is called "mountaintop removal"

It's pretty difficult to hike on a mountain that no longer exists.....

7:15 p.m. on November 29, 2009 (EST)
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70% of our current (clean) Non-Greenhouse gas producing energy comes from the 104 Nuclear reactors which produce 20% of our electrical energy. The Sierra Club won't acknowledge this and hasn't changed their anti-Nuclear stance since the 70-80's. That's enough for me to never support them.

7:33 p.m. on November 29, 2009 (EST)
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Apex7, you make a good point. Yet, I remember the Sierra Club being on the right side many times. I think the "activists" have caused damage to the club's image among many Americans who are, I think, for the most part, centrists in their viewpoints.

8:40 p.m. on November 29, 2009 (EST)
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70% of our current (clean) Non-Greenhouse gas producing energy comes from the 104 Nuclear reactors which produce 20% of our electrical energy. The Sierra Club won't acknowledge this and hasn't changed their anti-Nuclear stance since the 70-80's. That's enough for me to never support them.

I agree on that point but the problem here is that there still is no way to get rid of the nuclear waste so this is a double egged sword.ymmv

1:45 a.m. on December 1, 2009 (EST)
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That (waste) is the misconception pushed by the environmentalists. The "waste" is spent fuel rods which can be reprocessed and reused. That process would reduce the Nuclear "waste" to 1/5 of the original amount. France, Russia, U.K., and Japan all have reprocessing plants, but none here. Soon there will be technology that will fission all the byproducts. There are 435 Nuclear reactors worldwide now with another 400-500(100 in China alone) proposed by 2030, 50 are currently under construction in 13 countries. The world knows its a reliable, safe, pollution free form of unlimited energy and the U.S. is going to be left behind. Interesting fact, during the 80's, one reactor was started every 17 days worldwide, in 2015, it is estimated it could be 1 every 5 days. Wind and solar will never be a reliable energy base, it will just compliment whatever we decide to use, filthy coal or clean Nuclear. Its kind of ironic that groups like The Sierra Club with its anti Nuclear stance and their Global warming crisis agenda are causing other countries to find their solution through Nuclear Power. O.K. I'm done with this....Back to lurking.

1:03 p.m. on December 6, 2009 (EST)
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An interesting discussion came up around a dinner table of some people who are thinkers - sometimes with an unusual bent.

Why is most carbon on earth sequestered in, e.g., limestone deposits, coal, oil, methane at a depth that takes ingenuity to extract. If one were to postulate for a moment that perhaps it is 'meant to be' and that carbon is a risk, then there can be several sci-fi plots to explain it in more detail. Except for the last few tens of thousands years, there has been no creature capable of accessing the carbon and using or dispensing with it.

There are reasons for postulations of the 'why'. It is where the realm of philosophy resides. It could be, for example, that 'mother earth' is trying to 'protect herself' buy burying large deposits or having organism convert it to calcium carbonate in all the reefs and by shell fish in the oceans. Converting millions of years of investment in containment to just make billions of cubic yards of cement/concrete in a hundred years may be a mistake. It takes a lot of fossil energy to free the carbon from the limestone.

Even as fearsome as fission power is and the ashes of the reactors are troublesome, few are killed or maimed as a result of power production. Mining and processing the ore and rare accidents account for most.

But there is an increasing number of humans and fauna affected by the byproduct of fossil fuel. Acid rain, fouled land and ocean waters and reduced air quality both cause significant health problems for man, beast, plants and ocean. By itself, the mining and processing of fossil fuel is an immense problem affecting our near term future.

Considering the number of casualties per kilowatt/erg of energy from the two sources, fission is simply the hands down winner over fossil fuel for a safer environment.

Science fiction has a theme of mankind coming together, for its own common good - for once -- to fight a lethal foe - usually some creature or object from some source - out there.

Apparently those plots weren't too far wrong, except as Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy and it is us".

The resultant thought solution of that dinner discussion was on the order of: over a very short time, to take advantage of the cheap and accessible fossil energy supply to develop a more dependable fusion technology with sufficient energy being supplied 'cleanly' to correct what seems to be paramount problems facing humans. This project would have to be short lived as it will probably use considerable resources, and produce as much pollution as has already been produced by humans. It will take an incredible amount of ingenuity to determine how to fund development of that kind of a technology and to do it quickly - say within 50-100 years.

An international 'Manhattan Project' type of effort may be the only solution. This would toss a very large intellectual and industrial effort at several promising solutions probably squandering tremendous assets in need for a timely completion. If not done quickly, certain kinds of terror are predicted -- and we will be out of fuel anyway and not much better off. This represents the last ditch dream of the ultimate 'Hail Mary' offense.

As with any other resource that can be depleted, there is no long term future in fission energy.

In terms of our discussion in this thread, the Sierra Club, is a real wimp in its 'go/stay green' strategy.

March 29, 2017
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