By Della Watson
Grilled | Sierra Club Eco-Heroes
Invading the Privacy of the People Who Make the Club Tick
José A. Menendez
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Outings committee chair who helps low-income communities establish ecofriendly businesses
Yeah, that's about right. We do three to five outings every weekend. Puerto Rico has a lot of estuaries, rivers, bays, and limestone formations. So we do a lot of kayaking and caving. I'm usually relegated to the sweep positions because I'm 63 years old and I can't keep up with the youngsters.
[Laughs] Well, mentally, I haven't matured much.
I retired in 2003 and moved to Puerto Rico. I was basically drinking a lot of rum and hiking with friends. But I was dismayed at the state of the island, and I saw the Sierra Club as a tool for social change. Regrettably [the Club has] a reputation for being kinda Waspy, and that turns some people off. I envisioned bringing the Club to the people, which is what I've been doing.
It's recognizing that the problem exists and taking steps to correct it. Here in Puerto Rico, you have to sort of blend in, becoming a social club instead of just an environmental club. People who come to our outings want to hike together, because after the hike we go to a restaurant and drink beer and eat food. The outing might've lasted three hours, but we'll spend another three hours just sitting in the restaurant shooting the bull.
We draft most of our leaders through our Outings program. We find places that are really obscure. We discovered a place where the bioluminescence is amazing. We kayak to the end of a bay, hang out there until it gets dark, then kayak back to the beach, viewing the bioluminescence all the way back. Oh, it's excellent. You have to do it on a very dark night with no moon, so you've got the stars above, the bioluminescence below. And people stay out till midnight because they don't want to come back.
Yeah, wow. I'm telling ya, it's like Avatar. —interview by Della Watson
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SIERRA CLUB PAYS TRIBUTE TO THIS YEAR'S ECO-HEROES
The environment is the real winner when activists, writers, photographers, and government officials put their hearts into saving the planet. But since the earth can't say thanks, the Sierra Club honored an outstanding group of environmental heroes during its annual awards ceremony, held September 25 in San Francisco.