After 121 years of lobbying, letter-writing campaigns and law-abiding protests, the Sierra Club is retooling itself for the flash-mob age — and showing an increasingly aggressive edge.
That edge was on display last week, when the Sierra Club’s two top leaders and 46 other climate activists zip-tied themselves to the White House gates to protest the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. The organization called it the first time it had suspended its decades-long policy against club-sanctioned civil disobedience.
That protest followed a trend in which the 1.4 million-member organization has toughened its rhetoric against fossil fuels, pursued a campaign to phase out coal and willingly brought on a public relations headache by outing its hidden financial ties to the natural gas industry.
Sierra Club leaders and supporters say they’re not undergoing a radical makeover — and they stressed that the invitation-only White House arrests Feb. 13 were a “one-time” dalliance with civil disobedience.
But they also acknowledged increasing frustration with Washington’s paralysis in the face of what they call a global climate emergency. And some say new tactics are required in an era when mass protests can be organized via Twitter.