Sierra Club: The Planet--1996
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The Planet
What Kind of Sierra Club?

In the July/August Planet, we asked readers to participate in a dialogue with board members addressing five different themes, each one a choice that the Club faces as it moves forward into its second century. The following is a sample of the responses we received on the first question.

Visionary or pragmatic?

(To what extent should the Club articulate a vision of the environmental future that is driven by our ultimate values and scientific evidence, even if this vision is clearly outside the current social and political realm of the possible?)

Should we have a "vision" or take incremental steps toward a goal? These are not mutually exclusive. Sure, we need a vision, but if it is the only goal we will accept, then we will be sitting in the waiting room, while others barter away the environmental values that we support, piece by piece.
- Mary Hoffman
South Euclid, Ohio

The opposition is enormous, well- funded and energetic. To achieve our goals, we need to win over the hearts and minds of the people. To do this we must not come across as appearing radical or extremist [and we must] avoid alienating ourselves. [It's] the only way to go.
- Robert Duda
Livonia, Mich.

The Sierra Club must be visionary. If we don't set the vision, who will? We must define our ultimate vision and our objectives and do everything we can do to achieve them. However, we must also be pragmatic enough to take whatever incremental improvements we can get when it is obvious that we will not win the ultimate victory.

For example, on the issue of global climate change, we must fight for the vision of widespread adoption of pollution- (i.e., carbon) free energy systems.

We must strongly support renewable solar and biomass energy systems using both electricity and hydrogen energy carriers. Obviously, we will accept the incremental changes offered by the oil industry, but we should not adopt the incremental strategies of the oil industry as our vision and our core legislative strategy. We must set a higher standard.
- Dave Bruderly
Gainsville, Fla.

We need both. The Club, like society, operates on a variety of time scales - short, medium and long term.
- Eric Allen
Long Beach, Calif.

Of course the Club should always fully articulate our environmental values and their scientific underpinnings, especially when our insight is "clearly outside the current social and political realm of the possible." That's precisely when our insight is most needed. If the majority of leadership feels otherwise, perhaps I'm in the wrong outfit.

Obviously, if our ultimate goal is unattainable at the moment, we should not reject whatever gain we can immediately make, while at the same time continuing to press for achieving the full goal. We need to view not achieving our full goals more as failure, and achieving small gains less as victories.
- Jim Rauch
Buffalo, N.Y.

Vision in this sense means that we will operate on somebody's opinions about the future, no doubt heavily laced with ideology. As an experimental scientist, I can assure you that this approach rarely works, because humans do not have the ability to see the future. Goals and theories need to be regularly reviewed to see if they touch reality anywhere. Many of today's most solemn predictions will be laughed at tomorrow, and today's ultimate objectives will be discarded in favor of new ones that make more sense, for a while.
- Owen Maloy
Mammoth Lakes, Calif.


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