Volunteer of the month: Global to local - Ed Mainland is an activist at all levels
Eight-year-old Ed looked out the window one day and spotted a mockingbird. "I woke up," he says, "to nature. What fun to see all the different birds I could and to list them!" Wherever work has taken him, he has carted along his binoculars.
Work has taken Ed many places. While studying international relations and journalism at the University of Southern California, he birded, wrote a regular sports column for the college paper, and enrolled in the Naval ROTC program. When he graduated, he served at sea, extending his original three-year obligation to five years so that he could study at the Navy's Russian-language school.
During his career with the State Department, Ed had postings in Russia, France, Romania, and Washington DC. He arrived in Russia at "an interesting time", a month before Nikita Khrushchev was tumbled from power. The environment played a part in his work, when he served as secretary of the U.S. delegation to Kenya on a UN environmental program (he got to bird in east Africa), and when he worked in the department's Office of Environment.
When he left the Foreign Service, Ed became the head of the European Division of Voice of America radio (headquartered in Washington DC). Living in McLean VA he volunteered with a group that became known as McLean Trees and then as Fairfax ReLeaf, planting many thousands of trees. The organization would collect newspapers (made from Canadian wood pulp), sell them, and use the money to plant trees, so that deforestation up north would be somewhat offset by urban reforestation in the American South.
In 1999, to be closer to their daughter and her family, Ed and his wife Jocelyne crossed the country to Novato. In response to a Yodeler announcement inviting retired people to apply their skills as Sierrra Club volunteers, Ed began working with the Club's international vice president, Michele Perrault. "When he first began providing me superb assistance in San Francisco almost eight years ago," says Michele, "Ed had a good background of local environmental activism on the East Coast as well as professional experience internationally." When foreign environmentalists came to San Francisco, Ed briefed them and provided them with the advice and materials they sought. He used his Romanian and Russian language skills in this international work, but most of those visiting on grants to study conservation were from Asia. He began the Club's efforts to help Indians protect the Ghats mountain range, one of the most significant areas in the world for biodiversity, and to help Koreans turn the demilitarized zone into a nature preserve. Because of Ed's work with Michele on climate and global warming, he was asked to co-chair the Energy/Climate Committee of Sierra Club California.
Aaron Israel, chair of the Bay Chapter's Energy Committee, says, "Ed has built a statewide committee and network of Club members with expertise on a wide range of energy and climate-related topics - from solar and wind to natural gas and nuclear power, transmission issues, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles. He is a steady hand, a smooth manager of multiple ongoing efforts, and he works well with our lobby staff in Sacramento and his volunteer colleagues." Yodeler editor Don Forman notes that Ed was extremely helpful in suggesting article topics and authors (several from his committee) for this energy issue of the Yodeler.
"He also somehow manages," Aaron adds, "to maintain a statewide perspective, yet remain a key local leader in Marin." For both Sustainable Novato and Sustainable Marin (the umbrella organization of which Sustainable Novato is one spoke), Ed encourages policy-makers and all residents to adopt healthy practices regarding climate, energy, water, toxics, and waste. He writes op-ed pieces and letters for local papers. He helps local sustainability groups table at county events, and organizes community forums (on such topics as green planning, clean energy, green buildings, watershed protection, low-carbon transportation, and economic re-localization).
Ed and Jocelyne are also giving early environmental experiences to one particular young Marinite - their eight-year-old granddaughter. They pick her up from school every day, help her with her homework, and entertain her until her parents finish work. It is to ensure a livable world for this child and her children and grandchildren, Ed says, that he devotes so much of his life to local, state, and international environmental causes.
For ways to get involved with Ed on any of these environmental concerns, see the what-you-can-do section of this month's Feature Article.