"People can do something about environmental problems," says documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald. "The common thread in all these films is, 'Here's a story, and with community involvement, something can be done.' None of these are 'the-sky-is-falling' stories. These are problems with solutions."
Greenwald is talking about his latest endeavor, a new series called Sierra Club Chronicles, available for free on DVD when you host a house party, or watch it on the Chronicles website. If you have a satellite dish, you can also find it broadcast nationally on the Link TV channel debuting on Thursday, January 12 at 8:30 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. The stories, which take place from Louisiana and New Mexico to Alaska and New York, show how most environmental battles are local, and prove that one determined person, or a small group of people, can effect change. Their stories provide inspiration and ideas for campaigns being waged in other states, whether activists are confronting pollution, corporate greed, short-sighted governmental policies, or other issues.
The first of seven monthly episodes, "9/11 Forgotten Heroes," focuses on first responders to the 9/11 attacks who have suffered health problems stemming from health hazards at Ground Zero. The series is produced by Greenwald's Brave New Films in association with Sierra Club Productions. To help spread the word of these stories and their significance to organizers at the local level, the Sierra Club is encouraging its volunteers and staff to host house parties. To find out more about getting a free DVD and hosting a house party, or to watch a video clip, go to www.sierraclubtv.org.
Read our exclusive interview with Robert Greenwald, whose 2005 film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices, attracted hundreds of thousands of Americans to home screenings last fall.
For the first time since the Robert Bork nomination of 1987, the Sierra Club has joined with other national environmental groups in urging Senators to oppose the confirmation of a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Sierra Club's opposes Judge Samuel Alito's based on opinions in the past, in which he ruled to limit the ability of Congress to pass laws to protect the environment, and the ability of citizens to demand enforcement of those laws.
The Senate's confirmation hearings on Judge Alito started yesterday. Last week, the Sierra Club ran radio ads to draw attention to the threat that Alito's constitutional philosophy poses to laws like the Clean Water Act.
Contact your senator to add your voice to the chorus opposing Judge Alito's confirmation.
In a big victory for clean air, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich last week called for new state rules cutting mercury pollution from coal plants by 90 percent in the next three years.
If the new rule is adopted, Illinois will join a growing list of states that limit mercury pollution far more stringently than the Bush administration's so-called "Clear Skies" proposal would.
According to the EPA, one in six women of childbearing age in the United States has enough mercury in her blood to put her baby at risk of neurological damage. Coal burning is the main way mercury gets into humans -- rainfall brings the mercury into waterways, where it accumulates in fish and makes its way up the food chain.
The utility industry is expected to fight these proposed rules, but the Sierra Club's Bruce Nilles says local activists will counter that by highlighting the cost-effectiveness of pollution controls -- it would add only pennies a month to utility bills -- and educating state residents about the specific link between mercury and health. The Club sponsored nine mercury hair testing events in Illinois last year and is planning more this year to help build support for the governor's proposal.
(That's the Sierra Club's Clyde Hanson above getting his hair clipped live on the radio in Minnesota last year to promote mercury-hair testing. Wielding the scissors is Club volunteer Kent Jones, who hosts a weekly radio show. More information of mercury pollution and home testing kits are available at www.sierraclub.org/mercury.)
Lisa Hellman discovered the Sierra Club's Inner City Outings (ICO) program by accident in a teacher newsletter addressed to a former occupant of her apartment. She has since started an ICO group in Orange County, California, raised more than $10,000, and led more than 50 outings in the past three years. In November, REI awarded her one of its prestigious "Stewards for the Environment" awards.
Inner City Outings, managed and staffed by volunteers in 49 groups around the United States, takes disadvantaged kids out into nature. The Angeles Chapter, the Club's largest, already had an established ICO program, but Hellman saw a void in Orange County, where most people don't even realize there are pockets of lower-income kids, some of whom have never experienced the local natural wonders.
"Recently, we took some kids out picking up litter on the beach," says Hellman. "There were crabs all over the place. They'd never seen crabs before. They thought they were cockroaches."
Hellman's is one of 16 stories in our most recent Planet newsletter highlighting "What We Do Best."
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