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The Planet
Who We Are

by Jenny Coyle

Jackie McCort - San Francisco, Calif.
Youth in Wilderness Project Coordinator

It was during her "back to the land" experience in the early '80s that Jackie McCort had dual epiphanies. She was living in rural Northern California on a wooded patch of land with no electricity. Water for baths was heated over a wood stove and food was stored in an ice box. "It was beautiful, but I really didn't have the skills to support a life in the wilderness," she says. The epiphanies? "One was that I should have a flush toilet and be able to take a shower whenever I want. The other came from reading Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring.' The book woke me up to the fact that the beautiful places I loved were being destroyed. I decided to do what I could to stop that." So McCort went back to school and earned a degree in environmental studies. The San Francisco Bay Chapter hired her in 1989, as a conservation representative. Four years later she went to work for the Club's California/Nevada/Hawaii field office, where she focused on wetlands and water-supply issues. Last year she became project coordinator for Youth in Wilderness, the Club's new grant-making program that supports environmental-education opportunities for low-income kids in Northern California. Has McCort found her niche? "I have the best job at the Sierra Club," she says.


Albert Midoux - Anderson, Mo.
Volunteer, Ozark Chapter

If you aren't a vegetarian, a 10-minute conversation with Albert Midoux will probably convince you to be one. Midoux is a retired food inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And he's seen it all. He once condemned a truckload of chicken after finding that carcasses had been gnawed and urinated on by rats. He returned the next day to find out the load had been processed for sale anyway. That was 25 years ago, but, there's still plenty of nasty stuff going on today, he says. For instance, industrial animal operations want to irradiate food to kill bacteria. "The bacteria's there because they're feeding the animals their own dead," he says. "From other processing plants they bring in remnants and condemned carcasses, sometimes green and crawling with maggots. This is cooked and dried and fed to cattle that humans will eventually eat." But aren't cows vegetarians? "They used to be," says Midoux. "Also, in a plant just half a mile from my house they make a mix of 80 percent chicken manure and 20 percent grain and feed it to the cattle." All these processes occur near waterways so waste can be dumped and carried away, he adds. "They're treating this planet like we have a spare one," he says. Ozark Chapter Director Ken Midkiff encourages Midoux to write letters to decision-makers and takes him on lobbying trips to Washington, D.C. Midoux also serves on the chapter's Water Quality Committee.


Kate Spencer - Berwin Heights, Md.
ExComm, Prince George's County Group

Kate Spencer says she never thought she'd combine her two loves - biology and art - but was thrilled when she went to work as a scientific illustrator for the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History, in the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians. "It's on the same floor as the Division of Worms and the Registry of Tumors in Lower Animals," she says. Spencer has since become a freelancer, illustrating such work as a reference volume called "The Biology of Tadpoles." She came to the Sierra Club through her efforts to protect a 240-acre woodland and wetland along Indian Creek in the Beltway. "It's next to a Metro station, and the first time I got up the nerve to climb over the guardrail into this forest, I saw a doe, her twin fawns and a red-shouldered hawk, and I stayed to watch the sunset," she says. She describes the life cycle of the spotted salamanders that live there as though it were an Academy Award-winning movie. "They're so inspiring to me," she says. When Spencer learned about plans to build a shopping mall at the site, she started Citizens to Conserve and Restore Indian Creek. Jon Robinson of the Sierra Club's Prince George's County Group in turn recruited her to serve on the ExComm. "I knew one day I'd work on conservation issues," she says. "The universe has called me to start."

Know someone whose story is deserving? Contact us at The Planet, 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105; planet@sierraclub.org.


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