Friday, May 15, 2009
Sierra Club sees Carlisle as grassroots model
This spring the Sierra Club, America’s oldest environmental organization, formed a Carlisle Committee as part of its 12-town Thoreau Group based in Concord. The new committee gained 14 members that night and, something no other town in the club’s Thoreau Group can boast at this time, a leader who is a town resident, Launa Zimmaro, of Lowell Street. Zimmaro says that there are 90 current Sierra Club members and about 500 former members in Carlisle. Thoreau Group Executive Committee Chair Dan Proctor, of Concord, says that the new Carlisle Committee is the largest committee of the Thoreau Group, and that he sees Carlisle’s committee as a “pacesetter” that will demonstrate “to the New England region and to the whole country that a very local, grassroots organization can work effectively and become a model for other towns and regions.”
Three other factors, Proctor says, make Carlisle a particularly good potential representative of the Sierra Club’s vision for effective grassroots action: one is the Mosquito, our independent, non-profit weekly newspaper. One of its founders, Bonnie Miskolczy, is a longtime Sierran. Proctor targeted the Mosquito as an effective voice for community education because of its steady reportage of environmental concerns, its longevity and its importance to the community. Second, Carlisle has a wealth of environmentally concerned citizens who provide the Mosquito with its material and work to preserve Carlisle’s unique environment and community health. Zimmaro noted that there are actually over 20 different environment-related action groups represented in Carlisle, including school and private citizens’ organizations, state and regional organizations with members in town and governmental committees. Finally, Proctor and Zimmaro see the potential for generations to work together at the Carlisle School to “think systemically.” Students can offer technical support and research while adults use their work to plan action and educational projects. “Education and awareness are essential to effective action,” says Zimmaro, who is a recently retired elementary school principal.
The Sierra Club is one of the few comprehensive environmental organizations in the country, concerned with a broad range of environmental issues. As a 501(c)4 non-profit organization, it can endorse issues and legislation and campaign on behalf of individual candidates for office. “Half,” says Proctor, “of the Massachusetts Senate’s Ways and Means Committee were endorsed by the Sierra Club.These include Senator Susan Fargo and Representative Cory Atkins.
The club is organized nationally, (with headquarters in California), regionally, and locally, and is currently forming committees in towns throughout the New England area. Proctor, who sees himself as “an organizer, an enabler,” is trying on the local level to “provide the organizational structure in which the projected greater concern for the environment will allow people to become active effectively.” Zimmaro, who admits to beginning her own environmental activism with a diffuse “cafeteria” approach, sees the Sierra Club as a way to determine the concerns of a community and to figure out the best way to set priorities and approach important issues.
Nationally, the top priority for the Sierra Club is global warming and the promotion of so-called “smart” energy policies, which is to say the reduction of greenhouse gases and the clean, efficient and cost-effective use of energy sources.
In New England, local Sierra Groups focus on water quality and supply, wind power, waste management and more. Here in Carlisle, Zimmaro says, one new committee member wants to work on ways to deal with invasive plants that threaten our water supplies and wetlands. Another wants to work on environmental legislation at the state level. Others, she says, are interested in “low carbon living and weatherization.” At its first meeting, the committee heard information about the proposed solar- and wind-energy bylaw and will discuss supporting it. One of Zimmaro’s own focal points is waste management and reduction. She is also a member of the Household Recycling Committee, and reports that “37 to 38% of Carlisle’s waste is recycled. What about the rest? We need to reduce our trash level and we need to work together to see how we can best achieve that goal.”
One of the ways the committee plans to achieve its goals is to campaign for the establishment of a town environmental council that will be a center for information, communication and education for all the environmental groups in town. To complement the council, Proctor advocates the establishment of a “green portal” website for “contact and opportunities unique to the community.”
At present, the Carlisle Sierra Club Committee is planning future meetings and setting its agenda. Both Proctor and Zimmaro are excited about its strength of numbers, commitment and expertise, not to mention its potential for becoming a model for local Sierran organizations everywhere.
Interested Carlisleans may contact the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito