Group calls for activism

While stereotypical college students spend Saturday mornings sleeping in, one Northern Kentucky University student slipped on her green corduroys, multicolored sweater and hemp necklace and was standing in the Sierra Club office by 9:30 a.m. Sept. 30.

Sophomore Hope Marksberry, an environmental science major, interns with the Cincinnati branch of the Sierra Club – America’s oldest, and largest, grassroots environmental organization.

“I’m just hoping to learn how to be the best activist that I can,” she said. “I want to learn the ways to talk to people, to get things done, what routes you’ve got to go to get what you want. I want to learn what I can do to make a difference.”

Marksberry would like to see recycling on NKU’s campus. Approximately 30 NKU students have signed up to learn more about Sierra Club and are interested in getting involved – four of those have already volunteered. According to Cincinnati Site Leader Andrew Snow, they are working to set up a student coalition that will establish chapters of Sierra Club at universities that do not have one yet, including NKU.

More than 750,000 members belong to Sierra Club nationally, divided into regional chapters.

For the next five to 10 years, the organization is focusing on developing and implementing new technologies and renewable sources of energy, such as wind power, solar power, biofuels and energy efficiency – mainly because of global warming. They said sources of renewable energy would reduce the amount of pollution that gets into the air and water. Creating healthy communities and protecting wildlife are also the organization’s important issues.

“Hardly anybody can say anything against it, I mean who doesn’t want to breathe clean air, who doesn’t want clean oceans and rivers?” Marksberry said. “We all have to live here and if we don’t work on making it better, then it’s not going to be here.”

Sierra Club and several partners, such as Equality Cincinnati and Democracy for America, rallied for America Votes National Day of Action Sept. 30. America Votes is a coalition of organizations that work for progressive change. The national political director for Sierra Club, Cathy Duvall and chair of Democracy for America, Jim Dean, brother of 2004 presidential nominee Howard Dean, addressed the volunteers.

“We are way beyond the time we can simply televise our way to victory,” Dean shouted, pumping up the crowd. “It’s up to us to make this happen. Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Audience members cheered, waving their signs in the air in response to the speeches. Afterward, the groups separated and went individually door-to-door to educate voters about their causes. Out of the178 people who volunteers were able to contact door-to-door, 124 were interested in the cause; between 15 and 22 of them plan to volunteer.

In hopes of influencing the Ohio race for governor, Marksberry and 17 other Sierra Club volunteers, ranging from college students to retirees, targeted people who, based on research, would probably support their cause but were not likely to vote in a non-presidential election.

“People don’t really realize that you can make a huge difference if you get out and vote in this election, that there are these issues that are hugely at stake at this time too,” Duvall said.

“Because there are less people turning out, your voice is heard a little bit more,” Snow said.

Marksberry will continue to knock on potential voters’ doors until Election Day, Nov. 7.

“My goal is to make sure that all the people who got involved don’t fall through the cracks,” Snow said. “We want to make sure we continually build a bigger base and a stronger group.”

Although the Cincinnati chapter will shut down in November, the Northern Kentucky group and the Miami group of southern Ohio will continue to fulfill Sierra Club’s motto to “explore, enjoy, and protect the planet.”