Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Positively Environmental

For more than 5 years, my high school and college experiences had led me to believe it would be a constant uphill battle to change other’s views and practices to sustain the environment, but participating in Lobby Day 2007 as a student intern for Sierra Club California has finally altered that discouraging view to pure positivism.

The life of a conservationist is difficult to lead as a positivist when the only thing you seem to say to others is “Stop!” Sierra Club California’s annual Lobby Day, which occurred August 27, 2007, attracted over 50 Sierra Club members. That day, for the first time, I saw and participated in environmental conservation that is positive and says to others “Keep Going!” The 52 Sierra Club members, grouped geographically, advanced upon the State Capital to “lobby” by themselves and directly impress upon their local Senators and Assemblymembers the importance of voting “yes” on four bills important to furthering smart growth and air quality in California.

Two factors from Lobby Day were extremely important in altering my prior negative views. The first is that I am not alone, there are at least 52 Sierra Club members dedicated enough to the environment to travel to Sacramento and prove there are real people who the professional staff lobbyists represent. Second is that all four bills are themselves positive in that they create new ways to conserve instead of negatively demanding industries to stop. In the case of Lobby Day, I was allowed to watch first-hand everyday conservationists asking those in power to continue on the path of sustainability, and was delightfully surprised at the increasingly positive responses from legislators. By prompting legislators positively to “keep going!” and provide more alternatives for environmental change in California the Sierra Club members proved to me the answer to conservation has to move past just the negative approach of telling others to “stop!”

A Sierra Club lobbyist said to me once “a positive environmentalist is often an oxymoron because there is always another negative environmental battle ahead to fight;” this common thought was altered too on Lobby Day at the ceremony in the State Capitol honoring Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez. Núñez was awarded the National Sierra Club’s sole Distinguished Achievement Award for 2007 for his work leading to the passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, AB 32. This ceremony was an unusual gem in conservation history because it was a celebration of what has already been achieved and what there is to look forward to. Much of environmentalism looks at what must be done next but awarding Núñez for his work gave me the opportunity to think about what the politician, the Sierra Club lobbyists, the Sierra Club members and I have been doing in our lives. What I found through Lobby Day and the individuals involved is that there is no need to be discouraged because every singular person convinced to conserve, and every singular action conserving the precious environment, is one less battle to fight, and that is a positive thought.

Abigail May
Sierra Club California Intern

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