First, I hope all of you, your family and loved ones are safe and healthy. These weeks have been a joint struggle — albeit at a distance — for all of us. It drives home how we are all connected in one world.
This is my first opportunity to write you as the new Chair of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. A brief introduction: My husband and I have the good fortune to live on the edge of the Gila National Forest in Pinos Altos, and every day we are treated to wildlife walkthroughs and an abundance of birds. I’m a cultural anthropologist and family therapist, now giving time to politics and board service. This is my first term on the Executive Committee for the Chapter.
My sense of the Sierra Club has been significantly changed by the experience of being on the ExCom. My husband was always the environmentalist and I was the politician, focused more on “people issues.” What I found when joining the ExCom was a big group of dedicated volunteers who made absolutely no distinction between social and environmental issues. Environmental changes, including this virus, affect us all and will do so even more in the future, sharpening the choices of where we live and how we earn a living.
This is the year when none of us can be complacent about our political choices and actions. We have seen how quickly protections to our water, air, and land can be stripped away even as we shelter in place. Those protections have also been there for workers and their families, ensuring a better life for children and grandchildren. Now, once again, corporate interests — aided mightily by a solely profit-motivated administration in Washington — pit desperate workers against imaginary environmentalist enemies. We have seen it in the coalfields, the forests, the fisheries. We see it now in our state health-care systems, where they have been pitted against each other for scarce medical supplies.
We can’t let this callous and dishonest portrayal of the issues continue. We won’t buy this message that it’s a choice between being a prosperous nation or a green and healthy one. So what can we do?
This is where the Rio Grande Chapter comes in. Fortunately we live in a state where the governor and the majority of the legislators are working to make our state green, safe, and prosperous. But those people need our help for that fight. They need us to speak up at the Legislature and interim committees for good climate science. They need us to call and use social media for candidates who will fight for our beautiful land and our workers. They need us to organize and vote for a change in Washington, a Congress and administration that understands the critical tipping point at which we find our world.
You will be called this year to work for these changes on behalf of the Rio Grande Chapter. Please consider your Chapter a home for your active participation in the political fray before us. I think you will be happy with the fine fellow spirits you meet as you join us. I know I have been!
Mary Hotvedt, Rio Grande Chapter Chair