A Sprout for Sierra: The Environmental Group Looks to Gen X

Article excerpt

THE SIERRA CLUB, AT THE AGE OF 104, is environmentalism's oldest continuously operating organization, and it may have been getting a little slow on its feet. What better pick-me-up, figured the club's board of directors, than Adam Werbach? He had organized a petition drive 15 years ago calling for the dismissal of the then interior secretary James Watt, founded a youth division that now claims 30,000 members, set up a World Wide Web page and distributed black snow cones to high-school and college students around the country to dramatize the risk of opening up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Nice activist credentials, all. But what gave Werbach the edge in the club's 8-6-1 vote for its new president late last month was his age--or lack thereof. Werbach is 23. That anti-Watt petition drive was among his second-grade classmates.

His supporters say Werbach's talents and enthusiasm outweigh his shortage of experience. In particular, they like his innocence of Beltway politics. Club dissidents have been grousing that the organization has become too much an old boys' club that, to curry favor with other Washington insiders, takes timid positions. …