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Sierra Club Insider July 11, 2005

What Would John Muir Drive? Maybe This SUV

Mercury Mariner Hybrid SUV"For years, we've pressured Ford to make more fuel-efficient cars and trucks," says the Sierra Club's Dan Becker, "Now they have begun to, and we want to help them succeed."

The new Mercury Mariner Hybrid SUV, American-made and built by union workers, will appear in showrooms this fall, but goes on sale online today. (Tell them Sierra Club sent you.)

"If we can work with Ford to make its Mercury Hybrid a hit," says Becker, "Ford will be convinced that it can make clean vehicles and make money."

Because the Mariner's electric motor provides enough juice to drive at low speeds, the 133-horsepower gas engine can automatically shut down in stop-and-go traffic. So it gets even better mileage in the city (33 miles per gallon) than on the highway (29 mpg). Another efficient feature is regenerative braking -- when you brake, you generate electricity that recharges the battery.

Participants in the Sierra Summit 2005 will be among the first to test drive the Mariner -- go to to register.

Find out more about how and why the Sierra Club is working with Ford's Mercury brand to promote hybrids.

The Supreme Court -- What's at Stake for the Environment?

Supreme CourtNever before has the Supreme Court played such an important role in protecting our clean air, drinking water, and special places. In the past five years, the court has ruled on whether the EPA can write air-quality standards, what the federal government can do protect wetlands and clean water, whether polluting companies should be held accountable for the toxic messes they leave behind, and more. The next court is expected to address some of the fundamental underlying laws that define the roles and powers of private citizens and the Congress in protecting the environment.

Because the stakes are so high, President Bush should nominate a justice who believes environmental laws should be enforced and that citizens and their elected representatives in Congress have a vital role to play in protecting the environment. The Sierra Club is also urging the President Bush to follow in the tradition of his predecessors and consult with the minority party in the Senate before announcing a nomination.

Please go to our Take Action site to find out more and to tell President Bush to nominate a consensus candidate.

Tearing Down the Walls

Iantha Gantt-Wright"I'd like to see an environmental movement that is reflective of people across race, geography, and class -- a true community of organizations," says Iantha Gantt-Wright, a national leader on social justice and diversity in the environmental community. "That's the only way we're going to really be successful."

Gantt-Wright has been pursuing this vision for more than 20 years, since she left the broadcast industry to do door-to-door canvassing for the Clean Water Action in her hometown of Baltimore. Sierra Club editor Tom Valtin interviewed Gantt-Wright, a featured speaker at this fall's Sierra Summit, about the dearth of accessible open space in urban communities of color, the importance of tearing down the walls that separate potential environmental allies, and more.

Getting Outdoors Improves Grades

Inside the OutdoorsSkip school and get outside? A recent California Department of Education study doesn't quite say that, but it did find that for four groups of at-risk youth, participating in a week-long outdoor education program increased their math and science scores by 27 percent. The "Effects of Outdoor Education on High Risk Kids" study, which tracked 255 sixth graders, also found measurable improvements in self-esteem, cooperation, conflict resolution, and other social and personal skills.

"Anyone who has ever worked with kids in the outdoors knows that those experiences can transform their lives," says Martin LeBlanc, director of the Sierra Club's Inside the Outdoors Program, which helped underwrite the study, "but this is the first time anyone has ever documented those benefits."

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Summer's Here -- Let's Hike!

Is there a better way to enjoy the great outdoors than on your own two feet? Local Sierra Club chapter and group outings are led by volunteers and offer something for everyone: day hikes, peak scrambles, bicycling, bird-watching, conservation-oriented walks, and forays into the remaining natural areas of our major cities.

If you're interested in learning about local outings in your neck of the woods, visit our Outings website to find the chapter or group nearest you.

Get Outdoors!
A Reason to Get Out of Bed

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Daily Ray of Hope


Righteous Roadblock

In the last Insider, we featured the "America's Great Outdoors" report, showcasing special places that local communities are working hard to protect. Although Oregon's Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon wasn't among them, 72-year-old Joan Norman will tell you that it is worth protecting and going to jail for.

This great-grandmother of eight was arrested twice within two weeks for blocking a logging road to protest industrial logging of old-growth trees burned by the 2002 Biscuit fire. "It's been a little hard on me physically," she explains in a phone call to Sierra magazine from Josephine County Jail. But "somebody just has to say stop to the timber companies."

Joan Norman
Photos: Mariner (Ford Motor Company) | Supreme Court (Mel Curtis/photodisc) | Inside the Outdoors (Carl Zichella) | hikers (Shelby Thorner) | Joan Norman (Lesley Adams)