The Topeka Group of the Sierra Club-Kansas Chapter is working to educate the community on 21st-century technology that can help the environment.
Paul Post, chairman of the executive committee of the Sierra Club-Kansas Chapter, is hoping Topeka residents get involved in the local club to better their lives and surroundings.
The Sierra Club’s national organization, which is celebrating its 125th year, was founded as a hiking club by John Muir in May 1892 in California, Post said.
Q: What is the Sierra Club?
Post: The Sierra Club is a national organization and was a hiking club for many years. In the 1960s, a dam was planned for the Grand Canyon, and the Sierra Club was very instrumental in stopping that. Camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, skiing, cross country, biking (and) all those outdoor things we’re still interested in, but the focus in the early ’60s really changed to be on more environmental activists. There are so-called chapters. Each state has a chapter, at least one, and some of the bigger states like California, they have several.
Below the chapter level, we have what we call groups. We have a group called the Topeka Group … members here in Topeka belong to that. The Lawrence Group is the original group in the Kansas Chapter; it’s called the Wakarusa Group. The Kansas City Group is the Kanza Group, the Wichita Group is Southwind Group, and the Manhattan Group is called the Flint Hills Group.
Q: How did you become involved with the Sierra Club?
Post: I became a life member in ’97. I’m not paid; I’m a volunteer. I’m a member of the executive committee, which is kind of like our board of directors for Kansas, and I wear some other hats, like for the Topeka Group I’m the outings person.
Q.: What projects are currently in the works?
Post: The Holcomb coal-fired generator, which was proposed to be expanded. We’re trying to push renewable energy. Coal-fired plants essentially are 19th-century technology. We’re advocating 21st-century technologies for electrical generation.
We’re in favor of our wind farms and solar. The wind farm development has really taken off in the last 10 years, probably, and even more so in the last five years. We’re very concerned about the earthquakes in south-central Kansas, down around Wichita, due to oil companies fracking (hydraulic fracturing).
Another thing we are interested in is the Flint Hills burning and the air quality to our northern neighbors. We also maintain 2 miles of highway on I-70 from Wanamaker Road to Urish Road.
Q: How many members are there?
Post: There are 5,000 members in Kansas. The members of the five groups in the state are approximately: Topeka, 350-400; Kansas City, 1,400; Wichita, 900; Lawrence, 500-600; and Manhattan has about 200-300. The rest are comprised of individuals in the western part of Kansas.
Q: How can one become a member?
Post: Join on our website (kansas.sierraclub.org/topeka-group/) or donate to the Sierra Club at sierraclub.org.
Q: What are some of the upcoming outings planned?
Post: There is an annual float trip Saturday, Oct. 21, that we partner on with the Friends of the Kaw, (who) help maintain the Kansas River. Topeka (Group)-sponsored outings have included hikes at Konza Prairie, hikes at the governor’s mansion, the Gypsum Hills, a field trip and tour of the Waverly Wind Farm, and a field trip to the Bowersock Mills &Power Company hydroelectric power plant in Lawrence.
Q: What are some of the concerns for the future?
Post: We’re optimists, so we’re not wringing our hands and saying, ‘Woe is me.’ We’re optimistic 21st-century technologies will help the environment. We are concerned about climate changes and/or global warming. Our military acknowledge that it is happening, and if something isn’t done about it, it can have catastrophic consequences.
Q: How can individuals help?
Post: Join the membership of the Sierra Club for $15. Eating locally (and) supporting the farmers markets; food choices; energy efficiency, such as appliances and incandescent light bulbs, (which) should be changed out to compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs.
Contact features writer Jessica Cole at (785) 295-5628.