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In This Section
  July/August 1999 Features:
Your Next Car?
Why Detroit's Going Green
Carsick Country
Back in the saddle
Splendor in the Swamp
A Smaller But Better Future
 
  Departments:
Letters
Inside Sierra
Ways & Means
Good Going
Hidden Life
Way to Go
Lay of the Land
Home Front
Mixed Media
Last Words
 

Sierra Magazine
Letters

AND THE ANSWER IS...

The locations of the "Where in the Wild Are You?" contest photos in our March/April issue can now be revealed:

1. Atchafalaya Swamp, Louisiana
2. Lost Coast, California
3. Telescope Peak, Death Valley National Park, California
4. Stikine River, Alaska

The winner, chosen in a random drawing of correct entries, will receive a Sierra Club rafting and backpacking trip for two in Canyonlands National Park, courtesy of Sierra Club Outings. Contest sponsor Nature Valley will also provide two Dana Design backpacks, a Jana tent, and a year's supply of granola bars. For the name of the winner (who has already been notified), send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Sierra. Many thanks to our generous sponsors.

BEARS' NATURE

Thank you for the enlightening "Running With Bears" by Paul Rauber (March/April). With all of the violent, downright frightening tales of grizzly attacks in the media, your publication shines through with an objective, honest look at humans in touch with their place in the food chain. It is one of the too few stories of the healthy relationship that can be formed between humans and animals. This article may even get my husband to hike in bear country with me!
Dave Connelly
Durham, North Carolina

I spent six days last year with a group of five others in Katmai National Park, Alaska, in the company of veteran bear biologist Lynn Rogers doing many of the same things described in your article. Each day offered new insight as we lay down in meadows and watched in awe as the great animals ignored us and went about making their living as they have done there for thousands of years.

They nursed their cubs, dug clams at low tide, grazed, and played-often so close we could hear their breathing and see the expression in their eyes. On one occasion, we saw 31 grizzlies at once, yet none of us felt the slightest bit threatened. Certainly, I would not have undertaken this opportunity except with an experienced bear researcher, but those six days altered forever my outlook on the nature of bears.
Patricia Briggs
San Francisco, California

I have nothing whatsoever to say about the mysteries of bears and humans, but I feel sad that Sierra wasted its prime lead-article space on a piece that reveals so little about Kamchatka's plight and its defenders, but will probably trigger a rush of self-indulgent tourists who want an instant primary experience with bears, and are well-heeled enough to afford $2,400 helicopter flights without blinking.

Multinational mining companies collude with the cash-starved government to mine gold in Kamchatka's proposed national parks. In the Sea of Okhotsk, between Kamchatka and the Russian mainland, the last great feeding frenzy of uncontrolled international factory-fishing fleets is decimating the waters. Meanwhile, the urban population of Petropavlovsk faces the bleak prospect of a thoroughly polluted bay and a collapsed economy. But what does Paul Rauber concentrate on? How irresistible it is to meander around too close to bears for their good, or his own.
John Cloud
Santa Barbara, California

Paul Rauber replies: Sierra ran an article about Kamchatka and the Aginsky gold mine project, "Rich in Gold and Grizzlies," in November/December 1998. But we have found it is important to leaven the doom and gloom of environmental ills with stories that remind people what they're fighting to protect. Those wishing information on other issues in Kamchatka and the Russian Far East should contact the Pacific Environment and Resources Center, 1440 Broadway, Suite 306, Oakland, CA 94612; (510) 251-8800; perc@igc.org; www.pacenv.org.

VANISHING WOODS

I read Ted Williams' article, "Thoreau's Dream" (March/April), with hope and fear. I grew up on Moosehead Lake. On a trip back to The Birches after an absence of 20 years, I plunged into the woods, my son in tow, breathlessly telling him of my memories of a marvelous spot in the forest we were about to visit. Once a narrow path led to a hidden, rock-lined spring where my sister and I used to have picnics and pretend we were woods fairies.

Here had been huge, mossy rocks, a hushed forest floor covered with a deep carpet of needles dropped by the fir and spruce that towered overhead, bunch berries, ferns, and lady slippers. I walked through a thicket of alder and wild raspberry beside the road, trying to get my bearings, and suddenly came up short. The forest was gone! Five hundred feet beyond the road was a gouged, rutted mess of dirt and piles of discarded limbs and branches. It seemed a tornado had torn through the entire woods-this beautiful, silent forest that had stretched as far as my childhood mind could encompass. Once it had been a natural parkland. Now it was a vacant lot.

If left alone, I suppose in a hundred years those woods might come back to a semblance of what they were. Perhaps there might again be moss, dogberry, fern, and all the haphazard delights of a natural forest. There might be light filtering down between nature's lovely variety of trees: fir, spruce, birch, maple, beech. But not in my lifetime. For me it is gone forever.
Robin Fahey Cameron
Sausalito, California

DOLLAR WORSHIP

It's amazing that people in this secular country blame religion for our population problem ("Letters," March/ April). The Catholic Church teaches natural birth control and encourages purity and chastity, which, if followed, would eliminate all of our illegitimate children. The church opposes test-tube babies, sperm banks, and the churning out of litters of babies by fertility clinics. The church teaches a simple lifestyle and celebrates as saints those who have said the future belongs to those who need the least.

In this country, our "religion" consists of the profit motive, consumption, and materialism. It is the business world and the corporate giants who push for growth by constantly advertising sex and consumer goods. Hordes of consumers and crowds of workers to exploit are essential in order to gain greater profits. Can any honest person look at all of our material progress, gained at the expense of natural ecosystems and for which future generations will have to pay dearly, without concluding that indeed materialism is the most powerful religion of all?
Mary Ellen Sweeney
Klamath Falls, Oregon

OOPSKI

Careful reader Don Forman writes to tell us that the Russian words used to describe American cockroaches in "Running With Bears" (March/April) should have been tarakany amerikanskie.

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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