FROM THE EDITOR
Back before Katrina—two days before, to be exact—I got an e-mail from Becky Gillette of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. A newspaper reporter by trade, Becky is also the kind of Sierra Club volunteer you dream about: constantly active, constantly vigilant on behalf of the environment.
She was explaining to me how ordinary citizens in nearby DeLisle—many of whom had never heard of the Sierra Club before—had been empowered to stand up to chemical giant DuPont in court. And won.
DuPont’s settlement ran into the tens of millions, and their stonewalling about toxic releases that were poisoning the community was exposed and shattered. The same citizens had also derailed DuPont’s plan to turn a local wetland into a toxic chemical landfill. Becky was ecstatic.
Her e-mail signed off: “Looks like we have a Category 3 hurricane set to land here Monday. We’ll see what happens.”
We all know what happened.
On Monday, Katrina slammed into the coast, blowing away coastal communities and kicking up a tidal surge that breached the New Orleans levees. Tuesday brought the nationally televised nightmare, which continued unabated all week. The New York Times ran a photo of the Ocean Springs-Biloxi Bridge in ruins. I tried and tried to get ahold of Becky, to no avail.
The week after Katrina hit, the Sierra Summit took place in San Francisco. Delegates who made it from the Gulf Coast were given a standing ovation by 700 of their fellow leaders. I kept trying to reach Becky, who as a reporter is equipped to be in touch. Nothing.
We expected this issue of the Planet to be hard-hitting, with coverage of world-class speakers, cutting-edge thinkers, and green activism at the Summit. But the Summit was trumped by Katrina, which in turn transformed the Summit. The following may illustrate the connection between the two events.
Al Gore, who was early on invited to speak at the Summit, had regretfully declined due to a prior commitment in New Orleans. He was to address the 50 U.S. state insurance commissioners on the threats posed by global warming—among them the recent upswing in highly destructive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gore addressed the assembled thousands at the Sierra Summit after all. That report starts on page 3.
But our lead story is Katrina. Written, I’m pleased to say, by Becky Gillette.
senior editor, the Planet
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