Sierra Club Logo The Cascade: The Great Falls Group Newsletter             Summer 2014    
In This Issue
"Hands across the Sand" Event Targets Dirty Fuels
Sierra Club Bestows Legislative Leader Award
NOVA Climate Action Coalition Update
Meet Sierra Club's New Northern Virginia Coordinator
Natural Landscaping Program
Earth Day 2014 Events
Featured Summer Hike
Get Outdoors with the Sierra Club
Great Falls Group Executive Committee
Calendar of Events
Quick Links
Top1 Calendar

Upcoming Programs--Everyone Welcome!  


June 7:  Years of Living Dangerously TV documentary
                7 to 9 pm, Sterling

June 9:  NOVA Climate Action Coalition happy hour
               6 to 8 pm, Leesburg

June 12:  New EPA Carbon Emission Standards 
                 7 to 9 pm, Oakton


June 13:  Drill, Spill, Repeat documentary film
                 7:30 to 9:30 pm
, Oakton 


June 23:  Bidder 70 movie, 7 to 9 pm, Vienna



Details below.

Bird Family
Bird Family by Thomas Bollinger
"Hands across the Sand" Event Targets Dirty Fuels

Saturday, May 17, people across the globe took part in the 5th Annual Hands Across the Sand event to ask their officials to reject the use of dirty fuels. Founded after the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the event features people joining hands as a symbolic barrier against spilled oil. For our local event, torrential rain the day before cut off some routes to Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling, Virginia. But 31 activists (plus 5 activist dogs) came together under fresh-washed skies, joining thousands of protesters worldwide in calling for communal action for renewable energy.


Chief local organizer Natalie Pien of 350 Loudon introduced several speakers, who summarized the fossil-fuel challenge, as well as actions we can take now to meet it. Sarah Bucci, Campaign Director for Environment Virginia, asked participants to thank Senator Tim Kaine in particular for opposing the Keystone XL pipeline and supporting EPA's new clean energy rules; he's feeling the heat and needs our encouragement.


Natural Gas Is a Dirty Fuel


Bucci also reminded the group that natural gas is still riding on its reputation as a clean source of energy from the days when it was easy to pump. Today, though, it must be ripped from hard-to-penetrate deposits, raising the near certainty of toxic chemical spills and catastrophic methane leaks, and quite possibly earthquakes as well. Linda Burchfiel of the Sierra Club (SC) Great Falls Group emphasized the George Washington National Forest's role as a priceless community resource. Fracking there could contaminate the Potomac watershed, ravage its ecosystems, and pollute the drinking water of millions of people in the Washington, DC, area.


What You Can Do


SC's new Northern Virginia coordinator, Ishmael Buckner, said that SC would be calling on Virginia's U.S. senators soon in support of the EPA's clean air regulations. But the senators need to hear from more than club members, he said. "Do you know any small-business owners?" he asked. "Well, they have to breathe, too, and so do their customers and their kids." Ishmael encourages us to suggest that these businesspeople contact their senators (Senator Warner in particular) to state their support for cleaner air.


Eric Goplerud

Eric Goplerud of the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions urged church members to identify themselves to their public officials as people of faith, not just as members of a particular political party. Democratic politicians, he pointed out, tend to discount advocacy from fellow Democrats thinking, "they'll probably vote for me anyway," and from Republicans thinking, "I'll never get their vote." The same is true for Republican officeholders. People who speak up as part of a faith tradition are a little harder to pigeonhole or dismiss.


Grace Horvath, of Loudoun County High School/Academy of Science, mentioned that she just turned 18. But though she's only recently reached voting age, she's been actively concerned about the environment for as long as she can remember. Grace will begin studying environmental engineering at the University of California at Berkeley in the fall, but at the same time, she'll be working to get more of her generation involved in the struggle.


Undermining Solar Power


Finally, Mary Taylor, an SC member from Sterling, spoke in favor of legislative action to encourage distributed solar power, that is, solar power on individual homes and businesses. She urged attendees to look at a recent Sierra article, "Throwing Shade," on schemes by U.S. investor-owed utilities to undermine the spread of solar energy in this country.


After the talks, the group gathered for photos only a few feet from the banks of the swollen Potomac, whose fierce waters reminded attendees how unwise it is to take Nature for granted. Both the photo op and the subsequent picnic gave attendees a chance to speak with local people enjoying the park about the group's reasons for being there. For more information about the Hands across the Sand event, see the Hands across the Sand website, our SC Great Falls Group Facebook page, and photos on Flickr.


By Peg Hausman


Sierra Club Bestows Legislative Leader Award  
Great Falls Group members honor Virginia Senator Chap Petersen with the Legislative Leader Award.


The Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club honored Fairfax Senator Chap Petersen (D-34) with the Legislative Leader Award at American Legion Post 177. Petersen was recognized for his work on Senate Bill 222, better known as The Solar Freedom Bill. This successful piece of legislation eradicated a homeowner association (HOA) legal barrier that was frustrating homeowners with plans to install solar on their property. Thanks to Petersen, most HOA bans on solar power will be eliminated, and Virginians living in communities governed by HOAs are now free to install clean, renewable energy systems at home.


NOVA Climate Action Coalition Update

Environmentalists in Northern Virginia have been gathering together at happy hours to network and exchange ideas and information. Fifty people attended the first coalition happy hour in August 2013. Restaurants in Herndon, Fairfax, Vienna, and Sterling have hosted gatherings.


The six founding environmental organizations work together to influence key members of the U.S. Senate, tie the Keystone XL Pipeline to climate change, and connect the Keystone XL fight to other tar sands pipeline fights across the country. At happy hours, members break into small groups to generate ideas for acting locally. Coalition members look for ways to influence local elected leaders, lobby Virginia representatives, and raise awareness of the environmental agenda.


The Climate Action Coalition includes: 

  • Sierra Club Great Falls Group
  • 350 Loudoun
  • Chesapeake Climate Action Network
  • Environment Virginia
  • Herndon Environmental Network
  • Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions 


NOVA Climate Action Coalition happy hour in Sterling.
The June 9 happy hour will celebrate Meatless Monday at Jasmine's vegetarian restaurant in Leesburg. 350 Loudoun and Loudoun Veg are cohosting the evening for an informal program on two issues: Loudoun Veg will discuss the impact of diet on greenhouse gas emissions, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network's representative will talk about the prospects for and recent success of shareholder activism with Dominion Power. Activists are using shareholder power to put clean energy issues in front of Dominion's corporate executives and board of directors. Loudoun Veg is promoting a Meatless Monday campaign, which encourages nonvegans to try the diet once a week and encourages businesses to add more plant-based items to their menus. 


Come join us! The next Climate Action Happy Hour will be:

Monday, June 9, 6 to 8 pm

at Jasmine's, 110 South Street SE, Leesburg, VA  20175


Find it on Google Maps.



By Susan Bonney


Meet Sierra Club's New Northern Virginia Coordinator
Ishmael Buckner

Hello, Great Falls Group members!


 I would like to take this time to introduce myself. My name is Ishmael Buckner, and I am the new Northern Virginia Conservation Program Coordinator. In this capacity, I am responsible for connecting Northern Virginians to Sierra Club resources and campaigns on both a state and national level, as well as serving as the staff support to the Great Falls and Mt. Vernon groups. My hope is to help Northern Virginians better engage in supporting the new CO2 regulations coming down from the EPA (on June 2) and being decided by Governor McAuliffe; to help organize around increasing renewable energy in Virginia and pushing back against increased use of natural gas (via fracking), coal, and other fossil fuels; and to push for more pedestrian and mass-transit-friendly transportation planning, which is greatly needed as I have learned from being stuck in horrible traffic.


I am from the DC region having grown up in DC and Prince George's County, Maryland. My background is in environmental and political activism. I became active with the Sierra Club while still attending Oxon Hill High School through the Sierra Student Coalition in 2006.  Since then, I have worked on organizing around climate legislation both in the Maryland General Assembly and the U.S. Congress. In 2009, I worked with to push for the passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES Bill) in the U.S. House, currently the only bill to pass either chamber of the U.S. Congress directly addressing climate change and green house gas emissions. I have organized college students and community members in central Pennsylvania around both fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline.  In the summer of 2012, I was hired as a field organizer for the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama in Henrico, VA. Since then, I have worked on a number of initiatives including helping connect communities in DC and Maryland to affordable wind energy utility options, supporting political candidates in Pennsylvania, and helping coordinate Powershift, a 6,000+ youth environmental conference held in Pittsburgh this past October.


Ishmael Buckner

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Natural Landscaping Program

The Sierra Club Great Falls Group (GFG) continues to focus on natural landscaping, which kicked off a two-part presentation on April 10th at the Oakton Library. The focus was on the "why" and "how" of natural landscaping. Natural landscaping is a method of designing and installing landscapes based on an understanding of the relationship between plants and the rest of the environment. Also, information was presented on the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District annual native tree and shrub seedling sale so that attendees could order plants at the presentation.


Jim McGlone, urban forest conservationist with the Virginia Department of Forestry, discussed the practice of natural landscaping from both his professional knowledge and ten years of personal experience practicing natural landscaping. He focused on why we need natural landscaping and discussed ecosystem services and local ecology that property owners should know about if they want to help their native habitat.


Terry Liercke, president of the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV) spoke on how property owners can use native plants and practices to help protect and restore local ecosystems. He encouraged homeowners to put a native plant in the ground, i.e., plant bird food, pollinator food, and habitat. His frame of reference is Doug Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home. He talked about Audubon at Home, a program that homeowners can participate in to improve their natural landscaping. A representative from ASNV will come to a homeowner's property and discuss how to implement more natural landscaping techniques.


Liercke also talked about the Plant Northern Virginia Natives campaign being sponsored by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, local chapters of the Virginia Native Plant Society, nurseries, and other groups, creating a website, guidebook, workshop series, and plant tags to be used in local garden stores.


Two important practices discussed during the presentations were: all the dead plant material should be left for organisms to use during the winter, and don't amend the soil when planting trees.


There will be another natural landscaping presentation in the fall in this continuing series to discuss how to compost plant material, divide perennials, and prepare our yards for winter for local critters.


If you have any suggestions on other topics for presentation, or comments on this presentation please contact Norbert Pink at 


 By Norbert Pink

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Earth Day 2014 Events
Several local communities hosted Earth Day 2014 activities:


Northern Virginia Community College--Loudoun Campus


The Sixth Annual Climate Change Symposium was held at the Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC)-Loudoun on April 22. This was an all-day event focused on hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as "fracking."


Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting highly pressurized caustic fluid into the ground to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas. It can result in severe environmental and social consequences for the communities it affects. Locally, the most imminent threat of fracking is in the George Washington National Forest, potentially affecting over four million people whose drinking water comes from the Potomac River.


Bill Bour of NVCC, Greg Buppert from the Southern Environmental Law Center, and Josh Fox, director of the critically acclaimed films Gasland and Gasland II spoke. Bour spoke on how fracking is accomplished from a driller's perspective. Fox entertained the audience by playing the banjo after his film was shown and followed up with a nice presentation on his 10 fracking issues. There was a panel discussion on fracking, where Mary Ellen Cassidy from FracTracker Alliance gave a passionate response to questions on the impacts of fracking.


Sierra Club Great Falls Group (GFG) tabled at this event along with 350 Loudoun, getting the word out about our activities. We discussed work on some joint community meetings with the newly formed student Loudoun Green Team for the next school year.


GFG has had numerous programs on fracking in Fairfax and Loudoun county over the past few months, focusing on education and generating letters to their county supervisors. See the Spring 2014 Cascade for more information.


Oracle of Reston--Earth Week Green Vendor Fair


On Wednesday, April 23, Oracle of Reston hosted a Green Vendor Fair in its company cafeteria. The fair hosted about 20 local eco-friendly businesses and organizations that want to share best conservation and business practices with Oracle employees, contractors, tenants, and visitors. GFG hosted a table among the other vendors and organizations. GFG's chair, Norbert Pink, is trying to establish a partnering relationship with Oracle for future events that would be beneficial to both organizations.


Earth Day at Loudoun


GFG tabled at this event on May 4 in partnership with 350 Loudoun. Earth Day at Loudoun's mission is to promote environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable living among county residents and businesses. There were a number of vendors and organizations that were new to GFG, and we are pursuing a potential speaker for the fall Natural Landscaping presentation. 


For more information on these events contact Norbert Pink at


By Norbert Pink

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Featured Summer Hike
Great Falls River Trail
After taking in the falls in Virginia's Great Falls Park, venture downstream on the River Trail. In some areas, this trail runs right next to the edge of the cliff, offering spectacular views of the Potomac and Mather Gorge. Cliff heights range from 25-75 feet. Vultures and great blue heron are common sights. Gather friends or family, pick a pretty summer day, and explore, enjoy, and protect the planet! Learn more about this trail and see a map on the Active Life DC website.  


Get Outdoors with the Sierra Club


Sierra Club Potomac Region Outings (SCPRO) is a special activities group of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter. It organizes hikes and events year-round for the general public on behalf of the Sierra Club's Washington, DC, Chapter and the Maryland and Virginia Chapters' Washington-suburb groups. Volunteer leaders conduct the events, many of which include conservation, educational, or historical elements. For information about SCPRO and its upcoming events, visit the SCPRO Events website. To obtain a free calendar subscription, inquire about becoming a SCPRO outings leader, or get answers to other questions, write to


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Great Falls Group Executive Committee


The monthly meeting of The Great Falls Group's (GFG) Executive Committee is usually held on the second Monday of the month, beginning at 7:30 pm, and is open to all Sierra Club members. Contact Norbert Pink for meeting times and location. If you would like to help the group, please volunteer by contacting one of the following leaders or Norbert Pink.



Chair                    Norbert Pink               703-264-7445

Vice Chair            Susan Weltz              703-242-2789

Treasurer             Joe Apple                   703-860-1254

Secretary             Patricia Leslie and Peg Hausman   


Committee Chairs:

Chapter Delegate  Joe Apple                   703-860-1254

Conservation         Steve Bruckner          703-883-3622

Membership           Norbert Pink              703-264-7445

Public Affairs          Volunteer wanted

Political                   Linda Burchfiel                              

Programs               Susan Weltz              703-242-2789 

Social                     Susan Bonney           703-821-5587

Transportation        Douglas Stewart        703-385-7564 


Committee Support:

Website & Listserv    Linda Stevens                              

E-newsletter               Linda Brown                              


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Sunday, June 7, 7 to 9 pm
Movie: Years of Living Dangerously TV documentary

Granger Room at Community Lutheran Church, 21014 Whitfield Pl., Sterling 

Years of Living Dangerously is a 9-part Showtime documentary television series focusing on climate change. Episodes #4-9 will be shown. 


Sponsor: 350 Loudoun

Contact:  Andrew Wilson at

Monday, June 9, 6 to 8 pm
NOVA Climate Action Happy Hour
Jasmine's, 110 South Street SE, Leesburg
Enjoy great food, mingle, and turn up the pressure to act on climate change in Virginia. Come to organize as a community and hear an informal program on two issues: Loudoun Veg will discuss the impact of diet on greenhouse gas emissions, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network's representative will talk about the prospects for and recent success of shareholder activism with Dominion Power. Join forces to grow a movement and make a stronger impact. 
Complimentary food; cash bar. 
Hosts: 350 Loudoun and Loudoun Veg. 


Contact:  Susan Bonney at


Thursday, June 12, 7 to 9 pm 
New EPA Carbon Emissions Standards
Oakton Library, 10304 Lynnhaven Place, Oakton

Learn how important the new EPA carbon rules (unveiled June 2) will be to increasing power plant emission reductions. Environmentalists must get active in keeping these standards strong. On June 2, President Obama personally unveiled the new carbon-reduction rules for power plants, a top-tier policy issue for his final two years in office. Hear from Northern Virginia Sierra Club staffer Ishmael Buckner on how to engage in the fight to make Virginia a leader on this issue. 

Sponsor:  Sierra Club/Great Falls Group

Contact:  Susan Weltz at


Friday, June 13, 7:30 to 9:30 pm 
Movie: Drill, Spill, Repeat 
Unity of Fairfax, 2854 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton

The Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions will show the movie Drill, Spill, Repeat. Following the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf Of mexico, large offshore crude and refined oil spills continue. Learn more about the dangers of offshore drilling in this documentary from Oceana, an international organization focused on ocean conservation.   

Sponsor: The Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions
Monday, June 23, 7 to 9 pm
Movie:  Bidder 70
Patrick Henry Library, 101 Maple Avenue East, Vienna 
The story of Tim DeChristopher, a young man who disrupted a controversial oil and gas leasing auction in 2008. He posed as a bidder (#70) and bid $1.7 million to win 22,000 acres of land he had no intention of paying for (or drilling on). Tim was federally indicted, convicted, and sentenced to two years in prison for his courageous act of civil disobedience. Bidder 70 is a personal story surrounded by a wider context of citizen action, our history of peaceful civil disobedience, and grass roots movements demanding government and industry accountability. 
Sponsor: Sierra Club/Great Falls Group  
Contact: Susan Weltz at

The Cascade is published by the Great Falls Group of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. Beginning 2012, it is being published electronically. We reserve the right to edit all submissions, both editorial and advertisements. The views expressed are those of the authors and may not be those of the Sierra Club. Email articles, photos, questions, or comments to


Visit the Great Falls Group website.  


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Linda Brown, Editor
Sierra Club Great Falls Group, Virginia