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5 Clubs With Very Specific Membership Requirements

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In the immortal words of Groucho Marx, "I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." Luckily for Groucho, there are plenty of organizations whose specific membership requirements make them either tantalizingly elusive, unique, or both. Here are five such clubs from today and yesteryear that you may not have known about. 

1. PROJECT STEVE

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According to The National Center for Science Education, Creationist groups often put together lists of the (very few) scientists who don't support the theory of evolution as a way to legitimize themselves. So the NCSE decided to fight back with a list of its own: Project Steve. The members of Project Steve—all 1389 of them, as of March 7, 2016—explicitly defend evolution as a scientific fact. They also all happen to be named Steve (or some variation of Steve).

On its website, the NCSE calls Project Steve "a tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition" of making lists of doubtful scientists. "Creationists draw up these lists to try to convince the public that evolution is somehow being rejected by scientists, that it is a 'theory in crisis,'" the NCSE explains. "Not everyone realizes that this claim is unfounded." Because Steves represent around 1 percent of scientists, the project drives home the fact that "that tens of thousands of scientists support evolution," the NCSE writes, and scientific consensus on the matter is overwhelming.

Why Steve? The NCSE was honoring the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould.

2. THE EJECTION TIE CLUB

If you’ve ever used a Martin-Baker ejection seat to escape an aircraft in an emergency, then you’re qualified to join the Ejection Tie Club. According to Martin-Baker, “Every Club member is given a certificate, membership card, patch, tie, pin or a brooch for the women.” Some stories of the Ejection Tie Club members are shared on their website, including the story of Former Captain Gregg O. Hanson, USAF, Ejectee #2298:

“On June 13, 1972, 60 miles northwest of Hanoi North Vietnam, my F-4E was hit by an atoll air to air missile. The jet immediately went out of control. A witness from another aircraft stated that 'from the aft edge of the wing back there was one giant fireball.' Pulling negative G's I used the lower handle to pull myself back into the seat and initiate the ejection. My WSO Lt. Richard Fulton and I both ejected safely. One big thank you. Without Martin-Baker I would have missed my wonderful wife, children, and of course adorable grandchildren.”

Since 1957, there have been over 5800 registered club members. You can read more stories of some of the fortunate survivors here.

3. THE RUBBLE CLUB

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After spending months or even years designing a structure that you expect to grace the skyline for generations, architects recognized the necessity of creating a support network for those who have had their work destroyed—and The Rubble Club was born. To gain admittance, there are a few requirements: The architect must still be living; his or her building must have been built with the expectation of permanence; and it must have been deliberately destroyed without the architect’s involvement.

According to The Rubble Club's website, the group was created by Isi Metzstein at an Aberdeen School of Architects external examination dinner in the late '90s. "We don’t want to shame people," Metzstein said. "It’s a very touchy matter whether replacements are the superior or not, it’s subject to the vagaries of public opinion and the architect is never in charge, they are always at the behest of instructions from the client.”

In terms of numbers of members, "There's no actual members list," John Glenday, Rubble Club secretary, told mental_floss in an email. "We are unique in that self-knowledge is the only route to membership!"

4. THE CATERPILLAR CLUB

Those who have used a parachute to survive a disabled aircraft are entitled to contact the parachute maker for a pin and a certificate to validate their admittance into the Caterpillar Club, whose motto is “Life depends on a silken thread.” (Technically, the Caterpillar Club is for those saved by Irvin Parachutes, but no one really makes that distinction anymore.) You’re not allowed in if you had planned on jumping out of the plane, even if there was an accident that caused you to jump before schedule. Membership of the club requires a nominal initiation fee of $10, and although formal efforts to organize into chapters dwindled after the Vietnam War, The Caterpillar Club reports that "thousands of airmen, flyers and passengers have enrolled in this organization."

5. THE 300 CLUB

The 300 Club is reserved for an exclusive group of adventurers who will subject themselves to one of the more physically grueling scenarios one could imagine: Warming yourself up in a 200°F sauna at the Amundsen-Scott research station on Antarctica, and then streaking naked around the nearby ceremonial South Pole (pictured above) while temperatures are -100°F or colder. The "300" name refers to the full range of temperatures your body experiences, and according to The Atlantic, "One participant described the experience of running outside as feeling 'like somebody was hitting me with a tennis racket full of needles.'”

Seeking camaraderie and tradition in the isolation of the South Pole seems to be a natural human instinct. Lawrence Palinkas, an anthropologist at the University of Southern California, told The Atlantic, “Polar expeditioners have always had certain rituals and customs that have involved activities that are somewhat hazardous but also serve the same function of providing a means of bonding together."

It doesn't always reach -100°F in Antarctica, so when it does, would-be 300 Clubbers need to be ready to go. With their Bunny boots (the nickname given to the white government-issued boots for extreme cold) at the ready and hopefully a few friends with flashlights guiding the way, anyone crazy enough to head out into the cold has a shot at joining one of the most exclusive clubs known to man.

BONUS: THE NOT TERRIBLY GOOD CLUB OF GREAT BRITAIN


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Stephen Pile’s 1979 bestseller The Book of Heroic Failures included an application for readers to become members of “The Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain,” in which similarly inept people could share stories of their respective failures. The application form asked for “main areas of incompetence,” “subsidiary areas of incompetence,” and “cases of sustained chaos occasioned by any of the above.” You may think that people would shy away from admitting their own failures, but apparently this didn't prevent the group from becoming extremely popular. In his second book, The Return of Heroic Failures, Pile reported that the club needed to be dissolved after over 30,000 people wanted to become members; its success meant it had been "a failure as a failure." If you still want to make it into the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain, your best bet is starting your own unofficial chapter: hoping that no one else shows up and the snacks are terrible. 

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History
A Founder of Earth Day Looks Back on How It Began
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated

On the very first Earth Day in 1970, Denis Hayes stood on a stage in Central Park, stunned by the number of people who'd come to honor the planet. Now in his 70s, Hayes remembers it was like looking at the ocean—“you couldn’t see where the sea of people ended.” Crowd estimates reached more than a million people.

For Hayes, who is now board chair of the international Earth Day Network, it was the culmination of a year’s worth of work. As an urban ecology graduate student at Harvard University, he’d volunteered to help organize a small initiative by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson was horrified by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, and wanted to raise awareness about environmental issues by holding teaching events similar to those being held by civil rights and anti-war activists.

Senator Nelson saw a growing disconnect between the concept of progress and the idea of American well-being, Hayes tells Mental Floss. “There was a sense that America was prosperous and getting better, but at the same time, the air in the country was similar to the air today in China, Mexico City, or New Delhi," Hayes says. "Rivers were catching on fire. Lakes were unswimmable.”

Nelson's plan for these environmental teach-ins was for speakers to educate college students about environmental issues. But he had no one to organize them. So Hayes, Nelson’s sole volunteer, took control on a national level, organizing teach-ins at Harvard first and then across the U.S. Initially, the response was tepid at best. “Rather rapidly it became clear that this wasn’t a hot issue at colleges and universities in 1969,” Hayes says. “We had a war raging, and civil rights were getting very emotional after the Nixon election.”

Still, both Hayes and Nelson noticed an influx of mail to the senator's office from women with young families worried about the environment. So instead of focusing on colleges, the two decided to take a different tactic, creating events with community-based organizations across the country, Hayes says. They also decided that rather than a series of teach-ins, they'd hold a single, nationwide teach-in on the same day. They called it Earth Day, and set a date: April 22.

Hayes now had a team of young adults working for the cause, and he himself had dropped out of school to tackle it full time. Long before social media, the project began to spread virally. “It just resonated,” he says. Women and smaller environmental-advocacy groups really hooked onto the idea, and word spread by mouth and by information passing between members of the groups.

Courtesy of Denis Hayes

With the cooperation and participation of grassroots groups and volunteers across the country, and a few lawmakers who supported the initiative, Hayes’ efforts culminated in the event on April 22, 1970.

Hayes started the day in Washington, D.C., where he and the staff were based. There was a rally and protest on the National Mall, though by that point Hayes had flown to New York, where Mayor John Lindsay provided a stage in Central Park. Parts of Fifth Avenue were shut down for the events, which included Earth-oriented celebrations, protests, and speeches by celebrities. Some of those attending the event even attacked nearby cars for causing pollution. After the rally, Hayes flew to Chicago for a smaller event.

“We had a sense that it was going to be big, but when the day actually dawned, the crowds were so much bigger than anyone had experienced before,” Hayes said. The event drew grassroots activists working on a variety of issues—Agent Orange, lead paint in poor urban neighborhoods, saving the whales—and fostered a sense of unity among them.

“There were people worrying about these [environmental] issues before Earth Day, but they didn’t think they had anything in common with one another," Hayes says. "We took all those individual strands and wove them together into the fabric of modern environmentalism.”

Hayes and his team spent the summer getting tear-gassed at protests against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Nixon authorized just six days after Earth Day. But by fall, the team refocused on environmental issues—and elections. They targeted a “dirty dozen” members of Congress up for re-election who had terrible environmental records, and campaigned for candidates who championed environmental causes to run against them. They defeated seven out of 12.

“It was a very poorly funded but high-energy campaign,” Hayes says. “That sent the message to Congress that it wasn’t just a bunch of people out frolicking in the sunshine planting daisies and picking up litter. This actually had political chops.”

The early '70s became a golden age for environmental issues; momentum from the Earth Day movement spawned the creation of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Environmental Education Act (which was initially passed in 1970 and revived in 1990), and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We completely changed the framework within which America does business, more than any other period in history with the possible exception of the New Deal,” Hayes says. “But our little revolution was brought entirely from the grassroots up.”

In 1990, Hayes was at it again. He organized the first international Earth Day, with about 200 million participants across more than 140 countries. Since then it’s become a global phenomenon.

Despite its popularity, though, we still have a long way to go, even if the improvements Hayes fought for have made these issues feel more remote. Hayes noted that everything they were fighting in the '70s was something tangible—something you could see, taste, smell, or touch. Climate change can seem much less real—and harder to combat—to the average person who isn’t yet faced with its effects.

Hayes also notes that people have become more skeptical of science. “Historically, that has not been a problem in the United States. But today science is under attack.”

He warns, “This [anti-science sentiment] is something that could impoverish the next 50 generations and create really long-term devastation—that harms not only American health, but also American business, American labor, and American prospects.”

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All National Parks Are Offering Free Admission on April 21
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Looking for something to do this weekend that's both outdoorsy and free? To kick off National Park Week, you can visit any one of the National Park Service's more than 400 parks on April 21, 2018 for free.

While the majority of the NPS's parks are free year-round, they'll be waiving admission fees to the more than 100 parks that normally require an entrance fee. Which means that you can pay a visit to the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Yosemite, or Yellowstone National Parks without reaching for your wallet. The timing couldn't be better, as many of the country's most popular parks will be increasing their entrance fees beginning in June.

The National Park Service, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2016, maintains 417 designated NPS areas that span more than 84 million acres across every state, plus Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

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