From the Toronto paper.
Sierra Club faces rocky future as extremists push out greens
By SHAWN McCARTHY
NEW YORK -- Anti-immigration activists some with loose connections to alleged white-supremacist groups, have launched an aggressive bid to take over the Sierra Club, one of the most respected environmental groups in North America.
As directors of the Sierra Club's Canadian affiliate watch with growing alarm, a group of 13 former presidents of the U.S. club has called on its board to take action to thwart the takeover drive of the organization and its $95-million-a-year (U.S.) budget. In an interview, former Sierra Club president Robbie Cox said the 750,000-member organization will be destroyed if "outside forces" succeed in gaining control of the board of directors in April's elections.
"We are extremely concerned about the continued viability of the club," Mr. Cox said.
Elizabeth May, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, said her board is watching the election battle in the United States with growing concern.
While the Canadian organization is not directly affiliated with the U.S. club, it does pay a licensing fee for the use of the name and has agreements on maintaining consistent policies.
The immigration issue is not a new one for the Sierra Club. For years, the organization has championed world population control as a key element in global environmental protection. But a vocal minority in the club is urging a stronger focus on population control within the United States itself, including measures to decrease immigration.
In a 1998 referendum, Sierra Club members rejected calls to adopt what critics said was an anti-immigrant position. Now, a group calling itself Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization is supporting three new candidates for the board of directors, telling backers that their election would allow virtual control of the 112-year-old club.
One SUSPS member, Brenda Walker, posted an article to the website http://www.vdare.com,
which has been accused of promoting hate. In her article, she slammed U.S. immigration policy and urged readers to join the Sierra Club in order to vote for SUSPS candidates. That posting has since been picked up by hard-core extremist websites.
Mr. Cox, who remains on the Sierra Club board, said his group intends to hold a conference call with the entire board of directors this week and urge them to take steps to ensure that long-standing members, few of whom bother to vote in club elections, understand the threat to the organization and are mobilized to beat it back.
"Our concern is that this flirtation with anti-immigration opens the Sierra Club to this kind of vulnerability, and it enables these other right-wing groups to use us and our good name to advance their own extreme agenda," he said.
Ms. Walker's web posting has also prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama group that tracks racist groups, to become involved. In an open letter last week, SPLC co-founder Morris Dees announced he is running for the Sierra Club board in an effort to stop the "greening of hate."
"If the U.S. were to move in that direction [of opposing immigration], we'd either have to sort it out or change our name," Ms. May said. She insisted that concerns about immigration are misplaced, since movement to North America represents only a small proportion of global migration and a tiny fraction of the globe's growing population.
SUSPS supporters say the extremist label is a "smear tactic" and insist their concerns have nothing to do with racism or racists.
Ben Zuckerman, a long-time Sierra Club member and proponent of U.S. population control, argued that the growing population of his country, which consumes 20 per cent of the world's resources, is dangerous for the global environment and that it is immigration alone that fuels this growth. Mr. Zuckerman, an astronomer at the University of California at Los Angeles, said "political correctness" is preventing environmentalists from addressing the issue.