When Robert Putnam accused America of “Bowling Alone,” the Sierra Club responded by bowling together—or, at least, by wearing bowling T-shirts while they subjected themselves to a research study on what makes civic associations work. With 62 regional chapters and 343 local groups, the Sierra Club is an ideal laboratory. “Are some of these groups more vibrant than others, and if so, why?” asked Kenneth Andrews, associate professor of sociology at the University of No…

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