The New Orleans Group of the Sierra Club’s mission is“To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources;
To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives”(Sierra Club Policies. Sierra Club. August 20th 2013. “http://www.sierraclub.org/policy/”).
The Sierra Club is a national organization that has a chapter called the “Delta Chapter”, included in this chapter is the New Orleans Group. The New Orleans Group of the Sierra Club is very active throughout the city, particularly in the Lower Ninth Ward.
The Sierra Club began the planning process to restore the Bayou Bienvenue (located on the north edge of the Lower Ninth Ward) in 2006. They started by planning numerous meetings with local leaders and getting information accumulated about what the neighborhood wanted to do as they moved forward. Sierra Club helped to produce an educational board describing the history of the Bayou and its current condition. This board was produced by Andy Baker. Students at the University of Colorado, Denver, designed the platform that now sits at the Bayou Bienvenue and allows for residents and guests to go beyond the flood walls and see into this natural environment. In 2007, 2008, and 2009, students from the University of Wisconsin researched the water quality and other natural elements of the Bayou Bienvenue. The Sierra Club has this research available and uses it to raise awareness about the area. In 2011, the Bayou Bienvenue was not included on the City’s Coastal Master Plan. Sierra Club rallied support from the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans as a whole to get the Bayou Bienvenue put on the Master Plan in 2012. They have gone through a similar process to include the Bayou on the Core of Engineers long term plan as well. After these accomplishments, Sierra Club presented on the Bayou at the State of the Coast conference in 2012. They have worked heavily with CSED on this project and have also worked with Common Ground, who has been influential in restoring the natural flora in the area by planting cypress trees.
Connect the 9
The Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED) was given a small grant to work on bike safety in the Lower Ninth Ward and particularly on the St. Claude bridge. This collaboration turned into Connect the 9, a coalition working to increase bike safety on the bridge. Sierra club helped to begin this initiative, and they now have meetings the third Thursday of every month for the group. They also now host, on the third Saturday of the month, a fun ride in the Lower 9th Ward, to raise awareness about the coalition and this issue. Recently, UNO did a study on the St. Claude bridge and the risk it imposes for bicyclers. Sierra Club has these documents available for the public. UNO has also done a conceptual design of a bike path that makes a loop around the Lower Ninth Ward to replace the dangerous route across the bridge and to add more bicycle paths in this area. Sierra club is promoting this design and is currently looking for funds for this project.
Report on Solar Panels
Sierra Club recently had a student from Duke University come down to the Lower Ninth and conduct research on the solar panels in the neighborhood. This research found that there are 2400 permits for solar panels in Orleans Parish and 240 of these permits are in the Lower Ninth Ward. While the Lower Ninth Ward is only 2% of the population of Orleans Parish, this neighborhood holds 10% of the solar permits. Twelve percent of the homes in the Lower Ninth have solar panels, a percentage much greater than many areas in Louisiana and the country.
Report on the economics of the St. Claude bridge
Sierra Club also conducted research on the St. Claude bridge and the economic impact of widening the industrial canal lock. They have concluded that widening the lock is economically inefficient. This report is available to the public. Sierra Club is working to discourage the city of widening the lock and replacing the historic St. Claude bridge.
Sierra Club has worked with CSED to install radiant barriers in over 200 homes in the Lower Ninth Ward. Radiant barriers are installed in attics and help to keep homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Sierra Club also referred consumers to Global Green, who has similar equipment in the Lower Ninth. Sierra Club’s biggest partner in the Lower Ninth is the CSED, who they team up with on the majority of their projects.
Sierra Club has worked with GroundWork New Orleans, who received a grant to install rain gardens in the Lower Ninth. They have also worked with Historic Green on their annual Spring Greening event throughout the city.
Mapping Non-Profit Influence: The Case of the Lower Ninth Ward
Sierra Club is one of many organizations that have worked to restore the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. As part of a larger study of the impact and networks of non-profits in 2013 (please see Mapping Non-Profit Influence: The Case of the Lower Ninth Ward for more details), we can see that this organization excels in the following areas:
1. Access to consumers regardless of ability to pay
Sierra Club provides many of their goods free of charge, much of which is the research they have conducted. They also hold meetings and events, such as the bike ride, for free. Thus, they are able to reach a large consumer base in this neighborhood.
2. Provisions of collective goods
Sierra Club provides many collective goods, such as research, community meetings, and improvements to the natural environment, which benefit everyone in this neighborhood.
3. Opportunities to Volunteer
Sierra Club is happy to work with volunteers. They often collaborate with lowernine.org, giving and getting volunteers from this organization. Much of the volunteer coordinating they conduct is through the CSED.
Participation in Information Sharing
When we analyze CAPSTONE based on its extent of participation in information sharing activities, we see they are active in 5 ways:
Sierra Club conducts significant amounts of research, including research on the Bayou Bienvenue, the St. Claude bridge, and solar panels in the Lower Ninth.
2. Capacity Building
Sierra Club is able to build capacity in the Lower Ninth through their community meetings. These meetings give the residents and community members a voice and some say in what happens with these initiatives in their neighborhood. They also have a chance to exchange ideas and future projects.
Sierra Club is connected with 8 other organizations in this study (The Village, lowernine.org, Common Ground Relief, GroundWork NOLA, Historic Green, NENA, CSED, and Global Green). They engage in numerous networking activities, including volunteer coordination, sponsoring projects with other organizations, and referring consumers.
4. Awareness Raising
All of the documents Sierra Club produces and shares (such as research, information on the Bayou, and bike festivals) are produced to raise awareness about the environment in the Lower Ninth Ward and new changes that may be happening or that the community wants to happen.
5. Social Change
Sierra Club is working to create social change by taking their research and influencing lawmakers and high ranking officials. Their work with the City’s Master Plan and influencing the Corps of Engineers is transforming the way New Orleans protects its natural environment (Sierra Club Policies. Sierra Club. August 20th 2013. “http://www.sierraclub.org/policy/”).