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Sierra Magazine
Inside Sierra: Vital Statistics

By Editor-in-chief Joan Hamilton

If you are one of the 550,000 Sierra Club members who receive this magazine, we are naturally curious about your thoughts and habits. We pore over the letters and e-mail you send. We chat with you at bus stops, at environmental meetings, and on mountaintops. We also occasionally pepper you with formal questions, like those contained in a survey we sent to 1,000 members last fall.

If you are anything like the people who responded, you would describe yourself as a nature-lover and a concerned citizen. You recycle and buy green goods. One in seven of you is a vegetarian. Many of you are well educated (42 percent have postgraduate degrees) and well off economically (the average household income is $72,000).

You are also living proof that love of nature crosses political lines. Some 12 percent of our respondents are Republicans, 44 percent Democrats, and 33 percent independent. Three percent are affiliated with the Green, Labor, Libertarian, and other political parties. If you all met at a potluck, you'd likely enjoy chatting about wild places (in the past year respondents had taken an average of five trips of a hundred miles or more in North America and one to another part of the world). Some sparks might fly between, say, our animal-rights advocates (35 percent) and our hunters and fishers (17 percent). But there would be plenty of common ground-that space where we work together to protect our natural heritage.

Why does Sierra care about these statistics? In part, they give our editors a sense of what you want to read about. Of the respondents who commute to work, 13 percent ride bicycles, 9 percent take public transit, and 7 percent carpool. The rest-about two-thirds-drive solo. The motoring crowd should enjoy "Your Next Car?" our feature on advances in clean-car technology. And cyclists will identify with the efforts and epiphanies of David Darlington in "Back in the Saddle".

Our latest survey is inspirational, too. Three in ten respondents say they have contacted a public official or agency after reading something in Sierra. An even higher number say they have sent in one of the postcards we provide to help readers influence public policy. Two in ten have not taken these actions yet, but would like to do so in the future. Extrapolated to our entire membership, that could mean that at least half, or 275,000, of you are practicing or potential activists. Nobody ever said protecting Earth was easy, but knowing that so many people are willing to help adds joy to the task.


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