November 29, 2015

Bay Chapter says goodbye to “superstar” organizer Jess Dervin-Ackerman

jessIf you engaged with the local chapter of the Sierra Club at any point in the last three years, you probably came across conservation manager Jess Dervin-Ackerman. Fiercely engaged, powerfully persuasive, and boundlessly energetic, Jess has been one of the chapter’s greatest assets. Jess seems to know everyone, and she earns the admiration and respect of everyone she meets.

In her three-year tenure here Jess has done an almost super-human amount of good. Here are just a few of her proudest accomplishments:

  • Launching an incredible, diverse, multi-sector campaign against coal exports through Oakland which has garnered over 14,000 petition signatures and engaged 2,000 individuals
  • Meaningfully engaging the Sierra Club in frontline fights against refineries and the Wes Pac oil terminal proposed in Pittsburg
  • Growing the movement for Community Choice clean energy in the Bay Area — CleanPowerSF is just a few months away from launching and the East Bay Clean Power Alliance is moving full speed ahead with an Alameda County program scheduled to launch in 2017!
  • Bringing recycling workers and environmental activists together to advocate for higher wages and more stringent zero waste policies, and expanding composting services to all Oakland residents
  • Coming together with social justice organizations and labor unions to elect progressive champions to local, regional, and state offices
  • Mentoring over 25 interns, many of whom have gone off to be involved in activism, politics, and furthering our causes through academia and research

Now Jess is, in her words, “taking a sabbatical to take care of myself so that I can continue to do this important work of fighting for climate justice for the long haul,” and “to have an incredible adventure with my partner who has supported me and my work at the Sierra Club.”

Jess has a message of thanks and a special appeal to “the inspiring community of activists” she has worked with at the Sierra Club:

“I’ve worked hard to advance environmental, social, and racial justice causes locally with the Bay Chapter and I would love nothing more than to see that good work continue in my absence.

Please consider making a gift in my honor to the Bay Chapter to support their grassroots campaigns to protect our air, land and water, advance a just transition to a clean energy economy, and encourage folks to get out and enjoy the beautiful natural places of the Bay Area. I will come back, and when I do I want to continue to work on climate issues. I believe it helps everyone involved to have the Sierra Club well-positioned and well-resourced to support and drive local fights for a better, more just, and more sustainable world.

Thank you to everyone for your support, encouragement, bravery, creativity and partnership over these 3 years. Probably my greatest personal accomplishment was creating so many amazing relationships with activists, organizers, elected officials, and many more folks that now engage with the Sierra Club and that I hope to work with for years to come.”

It’s been an honor to work with you, Jess. We will miss your energy, warmth, and passion. Enjoy your next adventure!

Cultivated Thoughts: autumn in the Bay Area garden

compostIt’s fall again, and it’s finally beginning to feel the part. After a few small hiccups, it seems to have taken hold.

Fall is my favorite season to spend time in the garden. It doesn’t have the obvious beauty of spring, or the ease and comfort of summer, but it isn’t without its own certain charm. It’s a time when you get to know your landscape more intimately, a time to wade deeper into its workings. It’s a time when you’re able to peel back the layers of the spring and summer and redirect the energy of your garden to the preparation for next year.

Many garden shrubs require periodic deep pruning to maintain their overall health and vigor, and the fall is the perfect time to do it. Semi-woody shrubs like Elderberry and Hydrangeas will want their leggy canes cut low, and shorter shrubs like Salvias and grasses are often best shorn nearly to the ground. Care-ful pruning takes timing: catch the sap when it’s running more slowly and you’ll lose much less energy through the healing process. This, in turn, helps the plants invest in the burgeoning nodes which will be-come next spring’s tender branches and buds.

If you have the space, too, those trimmings will make a great addition to the compost which will season over the coming months and feed the garden when the year turns over again. Add more trimmings and kitchen scraps periodically (I recommend only vegetables), and remember to add plenty of brown leaves and debris to keep the mix from getting too potent. A 3-to-1 ratio of leaves to scraps, or higher, is ideal.  If you’ve already established your composter, and have the rich results on hand, now is the perfect time to dole out heaping handfuls to the base of your plants. Be generous, if you have enough to give, but re-member not to lay it farther out than the root ball of the plant. A good general rule is that the plant below ground is nearly the same size as the plant above, so lay the compost no further out than the edge of its canopy.

The chance to spend time walking in your garden amongst the smells of fallen leaves and dampening soil is a feast for the senses. Getting down on the ground to spread compost and mulch rekindles something deep in us, and serves as a reminder that gardens give so much more than simply a beautiful space. It’s another thread in the cord that binds us to the natural world, a chance to give back as much as we get. A garden is a gift of good fortune, and what we do to keep ours healthy will yield rewards in so many ways. Some flowers will call to birds and bees, some wide leaves will lend us shade. But beneath it all is the kinship we breed with these living, struggling organisms as we help each other more happily grow out into the world.

Peter Reinke is a garden designer who has spent most of his life enthusiastically diving into dirt.

Arthur Boone, architect of Oakland Tree Team, honored for service to the Sierra Club

Arthur (far right) circa 1995 at a protest against Coca-Cola for not including recycled content plastic in their soda bottles. Also ictured from left are Sierra Club activists Ruth Abbe and David Tam and Rick Best, former Legislative Director of Californians Against Waste. Photo by Steve Lautze of the Northern California Recycling Association.

Arthur (far right) circa 1995 at a protest against Coca-Cola for not including recycled content plastic in their soda bottles. Also ictured from left are Sierra Club activists Ruth Abbe and David Tam and Rick Best, former Legislative Director of Californians Against Waste. Photo by Steve Lautze of the Northern California Recycling Association.

Longtime Bay Chapter volunteer Arthur Boone has been honored with the Sierra Club California’s Sally and Les Reid Award for exemplary service in the area of conservation. Arthur is a life-long member of the Sierra Club who has served in a multiplicity of volunteer roles, from chair of the Bay Chapter’s conservation committee to head of the Oakland Tree Team.

“He does so many things for this good earth,” writes David Haskell, who has worked with Arthur on the Chapter’s Zero Waste Committee for many years. “He dedicated his life’s work to Zero Waste and resource recovery and recycling spanning decades of effort — never wanting anything in return for himself. He is a dear man with such a good heart.” Mary Lou Van Deventer, also of the Zero Waste Committee, heartily concurs, calling Arthur “a force of nature on the side of the planet.”

Arthur steps up for Oakland’s “green lung”

When the City of Oakland reduced the budget and staff of its Tree Division in 2009  — at the height of the Great Recession — and stopped planting new trees in front of homes and businesses, Arthur Boone stepped up to fill the void. Over the next five years, Arthur led the Sierra Club’s Tree Team in planting some 1,350 trees across Oakland. Arthur has personally planted about 500 of those trees, either by himself or with one of the volunteers. How many of us can claim to have made such a tangible, positive impact on our communities?

Arthur with one of his trees.

Arthur with one of his trees.

Tree Team volunteer and Northern Alameda County Group Executive Committee member Kent Lewandowski says of Arthur: “He knows where all the trees are like a shepherd knows his sheep. Arthur is known to drive around Oakland in his old truck to check on trees, water them, prune them, and talk to homeowners to help educate them how to take care of them. That’s what makes him so effective. The trees are kind of like his children. No matter what other challenges he might face (like lack of money, difficulty finding steady volunteers, problems with supplies), he does not get bothered about it. He knows he’s doing a good thing for the planet, and it gives him energy working with the volunteers. So he just keeps on going.”

Arthur passes the torch

Arthur “starts things that continue” says Mary Lou Van Deventer. So it’s fitting that Arthur has been honored with the Sally and Les Reid Award as he hands the reins of the Tree Team over to Derek Schubert.

New funds support Tree Team work

A key feature of the program, says Derek, is “how economically [we have] been able to plant our trees.” The Tree Team recently received two major pots of money that will allow it to continue — and even ramp up — the program Arthur built with the help of so many volunteers. The Bank of America Charitable Foundation granted the program $42,000 through the American Forests group in Washington, D.C. The first round of those funds paid for 90 trees in the Oakland flatlands between January and April 2015; the rest of the funds will pay for hundreds more. And this past July, the Tree Team was awarded $310,000 from the state’s cap-and-trade funds to plant 1,500 more trees in the East Oakland flatlands by the end of 2018.

The Sierra Club actively advocates for the City of Oakland to commit the funds to reinstate its comprehensive tree program, but until then, our volunteers-led program will be there to fill this important role.

Plant a tree with us!

Tree Team volunteers about to put a new tree in the ground.

Tree Team volunteers about to put a new tree in the ground.

The tree-planting season has now begun! In planting season (generally November through July, weather depending), the tree team meets on Saturdays, 9 am to 1 pm.

If you want to improve Oakland’s quality of life, planting a tree is one of the best things you can do. Trees fight global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. In urban areas they can cool temperatures by up to 10° F by providing shade, breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing water vapor. Trees absorb pollutants and filter particulate matter, leaving cleaner air behind. Studies even show that tree-lined streets improve commerce, raise property values, and have lower incidences of violence.

You can learn more about the Tree Team (including how to get involved and make a donation) and read their latest newsletter on our website.

David Brower Dinner 2015: a great success!


The evening’s awardees.

We would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks to the over 230 of our friends, allies, and supporters who joined us for our 5th annual David Brower Dinner on October 22nd in San Francisco. The David Brower Dinner is a benefit for our work and a way for us to honor Brower’s spirit by recognizing some of today’s environmental leaders. Our 2015 honorees were:

  • Trailblazer Award: Carl Anthony and Dr. Paloma Pavel, for their commitment to regional sustainability and environmental justice.
  • Ed Bennett Lifetime Achievement Award: Amy Meyer, for her tireless efforts to establish and protect the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
  • Phil Burton Badge of Courage Award: Gayle McLaughlin and Jovanka Beckles, progressive champions of the Richmond City Council, for their work to protect democracy and the environment from corporate pollution.
  • Youth Award: New Voices are Rising, a project of the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, for inspiring the next generation of environmental justice advocates.

For more information about our awardees, please visit our event page.

We are especially grateful to our event sponsors:


Nicholas Josefowitz
Barnes, Mosher, Whitehurst, Lauter and Partners (BMWL)


Citizens for East Shore Parks
Golden Gate Fields
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy & Presidio Trust
Norman La Force
Marin Clean Energy (MCE)
Regional Parks Foundation
SEIU Local 1021
Igor Tregub
Gabriel Quinto


AC Transit
AFSCME Council 57
Charlotte Allen – in loving memory of Paul L. Knight
Assemblymember Rob Bonta
Senator Loni Hancock
Assemblymember Phil Ting
Roger Williams & Alice Chung


Olga Bolotina
East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy
Future 500
Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
The Henry Levy Group
Sophie Hahn
David Hochschild
Arthur Feinstein & Ruth Vose
Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan
Leadership Search Partners
Albany Council Member Nick Pilch
Former Assemblymember and State Senate Candidate Nancy Skinner


Barbary Coast Consulting
California Nurses Association
Ann Clark, Ph.D
Domino Energy Savings Concierge
Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney
Vicky Hoover
League of Conservation Voters of the East Bay
Congresswoman Barbara Lee
San Leandro City Councilmember Corina Lopez
Liz Pallatto
Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment
Sunny Saperstein,
Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, Assembly District 15
Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club
San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener

For information about sponsoring future David Brower Dinners or other events, please contact Ashley Malyszka at or 510-848-0800 x309.

4,334 miles later, Zeke reaches the Pacific!

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

Berkeley teen Zeke Gerwein is back home (and back in school) after biking 4,334 miles over 73 days this summer. Zeke’s ride took him from the waters of the Atlantic in Delaware across the entire continental United States to the Pacific Ocean.

In his blog, Zeke describes the experience of dipping his front bike tire in the Pacific at Rodeo Beach in Marin County: “…I pushed my bike across the sand and pebbles toward the ocean. I had forgotten to take off my socks and shoes, which were soon drenched, but I didn’t care. My front wheel had touched the surf of the Pacific. I had crossed the country!!”

We highly recommend reading Zeke’s blog. You’ll find hilarious anecdotes, beautiful descriptions, and the profound reflections of an environmentally enlightened young man discovering America.

To date, Zeke’s ride has raised $4,260 from 70 individual donors for the Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter’s conservation efforts — only $74 short of a one-to-one dollar-to-mile match! Make a gift in Zeke’s honor and help him reach that hard-earned milestone!

Wanted: program committee members

man_with_microphone_giving_a_presentation_0521-1102-0822-3026_SMU copyThe East Bay Dinners steering committee is looking for a new program chair and assistants. Could it be you?

East Bay Dinners are monthly buffet dinners followed by a program of environmental interest. In recent years, attendees have vicariously traveled from the Artic to the Amazon and learned about California water and air flow, among other issues and policies. The dinners are held on the fourth Thursday of the month, September through May, except December.

This May, the program chair retired. If you are interested in helping to find interesting speakers, vetting those who find you, putting notices in the Yodeler and on the chapter website, and introducing the program at the dinner, please contact steering committee chair Jane Barrett at (510)845-8055. To learn more about the job, please contact past chair Paul Foster at (510)845-7128 or

Will you be a Sierra Club Executive Committee leader?

The Sierra Club is, volunteer-driven environmental advocacy organization. Support the process at the local level by running for the San Francisco Bay Chapter Executive Committee or one of its local Group Executive Committees.

Executive Committees are the Chapter’s decision-making boards, overseeing budgets, administering activities, deciding local conservation policy, and endorsing political candidates. If you are a member with experience serving on another committee or with organizing, environmental issues, or fundraising, we could use your skills.

If you’re interested in running in the 2015 Chapter election, the first step is to download the application packet and candidate questionnaire. You can find the materials and more information on our website, or by contacting Maritessa Bravo at

The campaign process isn’t long or costly. Elections will be held from November 20 to December 18 by both paper and electronic voting. September 7, will be the close of nominations; September 28 will be the deadline for petition candidates.

The Sierra Club is a rare national organization where members make key decisions. Success depends on the strength of our membership. It’s empowering and effective. Please consider stepping up to run for a position in the Chapter.

In support of ethics reforms for S.F. — “Good government is good for the environment”

ethics1The Sierra Club supports the Friends of Ethics, a local good-government group, in its current effort to upgrade the policies and procedures governing political campaigns in San Francisco. This effort focuses on improvements that can be made in a relatively short time frame, before the 2015 election cycle and city budget cycle are complete. It involves encouraging the San Francisco Ethics Commission to adopt a number of needed reforms, some of which will require action by the Board of Supervisors.

The reforms the Sierra Club and Friends of Ethics urge at this time include restrictions on gifts and contributions to city officials from lobbyists or anyone else who could be seen to benefit from a proposed city action; additional powers for the Ethics Commission including the ability to disqualify parties from bidding on or being considered for city contracts; a tightening of regulations on fundraising by candidates for city office; and funding for an Ethics Commission secretary to ensure timely progress on actions taken by the Commission.

The specific reforms the Sierra Club and Friends of Ethics urge at this time include the following:

  1. Establishment of a private right of action that includes a provision for a private plaintiff to receive 50% of the penalties collected as a result of the action.
  2. Amendment of enforcement provisions to include not only fines, but also ineligibility to bid on or be considered for contracts.
  3. Prohibition of contributions from parties who seek land-use-related approvals that exceed a certain threshold monetary amount.
  4. Prohibition of contributions, gifts, or behest payments from any person or entity that is subject to enforcement actions to certain elected officials involved with the agency instituting the action.
  5. Prohibition of contributions or fundraising from lobbyists and those who receive a benefit from a proposed city action, as well as prohibition of fundraising by city commissioners and department heads for any candidate other than themselves.
  6. Designation of the Ethics Commission as the sole filing officer for behest statements and expansion of the statements to require additional disclosure.
  7. Amendment to the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance to permit transfers to and from controlled committees only if the committees were formed for the same City elective office.
  8. Funding and hiring of an Ethics Commission secretary to enable timely progress on actions taken at Commission meetings.

The San Francisco Ethics Commission was established in 1993 by a voter-approved amendment to the City Charter. Among other functions, it audits financial-disclosure statements filed by political candidates, committees, and designated City and County employees to ensure compliance with contribution limits. The Commission also investigates ethics complaints and assesses fees and penalties for ethics violations such as conflicts of interest while making city decisions, failing to report lobbyist contracts, or failing to meet timetables for disclosing campaign contributors and expenses.

The Sierra Club supports these and other efforts to ensure fair and equitable consideration of public policy issues. The only way the environment (including its inhabitants) has a fighting chance is if we continue to try to level the public policy playing field. Or as stated by San Francisco Group chair Sue Vaughan, “Good government is good for the environment.”

— Karen Babbitt

National Sierra Club elections are underway – VOTE!

A democratic Sierra Club demands grassroots participation

VoteSierra Logo_2015The annual election for the Club’s national Board of Directors is now underway.

Those eligible to vote in the national Sierra Club election should have received in the mail (or online if you chose the electronic delivery option) your national Sierra Club ballot in early March. The ballot includes candidate profiles and where you can find additional information on the Club’s web site.

Your participation is critical for a strong Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club is a democratically-structured organization at all levels. The Club requires the regular flow of views on policy and priorities from its grassroots membership in order to function well. Yearly participation in elections at all Club levels is a major membership obligation.

In a typical year less than 10% of eligible members vote in the Board elections. A minimum of 5% is required for the elections to be valid. Our grassroots structure is strengthened when our participation is high. Therefore your participation is needed in the voting process.

How can I learn about the candidates?

Members frequently state that they don’t know the candidates and find it difficult to vote without learning more. Each candidate provides a statement about themselves and their views on the issues on the official election ballot. You can learn more by asking questions of your group and chapter leadership and other experienced members you know. You can also visit the Club’s election website for additional information about candidates. Then make your choice and cast your vote!

Voting online is quick and easy!

Even if you receive your election materials in the mail, we encourage you to use the user-friendly Internet voting site to save time and postage. If sending via ground mail, please note your ballots must be received by no later than election day, April 29.

Metallica and San Jose Sharks team up to benefit Bay Chapter

10806367_10152374627517723_5023106842506290904_nOn Wednesday, January 21st, the San Jose Sharks beat the LA Kings 4 – 2 in San Jose. At half time the iconic metal band Metallica broadcast interviews and gave a big shout-out to the Sierra Club. We were the non-profit select by the band to receive a portion of the proceeds from that evening. The event was a victory not just for the team, but it far exceeded fundraising expectations by bringing in over $28,000 for the Chapter! We want to thank the Metallica and the Sharks for including us the in the event and supporting conservation efforts in the Bay Area. You slayed it!