Category Archives: Uncategorized

Harvey, Labor Day, and the Fight for $15


As most Americans enjoy a Labor Day weekend of barbecues, beaches, and the last days of summer, millions in Texas and Louisiana are dealing with a stunning human tragedy from a rain event without precedent.

Harvey’s devastation has been tragic, unprecedented, shocking, and yet, to be expected. For decades now, scientists have been warning that climate change would lead to just this kind of devastation.
So why haven’t we, as a society, done more to prevent it?
Unfortunately, one reason is that climate change and severe weather threaten poor and communities of color the most, and yet these most vulnerable are unable to fully protect themselves as long as they are marginalized by systemic poverty and racism.  People who are struggling to put food on the table and afford health care, who are terrorized by violence, and who are targeted by hate have less time, resources, and power to stand up against climate change and the dumps, smokestacks, floodplain development, toxic sites and other environmental risks that tend to be clustered in minority and disadvantaged communities.
Earning a living wage and the right for workers to organize are critical to breaking these cycles of poverty, and empowering each and every one of us to participate fully in our economy and society.  That’s why the Sierra Club supports policies that raise wages for our most vulnerable, like the $15 minimum wage that the Illinois General Assembly passed this year, only to be vetoed by Governor Rauner.  Sierra Club opposes “right to work” or other attacks on the rights of workers to form unions, because we need a skilled workforce to build safe and clean water, transportation, and energy infrastructure. Unions also protect workers who call out unsafe conditions or violations of the law in the workplace, which protects them and the communities around them.
The threats to working people from climate change are mirrored by the economic opportunities offered by its solutions.  We need to prioritize communities of color for good jobs in clean energy, as we are doing with the Illinois Solar For All program under the Future Energy Jobs Act. We are counting on unions to provide the training for these jobs, and to help ensure this work pays a living wage in safe conditions.
To solve climate change and seize the benefits of the clean energy economy, we need to overcome the extremely powerful few who benefit from the status quo. We cannot do that until each and every one of us who want a better future for our communities and our children are empowered to join our movement, and for many a living wage in a good job are critical first steps.
That’s why the Sierra Club is marching with our labor and community allies on Labor Day in the Fight for $15 and union rights, and we invite you to join us.  Our thoughts will be with the millions suffering in the wake of Harvey and from injustice, and on building a bigger movement to win a better future.

Clean Energy Town Hall

Chicago residents, community organizations, and businesses are invited to participate in a clean energy town hall with Rep. Stratton on Tuesday, August 29, 2017.


RSVP Link below:

Our Neighbors in East Chicago Face Water Crisis — You Can Help

0700-EastChicagoEast Chicago, IN is facing a water crisis due to lead contamination. Residents have been organizing relentlessly to address this and other environmental injustices in their community. Let’s support our neighbors by helping ensure that until this crisis is fully addressed, they have access to clean, drinkable water.

Throughout the month of July, we’ll be collecting bottled water and replacement filter cartridges (PUR Max Ion rf- 3375) at our Chicago office (70 E Lake St., Suite 1500) for residents of East Chicago. Email Katrina Phillips to arrange a donation drop-off or make a monetary donation online at

We know that long-term, we MUST have robust investment in our public water systems, strong public health protections, and a well-funded Environmental Protection Agency–all serving the concerns of the communities. We realize bottled water (and even home water filters) are NOT a long-term solution for any of our communities. In the meantime, we want to support the vital organizing work and urgent needs of East Chicago residents by being one of a number of parties helping to provide this resource.

Thank you for your help and to the Community Strategy Group for keeping us updated on the situation and needs of the community.






Service and Serenity in the Colorado Rockies

Last month, I spent a week in the Colorado wilderness with three high school students from Chicago and a small group of Sierra Club members from California, Oregon and France (yes, France!). The students participate in the Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) program, which strives to empower youth from communities with limited access to connect and reconnect to the outdoors – for the benefit of both.

CO Trip - Hike

The outdoors and the creatures who live there certainly benefitted from the hard work and dedication of these young people as we took down old barbed wire fence that harms wildlife, built new wildlife-friendly fencing and removed invasive weeds. And when we finally reached the peak of a 12-mile hike with a view of Elk Falls (on our “rest day”), the students felt the benefit of connecting with the natural world at 10,000 feet. Their willingness to challenge themselves and live outside their comfort zone was inspiring, which is where the benefit comes in for me. I’m filled with hope and motivation when I see the future in these young people, who could lead the next generation of environmental advocates and justice warriors.

CO Trip - tractor.jpg

We spent the week camping near and working on the historic AG Ranch in Shawnee, Colorado, where the Rocky Mountain Specialty Pack String – 11 mules, 2 saddle horses, and lead packer, Glenn Ryan – have their home. One of only two full regional specialty pack strings, they provide low-impact heavy hauling into wilderness and limited-access areas, train others in packing, and educate the public. Their important presence serves to preserve wilderness values in our public lands by providing heavy hauling without the need for mechanization. We had the opportunity to support the protection and maintenance of public lands by helping to improve the facilities that are home to this exceptional operation of the U.S. Forest Service.

The service work we did was difficult and tiring, but the interactions we had with Glenn and his interns, who showed us how to do the work and explained why it’s important, made us feel satisfied and accomplished at the end of each long day. The time we got to spend with the horses and mules on the ranch was an added bonus.

CO Trip - with mule.jpg


While we typically take Chicago ICO participants on day trips and overnight car camping trips in the Chicago region, the opportunity to take a few young people on a National Service Trip once a year provides a unique experience and a chance to deepen connections. I see huge value in all of us feeling connected to the environment in our communities, but there’s really nothing like spending some time in the mountains, sleeping in a tent and gazing at the stars. To get away from the city and be surrounded by wilderness was a gentle push from Mother Nature for us to calm our minds, open our eyes and breathe.


I hope the students felt the calm and serenity that I found so refreshing, and enjoyed the break in normal life and routine. The other participants and leaders on the trip expressed that having the young people there brought a new energy (quite literally—the students were often the first ones up at the crack of dawn!) that added something special to the experience.

As we returned to Chicago, I felt refreshed and inspired to continue our work growing the ICO program, connecting people with the outdoors and empowering young people to be leaders in their communities and in the environmental and social justice movements. We need them, and the hopelessness that sometimes washes over us as we face the world’s current challenges seems to fade away as we see their energy and passion to do good and fight for the future.


Chicago ICO at Red Rocks 2

To learn more about the Chicago ICO program, visit our webpage here

To find out more about Sierra Club service outings, visit our outings site.  

Why I’m Riding My Bike Around Lake Michigan

By: Kady McFadden, Deputy Chapter Director

Growing up in Illinois, summers always meant family trips outdoors in Wisconsin and Michigan. I spent many 4th of July weekends camping at Peninsula State Park in Door County, Wisconsin. Every summer even through college, I went on a father-daughter canoe trip in Wisconsin with a number of my friends and their dads. Lake Michigan is what makes Chicago summers so incredible – I trained for my first marathon along morning sunrises on the lakeshore path. Carved by glaciers 14,000 years ago, the Great Lakes ecosystem is our Yellowstone of the midwest. It is the most important natural asset of our region, and it’s where I learned how to swim, paddle, pitch a tent, and make a campfire.

The Great Lakes are not only the gem of our region, but the area is home to a $5 trillion regional economy and 20% of the world’s freshwater. Protecting the Great Lakes has long been a bipartisan priority. Since 2010, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) has contributed $300M annually to support economic development driven by environmental restoration. The GLRI is a proven critical and successful effort to support cleanup projects, habitat restoration, invasive species control, and nutrient runoff reduction in the Great Lakes and surrounding states.


Me and my dad camping in WI, circa 1995

President Trump has decided to abandon this track record of success in protecting our region. Despite the fact that over 40 million people get their drinking water from these lakes, his proposed 2018 budget eliminates the GLRI. Additionally, the President is calling for a 31% overall reduction in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The effects of eliminating this program are twofold: jobs will be lost and the Lakes will suffer. The environmental effects of cutting the GLRI would be diverse and wide-reaching, allowing toxic algae blooms in sources of drinking water, leaving our waterways vulnerable to invasive species like Asian carp, and creating irreversible habitat fragmentation on beaches and parks. On the economic front, cutting the GLRI would eliminate the possibility of $50 billion long-term economic benefits the program is slated to bring the Great Lakes region as a whole, and put folks out of work in the short-term.

Starting today, I’ll be riding my bike around Lake Michigan and visiting some sites of successful GLRI projects along the way. I’ll be completely human powered, with all supplies and gear strapped to my bicycle. I hope you’ll follow along, and join Sierra Club’s efforts to fight to protect the Great Lakes.

Like many of you, I was deeply shaken by the results of the 2016 election. As a young woman with a deep belief in democracy and our individual and collective ability to make a difference in the world, I was rocked by the direction our country might be headed. Before November 8th, I planned to spend the next four years fighting for continued progress making our planet and communities even more safe and vibrant. Rather, I find that I spend many days fighting battles that I thought we already won: that everyone deserves clean water, that women deserve respect and should make choices for themselves, and that no American is illegal.

In these times, we must encircle and protect the things we value most. We have no choice but to fight to defend against threats to our undocumented brothers and sisters, to working families ability to earn a living wage, to and to our most basic right to safe drinking water and a healthy planet.

Protecting our environment and communities is not a partisan value. That’s why I am hopeful that our Great Lakes Republican members of Congress will stand up for the GLRI and against budget cuts to EPA. I hopeful that they can follow the lead of my hometown state Representative Steve Andersson (R), who on Friday worked so hard to reach across the aisle to help pass a budget for our state. Wearing a purple tie for bipartisanship, he said “we are going to save our state, and we’re going to save our state together.”

We are going to save our Great Lakes. And we’re going to save our Great Lakes together. I hope you’ll join us.

Contribute to our campaign to #SaveTheGreatLakes:

Sign the petition here: Save The Great Lakes



Illinois House Passes Resolution Urging Governor Rauner to sign Illinois onto U.S. Climate Alliance

Springfield, June 26 – This morning the Illinois House passed HR490, urging Governor Rauner to have Illinois join 12 states, Puerto Rico, and over 300 cities in supporting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and signing onto the U.S. Climate Alliance. The resolution also urges the state to develop a plan of how Illinois can achieve 100% clean, renewable energy by 2045, a goal that dozens of cities and the state of California are working towards. The Resolution passed 54-29.


In response, Jack Darin, Director of Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, released the following statement:

“Governor Rauner, it is time for Illinois to join the US Climate Alliance, and chart our own course to a clean energy future. President Trump is stepping back from the global move to clean energy, but Illinois does not have to follow him.  It’s time to commit to fighting the climate change that threatens Illinois, and plan for the bold long term goal of a 100% clean energy future.

“Illinois is already on track to meet the Paris Agreement emissions reduction targets, as the clean energy boom on the way under the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) is projected to reduce carbon emissions at least equal to those agreed to in the Paris accord. A transition to 100% clean energy will not happen overnight, but the transition has already begun, and setting that as a long term goal for Illinois will guide job training, economic development, grid infrastructure, and other components of a clean energy future.”

Spring & Summer Pollinator Events In Illinois

Wed 5/17/17 Weed (the verb) and Wine at the EVG Garden Eagle View Group (IL)
Sat 6/10/17 Churchill Woods/Glacial Ridge Forest Preserve Service Event River Prairie Group
Sat  5/20/17 Pollinator Family Day Heart Of Illinois Group
Sat 5/20/17 Spring Valley Native Plant Planting Project NW Cook County Group
Sun  6/09/17 Gardening for Butterflies and Hummingbirds Stickney-Forest View Public Library District
Wed  5/31/17 Saving the Monarchs DuPage Monarch Project
Sun 6/11/17 Bluff Spring Fen Annual Botanical Hike (late spring) River Prairie Group
Sun 7/09/17 Children’s Monarch Festival Elmhurst Garden Club’s Garden Walk & Faire
Sun 7/23/17 Monarchs & Music: Monarch Mania Family Fun Fair Hackmatack Monarch Coalition; Crystal Lake Main Beach Pavilion