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Sierra Magazine
Letters

NATIVE AMERICA

The November/December issue on Native Americans is by far the most interesting I can recall in all my years of Club membership. It is so refreshing to see the Sierra Club 1) giving space to other views of Earth guardianship, 2) stating that Club policy and the attitudes of Native Americans have not always been congruent on specific issues, and 3) agreeing that it is necessary on both sides to work at building trust. I heartily hope that you are able to build on this new beginning. There is surely a long way to go when our very definition of wilderness is challenged by a Native American spokesperson who denies that wilderness ever existed, since the whole continent was Native American living and hunting space.
Bert Witt
Los Angeles, California

The sustainable lifestyle of indigenous people holds valuable lessons for all who wade through the three-hundred-years' worth of anti-Native propaganda. The fact that community values, spirituality, and natural-resource conservation can all coexist with mutual benefit is, perhaps, the most valuable lesson of all.
Peter J. Nikolopoulos
Midvale, Utah

Thanks for your timely issue on Native American environmentalism. I agree that conservation and Native cultural survival are intimately linked. Still, I wish you had included an article on the growing conflict between traditional ecological knowledge and science. It would have helped put Native environmentalism in perspective. Traditional knowledge developed through full-time hunting, trapping, fishing, and gathering. Modern industrial society, however, has debilitated Native subsistence economies and cultures. An increasingly common complaint heard from Native communities is that young people are no longer interested in working the land or listening to elders' wisdom. Traditional knowledge has not wholly disappeared, but what's left is fragmented.

Non-Native conservationists should neither reject traditional knowledge as unscientific nor fall all over themselves to embrace it just because it's trendy in Taos. Where it is viable, use it. Where it's lost, reconstruct it as best you can and splice it to conservation science. Remember, there's a conservation crisis and our first responsibility is to develop every possible tool.
Robert Hoskins
Casper, Wyoming

In defense of environmental organizations that have, on occasion, "opposed transfers of public lands to tribes" ("Like Tributaries to a River," November/December), I would like to invite Winona LaDuke to visit Hoonah, Kake, or any number of Alaskan communities to witness the devastation of Native corporation logging. Environmentalists should oppose destruction of forest habitat, regardless of who's doing the cutting.
Jim Demko
Petersburg, Alaska

TAKING STOCK

I completely agree with Carl Pope ("Corporate Citizens," November/December) about the absurdity of the notion that corporations should have equal standing with human beings. But if corporations are given the rights of humans, they should also face the ultimate sanction for malfeasance: the death penalty. Imagine Exxon stripped of its charter and its assets sold at auction to pay for the cleanup of the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez.
Truman L. Burns
Lafayette, California

After the mass arrests in Clayoquot Sound in the summer of 1993 [in connection with logging protests], several of us wished to let MacMillan Bloedel know that meeting the needs of stockholders would be different if they factored in another group of stockholders‹that is, a committed group of environmentalists. We got together to purchase the minimum amount of stock required, and then divided it up among ourselves. We ended up with four to five shares apiece.

We receive regular reports from the company‹and, most importantly, invitations to the annual general meeting. We have attended regularly, and shareholders who are unable to attend pass on proxies to vocal environmentalists who let the world know about the meeting and the despicable logging practices that continue in our region. We also receive small dividend checks that we endorse over to the Sierra Club.
Gail Schacter
Victoria, British Columbia

CAR TROUBLE

Vince Bielski completely missed the point about the popularity of sport utility vehicles ("Fuel Deficiency," November/December): four-wheel drive and the ground clearance it provides. One does not need to "cross streams or climb rocky mountains" to require such a vehicle -- just live where there's snow on the ground a good part of the year and/or soft sand roads or mud. In fact, I'll go so far as to say it is irresponsible and impractical to attempt to drive in such places without a 4WD vehicle.

There are also other reasons for needing these vehicles -- to be able to sleep in them, haul tools and gear, pull trailers. Mine gets over 23 miles per gallon and close to 30 on the highway, but doesn't sink in the mire like your tiny econoboxes, domestic or foreign.
John Johnson
Beaver Island, Michigan

Vince Bielski presented all of the problems associated with inefficient sport utility vehicles. Unfortunately his solution [raising efficiency standards] is off the mark. Since present-day politicians are emphasizing less government regulation, I see our only solution in raising the price of gas. This will hit all consumers where they will notice it the most: in the checkbook. If money is at issue, behavioral patterns will change. People will use their cars less frequently and they will invest in more fuel-efficient automobiles.
Garrett W. Smith
Sandpoint, Idaho

I share Vince Bielski's dismay with Americans' profligate consumption of petroleum-based energy. But he should have made a more comprehensive case. Many people are not concerned about global warming and other environmental consequences of automobile emissions. They haven't felt the heat yet.

Currently, more than half of the petroleum consumed in the United States is imported. We run a national energy-related trade deficit of at least $65 billion a year, which could drive down the value of U.S. currency. We also pay for a military establishment capable of protecting oil fields in such exotic places as the Persian Gulf. Operation Desert Storm in 1991 cost the United States and its allies more than $60 billion. Well into the next century, the United States and other powers will compete fiercely for oil supplies. Newly industrializing countries with large populations, such as China and India, have already joined the bidding for oil.

America's overdependence on the automobile and overconsumption of petroleum is dangerous to our economy and security as well as to our environment and health.
Steve Lanset
Transportation Coordinator
New Jersey Sierra Club Chapter
Hoboken, New Jersey


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., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; fax (415) 977-5794; e-mail: sierra.letters@sierraclub.org.


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