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Sierra Club Bulletin
Last Words
 

Sierra Magazine
Last Words: A Question of Moment

What person, place, or event inspired your environmental activism?

Ansel Adams. Anyone who has seen his spectacular portraits of the earth has surely felt touched by nature's grandeur and radiance.
Jessica Potter, Triadelphia, West Virginia

Mom was my inspiration. She enrolled us in nature classes and took us on vacations in state and national parks. Mom was persecuted in Cleveland for her compost pile in the 1950s. She told the man who came out to inspect our yard if it smelled so bad, find it. He didn't. Last year at my sister's suggestion, I scooped up a bucket of dirt from Mom's yard and spread it on our parents' grave.
Judy Weger, Bay Village, Ohio

I still have my original copy of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Its full import was hard to digest in the seemingly benign world of 1962, but I knew that life without birdsong was unthinkable, and that moved me to begin looking at the larger picture. Through organizations like the Sierra Club I began to understand the web of life and the importance of responsible stewardship. Once that light bulb went on there was no more retreat into complacency.
Joyce Long, Sayville, New York

Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, the Rockies, Redwood National Park, the Pacific Northwest, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Highway 1 in California, the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Ocean, Sedona, Arizona, the Gulf of Mexico, Everglades National Park, the Keys, the Smoky Mountains, Chesapeake Bay, the Jersey shore, and my sweet daughter, Katie.
Tom Cowperthwait, Cincinnati, Ohio

George Bush and the Gulf War. This man and the war showed me that Americans were willing to sacrifice the lives of others for cheap oil and a continuance of the gluttonous American lifestyle.
Thomas East Kendall, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin

In 1977, fresh out of college, I started my first real job. My boss gave me a gift membership to the Sierra Club and made a donation when my dad died. Later this man helped me get a new job at a nonprofit environmental organization. He set a great example by being active and passionately loving wilderness. He went on to become the Centennial Campaign Director of the Sierra Club. His name: Bill Meadows.
Merri Rudd, Albuquerque, New Mexico

It happened in summer 1979 during a week-long ecology workshop at Pawnee National Grasslands in eastern Colorado. After a morning of enjoyable birding a ranger (whose name I no longer remember) said to me quite casually as we returned to camp, "You know a lot about the natural world -- what do you do with it?" His words made my knowledge seem rather pointless. Since then I've volunteered thousand of hours as a teacher on the trail, written hundreds of letters to Congress, edited newsletters, attended and nervously spoken at many hearings, written children's nature books, and generally spoken out for the wild whenever I could convince anyone to listen. Thanks, unknown classmate!
Ann Cooper, Boulder, Colorado

The 104th Congress.
Jeff Bournes, Florence, South Carolina

Exploring enchanted forests, breathing sweet, flower-filled meadows, awakening to melodic birdsong, and splashing in cool, clear streams -- this was my world as a child and everyone else's, so I believed. Then we moved to industrial, metropolitan mania where my naivete was shattered. My world was transformed into pungent oil refineries, dying waters, shrieking mechanical noises, and Cancer Alley. This experience inspired me ten years ago to do all I could to prevent any further spread of this disease to our natural-born earth, where childhood should begin and never end.
Sonia Schmieder, Lamesa, Texas

From my work within the Sierra Club to my current environmental studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz, the Sierra Student Coalition High School Leadership Training Program started it all. It was led by Adam Werbach and Mark Fraioli out of the Angeles Chapter. I was only 13. The program threw me into environmental organizing and made activism a fundamental part of my life.
Michele Renee, Santa Cruz, California

One man got me moving: H. Wayne Huizenga, the former Blockbuster CEO and present sports mogul in Florida. When he attempted to build a sports theme park in the middle of the Everglades, I had to join in the protests. Thankfully, he was defeated.
Oliver Bernstein, Miami, Florida

Aldo Leopold . . . Ed Abbey . . . Doug Peacock . . . an evolution.
Thomas Ehlers, Jr., Coyote, Wyoming

That's easy: James Watt.
William K. Borden, Naperville, Illinois

In 1969 I was a 23-year-old mother of two children. One late evening I was watching The Tonight Show and Paul Ehrlich was the guest. As he discussed his book The Population Bomb my ideas about personal responsibility to the earth were changed forever. I had already generally decided I would only have two children, but I had no idea the population problem pertained to anyone except those "poor people" in India and China. Needless to say, I had no more children.
Sharon Foley, Cedar Rapids, Iowa


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