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Report on the Summit
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by Earl Bradley | 2005

The Sierra Club Summit was held this year in San Francisco, from September 8 to 11. In summarizing the actions taken at the Summit, Club president Lisa Renstrom sent out a rallying email. “Learning and change is difficult,” she conceded, “but we can’t just keep doing the same things over and over again and hope for better results. We cannot just rest on the knowledge that we are good and correct. We can’t simply tell more of the truth, but louder. We need to enlist humanity and engage Americans in our work and mission.”

Speakers had echoed the message. Former vice president Al Gore was among them, a last-minute speaker (he was supposed to be speaking to the Insurance Companies in New Orleans, but Hurricane Katrina hit). Gore impressed me so much that I was ready to support him as a 2008 candidate for president. He described the environmental issues the Bush Administration was ignoring, including global warming. Robert Kennedy and Arianna Huffington gave inspiring speeches, as did Greg Casini, Lisa Renstrom, Carl Pope, Marshall Ganz, and George Lakoff.  

 

Deliberative Session Results

The Chapter- and Group-level meetings prior to the Summit provided the basic information that delegates used during the deliberative process. During two four-hour sessions, we picked the following as top-priority conservation goals: build a new-energy future; build vibrant, healthy communities; and defend federal lands and public waters. To implement our agenda through influencing decisions, we decided on three focuses:

u Seek new allies and build coalitions

u Create media visibility

u Bring people together to take collective action

Discussion about how to better sway decision-makers led to agreement that we needed to aim more specifically, to influence (1) voters, (2) state policy makers, and (3) local decision-makers about specific places.

Carl Pope reassured the delegates that ongoing efforts on issues not designated as priorities would not be discarded—but that a greater focus was needed for Sierra Club efforts over the next  five years. The board of directors and their committees will use the results of this year’s Summit to develop programs for implementing the Club’s national goals.

Finally, the Club launched the Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Project and passed the hat (white sacks, actually), raising $40,147 from folks who want to ensure that Sierra Club staff and volunteers in the Gulf Coast can support restoration and rebuilding efforts. The Club’s environmental justice work in the affected area is considered more important than ever.

For more on the Summit, including transcripts of the main speeches, see the Sierra main Web site, www.sierraclub.org/sierrasummit.    n

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