Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy
Austin, TX
Nominating committee candidate
Member Since
Life member
Sustainability and social impact consultant
Sierra Club Leadership Positions

My 25-year background includes:

  • Board of Directors (2020-2023)
  • Board leadership roles as Treasurer (2022-2023) and Vice President of Chapters, Groups, and Volunteers (2021-2022)
  • Board’s Finance & Risk Committee (2019-) and Equity Committee (founding member, 2020-2022)
  • Chapter Support Team (2015-) 
  • Group Chair, Austin Group (2018-2020) and Chicago Group (2002-2003)
  • Conflict Resolution Team (2003-2012, Chair 2010-2012)
  • Outings Leader (2002-) and Outings trainer (2015-)
  • National Conservation Chair, Sierra Student Coalition (2000-2004)

Our world is rapidly changing. Climate change is creating refugees in Puerto Rico, California, and Louisiana. Last year’s catastrophic flooding displaced millions in Pakistan and Nigeria, while record-breaking drought swept China and Europe. Here in Texas, we’re fighting oil and methane gas exploitation that would bulldoze indigenous lands and threaten communities and ecosystems. And through all of this, we face down Trumpism and extremist politics in the US – and beyond. 

Sierra Club has been part of extraordinary achievements in our 130-year history, but this is our most crucial moment. Climate change and biodiversity loss are not environmental crises – they’re rooted in economic and social systems, and we cannot face them without confronting injustice in those systems. We must bring all our strengths: our history and expertise, our commitment to equity and Environmental Justice, the grassroots impact of Groups and Chapters, and our passion and humility. 

Building on 25 years of experience across Sierra Club, I will help the Board marshal those strengths. 

My first term on the Board (2020-23) grew out of that history. As a Sierra Student Coalition activist, I led national campaigns and amplified youth voices to Congress. I chaired the rapid-response team against George W. Bush’s environmental rollbacks, and I’ve led initiatives in Outings, equity training, grassroots organizing, and conflict resolution. In my day job, I help global companies commit to ambitious, authentic climate goals and social impact partnerships. These threads prepared me to strengthen management of Sierra Club’s $180 million budget, guide major organizational change, and connect our work to larger movements. 

I have been honored to support my Board colleagues through fresh challenges and growth, and it has been an extraordinary privilege to welcome our new Executive Director, Ben Jealous. With your vote for a second term, I will continue working to: 

  • Strengthen Chapter resources, ensuring every Chapter can access staff support and multiply our grassroots power in cities and states;

  • Deepen our commitment to Environmental Justice partners and frontline communities; and

  • Identify new opportunities to bridge environmental defense, human rights, and economic justice, to transform the US into a global partner for climate justice. 

Awards: Joseph Barbosa Award (2000); Robbie Cox Award (Sierra Student Coalition, 2005) 


Sierra Club President Ramón Cruz; Vice President Marion Klaus; Director and Past President Allison Chin; Director, Oklahoma Chapter Chair, and Past Chair of Chapter Chair Representatives Cheyenne Branscum; Chapter Support Co-Lead, Colorado Chapter Steering Committee Chris Applegate; Grassroots Network Support Team, Wildlands and Wilderness Team Vice Chair Clayton Daughenbaugh

Election Forum Responses

Candidates were asked ten questions to give voters more information about relevant issues. You can view the responses of all candidates to a question by clicking on the individual questions below.

Question 1

Question 1

How do you practice anti-racism?

I was grateful to join Sierra Club “In-Gatherings” and help support the Environmental Justice (EJ) Program in the early 2000s – a chance to learn from EJ organizers and community members. I was also fortunate to be able to partner with community organizers and anti-racism campaigners in my early years in Chicago, from anti-police brutality demonstrations to Board leadership with a community organizing nonprofit. Building on this foundation, I bring years of Dismantling Racism training and community-based work to all of my current Sierra Club volunteering.

This is not merely the right thing to do. It is essential for us to win. Environmental threats are among the direst human rights issues for millions of people in the US and worldwide, and we must tackle our goals within a framework of equity and human rights in order to join and strengthen coalitions across lines of racial, gender, and economic inequality.

I was proud to be a founding member of the Board’s own Equity Committee; to partner with senior staff in creating and resourcing our new People, Culture, and Equity Department; and to support a Sierra Club budget with historic funding for implementing the Multi-Year Equity Plan. Despite these and many other steps, however, our journey has only just begun.

Question 2

Question 2

How do you think we can better retain more staff and volunteers, and recruit and retain them into higher levels within the organization, who are from marginalized communities or who are otherwise underrepresented?

As Group Chair in two large cities, I witnessed firsthand one of our challenges: new people would show up to events, then choose not to return. I also met brilliant volunteers who left the organization after only a few months or a year of leadership. In too many cases, these were younger, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), and/or women leaders.

At the local level, our experienced volunteers often share that they’re stretched thin, without the time or energy to tackle the urgent priorities ahead of us. At the same time, we continue to lose new supporters and leaders from marginalized or underrepresented communities. We have not yet succeeded in creating an inclusive, welcoming Sierra Club for many people.

We have launched vital changes: forward-looking Sierra Club values; new training and role descriptions; clearer learning when we fall short of our aspirations. To transform the organization, we must apply a holistic lens of change management and dedicate meaningful resources to the transformation, including top-level sponsorship and leadership from the Board.

Transforming Sierra Club into a more equitable and inclusive organization will also mean welcoming people with a different relationship to the outdoors than our traditional membership. It will mean choosing environmental challenges that sometimes feel closer to home. We’ve long campaigned on air quality and safe drinking water, and these campaigns have often taken a different approach from outings: meeting people in their communities, joining the fight for their families’ health and survival in their own neighborhoods.

Question 3

Question 3

What environmental issues are pressing in your community, and how do they intersect with economic, environmental, and racial justice? What tensions at work make the problem so difficult to solve?

I recently attended a University of Texas panel on hurricane recovery and environmental justice. A Houston community leader recalled recovery efforts after 2008’s Hurricane Ike, and she said she didn’t want her community to be “resilient” in the face of catastrophe; she wanted it to be protected from harm in the first place. She challenged us to recognize the injustice in demanding that marginalized communities be “resilient” while wealthy neighborhoods are built on safer, drier land.

Part of “resilience” must be the recognition of unjust decisions that have already occurred: city zoning, tax policy, transit routes, park construction, sewage maintenance, etc. Resilience isn’t just about enabling communities to endure disaster and then rebuild; it’s about identifying how some communities have historically been placed in the path of disasters, and acknowledging that such communities are predominantly poor and non-white. It’s about challenging how those decisions are made in the future.

Austin, TX exemplifies many of the issues that were core to Sierra Club’s history, like land protection and water quality. But our local issues are increasingly linked to racial and economic justice. Our city is creating a crisis of unhoused people, exposed to deadly heatwaves and winter freezes. Gentrification, tax policy, and lack of affordable housing drive away many BIPOC residents, even uprooting multigenerational Black and Latinx families from their neighborhoods and community. We approved one of the largest transit bonds in the US, but major questions remain around building mass transit that is both sustainable and just.

Question 4

Question 4

What equity issues do you believe Sierra Club is overlooking and needs to engage on?

The environmental movement in the US was not founded on values of inclusion or equity, and we dedicated Sierra Club to environmental justice only 25 years ago – over a century after we were founded. We must earn trust for our recent commitment to this work. The fight for climate justice is being led by vibrant, powerful EJ organizations, and we must stand beside and follow these groups.

We must also evaluate our own history and future strategies within a framework of equity and justice. This requires a holistic analysis that centers Sierra Club’s organizational value of Anti-Racism, while placing equity into a broad context of white supremacy in the US. Such a context will enable us to map connections to other forms of violence, such as misogyny and antisemitism.

Finally, we too often miss the critical dimension of youth inclusion. Sierra Student Coalition has been a vital incubator and leader of strong organizing practices and forward-looking values, but I am one of only two current Directors with roots in the SSC and our youth representation is declining. Youth leadership is not solely about age representation within Sierra Club’s decision-making – even more critically, it’s about the strategic vision, values, and lived experiences of younger people being fully included in our highest levels of organizational governance and strategy-setting.

Question 5

Question 5

We have competing fundraising priorities between National and the Chapters. How do you recommend we address this tension?

If we seem to have competing priorities, I believe it’s only because we can better align resources and impact. Fundraising for place-based campaigns is strengthened by our Advancement team’s expertise, and our national fundraising story becomes more compelling when rooted in local impact.

There are many ways we could rethink this model. For example, we could provide additional training for Chapters to manage their own fundraising – or we could dedicate national staff to raising support around place-based campaigns and then equitably commit those resources to a shared grassroots campaign model, with Chapters and the national organization acting in concert.

We also recognize that effective fundraising requires good strategic planning. We cannot expect donors to support our Chapter if we aren’t ready to share a compelling vision of our local goals and strategies. As a volunteer with Chapter Support, I’ve helped Chapters across the country craft strategic plans to inspire support for their work.

Finally, we must ground this conversation by acknowledging that we raise funds, in part, to create an organization that truly welcomes new voices – including many people are not able to financially support the Sierra Club. Even our lowest membership level can be unrealistic for environmental advocates worried about their next utility bill, and our meeting times and venues often don’t accommodate supporters who work multiple jobs or need access to childcare. It’s imperative for us to identify and eliminate economic hurdles that block people from becoming part of our work.

Question 6

Question 6

The Sierra Club is a vast and complex organization by any standards, and it is unusual in that both staff and volunteers are central to the mission of the Club and its day-to-day operations. Tell a story about a time you navigated or attempted to reform a bureaucratic system, and what you learned from the experience.

My earliest Sierra Club work, over 25 years ago, was in a volunteer-led wilderness campaign, enlisting fellow members to stamp envelopes, make phone calls, and lobby elected officials. We won the introduction of a Sierra Club-backed bill in the US Senate, permanently changing the balance of power around wilderness protection. Even now, 20 years later, this experience roots my Sierra Club work in commitment to grassroots, volunteer-led action. Yet this was a case in which our campaign was not initially supported by the Chapter, and we had to prove our skill impact before we were recognized.

One key to equitably managing complex organizations is transparency and participation. When I was on the Board’s conservation committee in the early 2000s, we ensured that new policies and priorities reflected broad volunteer input. I helped lead similar processes of participatory decision-making in my years with the Sierra Student Coalition.

We’ve lost some of this focus over the past 15 years, as we’ve reorganized and streamlined our structure. Sierra Club has lost venues for listening to perspectives throughout the organization, and we’ve lost opportunities for welcoming new leaders. At the same time, we’ve come to recognize a separate challenge: we must reach beyond our traditional volunteer base to empower new voices and values.

We must rebuild opportunities for volunteer leadership – and for volunteer leaders to guide our decisions. The Council of Club Leaders plays a crucial role, but we also need a richer ecosystem of volunteer leadership opportunities above the local level.

Question 7

Question 7

Tell us about a time you managed or navigated a conflict within Sierra Club?

I was deeply fortunate to be part of Sierra Club’s national Conflict Resolution Team for a decade, and I chaired that team in its final two years. Inside and outside of the organization, I bring a long background in group dynamics, facilitation, conflict resolution, and human-centered design. I also bring a willingness to set those things aside when truly bad behavior occurs, and instead move quickly to minimize harmful impacts on colleagues and ensure that restorative accountability can occur.

We often call upon these skills only after problems have occurred, however. Sierra Club has invested heavily into recruiting, onboarding, and training staff who align with our organizational values, but the last 15 years saw a steady decline in training resources for volunteer leaders. We not only failed to provide new training and leadership opportunities, but we ended nearly all of pre-existing programs and redirected those resources to staff training and development. As Sierra Club has grown by leaps and bounds, we've left many volunteers behind.

We have begun to shift back toward volunteer capacity-building, particularly with the leadership of our fantastic Training Team and Chapter Support Team. It’s time to double down on their creative expertise. If we truly want to be "volunteer-led" and center the power of volunteers, we need to equip volunteers to manage conflict and join us on our equity journey.

Question 8

Question 8

Please describe your successes and failures regarding your work within your community as an agent of social and political change -- specifically those supporting environmental justice goals.  What did you learn from them and how has your philosophy about how to create change evolved because of your experiences?

I moved to Austin for work in 2013, and one of my first steps was getting involved with a community EJ network. In the following years, I expanded my local volunteering to include our local SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) chapter. Within the local and state Sierra Club, I worked to advance racial equity and EJ partnerships, including training and coaching with Sierra Club Groups and bringing equity into Outings Leader training.

Despite these local roles, one of my honest regrets about national Sierra Club Board service is the commitment of time and energy that it requires, particularly for Board officers. In both Chicago and Austin, I was deeply rooted in local organizing for more than two decades of my life – but spending at least 20 hours a week on Board leadership responsibilities can mean that my time and energy are limited for local activism. I’m often reminded of poet Gary Snyder's answer when asked how to save the world: "Don't move!"

Question 9

Question 9

What is your experience with the political process, including campaigns, elections, and the legislative process? How do you think Sierra Club can build its political power?

My involvement with the Sierra Club’s political organizing goes back to the 1990s and early 2000s. I helped organize and lead a Chapter campaign that won the US Senate introduction of a Sierra Club priority bill. I was national liaison to the Sierra Club Political Committee, co-chaired our rapid-response team to George W. Bush’s anti-environmental onslaught in 2001, and traveled to crucial swing districts with staff and volunteers to get out the vote in 2004.

More recently, I devoted time and resources to the Austin Group’s Political Committee. We embarked on a new strategy: not just making endorsements, but also organizing skilled volunteers for phone-banking, block-walking, and hosting small fundraisers. Some Groups and Chapters are exemplars at mobilizing volunteer power through political organizing, and it’s vital that the rest of us learn from them for 2024.

It’s also important for us to look beyond our traditional issues. Anti-environmental politicians maintain dominance in many districts due to gerrymandering and voter suppression, and we must reach beyond specific environmental issues to build systemic solutions.

For example, Sierra Club should defend the right of workers to organize – not simply because we might seek union support for our priorities, but because states with strong labor organizing also see strong voter registration and get out the vote (GOTV) operations...which counterbalance the anti-environmental effects of gerrymandering and voter suppression. Similarly, the Sierra Club should support organizations working to register, engage, and empower youth and Latinx communities in Texas, across the Southwest, and throughout the country.

Question 10

Question 10

Tell us what you have learned about yourself – your strengths, weaknesses, and values – through your involvement in the Sierra Club?

I grew up seeing Sierra in my family’s magazine rack, and environmental organizing in college led me to my first Sierra Club activity: an Activist Outing to Utah’s threatened wildlands.

Since that trip, I’ve served in almost every part of the organization. I came to see deep connections between environmental threats and social inequality, and I shifted focus to exploring how we can work together with transparency and equity. I served on the Board of a community organizing nonprofit, studied conflict resolution in global workshops, and pursued a graduate degree in sustainability and business. Listening to others, I began to recognize my own unintended impacts – sometimes talking over people; responding with solutions rather than empathy; not providing space for other people’s experiences. Throughout my life transitions, Sierra Club has been a continuous thread and teacher – shaping my advocacy, but also who I am as a colleague, friend, son, and partner.

I’m inspired to seek another term on the Board for two reasons: the Sierra Club is the only “Big Green” group with the potential to create the change we urgently need, and this is a uniquely important moment in Sierra Club history.

We’re running out of time. The world cannot wait for organizations like ours to change, and the Board of Directors is called to balance that extraordinary urgency with patient stewardship of our members and volunteers. I am ready to help the Board balance those imperatives and work together to build an even stronger Sierra Club.