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November 2000 Planet Main
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The Planet
Who We Are

Dr. Joseph Barbosa - Roseville, Minn.
Founder, Joseph Barbosa Earth Fund Award

Dr. Joseph Barbosa's contributions to the Sierra Club are financial, and by publicizing them, he hopes to encourage other members to give the way he does - providing prize money attached to activist awards. A native of Portugal, Barbosa moved to the United States in 1964 after completing medical school. An endocrinologist, he has been teaching and researching for nearly 30 years at the University of Minnesota.

Barbosa says he is a believer in God and in evolution, and that God wanted humans to be good stewards of the earth. "Instead, we are being thieves," he says, "robbing God's creation. It's a crime against evolution to be destroying species."

He researched and joined numerous environmental organizations, and now chooses to make a special annual contribution to the Sierra Club: The Joseph Barbosa Earth Fund Award, which honors activists under age 30 who have demonstrated a commitment to the environment. It comes with a $2,000 prize to help the recipient continue his or her good work. (See page 7 for this year's winner.) "I think they're the future," Barbosa says of young activists, "and I think the future is more hopeful than the present."


Mary Lou Campbell - Mercedes, Texas
Conservation Chair, Lower Rio Grand Valley Group

Is it possible that someone who has worked on environmental issues in south Texas for three decades is hopeful for the future, and believes prospects for saving the planet have actually improved? Yes, it's true - just talk to Mary Lou Campbell.

Campbell's love of the earth came from her Native American grandfather - a Shawnee adopted into the Cherokee Tribe - who stargazed with her and taught her to appreciate the fragile cycle of life. She harkened back to some of his teachings in the mid-1970s when, as a resident on South Padre Island at the southern tip of Texas, she found herself in the midst of a building boom. People and cars began to take over the island. Sand dunes were destroyed for condominiums, and air and water quality began to deteriorate. Campbell went to work to save wetlands.

Since then she has helped stop a power line that could have killed endangered brown pelicans. She is also working to establish a wildlife corridor along the Rio Grande by helping the Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain federal funding to purchase land.

"Early on we were known as the lunatic fringe," says Campbell. "But we've been educating the public, just as the schools and others have, and in that way people have become sympathetic to what we're doing - or least don't actively engage against us as much." 


David Frankel - Volcano, Hawaii
Chair, Hawaii Chapter

Who'd imagine someone in Hawaii lives in a house with a wood stove and feeds his 2-year-old son hot oatmeal for breakfast? David Frankel explains that his home is at 4,000 feet on the slopes of Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, and it does indeed get chilly.

He and his wife, Tanya Rubenstein, live in a native forest and work to rid the area of invasive species. Their neighbor does the same, and one day was using a chainsaw to cut down some large alien trees when little Jacob Frankel took notice. "For about four months after that, Jacob would pick up every stick he saw and make chainsaw noises while sliding it against a tree," Frankel says. Could cause some embarrassment at a Sierra Club meeting...

Frankel, former Hawaii Chapter director and now the volunteer chapter chair and a stay-at-home dad, has a law degree that he's used only once - to legally challenge the setback of a development that encroached on an otherwise wild beach. He was successful in pushing the development back. He's currently fighting a proposal to build 125 luxury homes and a golf course near Kealakekua Bay - a plan that threatens the aquatic environment. "I'm sick and tired of losing beautiful places to development," Frankel says. "The wilderness experience is so important, we've just got to protect it." 


Know someone whose story is deserving? Contact us at

The Planet
85 Second St., Second Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105
planet@sierraclub.org

- Jenny Coyle


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