Rocky Mountain Chapter

Multi-tasking comes easy for this committed RMC volunteer

By Carol Carpenter

RMC Communications Team

Lauren Head Shot 7-16

Lauren Swain

As the saying goes: Give a busy person a job and chances are good she will get it done. In a nutshell, that defines Lauren Swain, Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter’s (RMC) totally committed and enthusiastic volunteer activist.

A member or leader of numerous RMC teams: Beyond Oil and Gas (BO&G) Team chair, Communications Team member, Legislative Team member, Wilderness Team member, and “a few others,” Lauren can correctly be described as one of our most dedicated and tireless RMC volunteers.

Vital to every team she serves on, Lauren, a Denver resident, is especially involved right now leading the BO&G Team in its effort to reduce the negative environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“I am completely absorbed by the challenging task of trying to stop toxic fracking from spreading into more communities and natural areas across our beautiful state,” she states emphatically.

A member of Sierra Club since 1986, Lauren is especially tired of hearing that, almost every day, communities, watersheds, and ecologically-sensitive areas in Colorado—and across the nation—are threatened by ongoing and proposed drilling and fracking.

"I have seen the damage that has been done to lives and lands in places like Garfield and Weld County," Lauren states. "It breaks my heart to know our elected officials have, so far, not done what is necessary to stop fracking from spreading into more and more places."

Government negligence

Sad and frustrating to her are federal and state governments "that fail to protect human and environmental health in favor of perceived economic benefits and political advantage gained by promotion of the oil and gas industry."

The federal Bureau of Land Management, Lauren points out, is responsible for much of the damage by leasing huge amounts of federal public land to oil and gas companies. And at the state level, she is "deeply disheartened" that Gov. John Hickenlooper has been doing "everything in his power to stop the enactment of meaningful state and local regulations that would protect human health and the environment from fracking hazards."

Lauren, Kirby and Legislator

Lauren, center, and Kirby Hughes discuss fracking and other legislative issues with Colorado Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst at this year's Legislative Forum

But not everything related to fracking is bad news, and Lauren savors each victory.  She is, for instance, very pleased that the BO&G Team and Indian Peaks Group, “in cooperation with other individuals and organizations,” were recently successful in persuading Boulder County commissioners to extend a moratorium on drilling for 18 months.

Likewise, the team helped convince the Boulder City Council to enact a 12-month moratorium on fracking and put a 3-5 year moratorium on the ballot, as well as prohibit the use of municipal water supplies for oil and gas extraction. "We are very encouraged by these hard-won successes.  We owe a great debt to our BO&G team media coordinator and Indian Peaks Group activist Neshama Abraham for leading this local effort,” Lauren said, always seeking to give credit where credit is due.

Ample energy for communications, too

Despite the enormous amounts of time and energy she spends on oil and gas issues, Lauren still manages to stay active in other Sierra Club endeavors. For example, she serves diligently on the Communications Team, volunteering for a wide variety of duties, including reporting, writing, editing, posting on Facebook, and sending out action alerts.

She and team members learned recently that the team was awarded the national Sierra Club Communications Award for 2012-2013. The award is given annually to honor the best use of communications by a Sierra Club group, chapter or other entity to further the Club’s mission. “It’s very exciting to have our team recognized in this way. I’m grateful to be working with such talented and committed people.”

Always hopeful and optimistic, Lauren works to broaden the scope of every team she volunteers for, especially by finding new members to fill gaps that naturally and regularly occur in volunteer organizations. "I would like to engage our broader membership in all the teams I serve on. More people are always needed to engage in communications, legislative advocacy, and fighting toxic fracking on a regular basis.”

“The oil and gas industry spent a $1 million lobbying in this past session, and, partly as a result, we were unable to pass any meaningful reforms,” she points out. “We need to build teams of people who can quickly respond to support good legislation and to stop toxic fracking at the local level. If we get better at stopping fracking we will be better at all kinds of advocacy, and vice-versa.”

A skilled and natural communicator, Lauren welcomes other RMC groups to contact her if they could use extra help in improving their own communications capacity. “I can assist them in the optimal use of the Club’s communication tools, including action alerts and listservs, as well as their own newsletters, webpages, Facebook and other social media.”

Why Sierra Club?

Why, more than 26 years ago, did Lauren choose Sierra Club as the organization she would devote most of her volunteer energies to?

“It is a unique environmental group that functions as a legal and political force as well as a civic organization,” she responds. “The combination of legal, political and media influence, along with social opportunities and a chance for individual members to lead and make a difference, makes the Club an irresistible draw for me.”

Not surprisingly, there’s more ahead in Lauren’s multiple RMC volunteer to-do lists.

“I live in Denver, so I look forward to participating in the Denver Metro Network as well,” she states, knowing fully well that, somehow, some way, she can squeeze a little more time out of her busy life for Sierra Club RMC.


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