Q+A with Sierra Club
Know more about the Central area of Texas with Shane Johnson, representative of the Lonestar chapter
WHAT DOES SIERRA CLUB TEXAS DO?
We are the oldest grassroots environmental organization in Texas. In addition to our state Chapter office in Austin, we have several regional groups in Texas that support our advocacy and mission. The Lone Star Chapter includes more than 27,000 members throughout the state.
We carry out our advocacy primarily through grassroots organizing, lobbying, media/press work, social media actions, and supporting electoral campaigns at the local, state, and federal levels. A primary focus of our advocacy is expanding clean energy, such as wind and solar, to fight climate change. Since Winter Storm Uri, we shifted our approach to clean energy by refocusing on energy efficiency initiatives-ie reducing excess electricity use both in order to reduce toxic pollution and carbon emissions and to ensure the Texas grid actually becomes reliable.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES THAT YOU’RE UP AGAINST?
In general, the biggest challenge we’re facing is the rise of fascism in the US (and globally), with Texas being one of the strongholds of this political movement. Particularly in Texas, this looks like state capture by the oil and gas industry, where these corporations essentially dictate our state law and policies. One big example of this is how big energy companies (particularly gas companies and large electric utilities) refused to winterize their operations or the Texas grid, causing the catastrophic blackouts during Winter Storm Uri — while also burning the fossil fuels that helped cause this climate disaster in the first place. Then, these companies lobbied the Texas government to force us- -the people of Texas — to pay the billions of dollars in damages from the storm and not require the utilities to winterize once again.
The week after the 2021 legislature closed, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and others received millions of dollars in donations from these companies. As a result, we not only have the ongoing climate crisis and the TX grid crisis since 2021, but also we are now facing a statewide electric bill crisis-some people are now paying electric bills of $500-$1000 per month. Going forward, organizations around Texas need to focus on community organizing to build people's power to be able to fight against these political problems, in order to save lives, #FixTheGrid, and stop climate change.
WHAT KEEPS YOU DOING THIS WORK?
Real, powerful (in terms of people power), sustainable organizing is the key factor helping to keep me in the movement, as well as keeping others from giving up. I like to say that relationships are the building blocks of organizing. Cultivating and stewarding our network of friends, loved ones, and mentors allows us to not only build healthy and just relationships that help sustain us but also help us collectively build people's power and our sense of community. This is also an important factor for preventing burnout — even though everyone feels some burnout at some point — to continue our community organizing beyond one individual. We need to understand the need to unlearn the individualism we are socialized with growing up and learn that we can’t create the social change we need in the world unless we organize collectively. There are 99 of us for every one of the people standing in our way.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- The real solution to fighting the systems of oppression we are living through, the rise in fascism in Texas, and the other systemic harm, from racism to patriarchy, is investing in real community organizing — this means building people's power to fight against oppression and for justice. This Is how we can actually fix the Texas grid, successfully fight against climate change and for a just transition, and win on other intersectional justice issues from police accountability to reproductive and gender justice to voting rights.
- To meet with Shane to discuss organizing or join upcoming Organizing Office Hours, fill out this volunteer form (be sure to select organizing” or“#FixTheGrid’*):