Skip to content

Who is Leading the Way to a Better Future?

February 14, 2023

Green 2.0 Team

Cynthia Hoyle’s first trip to Yosemite National Park.

Who is Leading the Way to a Better Future?

By Cynthia Hoyle

In this blog Cynthia Hoyle, Sierra Club Board Member, shares her journey to a leadership role in the environmental movement and how it ties into advancing racial equity. She also explores the importance of diverse organizations and what the appointment of Sierra Club’s new Executive Director Ben Jealous means to the board and the wider community.

Looking back, it seems surprising that I became an ardent environmentalist in the late 1960’s as I was growing up in a small town in southeastern Oklahoma. The part of the country I grew up in is not known for being progressive, and in fact, was known as Little Dixie due to its history and a White culture that still revered the Confederate cause. It is in large part thanks to an environmental camp program that our small poor school district offered to 6th and 8th grade students that I became aware of the human impact on the environment and our role in protecting it. Teaching our children does indeed impact our future.

Now I find myself in the national leadership of the environmental movement at a critical time as our climate teeters on the edge of tipping into a point of no return and we address the challenge of reckoning with our country’s racial history and future.

Cynthia Hoyle at the Earth Day Bike Ride 2022.

The environmental justice movement was well underway when I agreed to run for the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club and it is clear to me that we have to address past wrongs and make systemic changes in our country and the environmental movement. As I prepared my position statement and answered questions from members of the club about why I included equity and diversity as key parts of my position statement, the enormity of what lay ahead came into focus. Too many people still don’t get it.

So, we still have a lot of work to do in helping our volunteers and volunteer leadership understand the necessity of diversity and inclusion at all levels of the movement. Black and Brown voices are far too often either missing or not heard. Every voice, perspective, and ally are needed to succeed. Volunteers need to understand that people of color are the most impacted by environmental degradation. Green 2.0 states the case clearly, “We believe that in the 21st century, the success of environmental causes will be based on our ability to transform them into more just, inclusive, and relevant organizations and movements.”

I am excited and hopeful. The Sierra Club is welcoming Ben Jealous as our Executive Director. As the first Black man to assume this position he brings a long history of work in advocacy, civil rights, and environmental justice to the club. I am optimistic that we can meet people where they are and help everyone make the changes needed to create a welcoming space for all voices.

So, to answer the question in the title of my piece, “Who is leading the way to a better future?” I would respond, we all are.

Cynthia Hoyle with Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous (center). Photo credit: Heather Wilson.

For more information about the Sierra Club, visit their website at