New President at Sierra Club: A Fork in the Road 

The future of our national parks and public lands system just got brighter with the news that Aaron Mair has been elected President of the Sierra Club.



 Aaron Mair, the new president of the Sierra Club reflects a focus on people as part of the environment that has long been missing from conservation.

Aaron, an imposing, passionate and resolute champion for the environment and people for more than three decades and a longtime board member of the Sierra Club was elected President by the organization's national board. (More about him here)


Oh happy day! The first day I wake up in America with a righteous brother of African descent at the helm of one of our country's premier environmental organizations!


This should be on all the news channels though it may not be, because it signals that the organization is serious about creating one environmental movement that works for the country and all the people. It also gives more than 30 other national conservation organizations no excuse for their lack of racial and ethnic diversity in leadership roles.


"Nature is the great equalizer. Nature knows no difference between black and white. The biggest challenge the environmental movement faces today is transcending class, gender, and the racial divide so we can come together on climate, both domestically and internationally," Mair said. "Conservation isn't about climate deniers; it's about the people bringing about change. The climate movement isn't about politicians; it's about the grassroots. That's why I'm so pleased to blaze this new trail for the Sierra Club."


Teresa Baker, front row, far right, and Robert Hanna, left of Ranger Shelton Johnson, invited interested parties to a conversation in Yosemite about solutions for urban communities and national parks.


Yes, the grassroots. We've only been saying this for 20 years, and it's a wonderful thing to hear it coming from the top by someone who lives it.


In an incredible coincidence, the same weekend a descendant of Sierra Club founder John Muir - Robert Hanna was in Yosemite National Park with Teresa Baker, strategizing how to increase urban communities' connections with the parks. When Teresa and I debriefed, I saw instantly where the problem is: when agency officials challenge the perspectives of underserved community members instead of trying to address them, it's a recipe for gridlock.


 The group gathered around this sign for a photo and a message back to our present day society.


I feel like John Muir is reaching back from the grave 100 years after he died (December, 1914) to wake us up to the peril we're in and encourage us to bridge the artificial gap. Just like he led the movement to conserve our precious lands, now his legacy is propelling us to come together from the top and the bottom and meet in the middle.


Every 15 or 20 years, it seems, the canyon forces us to undergo a kind of national character exam. If we cannot muster the resources and the resolve to preserve this, perhaps our greatest natural treasure, what, if anything, are we willing to protect? - Kevin Fedarko, "Cathedral Under Siege" New York Times 8/10/14



If you've been paying the slightest attention, you know that OUR public lands are under assault from every direction, most especially the Congress we elect to take care of our treasures. From supporting states' rights to appropriate public lands, to a uranium mine being permitted near Grand Canyon National Park to Florida's refusal to buy land vital to the Everglades, the attacks are relentless.


So I affirm that Aaron's election to the leadership of one of our country's oldest and largest environmental oranizations (2.4 million members)  marks a fork in the road, enabling conservation leaders to see the bleak path of destruction on their side with little diversity versus the green, thriving path on the other side where the full breadth of the American people are enabled to contribute their gifts and energies.


Congratulations Aaron!! Congratulations Sierra Club!




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