The Sierra Club: Commitment to Environmental Education
Bruce Hamilton, Conservation Director,
Remarks at the LeConte Memorial Lodge Rededication Ceremony,
July 3, 2004
Most people think of the Sierra Club as a powerful public policy advocacy
organization. We are commonly recognized as the most influential and
largest grassroots environmental lobby in the country. We are the group
that keeps the oil companies out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,
and the dams out of the Grand Canyon. We took Vice President Dick Cheney
to the Supreme Court over the secret deals he cut with Enron and other
energy companies. We fight for environmental justice by helping local
communities force polluters to clean up their toxic waste. We protect the
giant sequoias in California and the Everglades in Florida. We endorse
pro-environmental candidates and work to get them elected, including
Senator John Kerry in this 2004 Presidential contest. And it all started
here in Yosemite over 100 years ago where our first President and Founder,
John Muir, fought to establish, expand and defend Yosemite National Park.
This is all true. We agitate for environmental protection, preservation,
environmental justice and conservation. And as Conservation Director I am
the Chief Agitator of the Club and my role is to travel the country and
stir up people to take action.
But the biggest threat to the Earth and to national parks like Yosemite is
not energy companies, logging companies, chemical companies, or
anti-environmentalists in the Congress and the Bush Administration. The
biggest threat is apathy.
There are two ways to combat apathy.
The first is agitation -- organizing the powerless against money and
established power. we have done this for over 100 years, and plan to
continue for the next century. This is in the tradition of all the great
social change agents from Martin Luther King to Caesar Chavez, to Mahatma
But there is a second more powerful and absolutely essential approach to
combating apathy, and that is through love and knowledge.
No one will feel compelled to protect and defend the earth if first they
don't love and know the earth. And this essential task is the role of
Think about it. The things you are willing to fight for are the things you
hold dearest and know the best -- your family, your home, your
neighborhood, your country. And for many of us in the Sierra Club this
short list includes the earth.
And there is no more fitting place to discuss and celebrate environmental
education then at LeConte Lodge on this historic day. For long before
there was the first National Park Service naturalist or ranger -- in fact
long before there was a National Park Service -- there was a Sierra Club
environmental education center in Yosemite known as LeConte Lodge to serve
the public. For 100 years there have been Sierra Club volunteers in
Yosemite teaching love and understanding of nature and Yosemite.
Today we celebrate this milestone of providing service to the public and
this partnership with the federal government and the National Park Service.
One hundred years of teaching the public to know, love, respect and defend
What is not known to most members of the public is that the public policy
advocacy that the Sierra Club is so famous for is just a small fraction of
the work that we do. Over 90% of what the Sierra Club does can be broadly
characterized as environmental public education. We publish books about
nature and a national magazine -- SIERRA-- that reaches over 1 million
readers and appears in thousands of public libraries. We have a youth
program to take kids out in nature, including disadvantaged children from
the inner cities. We have a Sierra Student Coalition to engage high school
and college youth, and run local and national outings to introduce the
public to the wonders of nature. We host public educations forums and
publish reports. We also communicate with the public through our website
and electronic newsletters.
We do all this with the same spirit that lies behind the founding of
LeConte Lodge -- to explore, enjoy, and protect the earth.
Joseph LeConte was reported to have been so excited by Yosemite that this
renowned scholar raised his arms and shouted in exuberant joy. Let us
memorialize him and kick off a second century of environmental education at
LeConte Lodge by raising our hands and shouting in unison and with great
joy: "I love Yosemite!"
[Crowd shouted, "I love Yosemite!"]
Re-Dedication of LeConte Memorial
Michael Reynolds, National Park
Service, Yosemite National Park
Bernie Zaleha, Vice-President,
Bruce Hamilton, Conservation
Director, Sierra Club
Bonnie Gisel, Curator, LeConte
Harold Wood, Chair, Sierra Club
LeConte Memorial Lodge Committee
Rededication Photo Album
Learn more about the LeConte Lodge Centennial.
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Information and Donations
For more information, during the summer contact Sierra Club LeConte Memorial Lodge
Curator, P.O. Box 755, Yosemite, CA 95389, 1-209-372-4542; e-mail:
During the winter, contact LeConte Lodge Committee Chair, Harold Wood, P.O. Box 3543,
Visalia, CA 93278; phone: (559) 697-3525; e-mail: email@example.com
Tax deductible donations to support the new exhibits and renovation efforts of the
LeConte Memorial can be made to "Sierra Club Foundation," marked for the "LeConte Lodge Fund."
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