Before you dive into Sierra Club activism, it helps to know a bit about the different branches of the Club to help navigate this big organization and the ways you can help. Sierra Club is a national, volunteer-based organization with more than 60 chapters nationwide. You can stay on top of the Club’s national campaigns by checking into the main web site regularly.
Among those chapters, there are 13 local ones in California. These chapters cover different geographies and everyone in California lives within the boundaries of a local chapter. Chapter activities vary around the state, reflecting the local environmental issues in many cases. Most chapters have a web site, and most also have organized outings where you can meet other Club members in your community and hike, bike, canoe, climb or camp.
Then there is Sierra Club California. We are a unique entity within the Sierra Club. We are the legislative and regulatory watchdog for California’s Sierra Club members. We were founded more than 25 years ago by active Club members who realized the environment needed a strong voice in the Capitol Building and at state regulatory agencies.
We’re based in Sacramento, have a small but extremely dedicated staff of advocates, organizers and administrators, and spend our time making sure the interests of the state’s 13 Sierra Club chapters and 170,000 members and supporters are advanced. We fight for the environment every day.
If you’ve ever spent any time in a state capitol, or if you follow politics, you know that there are big, well-financed interests who don’t feel as devoted to clean air, clean water, and protected wildlife and habitat as we do. Even when they talk pretty, claiming they really care about the environment (people do, you know), they tend to play mean and hard. They hire extremely connected and expensive lobbyists, contribute lots of money to campaigns, and find other ways to make legislators feel more comfortable voting against the environment.
Public interest groups, including the Sierra Club, simply can’t match polluting industries’ financial clout in the Capitol. But we can, and do, have another weapon that can work wonders: our members and supporters. When you write letters, send e-mails, and make calls to push legislators and regulators and the governor to do the right thing, decision-makers often listen. They care about what Club members think. Sometimes democracy really works in California.
You can help express the Club’s power by doing two things.
- Sign up for our alerts. If you receive a few emails a month directly from us, then we have your e-mail for our once-a-month alert, e-newsletter, and letter from Sacramento. But if you want to get all of our alerts about needed action and to be more engaged in activities in the Capitol, we need you to add your e-mail to our “opt-in” list of members who are willing to e-mail, write, and call decision-makers more often than once a month. Especially during the hectic last month of a legislative session, when last-minute bills that can harm the environment are likely to emerge, we need as many people on our opt-in list as possible. To add your e-mail address to that list, click here.
- Subscribe to our Cal Activist list. Sierra Club generally, and Sierra Club California particularly, have active e-mail listservs we use to stay connected to members who are interested in staying on top of particular issues. You can sign up for many of these lists by going to the national web-site page on lists. Many lists are open to any member to join. Some are open only to certain committee members. The one we wish all of our Sierra Club California members joined is the California Activist list, which is formally identified as CALIF-ACTIVISTS on the page of lists. Through this listserv, Sierra Club California staff members are able to communicate with our Club members in a timely way about issues and other Sierra Club California activities. We usually post one or two items on this list a week, but during especially busy times, when a lot is happening in Sacramento, we may post more often. To sign onto the Cal Activist list, you’ll need to first click here and fill out a form that asks for your membership number. You can find your eight-digit membership number on your membership card or on the address label of Sierra, the Yodeler, or other mailings from the Club.
There are additional ways to stay on top of what we’re doing at Sierra Club California. We have a Facebook page and Twitter feed, and we also try to update our web site regularly, especially the home page and the media page. But we are a small organization, and updating those sites often falls to the bottom of the to-do list during the most active legislative season. So our Cal Activist list is often the first place to get breaking news from us.
Like the rest of the Club, Sierra Club California is governed and informed by volunteers. We have volunteers serving on our executive committee, on our main policy committee (called the California-Nevada Regional Conservation Committee or CNRCC), on our legislative committee, whose members help us review and take positions on legislation, and on our political committee, whose members work with local chapters to vet and endorse legislative candidates. Many of these committees have subcommittees that do everything from fundraising to developing policies and campaigns for specific issues. If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved in our governance, contact our office.
Adapted from the web site of Sierra Club California