Morgan Freeman and the Sierra Club: Protect Nature So it Can Protect People

Actor Morgan Freeman is teaming up with us here at the Sierra Club on a project to provide people, communities, and companies in severe-storm and hurricane regions with the information they need to protect themselves from the effects of disasters like Hurricane Katrina. That includes sending the message that communities must work to protect, restore, and strengthen their natural line of defense: the wetlands, forests, and floodplains that buffer against high winds and absorb high water.

Freeman founded the Grenada Relief Fund in 2004 after Hurricane Ivan – a Category 5 storm – devastated the rain forest and communities (it ripped the roofs off 90% of the homes) on the small island of Grenada. A small group of highly passionate people led by Freeman formed the relief fund, and with the help of partnerships, Grenada became a gold star example of how to recover from severe storm and hurricane disasters.Freeman recently broadened the mission of the organization and changed its name to PLAN!T NOW, which provides preparedness information and assistance for coastal and island areas that lie between Belize and Barbados, and Trinidad and North Carolina. It advocates the simple message of the power of communication and planning, and does this through educational and awareness efforts, technical assistance, partnerships, and training. It also provides direct relief to hurricane-affected persons through grants and scholarships.

The PLAN!T NOW website serves up practical information including disaster preparedness checklists and emergency contact information, as well as testimonials from disaster survivors and links to other organizations working in disaster preparedness and recovery.

PLAN!T NOW aims to empower people through information and connection, and to provide a dialog between survivors and those yet to be affected in high-risk coastal or island geographies. When people have a grassroots network on which to rely for information, the importance of planning is reinforced on a daily basis. PLAN!T NOW is helping people create these networks within their own communities and between separate communities that are affected by the same natural events.

Where does the Sierra Club figure into this? We’re working with Freeman on a series of public service announcements that make folks aware of PLAN!T NOW’s offerings—and also encourages communities to protect nature so it can protect people. That means bolstering their natural line of defense: wetlands, forests, and floodplains (pdf file report download). Our partnership website, GetPrepared, includes information about actions communities can take to do just that.

Freeman has no small amount of cache. The Davie Brown Index, an independent online rating system that was started two years ago to track the marketing power of celebrities, recently rated him in the top five. PLAN!T NOW’s most recent board member is Kenny Chesney—and if you don’t listen to country music, then you just need to know that Chesney is the only artist in any genre to sell over one million concert tickets per year since 2002.

We hope the PSAs featuring Freeman will help to encourage people living in hurricane- and severe-storm affected areas to act now, before the next big storm, to reduce their risks and save lives and property.