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  May/June 2003 Issue
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Letters

WANTED: BIGGER PLANET
I was stunned by the results of your quiz "Are You Big Foot?" (January/February). Although I’m a carless vegan living in a green-redesigned home with my wife and daughter, my footprint was 6.5 acres, 2 acres more than the world’s 4.5 biologically productive acres per person. Although my score was just 27 percent of the average U.S. footprint of 24 acres, if everyone on Earth had my footprint, we would still need 1.44 planets!
Mike Weinberg
La Mesa, California

QUIZ QUESTION
How wonderful to find in "Are You Big Foot?"
(January/February) that the more children I have, the smaller my environmental footprint! But of course it’s obvious that the more Americans there are, the more we damage the planet.
Olivia Eielson
Berkeley, California

Diana Deumling of Redefining Progress, the organization that designed the "Big Foot" quiz, replies: The quiz measures each individual’s demand on nature, and more people in a household decreases the per-person housing footprint. But Ms. Eielson’s point about overall population numbers is well-taken. Adding another American makes large demands on the planet: for example, 20 tons of meat and 4.5 cars over an average life span. Furthermore, if world population keeps growing at the 2001 rate of 1.3 percent per year, it will more than triple by 2100, meaning that the resources now available to one person would have to be shared by more than three. Clearly, we must address population size to keep our planetary use of natural resources in balance, but that was beyond the scope of this quiz.

DO DIAPERS MATTER?
Please publish the citations for the studies that led you to say that it makes no difference whether people use cloth or disposable diapers ("Now, for the Good News . . . ," page 44, January/February). I find that virtually impossible to believe.
Becky O’Brien
Lafayette, Colorado

Editor’s reply: Our source was The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, a book produced by a group noted for its sound technical information, the Union of Concerned Scientists. A passel of impassioned letters have convinced us that parents might want to dig further, however. Readers pointed out that an article in the March 22, 2001, Ecologist came down firmly on the side of cloth. The British magazine cited a 1991 study by the Women’s Environmental Network (www.wen.org.uk) that found cloth diapers use 3.5 times less total energy, 8 times less non-regenerable material, and 90 times less renewable material, and produce 2.3 times less wastewater than disposables. For a good summary of the controversy, see "The Politics of Diapers" in Mothering magazine’s January/February 2003 issue.

BUILDING PATRIOTISM
Thanks for the excellent article "When Uncle Sam Wanted Us" (January/February). It should be the patriotic duty of every American to conserve. In Greenburgh, New York, we recently approved legislation mandating energy conservation in new residential construction. We’re considering adopting tough mandates in the future so that our town can lead by example.
Paul Feiner, Town Supervisor
Greenburgh, New York

BUSH ON POPULATION
It is puzzling that you so infrequently write about overpopulation. In Carl Pope’s most recent column ("Ways & Means," January/February) he discusses various international agreements that President Bush has abrogated, without mentioning his backtracking on Cairo or his freeze on funding for the United Nations Population Fund.
Jim Hufnagel
Wilson, New York

Carl Pope replies: Mr. Hufnagel is right.

I missed an opportunity. In 1994, the United States signed on to the Cairo accord, a model international agreement aimed at improving women’s health and helping to slow population growth. I didn’t mention it because it didn’t appear to be a treaty Bush was targeting. Of course, about the time the column appeared, he went after it anyway, by refusing to reaffirm U.S. support for Cairo at a meeting of Asian and Pacific nations in Bangkok. I winced during the State of the Union when the president proclaimed an exciting-sounding initiative to deal with the AIDS crisis in Africa, knowing that his administration promotes abstinence-only for planning families and preventing AIDS. President Bush’s war on the environment clearly includes his family-planning policies.


CORRECTIONS
On page 12 of "Lay of the Land" in January/February, we should have stated that the Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, California, produces 1.4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year with its new solar roof panels (not 1.4 million kilowatts).


CONTACT US 
We welcome letters 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; e-mail sierra.letters@sierraclub.org.


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