We’re excited to welcome Steve Dunwoody, the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s newest elected board member.
Tell me about your background prior to joining us here at the Angeles Chapter.
I grew up in Michigan and became an environmental advocate at a really young age—I mean, I started a recycling program at my elementary school. About halfway through high school, I decided I wanted to join the military to pay for college and ended up in Iraq in 2005 as a member of the Air National Guard. In Iraq, I really got to explore the relationship between the United States’s dependence on foreign oil and domestic policy decisions, which furthered my interest in studying the environment and international relations, which I studied at Johns Hopkins University.
Once I returned from Iraq, I went to see (then) Senator Obama speak and heard him say that the United States needed to “end the tyranny of oil”. That really resonated with me as both a veteran and a long-time environmentalist, and I wanted to help his administration reach that next step. From there, I campaigned with the Obama administration as a Veterans Outreach Director and Field organizer across the country and later served as Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Energy at the Department of Energy.
I’ve also helped the Sierra Club with a few campaigns around different legislation in Sacramento and received the opportunity to work with the next generation of activists at UCLA to promote environmental sustainability, so I’m pretty experienced with the makeup of Los Angeles’s environmental organizations. Oh—and I really enjoy hiking, of course.
Are there environmental issues you are particularly passionate about?
Environmental justice. A few years ago, I was working with a group of activists to address the Inglewood Oil Field, as many people’s health in Culver City were being negatively impacted by exposure to fracking (cancer clusters, asthma, etc.). I’d like to continue working along that same vein in environmental justice at the Sierra Club. It’s an issue that I find particularly important in the city of Los Angeles and I hope to address it further as a board member.
Tell us about your role at the Sierra Club.
As a board member, I have voting power on different proposals, investors, nominations, and different kinds of committee work. At the end of the day, though, I want to continue to be an advocate for environmental justice and equity policies. Equally important would be to keep the Sierra Club’s membership growing and moving past the tendency towards performative activism. We always need more people involved, and I want to go past people saying we should fight climate change and instead translate that passion into policies for decarbonization and energy bills.
What do you personally hope to bring to the Sierra Club as a board member?
I want to look at the fight against climate change in the big picture—how things are working together at the local, state, and federal levels. From there, I plan to make sure everything runs smoothly and we’re able to create a tangible impact out of the chapter’s campaigns and petitions.
Secondly, I want to keep us in the fight against climate change. That’s really important. I think there’s a tendency sometimes in a Democratic administration to take a backseat and take our foot off of the brakes when it comes to fighting for the climate. I hope to keep the pressure up because we don’t want to regress on any progress we have already made for the climate.