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Sierra Magazine
Inside Sierra: The Green Millennium

A hundred years ago the Sierra Club devoted most of its January magazine to "Ramblings Through the High Sierra" by Joseph Le Conte. The story described the geologist's exuberant horseback ride across California to explore the scientific and aesthetic wonders of the Yosemite Valley in 1870, 20 years before it became a national park. Le Conte's adventures included a serendipitous meeting with the young John Muir: "A man of such intelligence tending a sawmill!" But most of the 107 pages reveled in the rocks. "Was there ever so venerable, majestic, and eloquent a minister of natural religion as the grand old Half Dome?" Le Conte asked. "I withdrew myself from the rest of the party and drank in his silent teachings for several hours."

Muir, Le Conte, and others founded the Sierra Club in 1892. A few years later, when the Club challenged San Francisco's plan to build a dam in Yosemite National Park, conservationists were still so rare it was easy for the San Francisco Chronicle to dismiss them as "hoggish and mushy esthetes." Today, though, there are thousands of environmental groups in the United States, and no daily newspaper would dare support building a dam in a national park. As our clout has grown, so have our concerns, from Muir's parks and forests to air, water, wildlands, biodiversity, sprawl, trade, climate change, population, and human rights.

At times it feels like a hectic, confusing new world for those who care about nature. In this issue, we take a break from the action to indulge in some millennial ruminations. We note what the Sierra Club has accomplished in "A Hike Through History" (page 109). But mostly we look ahead: lightheartedly in "The Future of Adventure," boldly in "Thinking Big," and with some wisdom from our friends in a roundtable discussion, "Getting It Right."

What can environmentalists do to get it right in the next millennium? Labor leader John Sweeney touts the virtue (and necessity) of hard political work. Entrepreneur Paul Hawken suggests a rock-solid faith. Author Bill McKibben speculates that it may take a galvanizing act of nature to win broad reforms. Naturalist Terry Tempest Williams confesses, "When I hear all of the statistics, the losses we are incurring, the truth and weight of issues, I become mute, my spirit crushed by information that becomes abstracted into despair. What are we to do?" Her answer speaks to the spiritual side of our movement, as passionately as Joseph Le Conte did a century ago. We should let Earth be our charismatic leader, Williams says, and "be unafraid to speak of what we love.

By Editor-in-Chief Joan Hamilton


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