“What sort of person reads SIERRA?”  An editorial suggested four ads, “which would depict you in split screen”:  Take a look; I wrote them verbatim, my comments in italics:


  • grinning like a loon while riding your folding bike to work and then giggling on the back of your girlfriend’s tandem as you cycle past wetlands that you helped save from bulldozers.  [loons don’t grin; I’ve seen thousands.  Why the back of the tandem?  Isn’t that sexist?  Women can be stronger than men.  Besides, the best wetlands are nowhere near cycling routes.]
  • hoisting your sweaty self up a 5.10 granite face and then kicking back under a camp lantern reading The Botany of Desire.  [I guess I don’t belong, since I don’t rock climb.  I haven’t read the book, either.  Shameful.]
  • giving a thumbs-up to the crew who put solar panels on your house in the morning and then battering your way through Class V rapids at sunset.  [Oh wow, the average member can plunk down $10,000 for panels, more for a good Kayak and go through Class V rapids, which aren’t exactly everywhere, requiring a lot of training.  Where does the money and the time to train come from?  By the way, “the crew” probably spoke Spanish and don’t own Kayaks, let alone the means to get to Class V rivers, but hey, you are special.]
  • admiring a scarlet macaw in your binoculars and then admiring the way your flip-flops look on the sustainable flooring you installed to protect that rainforest.  [Here, Spanish speakers have an advantage, because unless you live in Central or South America, you didn’t see the Macaw (the national bird of Honduras) and then admired your sustainable flooring.  Additionally, the flooring, like most of ours, is probably on cement, the production of which is a major cause of CO2 emission.]

I’m not about to ditch the Club over this, only diss it.  I wrote the editor “‘I’m obnoxious and outspoken when I read outlandish orations what I ought to be accomplishing every hour.”  No worry, marketers aren’t interested in guys my age.  These ads make the Club sound like it is for world class, superrich, world-saving Yuppies, who don’t have to work the hours most do, and weren’t required to serve in Uncle Sam’s fighting forces.  School and the military took me through my 20s. I was well into my 30s before I had the chance to explore much of the world.

Much as I don’t care for the NRA, “I’m the NRA” is a powerful ad.  Calling guns “rifles” softens the name of the organization.  The National Gun Association would be dead on arrival, and I am amazed nobody has said that.  For people who are highly educated, Sierra Club folks and other liberal thinkers have lost almost every battle on language to those who don’t understand a lot of English grammar, but sure know how to string a few words together well.  John Kerry looked elitist on a kite board; Dukakis may have lost the election when he rode a tank; George W. Bush was a guy you could have a beer with.  Frankly, I want a president who is a hell of a lot smarter than I, but most people don’t think like me.  Let’s see if I can figure out how they do think.

The Club is perceived by many as elitist that says NO to everything. The NGA, and you know whom I mean, also says no, but is not elitist.  That is a huge difference.  Most Americans are not elite, jealous of the elite, feel the elite have too much money, too much everything, and care more about the environment than jobs and people.  They aren’t convinced we can have both jobs and protect the environment.  And they vote.

The four ads portray members as wine sipping yuppies, doing things the average American doesn’t, and to quote my late father, think their shit don’t stink.  I think the NGA stinks, but I’m among the first to admit that a lot more people relate to it than to the Sierra Club.

I’m old; neither pretty nor charismatic, but an ad featuring a guy like me might be understood by more people who want to know what the Club is about.  Put me in split screen, driving into Kearney with a 3 on the floor rusty, old Ford F-150 with “8” or “9” on the Nebraska plates, waving the tip of a finger to oncoming vehicles (those are Hall and Buffalo counties, by the way; everybody in Nebraska knows they are rural), and saying, “I’m Mike Smith, and I’m a Sierra Club member, I have a Duck Stamp, and I’m helping out at one of the great migrations in America.”  Trust me: Having a Duck Stamp matters.  Hunters need one, and it’s a bone of contention to them that non-hunters don’t buy them. I don’t blame hunters for their anger.  I continue, truck bouncing, “A lot of folks think we are anti-hunting.  We aren’t. Hunting gets kids outside. I like that.  America’s special outdoor places are under attack by those who haven’t seen a full Moon rise, mist on a lake full of waterfowl, heard rain on the roof of a tent, or felt the tug of a bass on a line.”


The migration of Sandhill Cranes, Nebraska.

The migration of Sandhill Cranes, Nebraska.

Split screen: showing me by my old tent on a clear spot in the wilderness, wearing every bit of clothing I’ve brought.  Then the next night I’m wearing a sweater and hiking boots–show the boots– presenting a small scholarship, in memory of two Minnesotans who died in Iraq, at the Vermilion Community College banquet, to a young woman from the Iron Range studying for a job in wilderness management.  That happened.

Split screen:  I’m paddling out of the Boundary Waters on Fall Lake, grubby, after a few days in the woods, and an hour later, eating a scone at a small town bakery in Ely and looking at a real fishing guide’s picture of a 32 1/2 inch walleye he caught and threw back. This is small town America.  Yeah, that happened last September.  I wrote about it.

Split screen:  My wife lungeing a horse, and the next week, wearing a very different outfit portaging 45 pounds around Pipestone Falls and later hanging food away from bears up on Jackfish Bay on Basswood Lake.


Jackfish Bay, Basswood Lake

Jackfish Bay, Basswood Lake

Yeah, it’s a bit corny, but it is better than sustainable flooring.  I use fossil fuels; we all do.  Let’s not kid ourselves.

If the Club wanted to be really green, it would hammer incessantly against overpopulation, which may cause our demise.   Want to be green?  Don’t have children.  Nothing else comes close.  Want to save American wilderness?  Limit immigration, too, since we can’t take in the world, any more than we can defend it or save it.  Wow, my hissy fit has just dissed the Club, pissed off every reader and kissed my reputation goodbye.

I won’t be missed.





Spring Creek, Boundary Waters Canoe Area, late April 2013.  I camped within 50 yards of the right side of the photograph.

Spring Creek, Boundary Waters Canoe Area, late April 2013. I camped within 50 yards of the right side of the photograph.

The outdoors must be protected for future generations, hunters and non-hunters.  That is what the Club is about.

The outdoors must be protected for future generations, hunters and non-hunters. That is what the Club is about.

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