It is beginning to seem like the "environmental movement" as we know it could be coming to an end. This was a sentiment expressed while discussing the lack of coordination amongst the big environmental NGO's at the Earth Day strategy session with James Cameron, Hayden Panetierre, Daryl Hannah, Michelle Rodriguez (who BTW is as beautiful as she is badass) and a host of influential environmental activists and tech geeks.

It's not that nonprofits aren't out there doing amazing work. Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network, Africa Rainforest, iLoveMountains, Sea Shepherd, Center for Biological Diversity -- these and many of the leaner-meaner environmental nonprofits have been battling on the front lines of an increasingly violent war against nature and have, in my mind, never been better organized or more effective.

But the "big brands" in the environmental space -- the ones that have generally served as entry points for concerned youngsters testing whether they want to "enlist" in the movement — are faltering. One major reason is an erosion of credibility due to what I call the "unholy alliance" between NGO's and corporations.

The big NGO's may mean well, but the public (in particular the millennials who now surpass the baby boomers in numbers) don't buy it. They have watched firsthand the corporate infiltration of every aspect of American society. They are mad about the U.S. Supreme Court decision and they are wary of corporate power. It's fairly intuitive for a young person to distrust a nonprofit that is largely funded by the very corporations they are supposed to police.

The environmental brands that have defined the environmental "movement" as we know it today may be waning in their ability to further a social movement. Most all of them date back to the late '60s when the baby boomers came of age knowing it was up to them to do something to help the planet. Earth Day, "Save the Whales," Greenpeace, WWF and the notion of the "endangered species" as well as the Nature Conservancy's radical idea of buying threatened lands — all were born 40-some years ago.

But those brands have aged, and despite all the twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and the occasional cool video, they seem to have failed in communicating to an increasingly concerned public about the urgent need to take action NOW to save a planet which, as futurist James Lovelock has predicted, will lose 80 percent of all its inhabitants (including humans) by the end of the century.

Based on $$$, the public has never been MORE interest in protecting our planet. March of the Penguins, Planet Earth, The CoveOceans, Avatar— these and many more environmental films have broken sales records both in the U.S. and abroad. Yet there is a disconnect. After seeing these films, no one really knows WHERE to go to learn about the issues and WHAT they can do to actually make a difference. Cognitive dissonance is happening on a massive scale, as the public's sense of urgency is met with the same old cheeky "informational" PSA's, tips on screwing in light bulbs, and a barrage of online petitions, many of which are "brought to you by ..."

There are two big organizations which seem to have maintained a genuine grass roots following — Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. Though I hugely respect Greenpeace, their civil disobedience has made them a target for false accusations of "domestic terrorism" which though ludicrous have nevertheless marginalized them in the public eye. That leaves...

The Sierra Club. In some way "The Club" (as it is affectionately known) is like my mom's neighbor, Mrs. Daniels, a cute little old lady who, in between tending to her petunias, ran a radical political fundraising operation ... cute as a button until she started talking about George W. Then you had better steer clear of her pruning shears!

The Sierra Club's membership is a bit senior, albeit of the feisty senior variety, which makes it an unlikely target for both corporations in search of greenwashing services and the right-wing attack machine. And if anything, last year's Clorox debacle — which resulted in a mass exodus of members and a replacement of key personnel — was a huge lesson in the dangers of crossing the corporate line, a lesson that is now refocusing the Sierra Club's agenda.

For this and several other reasons, I'm in agreement with the Sierra Club's new executive director, Michael Brune (above) when he recently called the Club "the most important environmental organization in the country." It took me back a bit at first, but after thinking about it I came up with seven reasons that eventually made me concur:

1. Michael Brune

Brune has led some of the most effective environmental operations against badly behaving corporations (Home Depot, Citibank) while at RAN —the Rainforest Action Network. And as you can tell by a recent 4 against 1 debate with nuclear industry execs, the new ED is both smart and fearless:

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2. Local chapters

If it's true that you can't galvanize the public until you convince them they will be affected in their own back yards, then the Sierra Club is the only show in town. The organization is built on a network of local chapters, each of which has its own governance and local priorities ... whether it be shutting down a polluting coal plant or organizing a fishing expedition. In some ways, it is already acting as an enviro "myspace" allowing people to connect around issues geographically.

3. Americana

The Sierra Club has a proud place in American history. Founded by John Muir, it has been in existence for more than 100 years, and has worked to establish and preserve some of the most beloved national parks in the country. Its thoroughly "American" sensibility makes it a tough target for the Rush Limbaughs of the world who, just like you and me, love to take the kids fishing. The Sierra Club focuses on North American wilderness.

4. Into nature

The Club is first and foremost about sharing and enjoying nature. This alone sets it apart from all the other major NGO's which are, at their core, about targeting problems. The narrative of Sierra Club is about preserving and protecting what we love — the great outdoors. One telling example — through several programs in 2009 including Inner City Outings, the Sierra Club provided more than 200,000 youth with an outdoor experience, many of whom had never before been in nature.

5. Successful activism

Treehugger has said "Sierra Club has the best coal campaign on the planet." They have stopped 127 coal-fired power plants from being built to date, preventing millions of tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere while encouraging energy efficiency as a primary means to curtail demand and lower energy prices. The Sierra Club also supports local activists in fighting for causes that directly effect them. This year, one of the winners of the prestigious Goldman Prize was a Sierra Club member who worked to stop factory farm pollution in Michigan.

6. Cause store

If you follow my blog or know anything about my company, you'll have heard that cause-integrated gifts (in my opinion) are the key to successful online fundraising. Sierra Club has one of the best cause stores, allowing you to give the gift of protecting a Wild Place along with a stuffy that calls the region home. Seriously the Grizzly Bear is cute!

7. Hero app

There are a lot of green apps out there, but one of my favorite ideas so far is Sierra's "Eco Hero" app which actually rewards people for their planet-friendly practices (winner gets a trip to Hawaii). You can also find other "heros" in your area and see rank by state. It's a simple idea, but it could have real legs as a mobile green social networking tool. Check it out on iTunes

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