AR-News: FW: LA Times: Election Becomes a Fight Over Sierra Club's
wolfcrest at hotmail.com
Sun Jan 18 16:41:47 EST 2004
>Election Becomes a Fight Over Sierra Club's Future
>Animal-rights activists and anti-immigration advocates are teaming in a bid
>to control the board, to the dismay of traditionalists.
>By Miguel Bustillo and Kenneth R. Weiss Times Staff Writers
>7:50 PM PST, January 17, 2004
>An unusual alliance of anti-immigration advocates and animal-rights
>activists is attempting to take over the leadership of the Sierra Club,
>America's oldest national environmental group, in what is emerging as a
>bitter fight over the future of the 112-year-old organization founded by
>Scottish immigrant John Muir.
>Leaders of a faction that failed to persuade the club to take a stand
>against immigration in 1998 are seeking to win majority control of the
>group's 15-member governing board in a spring election - this time, as part
>of a broader coalition that includes vegetarians, who want the club to
>denounce hunting, fishing and raising animals for human consumption.
>In response, 11 former Sierra Club presidents have written a letter
>expressing "extreme concern for the continuing viability of the club,"
>protesting what they see as a concerted effort by outside organizations to
>hijack the mainstream conservationist group and its $95-million annual
>Some of the insurgent candidates vying for the five available seats on the
>governing board only recently joined the Sierra Club. If they win, they
>would control eight of the 15 seats. Members will vote in the board
>elections in March, with the results tallied in April. People who join the
>club by the end of January should be able to vote.
>The election has attracted the interest of anti-immigration groups, which
>are encouraging their members to join the club to help elect the insurgent
>"What has outraged Sierra Club leaders is that external organizations would
>attempt to interfere and manipulate our election to advance their own
>agendas," said Robert Cox, a past Sierra Club president.
>Moreover, club officials argue that members of the two insurgent groups
>share fundamentally anti-human views, in their opposition to immigration
>in their belief that people should take a backseat to other species.
>The Sierra Club's "dominant perspective has been to protect nature for
>people," said Executive Director Carl Pope. "But by pulling up the
>on immigration, they are tapping into a strand of misanthropy that says
>human beings are a problem."
>Pope noted that 18% of Sierra Club members like to fish or hunt, and he
>worried they could be driven out by the new agenda from animal-rights
>advocates. "It's important to have hunters and fishermen in the Sierra
>Club," Pope said. "We are a big-tent organization. We want the Sierra Club
>to be a comfortable place for Americans who want clean air, clean water,
>to protect America's open spaces."
>The list of insurgent candidates features some high-profile names,
>former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, Cornell University entomology professor
>David Pimentel, and Frank Morris, former director of the Congressional
>Caucus Foundation. All three have been outspoken advocates of controlling
>population growth or restricting immigration. Lamm is coauthor of "The
>Immigration Time Bomb: The Fragmenting of America."
>Club officials say the campaign got underway quietly with the recent
>election of three activists, including UCLA astronomy professor Benjamin
>Zuckerman, a longtime champion of curbs on immigration; and Paul Watson,
>head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a marine environmental group
>perhaps best-known for ramming whaling ships. During their campaigns, the
>candidates downplayed the views they are now advancing.
>Club members who support the insurgent candidates accused the
>old guard of trying to demonize them as radicals in order to head off the
>increasingly popular efforts to win a new majority.
>"I really think we ought to be judged on our merits and what we've done in
>the past, and not divide the Sierra Club," Pimentel said.
>Political squabbles are hardly new to the 750,000-member Sierra Club, whose
>members squared off just last year over whether to take a stand against the
>war in Iraq. But the dispute over this spring's elections is becoming
>Some longtime Sierrans worry that a takeover by the insurgents would brand
>the organization as bigoted and xenophobic.
>"I don't think that Lamm, Pimentel and Morris are racists," Pope said. "But
>they are clearly being supported by racists."
>Zuckerman and Watson call those claims ludicrous. They argue the club has a
>responsibility to take strong positions on the issues affecting the health
>of the planet.
>"Everything else the Sierra Club is doing is doomed to fail if the United
>States continues on its rapid population growth," said Zuckerman,
>50, who was the leading vote-getter in the Sierra Club board election two
>"There are people who are being born today who will see a California that
>has more people than the entire United States when I was born," he said.
>Asked what the Sierra Club could do to curb population growth, Zuckerman
>said the group must "talk about the numbers - how much immigration we
>have and how many babies - so the mix of fertility and immigration is
>debated and we can come to a level where the population will stabilize."
>Watson, who was a co-founder of Greenpeace but who broke ranks with that
>organization because he advocated more aggressive tactics, said he did not
>expect the Sierra Club to adopt the confrontational methods of Sea
>But the club, he said, should promote eating habits that protect Earth's
>"Human beings are literally stealing resources from all the other species
>this planet," said Watson, a Canadian immigrant.
>In an e-mail response to the letter by the 11 former presidents, Watson
>wrote, "Is the advocating of low-impact vegetarian diets a cause for
>concern? I guess it is if you have a vested interest in grazing or the beef
>or poultry industry. I fail to see how vegetarianism in the age of Mad Cow
>Disease, E. coli, PCBs in fish, etc., can be considered anything but
>practical and realistic."
>Sierra Club President Larry Fahn and the other prior presidents have
>out that the club's members already voted to remain neutral on immigration
>in 1998 after a lengthy public debate, and argue that revisiting the
>divisive dispute would detract from what board members have agreed is the
>most immediate action needed to protect the environment: unseating
>The presence of the anti-immigration candidates has led civil rights leader
>Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks what it
>considers hate groups, to join the Sierra Club and run for its board. Dees
>said he decided to throw his hat into the ring to generate publicity after
>his staff found that anti-immigration groups were urging members to join
>Sierra Club and help swing the vote.
>"I'm not running to win a seat on the board," Dees said. "I'm running to
>sound the alarm of an attempt to take over this organization by the radical
>element of anti-immigration people. They are interested in keeping this
>Earlier this month, VDare.com, an anti-immigration website founded by
>Forbes senior editor Peter Brimelow, author of the book "Alien Nation," ran
>an article discussing the Sierra Club elections. The article referred to
>Dees as a "left-wing smear artist" and urged immigration-control activists
>to join the Sierra Club and vote for like-minded candidates in its upcoming
>The article in turn was picked up by an anti-Semitic website and topped
>a homophobic, anti-Semitic headline. The author of the article, Brenda
>Walker, said she was dismayed at that, but Sierra Club officials cited the
>recycled article as evidence of extremist support for the anti-immigration
>Roderick Nash, a retired UC Santa Barbara historian who has tracked the
>environmental movement, noted that since its early days, the Sierra Club
>struggled with tensions over humanity's imprint on the environment.
>Gentlemen hikers and climbers - who wanted to preserve America's beautiful
>places so the privileged could visit them - wrote diatribes in the early
>20th century about Anglo Americans being overrun by unsavory immigrants
>Southern and Eastern Europe, he said.
>Nor is it the first time the Sierra Club has been the target of a supposed
>takeover. In the late 1970s, when the club was embroiled in a battle with
>the Walt Disney Co. over a proposed ski resort in Mineral King near
>the ski industry ran a slate of candidates to push for support of more ski
>resorts, Pope said. Those candidates lost.
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