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Letter from the Chair Changes and Challenges
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by David O’Leary | 2012

Change is all around us— changes in the weather, in politics, and in many aspects of our personal lives. We meet new people, start new jobs, and experience changes in our families. Fewer than four years ago, Obama was elected President, and optimism around the potential for change increased. Within two years, the rise of the “Tea Party” also heralded a different kind of change, and the next election is coming up soon.

By David O’Leary—Change is all around us— changes in the weather, in politics, and in many aspects of our personal lives. We meet new people, start new jobs, and experience changes in our families. Fewer than four years ago, Obama was elected President, and optimism around the potential for change increased. Within two years, the rise of the “Tea Party” also heralded a different kind of change, and the next election is coming up soon.

     In the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club, we’ve also seen a lot of changes. Conservation campaigns come and go and evolve—we win some campaigns, and some we lose. Some we choose; but some campaigns, especially fighting against particularly egregious proposals and violations, are imposed on us, or at least we are obligated by our mission to respond as we are able.

     Fortunately, many recent changes in the Maryland Chapter help us to be better prepared to respond to the environmental challenges we face. With more staff, we have additional capacity to work on a broader range of issues. We also have the opportunity to be more proactive, advocating in favor of long term solutions and approaches, rather than only fighting against the worst attacks against the environment and the health of our families and communities.

      In January, I accepted the challenge of serving as the new Maryland Chapter Chair. After a few months on the job, I continue to feel a mix of excitement and concern. This is a big job, but there are many people helping. If you’ve visited or contacted the chapter office over the past several months or read the email alerts, you probably noticed some new faces and names. Our long-term Chapter Coordinator, Laurel Imlay, is always happy to help answer questions. Claudia Friedetzy continues to coordinate our water resources campaigns—working to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and our local streams and rivers. The chapter added three new staff members in the latter part of 2011. Our new Chapter Director, Josh Tulkin, joined the chapter staff just before Thanksgiving and hit the ground running. Josh brought previous experience in Maryland to the chapter. He is working closely with members of the chapter executive committee and staff on many aspects of the chapter operations and conservation campaigns. Chris Hill joined the staff in October, just in time to help with the Jamboree. Chris is supporting our energy campaigns, especially offshore wind power and coal plant retirement (which you will be hearing more about soon!). In December, Vidal Hines began organizing in Prince George’s County, also focusing on energy issues.

      Increasing the staff size from two to five in less than a year is one indication of the rate of change in the chapter, and it sounds like a lot—and from the “close in” view of chapter leadership, it is a lot! But we need more—and we especially need more people involved so we can affect even more change in Maryland and beyond. Five is a tiny number, and our staff can only do so much compared with the thousands of Sierra Club members across the state. Every one of us is needed to meet the great challenges that we face. The role of our staff members is to organize, support, and coordinate— but not actually to carry out the campaigns. We need people to make phone calls, write letters, conduct research, participate in community events, conduct technical analysis and perform a wide variety of other tasks. Reflect on which issues matter the most to you and consider how you can help. If you get a phone call or an email message, please listen and respond.

     In addition to our campaigns to Move Maryland Beyond Coal and to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, you may have heard of our increasing level of activity around natural gas. Sierra Club members opposed the construction of the Cove Point Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) import plant in Calvert County in the early 1970’s. More recent settlement agreements provided the Sierra Club with considerable influence on changes to the facility. As part of a broader strategy around natural gas, we are working to block Dominion’s proposal to export LNG from Cove Point, and in Western Maryland, we are fighting fracking.

      This is only one example of the challenges that we face and our opportunities to make a difference. There are lots of ways to get involved. Maryland’s environment and communities need your help, so please read through this issue, take a look at the chapter web site, (http://maryland.sierraclub.org), and contact your local group leaders or other campaign leaders for the issues you are most interested in. We’ll help you to find your place in the Sierra Club.

Thanks for your continued support!   n

 

 

 

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