Don't Give Up: Sierra Club Leader on How We Can Win the Fight for Clean Energy
Continued from previous page
MB: There is an entity called the Green Group, which I think was once the group of eight or 10 but now there are 35 environmental organizations ranging from Audubon, TNC, NRDC, Sierra Club, Green for All, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and others -- we meet three times a year. We moved our last meeting down to New Orleans to talk about oil and how we can work together and be more aggressive to reduce our dependence on oil.
It's a collegial, collaborative atmosphere, but we are going to have to evolve and become much more effective as a collection of organizations if we are going to meet the challenges we currently face.
DH: Is there growth in the environmental movement? Are young people apolitical?
MB: There is the potential for growth, I don't see many groups that are exploding in size, but there is not a shortage of activism, really. If you look at the coal work we are doing, it's a huge movement of organizations and individuals -- it's really easy to get into because there are specific places and specific policies. There are coal plants on 60 college campuses across the country and we've just hired an organizer for every one. You've got coal plants that are inside major cities. We don't see a shortage there -- but when it comes to broader national policy issues, it is probably more challenging than it was five or 10 years ago. I think a big reason for that is because there is just a declining confidence among too many activists that when they engage they can make a difference. They believe it more for local issues than for big national changes.
DH: You have the advantage of being able to go hyper-local with your infrastructure or global, while most groups can't.
MB: Yes, and I think one of the challenges we have is to remind people and inspire people and show people when we are making a big difference. We talk about 138 coal plants that have been defeated as a way of thinking about when people do organize and put their energy together for a specific purpose we can do great work. And we can apply that strategic focus toward bigger challenges ahead. Over the next few years as we create a track record of shutting down old facilities, capturing how that is happening and popularizing what actually worked is as important as shutting down the facilities itself because it is necessary to build momentum.
TL: Considering a climate bill has now been pronounced dead in Congress and with the president, how do we approach this issue, which many see as political suicide?
MB: I think that right now we are in a little bit of a trough where people are intimidated or feeling timid in talking about climate change and so they don't want to -- I don't really buy that -- I don't think it is as much of a politically radioactive term as some people will say. I think we should continue to talk about climate change and the Sierra Club will. At the same time it's natural that different people will be inspired by different things. Many people will be inspired to take action because they are concerned about public health, other people are really inspired by clean energy, other people are motivated by national security or economic competitiveness. What I think is most strategic for groups like the Sierra Club is to address all of those values, so we are more interested in telling people how our solutions will help people solve their every day problems instead of engaging in these debates about what's the right words to choose or the right frame.