Photo of Carl Pope
Carl Pope, circa 2000
Photo courtesy of The Sierra Club

Carl Pope: Environmentalism and Progressive Politics: Sierra Club Executive Director, 1992-2010 from Sierra Club Oral History Series.

Conducted by Ann Lage in 2013, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2014.

Carl Pope has had a forty-year career with the Sierra Club and served as its executive from 1992 to 2010. He began his environmentalist work  in 1970 in Washington DC and moved to California in 1973 to become executive director of California League of Conservation Voters. Bringing his environmental interests and political acumen to the Sierra Club, he was instrumental in the club’s decision to engage in electoral politics and managed that effort as its full-time political director. Two decades later as executive director, he oversaw an ambitious effort to increase the club’s political effectiveness on the local level, resulting in a grassroots organizing model which influenced the 2008 Obama for America campaign. During Pope’s tenure as executive director, the Sierra Club adopted global warming as its first priority. The Beyond Coal campaign was launched to stop new coal-powered power plants and retire old ones. The club lobbied for state legislation as well as federal rules for stricter fuel efficiency requirements. Under his leadership the club mounted numerous campaigns for permanent protection of public lands and defended against encroachments on existing protected areas. Pope now lives in San Francisco and works as an independent consultant, continuing to pursue a “big tent” approach to promoting a democratic civil society and a sustainable economy. 

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