The Sierra Club Has 2020 Vision

Inside the organization's new 10-year blueprint for social change

By Michael Brune

December 19, 2019

Illustration by Luc Melanson

Illustration by Luc Melanson | Photo by Josh Deware 


When I became the Sierra Club's executive director in 2010, I knew that a lot of challenging work lay ahead of us, but I also saw incredible opportunities. At that time, I wrote that we could "change the story about energy development in this country." As predictions go, that one turned out to be pretty solid. But I could never have expected what was to come in the years that followed.

 For example, I couldn't have guaranteed that well before the decade ended, the Sierra Club and our allies would defy the fossil fuel industry and put the United States on a trajectory toward 100 percent clean, renewable energy. But that's what has happened: More than 140 cities and seven states have committed to eventually getting all their power from renewable sources, and a handful of communities have already hit their targets.

Ten years ago, I knew the climate crisis was looming. Yet it's been painful to witness climate chaos arriving so destructively in the form of powerful storms, deadly heat waves, and out-of-control wildfires. Many people, including me, once talked about "protecting our children's future." A decade on, that future is here, and the children we wanted to save are mad as hell and taking to the streets.

I'm grateful for everything that Sierra Club members have accomplished in the past 10 years—and I'm under no illusion that it's enough. With every year, the urgency of climate change only intensifies, and this new decade could be the most determinative in human history. That sounds like hyperbole, and I wish it were, but it's simply what the science tells us. Here's the flip side: Our opportunity to bend the arc of human history toward justice will never be greater than it is right now.

   To meet the historic challenges ahead, Sierra Club staff, volunteer leaders, and board members have developed a 10-year strategic blueprint for change. This broad yet concise action plan recognizes that our economy, our democracy, and our planet and its people are all connected. The blueprint also recognizes that this moment in time offers an extraordinary chance to build a better, more equitable world in which every person can thrive.

Here's the Sierra Club's vision for the decade to come:

We will finish the work of committing the United States to a 100 percent clean energy economy, with clean air and water for all—a commonsense goal that's supported by most people regardless of political affiliation. That means not only adopting renewable, affordable energy solutions and modernizing our electrical grid, but also rapidly electrifying all of our buildings and transportation.

As we build this clean energy economy, we will pursue every opportunity to ensure access to family-sustaining jobs and health care as well as assistance with career transitioning for affected workers. We will listen to the people in frontline communities who historically have been harmed by pollution from the old, gray economy and make sure they share the economic and environmental benefits of the new, green one.

Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources is an essential climate solution, but it's not a complete one. That's why the Sierra Club will keep working hard to protect lands, waters, and wildlife. Everyone needs and deserves access to nature, and wild spaces are also vital to climate resilience. During the next 10 years, the Sierra Club will aim to permanently protect at least 30 percent of our wildlands and to do so in partnership with Native and frontline communities.

Finally, we will continue our work to protect another endangered resource: American democracy. Of all the things I didn't foresee in 2010, the unprecedented assault on our Constitution may be the most surprising. All of our work depends on a healthy, stable democracy, so you can expect to see us forcefully defending voting rights, fair and independent courts, and secure elections.

Together, we accomplished a lot during the past decade. Together, we can, we must, use this next one to move our economy, our nation, and our planet as quickly as possible into a just, equitable, and sustainable future.

This article appeared in the January/February 2020 edition with the headline "2020 Vision."