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  July/August 1998 Features:
Our Only Ocean
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The Hidden Life of Shrimp
 
  Departments:
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Sierra Magazine
Letters

WILD JOURNEYS

I just received my March/April adventure travel issue. I enjoyed the pretty pictures and glowing descriptions, but, as a minimally consuming environmentalist who makes less than $8,000 a year, I must say that it isn't of much use to me. A vital, honest environmentalism couples a love and understanding of our home surroundings with an unquestioned willingness to act to preserve all kinds of wilderness, sight unseen, car undriven. I welcome descriptions of distant country that tell me how I can save it. But if I want to read about expensive adventure travel, I'll buy a different magazine.
Carol Church
Columbia, Missouri

Your March/April issue is by far the best I have ever read of your magazine. Your story on the Silver Peak Range ("Just Deserts"), for instance, made me feel like I was actually there. Considering I have been there, exploring every nook and cranny for a whole week, that is no mean feat.
Andy Shapiro
Santa Rosa, California

"On Top of the World" disgusted me from beginning to end. What was the editorial staff thinking? You even showed a picture of a snowmobile. I thought I was reading Motorsports. Why are you trying to romanticize pollution?
Bill Welling
Suamico, Wisconsin

Thank you for your article "The Great Indoors," warning against falling victim to a commercialized "outdoor" attraction in a shopping mall. As a child I was not given the opportunity to love the great outdoors. Instead, my family preferred to take trips to Disney World. Goofy and Donald Duck were my heroes. Now 20, I know better. Having seen the purple skies of the Grand Canyon, the snow-capped mountains of Wyoming, and the delicate rock formations of the Southwest, I'm not fooled by impostors.
Scott Baron
Evanston, Illinois

SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

I read with interest Carl Pope's article "Science at War With Itself" (Ways & Means) in the March/April issue of Sierra. As a full-time researcher at Cal Tech, however, I disagree with his description of the division among scientists and with his definition of science. Until recently most members of society have had the view that it's acceptable-even desirable-for humanity to change its environment. Singling out science as the only field containing "Promethean" bad guys is unfair to scientists and misleading to the general public.

It is also dangerous because it fosters an anti-science sentiment. The last thing we need is another excuse for Congress to cut basic research funding. In contrast, I think basic research, particularly in climate and ecology, will be necessary to avert major environmental disasters in the future.
Adam P. Showman
Pasadena, California

Carl Pope replies: I certainly did not mean to suggest that science is the source of the Promethean ethos, only that it has been, in part, infected by it. Several years ago the editors of Science (which is as close to a house organ as U.S. science has) were on the rampage against environmentalists. Things have gotten a lot better, so my piece was intended to correct my earlier, harsher criticism of the science establishment ("Ways & Means," July/August 1993).

In the field of nuclear physics and bioengineering the distinction between science and technology has become thoroughly muddied. The people who call me to demand that the Sierra Club recant its position against nuclear power are not engineers. They are endowed professors of physics at places like Harvard and MIT.

BEYOND CARLESSNESS

Congratulations on Bob Schildgen's article ("Hearth & Home," March/April) recommending "carless behavior." In addition to proposing changes in private behavior, Sierra should also devote attention to ways we can change public-spending priorities and reform land use. One is to shift public-transportation dollars from highways to mass transit. The second is to redesign car-oriented towns and cities to make them more people-friendly. Create walkable, mixed-use, moderate-density neighborhoods with public spaces and connect them with mass transit (light-rail or cleaner, quieter buses). Then people won't need cars for most errands and excursions.

Third, we should reform property taxation to discourage suburban sprawl. Introduce differential tax rates for land and buildings. If land is taxed at a higher rate than buildings, there will be more incentive to build better-quality buildings in more concentrated areas.
Steve Lanset
Jersey City, New Jersey

WHY LOG?

The March/April article "Reclaiming the Public's Forests" ("Lay of the Land") overlooks some important environmental issues. In the West, about half of the forestland that is capable of growing timber is publicly owned. Reduction of national-forest timber production leads to increased logging in regions of the world where forest-practice regulations are not nearly as strict as those on our public lands. It also leads to increased use of substitute material such as steel and concrete, with consequent increases in pollution and energy consumption. It is doubtful that there are any materials more environmentally benign than wood, especially in view of the stringent logging regulations that we have adopted in the last couple of decades.
William McKillop
Berkeley, California

Sierra Club public-lands lobbyist Melanie Griffin replies: Despite some improvements over the past decades, commercial logging remains extremely destructive. Clearcuts and logging roads continue to ruin valuable wildlife habitat and cause massive erosion and landslides that pollute our rivers. Since less than 4 percent of our annual wood supply comes from our national forests, ending commercial logging on these forests would not significantly affect our timber supply. But in the long run, we must reduce our consumption of timber from private lands, too. Fortunately, Mr. McKillop is mistaken in his belief that there are no environmentally benign alternatives to wood. Wheat, rice, rye, bamboo, banana stalks, flax, corn, and cotton can all be used to make paper, as can old money, blue denims, kenaf, and industrial hemp.

AMENDMENTS

The in-mall American Wilderness Experience described in "The Great Indoors" (March/April) should not be confused with American Wilderness Experience, Inc. of Boulder, Colorado, a broker of backcountry adventure travel and Old West dude-ranch vacations founded in 1971. • In the same issue, we published an erroneous address for California BLM Director Ed Hastey in an article about a proposed mine at Indian Pass in the California desert. The correct address is 2135 Butano Dr., Sacramento, CA 95825. • Readers who enjoyed David Darlington's March/April story about hiking in Nevada's Silver Peak Range, "Just Deserts," may want to contact the Sierra Club's Desert Peaks Section by writing Desert Peaks Section, Sierra Club, 3435 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 320, Los Angeles, CA 90010.

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 e-mail us at:sierra.letters@sierraclub.org


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