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 Clintonall 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.