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  May/June 1998 Features:
The War for Norman's River
Reading, 'Riting, and Ravaging
The Invisible Hand
 
  Departments:
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Sierra Magazine
Field Guide: On Being Earnest

By Editor-in-chief Joan Hamilton

Like many fine pieces of writing, the lead feature in this issue met with rejection on its way to print. It languished in the office of a prominent outdoor publication for several months before an editor finally pronounced it "too earnest." Since earnest is not necessarily a dirty word at Sierra, we had a look. We found that "The War for Norman's River" was serious, yes, but also lyrical, funny, and inspiring.

The article's author, David James Duncan, is above all else a fly fisherman. "A lot of perfectly nice people question the sanity of us fly fishermen," he admits. "How, they think, can the losing and catching and releasing of mere fish give us neoprened geeks such huge pleasure?" Duncan is also a lover of rivers: "Untamed rivers have answered my lifelong addiction to them by filling an inordinately large part of my life with wonder, peace, gratitude, hope, and joy."

Duncan earned a devoted following with a novel published by the Sierra Club in 1983, The River Why. The protagonist of that tale, an irreverent rod-toting young man named Gus Orviston, wrestles with the urge to control nature. When Duncan moved from Oregon "upstream" to Montana a few years ago, he was forced to challenge the same impulse in an all-too-real pair of corporations that wanted to build a gold mine near his home. Supposed to be working on a lighthearted fourth book, Duncan had a hard time writing about anything other than this impending doom. Out of that turmoil came the tale we present to you in this issue: a story of environmental love, struggle, and hope.

Do such stories make a difference? Absolutely. We see it happen every issue. A photo and brief description of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in our January/February issue helped spark a broad-based campaign in Delaware to expand the refuge. A report on the poison spewed into our waterways by recreational boaters prompted some 70 of our readers to call the nonprofit Bluewater Network about junking their dirty two-stroke outboard motors. And in response to "Heat Wave," the article about global warming in our September/October 1997 issue, some 9,000 of you sent postcards to President Clinton—all part of the larger environmentalist effort that helped secure an international agreement to start curbing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Sure, apathy abounds in our society, and cynicism is stylish. But all of our members, simply by joining the Sierra Club, have taken a stand in defense of planet Earth. Many of you have proven your willingness to go further, by mailing a postcard to a politician or fighting for a place you love. As David James Duncan demonstrates in his tale of resistance to a gold-mining Goliath, it only takes a few good people to shake things up.


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