Ben Jealous will become the Sierra Club’s first executive director of color in January, the grassroots environmental organization announced Monday.
Jealous, the former president of the NAACP, was the Democratic nominee for Maryland governor in 2018. Since 2020, he has served as the president of People for the American Way.
In a news release from the organization, Jealous, who grew up in California, said trips to the Sierras with his parents and sisters as a child and reading Sierra magazine inspired his environmental activism.
“Too many leaders still think that we can only create a growing economy if we sacrifice people, the wild, and even the planet itself. This flawed ‘either/or’ mindset — with its roots deep in our nation’s history of colonialism — has led our planet to the brink,” Jealous said in the news release. “We now know better. We can both create more good jobs for communities that have suffered for too long and build a healthier, more sustainable future for everyone.”
Jealous was the youngest president and CEO of the NAACP when he led the organization between 2008 and 2013. Under his leadership, the NAACP began a climate justice program and issued a 2012 report on how coal-fired power plants across the country impacted communities of color and low-income communities. As an investigative reporter for the Jackson Advocate, Jealous reported on how industrial pollution caused “cancer clusters” in rural areas in Mississippi, the news release said.
The Sierra Club said in the release that a committee conducted a nine-month search for a new leader, based on the input of more than 2,000 donors, volunteers and staff. The board of directors unanimously approved Jealous in a vote Monday.
When he starts in his new role Jan. 23, Jealous will be the seventh executive director at the Sierra Club since the position’s creation in 1952. He will spend his first month on a listening tour of the organization’s staff, chapters, volunteers and donors, the release said.