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In This Section
  November/December 1997 Features:
Child's Plague
Class Acts
Into the Outdoors
A Planet Unfree
 
  Departments:
Letters
Field Guide
Ways & Means
Food for Thought
Way to Go
Hearth & Home
Lay of the Land
Sierra Club Bulletin
Natural Resources
Last Words
 

Sierra Magazine
Letters

GREEN GORE?

Your article on Al Gore ("The Great Green Hope," July/August) was an illuminating read on a man environmentalists want to know more about. While it fairly criticized the vice president for not sticking to the principles espoused in his book, Earth in the Balance, there is only so much one man can do-even if he happens to be vice president. The Clinton/Gore administration needs a critical mass of supporters and elected officials to help overcome the inertia of business as usual. Ousting the anti-environmentalists from the House in the next election would be a good first step, for without our stronger support, Gore risks the same political dead end his father saw when he took a hard line against the Vietnam War.
Rodger Silvers
Walnut Creek, California

Your puff piece on Al Gore is mistitled. It should have been called "The Great Green Hype."
Alvin Schreiber
Galiano Island, British Columbia

There is no such thing as an environmentalist with four kids.
Eric V. Dose
Winter Park, Florida

SEQUOIA SALVATION

Rebecca Solnit ("Among the Giants," July/August) told the sequoia story with clarity and insight. And-good news-Congressman George E. Brown, Jr., [D-Calif.] recently introduced his bill (H.R. 2077) to create a sequoia preserve. The bill would protect more than half of all sequoia groves on Earth and mandate restoration of the damaged areas. It will also add critical roadless areas to the wilderness system. It is a well-thought-out piece of legislation that would place these monarchs out of greed's reach.
Carla Cloer
Porterville, California

FOREST Rx

Thank you for publishing John J. Berger's "Nine Ways to Save Our National Forests" (July/August), surely the finest two pages printed since Ed Abbey's "Industrial Tourism and the National Parks" in his book Desert Solitaire.
Jules Bloomenthal
Seattle, Washington

John J. Berger missed the most important way to save our forests. Until we individually and collectively reduce our demand for wood for homes, furniture, paper, and so forth, we will not make significant progress toward restoring our national forests. To take the steps advocated without reducing demand and dependence is hypocrisy.
Bill Kenny
Wilsonville, Oregon

Editor's note: Sierra devoted a feature article to wood reduction last year, "Shopper, Spare That Tree!" (July/August 1996).

ON THE SUNNY SIDE

I just finished forcing myself to read Sierra. Why force, you may ask. Because this highly concerned, deeply motivated, slickly polished magazine feels like a concerted effort to purvey gloom and doom, exclusively. Where is the celebration of nature, the gratitude for what we do have on Earth. Where is the respect?

The world is not totally destroyed by big-time money grubbers and excess people. The world is a glorious place that deserves to be cherished with joy.
Ann M. Throckmorton
Normal, Illinois

INSPIRED

Thank you for the wonderful article by Sheryl Clough, "A Kayak of One's Own." It saved my summer and reminded me of the really important thing in life: self-satisfaction. Without some sense of this somewhere along the way we are all doomed to simply recycle ad infinitum those endless mind-numbing days of professional toil and too many voice-mails, e-mails, phone calls, and ridiculous meetings. Thank you for reinstilling my sense of direction. As of mañana, I will be blissfully solo-kayaking up and down the Pecos River in West Texas, and then onward to Padre Island. Viva la revolución!
Vance G. Safley
San Antonio, Texas

OPULENT SIMPLICITY

I find the spectacle of the environmentally aware middle class attempting "voluntary simplicity" ("The Goods Life," July/August) mildly hilarious. Don't get me wrong-I'm all for it. But even with ten-year-old cars, ten-year-old hiking boots, organic-cotton T-shirts, membership in community-sponsored agriculture, and nary a paper towel in the house, our middle-class lives are lavish and opulent. How can people say with a straight face that they practice voluntary simplicity when their automobiles are better housed than most Third World families? Please, let us all vow to cut down. But let us not be too smug. Even in relatively simplified lifestyles, our material wealth is vast.
Peg Ferm
Monroe, Washington

SUPER TREES

As a biologist and the director of a botanic garden in New York, I was disturbed to read "Brave New Forest" [about cloning champion-size trees] in the July/August issue. In addition to the creation of a monoculture, the cloning of trees will diminish the gene pool on which millions of years of evolution have depended. Why not promote the idea of planting genetically diverse native trees that will develop and evolve as nature intended?
Eric C. Morgan
Williston Park, New York

FEELING NO PAIN

Gina LaFond's [anti-fishing] letter in the July/August issue is filled with errors presented as facts. First,the corrections: fish have no pain-receptor cells, and are therefore incapable of feeling pain. Whether they experience discomfort, we simply don't know. A fish's gills, unlike our lungs, are not hollow, gas-filled structures, so they cannot "collapse."

Furthermore, fishes' swim bladders do not rupture just from being out of water; this only occurs when a fish is raised too quickly from a great depth, so fishing in a river or stream poses no such threat.

Are fish stressed physically by being caught and released? Certainly. Does it cause them "discomfort"? We have no way of knowing. Is any and all fishing, including catch-and-release, wrong or inhumane? I think that remains a judgment call.
Hal Schnee
Raleigh, North Carolina

VIEW FROM A BIKE

I was dismayed to read letters critical of mountain biking and fishing in your July/August issue. It seems to me that the authors are missing the big picture. If the environmental movement is going to achieve its goals, it must form broad coalitions. If wilderness preservation requires reaching out to mountain bikers, fishermen, and, yes, even hunters, that is a small price to pay.

Besides, we all, to at least some extent, live in glass houses. As someone who rides a road bike for recreation (and to get to and from work) I have often noted the irony in driving long distances in autos (and thereby spewing pollutants into the atmosphere) to parks in order to enjoy natural beauty, which hikers routinely do. All of us who want to protect the earth will be better served by being open-minded and mutually supportive than by condemning those whose recreational choices may not always coincide with ours. John Norris
Nashville, Tennessee

I found the letter in the July/August issue chastising senior editor Paul Rauber's use of a mountain bike in Grand Staircase­Escalante National Monument rather predictable. There's no shortage of single-minded individuals who look down from their lofty perch and pass judgment on others who don't fit their environmentally righteous template.

I'm not going to advocate the merits of mountain bikes here, though I enjoy them when and where I consider their use acceptable. True, there are mountain bikers who aren't exactly poster children for the sport, but what outdoor activity has 100 percent of its participants practicing ideal behavior? Most mountain bikers enjoy solitude, vistas, undisturbed backcountry, and the like.

We've become a society of special interests. And in the greater outdoor community (yes, that means hikers, bikers, anglers, hunters, and bird-watchers) we bicker among ourselves. In our zeal to point the finger at those of lesser environmental conscience, we fail to build a platform for progress on important contemporary issues.
Ted Alan Stedman
Denver, Colorado

A MODEST PROPOSAL

I'm writing in response to "Loggers' Free Lunch" [the July/August article about subsidized roadbuilding and logging in our national forests] by B. J. Bergman. Let's face it. We've made it very profitable for this kind of predation to occur. These companies really are not driven by an insatiable desire for wood. What they really want is money. Why not reposition the gravy train? As a society, let's flood efforts to grow genetically improved trees in plantations with government money instead of subsidizing the destruction of the national forests.

Americans want natural areas.The economic value of outdoor recreation is said to be around $130 billion a year. The national-forest lands of the West are often on steep, dry land that is marginal for growing trees as a crop. So, let's make it profitable-let's make it filthy lucrative-to grow superior logs on tree farms! We can afford it. We just can't afford to lose our wonderful, wild national forests.
Ed Felts
Perry, Oklahoma

CORRECTIONS AND AMPLIFICATIONS

For more on voluntary simplicity ["The Goods Life," July/August], order the free brochure Simply Sustainable, produced by the Sierra Club Population Committee, the Angeles Chapter, and Seeds of Simplicity. Contact Seeds at P.O. Box 9955, Glendale, CA 91226; (818) 247-4332; SeedsOfSim@aol.com. In "The Goods Life" we overstated the average number of commercials a child sees annually. TV-free America, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., says the figure is 20,000.

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., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; fax (415) 977-5794; or you can email us at: sierra.letters@sierraclub.org.


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