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Volunteer Energy Overflows at Chapter Jamboree
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by Sarah Peters | 2011

As a first-time participant in the Maryland Chapter’s biennial Jamboree, I was blown away by the sheer enthusiasm and camaraderie of my fellow attendees. All of us were inspired by Executive Director Michael Brune’s stirring Friday night kick-off speech on the Beyond Coal campaign. When Director Brune stated that from 2002-2010 the Sierra Club stopped 154 new coal power plants, the room burst into vigorous applause.

Volunteer Energy Overflows at Chapter Jamboree

 

By Sarah Peters—As a first-time participant in the Maryland Chapter’s biennial Jamboree, I was blown away by the sheer enthusiasm and camaraderie of my fellow attendees. All of us were inspired by Executive Director Michael Brune’s stirring Friday night kick-off speech on the Beyond Coal campaign. When Director Brune stated that from 2002-2010 the Sierra Club stopped 154 new coal power plants, the room burst into vigorous applause.

 

The heart of the Sierra Club will always be the energy that volunteers contribute every day. Despite the dismal weather, this energy was on full display during the Jamboree with some help from ample stores of coffee and homemade food. A band of intrepid Sierrans ventured into the cold rain for Bioblitz hikes led by Marc Imlay, Biodiversity and Stewardship Chair of the Conservation Committee. On Saturday night, we danced our hearts out to the band Pressing Strings and raised money for the chapter through a live auction.

 

For five-time Jamboree participant Anne Ambler of Montgomery County, Director Brune’s speech was this year’s highlight. She was impressed by how much organizers have refined the logistics of this event. She said that this Jamboree was a “fine-oiled machine” compared to the first Jamboree she attended. Though the weather did not cooperate, Ms. Ambler said the Bioblitz was a welcome addition to the Jamboree. She also fondly remembered the square dancing from the first two Jamborees she attended. Ms. Ambler served as Montgomery County Group Chair for several years and now works on stream protection with the Neighbors of the Northwest Branch (http://www.neighborsnwb.org/).

 

But fun aside, we all came to the Jamboree to learn how we can contribute to improving Maryland’s environment. The Grassroots and Lobby Training session, run by Jennifer Searfoss, stood out the most to me. This workshop was incredibly useful for anyone participating in the Sierra Club’s offshore wind and clean water legislative campaigns. Ms. Searfoss strongly recommends handwriting personal letters to your local policymakers for maximum effect. When she writes letters, she even includes pictures drawn by her nephews for that personal touch. Ms. Searfoss cautioned that when writing about an issue, you should always present it as a problem with specific examples and provide a solution. Without a solution, lawmakers are unlikely to take action on an issue.

 

Another highly effective lobbying strategy is meeting policymakers in their offices. As with writing letters, ensure that you present the issue with specific examples and provide a solution. After the meeting, send a thank-you letter and make sure to stay in touch. Offer yourself as a resource by sending relevant articles. Ms. Searfoss even sends birthday and holiday cards to the legislators with whom she has built a relationship. If you do not have time to write a letter or meet in-person, then make a phone call!

 

The Sierra Club is ramping up their 2012 legislative campaigns in preparation for the Maryland legislature’s January-April 2012 session. You can contact Chris Bryan (chris.bryan@mdsierra.org), the legislative chair, for more information on how to become involved. You can also visit mlis.state.md.us to learn more about the Maryland General Assembly and find your legislators. The Sierra Club needs your help now more than ever to make offshore wind a reality for Maryland! 

 

Sarah Peters is a member of the Catoctin Group and a recent graduate of Gettysburg College, where she earned a degree in Environmental Studies. She is especially interested in climate change issues, and volunteers as a writer for Chesapeake and for the MD Sierra Club Legislative Committee.    

 

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