Molly Rooke: Environmental Advocate

July 10, 2011

By Esther Wu    

At first glance Molly Rooke appears to be a shy, soft-spoken unassuming woman who appears to be more comfortable at the back of the room than in front. She is a slim woman with long blond hair and piercing green eyes. But don’t let her demeanor fool you. Molly Rooke is a woman who can move mountains -- for the good of the environment. And it all began with a small pile of newspapers in 1988.

Today, the North Texas activist has taken on issues from local recycling to gas drilling and global warming.  She is just as ease lobbying the local city council as she is storming Capitol Hill. A former museum curator, she gave up her career to volunteer a majority of her time  on environmental issues.

“You can call me an environmental activist,” Molly said during a recent telephone interview. “But I’m really an advocate for the environment.  “I come from a South Texas ranching family and some my love of nature and animals came from my time spent outdoors there, and in the woods and creeks of my Houston neighborhood where I spent some of my childhood. “I believe we should all work to make this world a better place.  Early on I made a commitment to making a difference.”

But it wasn’t until 1988 that she put her words into significant action.  Now living in Dallas, she had bundled up her newspapers to drop off at a neighborhood recycling bin, but it was missing. 

“I  began to track down where it had gone and why.   I found out the store had no idea who put it there and who removed it. They only knew that many people were upset that it was gone,” said Molly.

“That led me to go to my first Dallas Sierra Club meeting to see if they could answer my questions.”  Like many people, Molly admits she supported the organization by joining, but had never been actively involved. “I hadn’t attended a single meeting before this,” she said.  However, “before long, I was helping them organize a recycling fair, helping provide and promote recycling collection with a truck at the Dallas Sierra Club meetings, putting together a list of all the recycling locations and materials collected in the Dallas area and getting it published, advocating and getting a recycling hotline started, and talking with members of the Texas Legislature, Congress and President George H.W. Bush about doing all they could to help improve recycling.”

That was just the beginning.

Besides the Sierra Club, Molly also became involved with the Dallas League of Women Voters, where her focus was educating members about various environmental issues or pending legislation. On behalf of the Dallas League of Women Voters she spoke on Texas air quality at the Texas Senate Natural Resources Committee Interim Hearing in Dallas and before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding tire burning in TXI cement kilns.  “I take advantage of the many opportunities to influence public policy making, and encourage others to do so as well.”
She has also served on such committees as: the North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee, the Resource Conservation Council at the North Central Texas Council of Government, City of Dallas Recycling Committees and Task Force and the Dallas Corporate Recycling Council.  (picture of Molly and Rep. Lon Burnham (c) Lone Star Sierra Club)

Molly chaired several Sierra Club committees including Recycling, Clean Air, Global Warming, Responsible Trade, Corporate Accountability and the Political Committee.  And for the past 15 years, Molly has been focusing on global climate change, energy and clean air issues. She has done extensive outreach and education working with the SEED (Sustainable Energy and Economic Development) Coalition and Public Citizen, as well as other public interest, public health and environmental organizations on clean air, clean, renewable energy and climate change.  

She has been involved in environmental issues far too many to mention here. 

And, said Molly, “I'm not focusing exclusively on one issue, but the one I'm spending most of my time on is unconventional shale gas drilling (with high pressure, slick-water hydraulic fracturing), production and distribution."

Most recently Molly has helped other local neighborhood and environmental activists (some of them new to activism) with a successful campaign to get the Dallas City Council to put a hold on issuing permits for gas drilling in Dallas and to establish a  Gas Drilling Taskforce that would evaluate the environmental, health, safety and quality of life impact of gas drilling in Dallas. The taskforce was approved on June 28, 2011.

It is often difficult to accurately gauge the impact Molly has made on our environment. However, people from US Congressional members to state legislators and local mayors have reportedly told Molly that her actions have helped bring about better environmental laws, policies and ordinances.

Molly also said, “I have found some immediate and tangible proof of improving the environment of Texas when participating in trash clean-up, including the Dallas Sierra Club’s monthly clean-up of a section of White Rock Lake,  helping to clean Padre Island National Seashore of ugly and dangerous-for-wildlife litter, and areas blighted by illegal dumping. The same tangible proof of my impact has been there when, for many years, I helped load, and sometimes deliver, truckloads of materials for recycling brought there by people eager to recycle, and I had arranged it and made it easily available when their city had not yet done so.”

Molly said she did not set out to be an environmental activist. She saw a need and stepped up to help solve a problem which lead to working on another problem, and so on. And Molly tackles each issue, one mountain at a time.

“I keep going, even when I'm tired and discouraged, because the need is still there and I know that I can make a difference. “

© Memnosyne Foundation 2011