To the Summit: 50 Mountains That Lure, Inspire, and Challenge
by Joseph Poindexter, with an introduction by Stacy Allison
Black Dog & Leventhal, $39.98
Thoreau wrote in The Maine Woods that mountain climbers were "insolent men"
who pried into the gods' secrets by exploring the "unfinished parts of the
globe," while John Muir, a mountain climber himself, urged people to "come to
the mountains and bathe in the fountains' love." Joseph Poindexter tells the secrets
and celebrates the love in paying homage to 50 of the world's most beautiful and
challenging mountains with more than 360 photographs, mountain data, and brief biographies
of heroes like Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first men to conquer Mt.
Everest. Also included are essays by famous climbers and excerpts from such climbing epics
as Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air.
The collection not only excels at describing the mountains themselves, but at showing
the human element of mountain climbing, portraying the expeditions more as group than
individual efforts. As Tenzing says: "You cannot be a good mountain climber, however
great your ability, unless you are cheerful and have the spirit of comradeship. Friends
are as important as achievement. . . . [S]elfishness only makes a man small."
Stacy Allison, the first American woman to reach the summit of Everest, eloquently
explains the motivation behind climbing in the introduction. "For most people who
climb, the danger is not what draws them to the mountain; rather, it is the possibility of
controlling risk. Climbers are drawn by the potential to test our skills, knowledge, and
judgments-the opportunity to push ourselves beyond our limits."
The mountain scenes and climbers' sagas are enhanced by tales like the lore about the
sacred Kangchenjunga in Nepal, whose name translates roughly to "Five Treasures of
the Great Snows." It "can be climbed only on conditions that no one trod upon
the summit itself. And as far as is known, none of the two dozen or so summit parties on
Kangchenjunga's main peak has violated this agreement." Although some might fault the
book for lacking biographical notes on famous Sierra Club mountaineers like Muir and David
Brower, it leaves no doubt as to why mountaineering became a powerful rite of passage for
such influential leaders. Ryder Miller
Videos: Clearcut Views
Variations on a Wave, $30; (250) 847-1563
By relentlessly razing its vast temperate rainforest, British Columbia has come
to be known as "the Brazil of the North." In 1990,
13 of the province's logging companies resolved to clean up this tarnished image.
Did they end their clearcutting of B.C.'s old-growth forests? Hardly. They hired
a public-relations firm and begat what they archly dubbed "share" groups,
Canada's answer to the
corporate-sponsored "wise-use" movement south of the border.
These two videos look past the smoke and mirrors to explore the roots of the
troubles in B.C.'s vanishing wilderness.
In Forests Forever-the title echoes that
of a feel-good campaign by the Forest Alliance, the timber industry's main
propaganda arm-we meet conservationists, loggers, scientists, Natives, and others
with a stake in the forests' future. There's even an interview with the
Alliance's Patrick Moore, the Greenpeace director turned industry mouthpiece, who
appears as a somewhat hostile witness.
Forests Forever asks why, after a half-century of sustainable forestry, the
province began cannibalizing its old growth, and why so many industry workers are
nonetheless losing their jobs. The answers to both questions come down to
government and industry policies. We learn here how "Honest Bob" Summers, the
minister of forests, went to prison for taking bribes-but not before signing away
the logging rights to most of B.C.'s publicly owned timberland.
And we discover
that 27,000 loggers were thrown out of work from 1981 to 1991 not by
tree-huggers, but by the industry's embrace of labor-reducing technology. From
such unpleasant realities grew the disinformation campaign by Burson-Marsteller,
the PR giant called upon by Exxon and Union Carbide in the aftermath of disasters
in Prince William Sound and Bhopal, India.
"The one good thing I could say about the hiring of Burson-Marsteller by the
timber industry," observes one critic of the Forest Alliance, "is that at least
they seem to be admitting there's a disaster here."
The extent of that disaster lies at the core of the poignant Legacy, which
juxtaposes vivid images of B.C. forest devastation with the words of those intent
on denying it. Although nobody speaks in this ten-minute film-the sound track
consists entirely of a cello and violin-title cards show us the calm assurances
by timber and government officials of healthy, sustainable logging practices.
"Mistakes were made in the past," reads a 1991 quote by Canada's minister of
forests. "But the criticisms are no longer deserved." Asserts Jack Munro, a
Forest Alliance spokesman, "We are not devastating forests anymore." And Patrick
Moore offers this bit of philosophy: "Don't think of them as clearcuts. Think of
them as temporary meadows." Meanwhile, aerial and on-the-ground views of old
growth from Vancouver Island north to the Great Bear Rainforest reveal the
heartrending truth behind the industry's spin. It adds up to a quietly eloquent
plea for an end to the plunder in the Brazil of the North.B. J. Bergman
World on the Web: Web-Trotting
by Sierra Club Webmaster John Kealy
Virtual vacations will never replace the real thing. But you can use the
Internet to help plan your "real time" excursions. Search by "travel" and you'll
be kept busy for hours-with just a little more effort, you can find information
about environmentally sensitive travel.
You'll find your fill of environmentally aware adventures by visiting Sierra
Club Outings' Web site (www.sierraclub.org/outings). The site provides detailed
descriptions of more than 300 domestic and international expeditions and an online
When you're ready to take the plunge, several Web sites provide air-line fares
and schedules (including "fare finders" that search for low-price tickets) and
allow you to book plane tickets online. For a flight of fancy, go to Travelocity
(www.travelocity.com) or Expedia (expedia.msn.com).