The end of the summer and fall were extremely busy for me.  Thus, I failed to publish a report of the September Annual Sierra Club meeting. Therefore, I am going to do a twofer now and provide an overview of both the September and November meetings.

This is not the report that I had anticipated prior to November 8th.  We all woke up on November 9th to a different world than we had expected. It has taken me, and probably you too, some time to process this new and different reality.  And while there is no normalizing what we now face we must accept reality and deal with it.  The pendulum of history and civilization swings back and forth and we’ve all dealt with disappointment, change and challenge before.  And we will do it again.  

So let’s get to our task at hand.  I would like to summarize  the September meeting generally as a review of taking delivery on many of the initiatives that we have begun in the past few years while simultaneously launching into the 2017 budget process in order to insure that our financing and priorities are appropriately aligned.  

There are several documents posted to the end of my comments and one is President Aaron Mair’s “Spotlight” post with his review of the meeting.  

In addition to Aaron’s comments let me simply list a few other items that were on our agenda:

  • A process report from the Civil Disobedience Task Force (this review to consider a change is ongoing).

  • Updates on our digital on line strategies.

  • Reports from our Canadian affiliates.

 Well, that’s a pretty high level overview of the September meeting.  Here is a bit more detail on what transpired in November.


Sierra Club Board Meeting November 17 – 19, 2016 At SCHQ in Oakland

1. Budget Committee Meeting. We discussed how does Trump’s election affect our budgeting? More dedicated to mass mobilizations? Where? D.C. Or state capitals? Who to target? Public? Federation legislators? State legislators?  We contemplated how to balance, say, movement building vs. protecting our core environmental laws? Do we direct more of the budget to build membership and funding and how? How do we balance between the needs and strengths of chapters vs. that of national programs and staff.  Shifting allocation of national income to needs and programs for chapters.

We learned that there has been a surge of new members and monthly giving in reaction to the Trump election. Recognizing that we are going to have new challenges we agree that we need to be patient about how to use the additional funds until we have a better idea of what will be the greatest need.

We also need to be diligent about maintaining required reserves and abiding by our newly approved policy.

We recognized the need to be cautious about how the new administration will try to attack us and what funds we’ll need to be reactive or proactive and how to stay flexible and fluid. And we need to think about how to manage risk.

2. The political program update pointed out how we did at the state level in many ares in which we engaged. Illinois was one of the spots where our work was especially effective.

3. In a joint session with the Sierra Club Foundation, we discussed the effect of the Trump win and how the new Administration can undermine our initiatives and how we can and will challenge their prerogatives. This is not the first time we’ve had to function in a hostile climate and we have tools to fight effectively. Furthermore, we have been built for this moment and are uniquely positioned to rise to this onslaught with well trained staff and volunteers in every community ready to show up. And a great deal of the action will continue to be at the state level.

One question is what will be attacked first and how much can be done at once. Then, of course, what can the new Administration and Republican Congress accomplish. One thing we know is that the power sector is on a trajectory to decarbonize the electric sector by 2030 and much of that is now baked in due to our economic momentum. Solar and wind cost continues to drop and make it the most economic alternative. Transportation will be a bit more challenging especially in regards to the CAFE standards review coming up and the possibility that the $7,500 Federal EV credit could be ended.

How do we protect peoples’ lives? That is the bottom line of our work and that of our allies.

4. Transformation of Population Program to Gender, Equity and Environment.   I have attached a document that describes how this initiative is morphing.

5. Equity, Inclusion and Justice report. We had an awesome presentation from Nellis Kennedy-Howard, and a couple of her associates, on how this program is growing, maturing and pivoting.  She expresses it best her message which I have copied below.  Take some time to review it and the other documents that are linked to it. There is a change of name and focus to mobilize, connect and engage. To enlist humanity we need to speak to ALL people. The evolving focus is rooted in a larger vision in Equity and Justice. Working on the environment is more imperative but not enough. We must attack the moral injustice that is driving climate injustice. Diversity is more than just race and the goal is equity not diversity. Diversity is an outcome not a goal. We must protect the human environment in a mission aligned way. We are going from multi cultural to anti racist. Going beyond tolerating people for who they are in all aspects to celebrating each individual for all that they are and insuring that Sierra Club is being a safe place.

6. Nominating Committee Report:  Here are the nominating committee nominees for the 2017 election:

The Nominating Committee nominates the following seven candidates for 2017 election:

Loren Blackford (New York)

Ramon Cruz Diaz (Puerto Rico and New York)

Debbie Heaton (Delaware)

Stephanie Linder (California)

Natalie Lucas (Missouri)

Ross Macfarlane (Washington)

Peter Sargent (Colorado)

There was other important business that was conducted for which there will be details once the minutes are approved and posted on the Club’s website.  But for now, this will have to suffice as my “brief” summary of the major issues that I felt would be of interest to our general membership.

In closing, let me reflect on our mutual future.  It has been hard to digest our new reality, on so many levels.  But as I look back on the history I have witnessed now in my 7th decade, I’ve come to understand and accept that my vision of the future is not universally accepted.  It has always been a struggle to move forward and achieve progress based on our principals.  

Some time ago I contemplated what would be the legacy of my generation.  I felt that it would be “bringing the promise of democracy and freedom for all people to reality.”  I realize that there are people who don’t share this vision.  And that we must fight like hell to move in this direction against forceful opposition.  I had believed that this election would truly propel us forward in a big way to achieving our aspirations.  Unfortunately, we all were disappointed in this regard.  And now we know that we have to work harder than ever to achieve our dreams.  

And yet, where would we rather be to do this work than with Sierra Club? We have been built for this moment and have the unique capability to lead the way to a new future.  If there is a silver lining to this election it just may be to focus our citizens on the very real threats to progress that confront our society and the need to get engaged to move us forward and not sit on the sidelines and let us slip backwards.

Onward together with renewed commitment!!!

Greetings Directors,
I want to thank you again for the time you shared w/me during the November meeting and for adopting the departmental name change and vision narrative. The below email was shared w/all staff and volunteer leaders earlier today. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive and people are excitedly digging into each of the documents. Please feel free to share these far and wide w/audiences that you feel could benefit from having this information. I have provided links below for your ease.

Going Beyond Diversity: An explanation for why we changed the name of the department
Vision Narrative: Vision, Values and Theory of Change                      
Annual Progress Report                                                                              
 Please also take a moment to review our newly launched program page at We will be regularly updating the site w/new information as we continue to make progress and pen new blogs.

Thank you again.
Learn more about our new Department of Equity, Inclusion and Justice! Visit for more on the new name (shorthand “Equity”), our newly adopted vision, shared values, theory of change and a report on our progress so far.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Nellis Kennedy-Howard <>
Date: Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 8:12 AM
Subject: Exciting Equity Updates!

Dear colleagues and friends,
We woke up on November 9th in a new world. As we reflect on the election, I feel more passionate than ever about our work to build a Sierra Club community that is safe, inclusive and welcoming for all people who share our values. With a Sierra Club presence in all fifty states, we are uniquely positioned to provide safe spaces for community building and connection, spaces free of the bigotry and hatred that is on the rise in our nation. We can be a safe harbor in the storm, particularly for people in states that marginalize people based on their identities, and provide leadership on how to connect our work on the environment and climate change with the broader global struggle for justice and equity.
But to do that we have to work harder than ever to make ourselves the change we want to see in the world. To that end, I am proud to announce that our department has a new name, approved by the Board of Directors at its November meeting: we are now the Department of Equity, Inclusion and Justice (shorthand “Equity”, not EIJ).
You’ll see a blog post in the coming days that examines this topic in greater detail, but for now here are a few words on why we think this name change is so important. In recent years Sierra Club has worked hard to attract talented applicants from all walks of life. But we’ve learned that it isn’t enough to attract racially diverse staff if we haven’t done the work to create a truly inclusive and welcoming environment that values the contributions of people from all cultures.
It’s time to go beyond “diversity.” To attract and retain employees and volunteers who are diverse – which means much more than racial diversity – we have to grow as an organization. Race is one of many categories that shapes a person’s lived experiences. When we hide behind the catchphrase of “diversity” rather than naming specific identities, the term loses its significance.
Diversity is not a goal in and of itself. That way leads to tokenism and harm. Instead, a diverse staff and volunteer base with varied and rich identities will be the natural result of our internal self-transformation. Words matter, so we’re asking you to reflect this new name in your everyday work by using the title “Department of Equity, Inclusion and Justice” rather than DEI. If it is necessary to shorten, we ask that you refer to this work as “equity” work, rather than reducing it to an acronym that robs our words of their true intentions.
We launched our new departmental name this week at the Board of Directors meeting, alongside a suite of materials that outlines our 2016 progress and our vision, values and theory of change for our work going forward. I invite you to explore these materials and become familiar with our vision for this work, so that we can all have a shared organizational understanding of the direction we’re headed together.
We’re also proud to announce that we have a new program page,, where you can follow our newly launched blog to hear from myself and other Equity leaders on our progress and challenges. We’ll be hosting a webinar on December 19th from 11am – 12:30pm Pacific to share more about this shared vision, values and theory of change, all of which have been approved by the Board of Directors, so look for more info to come on that soon. We also invite you to attend our Calling for Inclusion dialogue on December 11th from 12-1 PM Pacific to share in this discussion and learn more.
I have one final request for you: if you are inspired and looking for a way to support this work, please consider adding the line at the bottom of my email signature to your own for the next week so that our partners in and outside the Sierra Club community can learn about our shared progress toward equity, inclusion and justice.
If you have any questions at all about our new name and direction, I urge you to reach out to Jessica Ronald at Thank you all for everything you do to make our organization a place that welcomes and celebrates all people who share our values, and supports each other as we confront some of our greatest challenges yet.
Nellis Kennedy Howard
Director of Equity, Inclusion and Justice
Learn more about our new Department of Equity, Inclusion and Justice! Visit for more on the new name (shorthand “Equity”), our newly adopted vision, shared values, theory of change and a report on our progress so far.

September Board and Annual Meeting Highlights

Message from President Aaron Mair:

I wish to thank all of you who made this, my final annual meeting as Sierra Club President both an honored blessing and success. My kickoff address to our Council of Club Leaders celebrated Sierra Club’s commitment to the ‘bottom up’ grassroots work that continues to make us the most resilient grassroots organization, advancing our core conservation mission — protecting the planet, our natural world and our communities — and building a national movement for clean energy solutions. More importantly, CCL leaders and I discussed the need for building stronger relationships with one another and the need for self-care as well. Grassroots passion is important, but we need to also build quality and caring relationships as activists.
CCL delegates and directors came together to discuss ways to boost our effectiveness even more in the months ahead. [See more discussion below.]
In keeping with Sierra Club’s new “Strategic Plan,” we held our first budget ‘front end’ funding priorities planning meeting with FinCom, programs, and Directors. This was significant; in the past this process came later and after programs had set their priorities. Kudos to all working to make this process a success.
We need to thank outgoing CCL Chair, Roberta Brashear-Kaulfers for her close collaboration with the Board of Directors in pressing for prompt timely action on CCL Resolutions and strategizing with us on strategic areas of action and leadership. We welcome new CCL Chair, Sarah Willey, and look forward to this continued collaboration.
Delegates and directors were treated to an awesome 2016 Annual Sierra Club Awards Gala on Saturday evening. I wish to thank Ellen Davis, Karissa Sellman, Lane Boldman, and Kaitlyn Silveira for identifying an outstanding group of award winners and pulling off a great event. It was a great privilege to celebrate Susan Heitman’s outstanding service, as winner of the William Colby Award, and to welcome National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to accept the Edgar Wayburn Award.
We were truly honored to present Sierra Club’s highest award, the John Muir Award, to Tom Goldtooth, the founder of the Indigenous Environmental Network, and to hear his closing keynote address. Tom has played a leadership role in convening and empowering Native American communities and indigenous communities worldwide in addressing environmental protection, climate change, energy, biodiversity, environmental health, water, and sustainable development. His words of strong mutual collaboration and solidarity with the Sierra Club marks a significant turning point in building an inclusive national environmental movement.

Speaking of Special Events …

Mike Brune attended part of the Board meeting virtually from Canada, where he was attending the Toronto International Film Festival. He was there for the premier of Leonardo DiCaprio’s new climate documentary, Before the Flood and associated events. Brune and DiCaprio traveled to the tar sands a couple of years ago, at the invitation of filmmaker (and new Sierra Club Foundation Board member!), Darren Aronofsky. They took extensive footage of that trip. Since then, Brune has had several further interviews for the movie… on tar sands, Mountain Top Removal, and fracking. The film will be shown on National Geographic at the end of this month… just in time for the election!

A Special Thank You

After many excellent years with the Sierra Club, Peter Martin said his goodbyes at the Annual Meeting and stepped down as Sierra Club Foundation’s Executive Director. First joining as a volunteer with Inspiring Connections Outdoors (then Inner City Outings), Peter quickly became an integral part of the Sierra Club family…. actually meeting his future wife, Emily, on a Sierra Club trip. Peter joined the staff as a fundraiser with Advancement, and moved to the role of Foundation Executive Director in 2008. Since then, he has led the Foundation through important growth and transformation in ways that complement the evolution of the Sierra Club itself. Under his leadership the Foundation has strengthened its focus on climate solutions, adopting innovative funding mechanisms such as the Forward Fund, spearheading foundation participation in the Divest-Invest movement and being a featured participant in the White House Climate Summit. Peter has also raised millions of dollars in support of lands, outings, and environmental justice work… as well as unrestricted funds. And he has built an excellent Foundation Board, combining deep Sierra Club experience, leadership on lands, outings and climate work with other organizations, high profiles in different sectors (including sports and film) and important networks.
Peter, we wish you the very best in your new role as a donor advisor and are very glad you will remain an important part of the Sierra Club family!
News Flash — Since the Board meeting, our own Dan Chu, formerly head of Our Wild America, has accepted the Executive Director position at the Sierra Club Foundation. Congratulations, Dan! We look forward to working with you in this new capacity!

Investing in our Chapters and in our Volunteer Leaders

In 2012, Sierra Club embarked on a change process built on the recommendations of the Chapter-National Relationship Task Force for improving our relationships to better accomplish our mission at all levels of the organization. The areas of focus included collaboration between the national organization and Chapters on planning and fundraising, Chapter capacity building with dedicated national staff support, and strengthening communications. In May 2015, the Board approved the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Multi-year Plan and incorporated it into an overall Sierra Club Strategic Plan.
How has the support for Chapters been restructured to integrate and implement these initiatives? Is there improved collaboration between Chapters and the national Sierra Club? Are Chapters benefiting, seeing results? The 2016 Annual Meeting offered the opportunity for a detailed review of the restructuring and strengthening of Chapter Support services, a look forward to Chapter Support objectives for 2017-18, and a dialogue among Board members and CCL delegates gaging progress. The general sentiment reflected that while there is more to do, the increased support and improved communications are building stronger relationships between Chapters and the national organization. The presentation of the State of the Chapters report bore out this conclusion, generally indicating that Chapters taking advantage of increased support services are boosting their effectiveness, and highlighting success stories, best practices, and innovative strategies.
The ability of Sierra Club, its Chapters and volunteer leaders to be the high-performance agents of change they want to be depends on fostering a culture that promotes results and embraces accountability, learning, transparency and good governance. This was the central message conveyed by the Volunteer Accountability Task Force (VATF) in their presentation to delegates and directors. The task force put forward recommendations emphasizing the importance of setting and communicating clear expectations for working together and applying Sierra Club policies, and having the systems and structures of support and accountability to ensure the expectations are met. A second interactive joint session pairing delegates with Board members focused on the need for volunteer leaders to demonstrate responsibility and ownership necessary for achieving desired outcomes. The VATF recommendations were positively received, and the Board gave its approval for appointment of a team to oversee their implementation.


The Board paid tribute to two senior National Organizing staff members, Alison Horton and Bill Arthur, each retiring after over 30 years of service on Sierra Club staff, for their outstanding contributions in advancing Sierra Club’s mission and their wonderful support and mentoring of volunteer leaders and colleagues over the years.
Reminder: Sierra Club friends don’t let their friends forget to VOTE!!!

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