Edie Bragg-Harmon ’66

2001 Distinguished Citizen Award

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Edie Harmon lives in the California desert, where temperatures hit 125 and the annual rainfall is 2-3 inches.There she has served for more than 20 years as a volunteer for community groups, the Sierra Club and the Desert Protective Council, reviewing environmental documents and writing official commentary on proposals regarding planning, groundwater, landfills, sewage sludge, Bureau of Land Management land exchanges and mining operations. A geography major at Mac, she did a double tour in the Peace Corps, teaching biology and art in Uganda, Botswana and Sierra Leone.

She left Africa for graduate school in San Diego, only to fall in love with the desert of Imperial County. Soon she became involved in technical and legal research into the issues of groundwater and landfills, working through government channels, something the rural, low-income people of the area were ill equipped to do.

When a Canadian company proposed a vast gold mine on public lands sacred to the Quechan Indian Nation, Harmon was surprised and saddened by the federal government’s attitude toward the Quechan people. She began a four-year process of working with Indian elders, educating herself on mining issues and confronting the government with the ramifications of allowing the company to leach gold by spraying 150 million tons of ore with toxic cyanide. As a result, in a historic decision, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit denied the mine proposal.

For her environmental activism, Harmon has received numerous Sierra Club awards, including the 2000 Ye Olde Bottle Award for desert advocacy. “The desert,” says Harmon, “changes from deep purples and maroons to browns, just wonderful transitions, even during the daylight. And when it rains, and the desert comes to life with wonderful wildflowers and plants, it’s incredibly beautiful.”