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  July/August 1996 Features:
Field Truths
The Little Things that Run the World
Shopper, Spare That Tree!
The Big Wall
Remembering Water
 
  Departments:
Letters
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Good Going
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Sierra Magazine
Letters

A HALF-EMPTY PLATE

I appreciate Martin Teitel's optimism in his assessment that genetically altered produce, irradiated foods, and milk from cows shot with bovine growth hormone have failed ("Food for Thought," March/April 1996). Our food supply is not yet safe from the zappers and gene-splicers, however. There's too much corporate and government money at stake.

It did appear a while ago that irradiation was dead. But now Hawaii has plans to irradiate fruit with the full approval of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In a trial project, Hawaiian fruit was shipped to Isomedix, an irradiation facility in Illinois, and then sold in 22 retail outlets in the United States. This year the USDA is expected to allow regular shipments of the fruit to come to the mainland for treatment until Hawaii has its own facility.

Nor is bovine growth hormone dead. Consumers may "overwhelmingly opt for BGH-free milk," but there isn't much BGH-free stuff out there. Yes, you can find BGH-free milk, but there is precious little BGH-free ice cream, butter, cheese, and other dairy products. Most national brands contain milk from treated cows, as do baked goods made with powdered milk.

And while it's true that bioengineered products aren't being greeted with a hugely favorable response in U.S. markets, Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro says that "genetically modified crops are going to play an important part agriculturally in developing countries." The battle against "Frankenfoods" is far from over. Susan Meeker-Lowry, Managing Editor, Food & Water Journal

Walden, Vermont

CONSUMER COMPLICITY

Is it not hypocritical in a capitalist society, as the largest consumer of oil in the world, to lay blame for the atrocities in [Nigeria's] Ogoniland only on big oil? (See "Shell's Game," March/April). Those of us who love to pound our chests for the environment may have a gas tank full of sorrow--maybe not Shell's--but there is plenty of suffering going on in other parts of the world because of our thirst for fuel.

Randy Beck, Indianapolis, Indiana

Editor's note: Those readers who at our suggestion wrote to Shell Oil about Shell Nigeria's pollution in Nigeria and its complicity in the execution of environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa can take personal pride in recent developments. Shortly before a shareholder meeting in May, Shell Nigeria offered to discuss with the Ogoni people a plan to clean up all oil spills in Ogoniland "if an agreement is reached that company staff can return to the area in safety." The announcement shows that the international outrage over Nigeria's executions of environmental activists has finally sunk in. But it is only a first step. Keep the pressure up by contacting Shell Oil President Philip J. Carroll, P.O. Box 2463, Houston, TX 77252; (800) 248-4257. Tell him that you will continue to boycott Shell products unless Shell Nigeria agrees to forgo new oil activity until cleanup is complete and to pay restitution to the Ogoni people for the loss of their farmland. If you have a Shell credit card, cut it up and send it back with your letter. For more information, contact Stephen Mills in the Sierra Club's Washington, D.C., office at (202) 675-6691, or via e-mail at stephen.mills@sierraclub.org

CAR TROUBLE

It is easy to condemn the auto industry for being stubborn and anti-environment (" 'Car Talks'--Motown Walks," March/April), but keep in mind that we Americans (yes, even some Sierra Club members) love our cars and trucks. I believe that the best solution, and the one that the Sierra Club should endorse, is hybrid vehicles, which utilize a small, highly efficient engine running a generator that charges on-board batteries. The batteries are then used to power one or more electric motors that drive the car. This is our best hope for a low-emission, high-mileage vehicle.

Hal Schnee, Mineola, New York

WILD JOURNEYS

It bothered me to read "Assault on Mauna Loa" (March/April). One does not assault one's sister or mother. One doesn't have to be either New Age or Native Hawaiian to feel that one's relation to this land should be humble, grateful, cooperative, respectful, and caring. So, please, no military conquering metaphors. Instead, let's try, "Thank you, Mauna Loa, for allowing me to see how this land was created and is still being created in the middle of this vast ocean. Thank you for letting me come up into this thin, clean air and letting me share your life."

Sally Raisbeck, Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii

In regard to a name for the incredible wilderness area in upper British Columbia ("Where the Mountains Have No Name," March/April), I can think of no better name than the one the author used in describing its size and grandeur. The "Fifty Watersheds Wilderness" is a place I want to see.

Chuck Dresel, Napa, California

Rebecca Solnit wrote a memorable essay in "Where the Mountains Have No Name." I have never before had the opportunity to be among the first to help start trashing a previously unknown pristine wilderness area. Perhaps together we can bring it into the 21st century.

William J. Tocher, Fiddletown, California

Where You Were . . .

There were far too many entries to count, so let's just say that Sierra received more than six pounds of postcards in response to our "Where in the Wild Are You" travel contest (March/April). For the record, the correct answers are as follows:

1. The peak you and John Muir exult in and on: Mt. Ritter in the Sierra Nevada.

2. The "perfectly formed" stream you and Wallace Stegner would be dipping your toes into: Arizona's Havasu Creek.

3. The valley where Edwin Way Teale found trees "draped and bearded with moss": Hoh Valley in Olympic National Park, Washington. (We also accepted the nearby Queets Valley as an answer, as it shelters, by some accounts, the "second largest western hemlock in America.")

4. The place where Wallace Stegner found "the remembered canyon silence": Utah's Escalante Canyon.

5. The chasm that delighted Wendell Berry: Red River Gorge in Kentucky.

The winner, chosen in a random drawing of all completely correct entries, will receive a trip for two down Canada's upper Alsek River courtesy of Canadian River Expeditions, with air transportation provided by Canadian Airlines International. For the name of the winner (who has already been notified), send a self- addressed, stamped envelope to Sierra. Thanks to our generous sponsors.

CORRECTIONS

Vermont's Long Trail is not "America's oldest hiking trail," as we stated in "Fish Out of Water" (March/April). The 268-mile Long Trail is the country's oldest long-distance trail, but it is predated by New Hampshire's 8.2-mile Crawford Path.

In our May/June issue, we neglected to credit Minden Pictures for photos by Frans Lanting (cover and page 46) and Jim Brandenburg (page 57).

In the same issue we praised a San Francisco legal newspaper for its leadership in reporting the hype behind recent kangaroo-rat coverage. We inadvertently truncated the publication's name: it is The Recorder, not The Record.

Sierra welcomes letters from readers in response to recently published articles. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Write to us at 85 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; fax (415) 977- 5794; e-mail address: sierra.letters@sierraclub.org


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