At 23, Adam Werbach might seem a bit green to be leading America’s oldest environmental organization. Members of the Sierra Club don’t think so, though. On May 23, Werbach was named president of the San Francisco-based group founded by environmental activist John Muir 104 years ago. During his one-year term, Werbach will receive no salary and only a modest living stipend as he oversees the club’s 600,000 members and an annual budget of $45 million.
First person: “I’ve been mouthing off for so long saying young people need to be in positions of power,” says Werbach. “When this opportunity came up, I looked at myself and said, ‘God. I’d be a hypocrite not to try.’ ”
Second opinion: “Adam Werbach is proving what many of us have believed all along,” says Vice President Al Gore, who met him while researching his 1992 book Earth in the Balance. “Young people do care, they are involved, and they are already making a difference.”
Vitals: Born in Tarzana, Calif. Father, Melvyn, 55, an assistant clinical psychiatry professor at UCLA. Mother, Gail, 53, an educational therapist. One brother, Kevin, 26, an attorney. Girlfriend of two years, Stasia Blyskal, 20, a student at Brown University, Providence. His boyhood home was a rustic, two-acre ranch surrounded by trees and “dirt to dig in,” says Werbach. These days he lives out of a San Francisco hotel room.
Report cards: The Harvard School, North Hollywood (where Werbach, a vegetarian, refused to dissect frogs and began an animal rights group). Brown University, where he earned degrees in political science and in modern culture and media in 1995.
Résumé: At 8, Werbach took a Sierra Club petition to school and gathered 200 crayon-scrawled signatures. At 13, he joined the organization, and in 1991 he founded the Sierra Student Coalition, which now has 30,000 members. In 1994, Werbach earned a spot on Sierra’s national board.
Secret vices: Singing (he toured Japan and Russia with a college a cappella group); fencing (he made the 1989 Junior Olympics team); and wearing polyester shirts (not yet de rigueur in the khaki set).
Up next: The campaign trail, where Werbach, a critic of Bob Dole’s environmental record, will urge voters “to replace the people who have sold out” on the environment.