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The Planet
Student Activism Won't End After Finals

"Roadless Summer" Expands Student Organizing Boundaries

by David Karpf
SSC National Director

Researching flora and fauna at a forest field station in Virginia isn't all Kristin Schubert will be doing this summer.

Schubert, a wildlife biology major at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, will educate 50 other biologists working with her about President Clinton's proposal to protect as many as 60 million acres of roadless wildlands. As a Sierra Student Coalition member, she hopes to convince them to sign postcards or petitions, write letters or make phone calls in support of the president's wild forest protection plan.

Schubert's activism - and, in turn, the group's activism - is part of the SSC's "Roadless Summer" campaign. This is the first year that the SSC will continue to organize and flex its political muscle into the summer, well after dorm-room doors have been locked.

During the school year, Schubert is an active member of William & Mary's campus environmental group, the Student Environmental Action Coalition, which works with the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. Carrying her activism through the summer means she'll teach the people she's working with how they can get involved.

It should come as no surprise that students care about environmental issues. When given the opportunity, they act. When President Clinton released his proposal to protect as many as 60 million acres of roadless areas on national forest lands, about 90 student groups mobilized in a few weeks to generate more than 25,000 public comments in favor of permanent protection.

Student activists are nimble; they're great at generating large numbers of comments in a quick turnaround. After all, they walk by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of sympathetic citizens every day.

But with the release of a draft environmental impact statement and subsequent hearings on Clinton's plan expected during the summer months, the SSC is faced with a particular problem: They're not in school in May, June or July, so the normal rules don't apply to organizing structure.

That's why the SSC launched "Roadless Summer."

Hundreds of students from across the country will join Schubert in her commitment to push for a strong, effective wild forest protection plan. Some of these students will be working at a summer camp, others will have internships with future employers and still others will work at fruit stands or hike portions of the Appalachian Trail. All pledged to help protect America's wild forests.

This may mean gathering comments at local trailheads or outdoor stores. It may involve taking a few friends to one of more than 400 hearings being held across the country, to make the next generation's voice heard. It could also mean educating children at a summer camp, or informing economists, biologists or dentists about the threats to our last, best places.

There's a lesson in this for Sierra Club activists across the country: Student activism is more versatile than you may think. Usually, we think of student activism as being confined to educating campus residents and convincing deans and board trustees to take a pro-environment stance. This is important work, and SSC activists excel at it, but they can do more than that.

If you would like more information about "Roadless Summer" activists in your community, or about SSC activities in general, contact us at (888) JOIN-SSC; david.karpf@sierraclub.org.


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