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Why I Belong to the Sierra Club

I don’t always agree with them. In fact, I frequently disagree with them. I have been to a couple of their events and found that many of them seem to be naïve, idealistic, air-heads on crusades to save the planet from humanity at the expense of humanity. The common thread in most of their campaigns comes across as the world will be a better place if every human holds its breath until he turns blue, falls over and mulches himself. They look to be visionaries, but only while looking down a length of sewer pipe. Sometimes they see the big picture; other times they can’t see beyond the ends of their noses. Yet I have been a Sierra Club member for many years.

FOX watchers, conservatives, and gun toting Davy Crockett wannabees despise them. The oil industry, electric power industry, and the mining industry would love to burn them in the boiler. Loggers, log truck drivers, and lumber people would like to see them hanging from ropes or tarred and feathered with spotted owl plumage no less. Charlston Heston disciples think they look good when centered in the crosshairs of the scope on their 30.06 rifles. They’re blamed for forest fires, bark beetles, bear scat, and giant fish kills. They amount to one of the most detested groups in the country. But I have been a Sierra Club member of many years and will continue to be a member.

The Sierra Club has actively worked to fight new oil refineries, new power lines, coal mining, nuclear power development, logging, oil drilling, and anything that contributes to global climate change. They have been experts at creating conflict and making enemies. So why do I so avidly support them? Because they are desperately needed. They provide a critically important voice to the debate on the future of our planet.

Without the Sierra Club and groups like it, those companies and organizations that have everything to gain by the ruthless rape of the environment would have nothing to lose. If there were no opposing voices, if there were no obstacles to unbridled development, we it would become Bhopal, India revisited over and over again. Our environment would be decimated overnight.

As a chemical engineer working in the petroleum industry, I have been present when managers have instructed employees to pollute at night so the hideous black smoke could not be seen by the regulatory agencies monitoring the area. I have witnessed firsthand the destruction of large tracks of land in the interests of maximizing profits. I have seen and participated in corporate actions intended to circumvent environmental laws or push them to the limit. Had there been no opposition to these types of actions, we undoubtedly would have pushed the limits much farther.

I say this not to indict the oil industry in particular or corporate America in general. I say it to make it clear that that is the reality. It is the way things are done. If someone is paid to make a profit, that’s what will be done. To believe otherwise is the height of naiveté.

We’re being targeted by the captains of industry now. There is a propaganda campaign underway trying to convince the American public that grain ethanol is a wise approach to energy problem mitigation. This is questionable at best. There is another massive bit of slight-of-hand in progress to sell “clean coal” to the American public. “Clean coal” is a myth, a hoax, a sham and a scam. Ain’t no such thing.

Without groups like the Sierra Club, the coal industry would have a wide open path to push its agenda. Truth would be made irrelevant. We would be taken to hell in a coal fired wagon.

Before you jump to the conclusion that I’m a tree hugging environmental terrorist opposed to all development and industry, know this. I do believe coal will play a major role in our energy future. I also see no reasonable alternative to a return to nuclear power generation. If my fellow members of the Sierra Club knew this, I’d be forced into the witness protection program. My views are not extreme.

However, I do know enough about industry, about corporate America, about capitalism and human nature to realize that without the voices of opposition, we are greedy enough to ravage our own nest. We’ve done it in the past. There is no reason to believe we won’t do it in the future. Today, I renew my membership to the Sierra Club.


One Response

  1. […] Posted on August 21, 2009 by Allen Sherpa It wasn’t long ago, I wrote a piece about why I belong to the Sierra Club.  It proves there can be more to a situation than meets the eye. Membership carries certain […]


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