Sierra Club Urges Students to Protect the Environment

The Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group held its first annual volunteer fair on May 12, 2007, at the Palm Beach County Library. Although the event only attracted five new recruits, the turnout did not discourage existing members from addressing key environmental issues and conservation tactics.

“One of the things we would like to do is start a student Sierra Club in the area,” member Nicolle Tolleson said.

The Sierra Club is America’s largest grassroots organization whose goal is to protect the environment through preservation. The Loxahatchee Group represents Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee Counties, and hopes to attract people of all ages, especially students.

“I think the people in college now don’t remember a time when they had to go without anything,” executive committee member Jayne King said.

King is an advocate of the Cool Cities program, a national campaign to reduce global warming through energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, such as the use of gas-electric hybrid vehicles, solar panels and energy-efficient building standards. Delray Beach, Coral Springs and Palm Beach Gardens are among the 400 cities already participating in the program.

The club encourages all people to “create a lifestyle that is better for the environment,” conservation chair Drew Martin said. “If we destroy everything now, what’s left for the future generations?”

Due to the recent drought, the Everglades are losing much of its wildlife, including the already endangered Florida panther. The multiple wildfires are also causing animals to seek refuge elsewhere.

“[The depleting resources] won’t support the deer, and won’t support any panthers that eat the deer,” political chair of the Broward Group Matthew Schwartz said.

Schwartz gave a presentation on the hydrologic changes in the Everglades over time, starting when Florida was still underwater. Deep ruts created by off-road vehicles are now creating small streams and pools where the water used to be filtered through the land.

The Everglades is “on its way to becoming a coastal desert,” Schwartz said. “We came from the sea, and there’s a good chance we’ll go back to the sea.”

The Sierra Club is reaching out to future generations through Inner City Outings, a program similar to Big Brothers Big Sisters, which invites students at high-risk schools on afternoon hikes and weekend camping trips. The students learn an appreciation of nature through immersion and are taught preservation techniques from the Sierra Club volunteers. There are approximately 40 school-aged students already participating in the program.

For more information about the Loxahatchee Sierra Club, please call their hotline at (561) 833-0405 or visit their website at http://florida.sierraclub.org/loxahatchee/