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Sierra Magazine: Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.
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LETTERS | What our readers have to say

Readers are encouraged to post comments online. You can also e-mail us at sierra.mail@sierraclub.org. Please include your name, city, and e-mail address or phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

BORN TO BE WILD
During the past several years the editors of Sierra seemed to ignore stories covering the beauty of nature or adventure articles, focusing instead on "green" environmental subjects. I am thrilled that the past few issues have displayed a change of direction. After all, the Sierra Club was founded to inspire people to enjoy nature as well as to protect it.
Bill White
Arleta, California


SEX ED & CO2
I was glad to see the Sierra Club address the issue of family planning ("Fighting Climate Change With Family Planning," May/June). Too often we place issues like the environment, women's rights, education, and family planning into separate, disconnected silos. But women's rights--especially access to education and family planning--are, as you reminded us, directly related to climate change. Empowering women with education and access to contraception and other family-planning choices is not only good for women. It's also good for the earth.
Tarah Demant
Oakland, California


Many environmentalists do not realize how disingenuous it appears to other nations when Americans promote family planning and population stabilization elsewhere but then adopt domestic policies that increase the U.S. population by about 30 million a decade. If the stabilization of the world's population is necessary, it is necessary here also.
Winthrop Staples
Newbury Park, California


MISGUIDED JOY
I just read Bob Sipchen's article about the delight of watching a bear eat food from a child's backpack during a river-rafting trip ("Spout," May/June). Leaving any food where a bear can get to it is stupid and illegal. It only encourages the animal to return to the area and may lead to someone's child getting snacked on or to "bear death by human."

Your editor in chief should rethink his joy at risking his family's safety. This was my first Sierra magazine, and there will not be a renewal or donation in the future.
Carla Traudt
Old Faithful Inn
Yellowstone National Park


THE BIG ELECTRIC LIE
Big Oil and Big Coal have spent a lot of money trying to get the public to believe the lie that electric cars merely move pollution from the tailpipe to the power plant. Mr. Green's March/April column ("Ask") shows how successful they've been. For the record, electric motors are so much more efficient than gasoline engines that they're better for the environment even if the electricity comes from a coal plant.
Michael Shoop
Minneapolis, Minnesota


"Sound Off"

Your description of the Great Bear Rain Forest was splendid; it is hoped that the Canadian government can be swayed to make the honorable decision. However, there was one disturbing element in your article "The Swamp Man—a brief mention that he loved deer meat, he was a hunter. Today, man`s role must be that of protector of all nature's critters.
Willard Cole

I have been a Sierra Club member since 1981 and have enjoyed Sierra magazine throughout the years. However, during the past several years the editors seemed to ignore stories covering the beauty of nature or adventure articles while mainly focusing on "green" environmental subjects. I am thrilled that the past few issues of Sierra have included this change of direction. After all the Sierra Club was founded to enjoy nature as well as protect it.
Bill White


"The Source of Wealth"

I just read the interesting article "The Source of Wealth" on coal strip mine development near Bryce Canyon National Park. The existing mine sits on 635 acres and proposes an expansion on 3,500 acres of public land within 10 mile of Bryce Canyon. The coal feeds a 1,800 MW power plant that feeds power to Los Angeles, Burbank, and Anaheim in California. The article ends with an expression of awe for a relatively small 110 MW solar power tower project in Nevada that consists of 10,000 giant mirrors and a 635-foot central power tower that will ultimately have 45 full-time employees. The solar power tower project is presented as the desired jobs substitute for the coal mine expansion. The 110 MW power tower project will disturb about 1,600 acres of land (See the project fact sheet: http://www.tonopahsolar.com/pdfs/FactSheet_CrescentDunes.pdf). The entire proposed 3,500-acre strip mine site would produce about 250 MW as a solar power tower installation; 250 MW is about one-seventh the 1,800 MW capacity of the coal plant the strip mine will serve.

Is the Sierra Club really advocating or implying that a high-impact solar power tower project displace a high-impact coal mine 10 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park so that a town of 130 people can keep 45 of those people busy as solar power tower operators? What about the obvious, no-impact solar alternative: rooftop and parking lot solar in Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Burbank where the power generated by the Utah coal plant is actually used. Urban rooftop solar produces twice the jobs of remote solar projects, and produces lower-cost electricity in the Southwest than power towers. The Sierra Club just launched the "My Generation" distributed local solar campaign in California: http://action.sierraclub.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=235521.0&dlv_id=204063. The governor of California is calling for 12,000 MW of new local renewable energy by 2020. The strip mine article would have been a fine vehicle for introducing this distributed PV campaign to the Club's national membership. Germany is installing solar at a rate more than five times faster than the U.S. and the overwhelming majority of this capacity is rooftop solar. The present and future of solar power in the U.S. is urban rooftop PV. It is not substituting green land use debacles for brown land use debacles near national parks and calling it a victory. Would John Muir be promoting solar power towers on public lands near America's crown jewels when he could achieve the same goal at less collective cost, and create more jobs, by putting the solar power on his rooftop? The answer is no.
Bill Powers
San Diego Chapter Executive Committee
San Diego, California


Fighting Climate Change With Family Planning"

I was glad to see the Sierra Club address the issue of family planning. Too often we see different "issues"—environment, women's rights, education, family planning—in silos, disconnected from each other. But the issues of "women's rights," especially access to education and family planning, are, as you reminded us, directly related to "environmental" issues like climate change. Empowering women with education and access to birth contraception and other family planning choices is not only good for women, it's good for the earth.
Tarah Demant
Oakland, California


Thank you very much for the article "Fighting Climate Change With Family Planning." You have touched on a crucial topic that so many environmental organizations have shunned away from in the last decade. The Sierra Club has had a population program with staff in Washington to support volunteers working around the country for almost 40 years. Population is an issue that seems to be hidden behind so many other issues Sierra Club activists work on, even if it is at the root of most, if not all, of those other issues.
Population Committee
NYC & Atlantic Chapters


Thanks to Jake Abrahamson (and Sierra Club population staffer Kim Lovell) for the excellent two-page spread in Sierra magazine on some of the environmental effects of population growth. Unfortunately this spread, like previous Club pieces on population, and "funded by the Sierra Club's Global Population and Environment Program," downplays the importance of population somewhat by giving up chunks of its space to some of the Club's other, mainstream environmental campaigns, which never return the favor by mentioning the relevance of population growth to their issues. And the statement that most dramatically conveys the unique environmental importance of population ("By having a child, an American woman increases her CO2 legacy sixfold.") is buried in tiny type under the heading "Sex Ed." (These were probably not Kim's decisions.) The need for stopping (and then reversing) population growth everywhere should be an integral part of nearly every Sierra Club message, because it's an absolutely indispensable part of the solution to nearly every environmental problem. Still, much as I criticize the Sierra Club for paying too little attention to population, I try to remember how much credit it deserves for being almost alone (completely alone now, for all I know) among major environmental groups in devoting any attention to it, especially as part of the solution to environmental problems (though some others mention it seemingly as an irremediable part of the causes).
Cliff Terry
Maryland Chapter population chair
Baltimore, Maryland


Thanks for the article on human population and climate change. The population explosion is a major driving force in global warming that no one wants to talk about. And not only does the population explosion compound the problems of the entire system of climate change, but condemns millions of people to devastating poverty. The demand for food will pale compared with the need for clean potable water as populations continue to grow.
Gene Keil
Weaverville, North Carolina


Congratulations to Jake Abrahamson on the clear explanation of the importance of family planning to climate change. Our lack of willingness to confront population growth is the largest uncertainty contributing to the global CO2 stabilization triangle. But as Abrahamson describes, it is the input for which we have the most effective and cheapest mitigation technology; the five ways to stabilize population he describes have been well proven. The contribution of a family's reproductive choices to carbon emissions is scientifically sound and much greater than choices of a green lifestyle. An excellent academic paper by Murtaugh and Schlax, 2008, is one of many measuring the precise impact.
Margaret Perkins
New York City


I agree with the premise of article "Fighting Climate Change With Family Planning" that family planning can be an important part of environmental protection. However, I think there are more than enough happy-face articles about climate change already, and the Sierra Club should not be adding to the chorus. The "stabilization triangle" seems to imply that if we hold carbon emissions flat from now until 2062 things will be OK. Which is true if you think mass extinctions, collapse of entire ecosystems, and climate chaos are OK. The atmosphere is already unstable due to past carbon emissions, and even if we shut down our whole industrial system and stopped emitting any carbon today the forests we love would still be doomed. The question is how quickly the various events come and how much will be left at various points in the future.
Scott Peer
Glendale, California


Climate change is far from the only thing that is being affected by the increasing world population. With over one million new people every five days on this planet, our oceans, air, water, forests, food supply, fisheries and quality of life will continue to deteriorate until we stabilize the population. The number of people our planet can sustain is not infinite and I believe we are rapidly reaching its limit. It's time for this issue to become a priority for the Sierra Club!
Dave Owens
Frisco, Colorado


Congratulations to Jake Abrahamson for his excellent article in the May/June issue of Sierra, which linked increasing population to increasing CO2 output and global warming. The only change I would make is to increase the width of the family planning wedge in his graph. Clearly we need to promote the 5 ways he listed to stabilize population.
George Webb, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
College of Medicine, University of Vermont
Burlington, Vermont


After reading Sierra for 30 years, I finally see an article connecting population growth with environmental problems. While Sierra is breaking the taboo on describing population growth as a problem, it conveniently shifts it elsewhere. Africa and south Asia are shown at the center of the map graphic. How about we look in the mirror and face the fasting growing industrial nation multiplied by the greatest consumption/pollution rate per capita? Roll the clock back to 1970 and the first Earth Day, and we had 100 million fewer Americans consuming and polluting than today. I wouldn't call us a great example of population control. Now for a pop quiz: Can you name the third largest country in the world by population? Hint: You probably live in it (the U.S.). I've asked this question many times with few knowing the correct answer.
Bill Conrod
Grand Junction, Colorado


In "Fighting Climate Change With Family Planning" the Sierra Club finally overcame the "P" word taboo by discussing the increasing burden of 220,000 more greenhouse gas emitters per day on our environment. Many environmentalists, however, do not realize how disingenuous it appears to other nations with increasing populations, when we promote family planning and population stabilization—but then have optional American policies that increase the U.S. population by about 30 million a decade. If the stabilization of the world's population is necessary, it is necessary here also. The Sierra Club should have a position on how to stabilize America's population of polluters and resource consumers.
Winthrop Staples
Newbury Park, California


In my opinion, overpopulation is the root cause of many of our world's problems. More people: more consumption, more natural resources depleted, more waste products produced, more water shortages, more deforestation, more wildlife habitat destroyed, more generated energy used, more vehicles, more pollution, more "greenhouse" gases produced, and the list goes on; and there is a trade-off: more people, lower quality of life. It appears that conservation organizations avoid the issue of overpopulation. It is time that conservation organizations, including the Sierra Club, and their magazines, have open discussions of this topic, including possible ways of addressing overpopulation.
Phil Rogers
University Place, Washington


Thank you for publishing this informative article which helps reveal the relationship between environmental degradation and global population size and growth. Increasingly, organizations and prominent individuals are speaking out on the environmental stresses that accompany our large and growing global population. Mary and Paul Ehrlich, Mathis Wackernagel, Albert Bartlett, Malcolm Potts, Riane Eisler, and Lester Brown are just a few of the respected voices in favor of a sustainable global population. Population Connection, Sierra Club, Earth Policy Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Amnesty International, Population Media Center, and UNFPA represent a small sample of the organizations responsibly aiding population awareness. Recent research finds that change involves three types of people; the Unaware, the Spreader, and the Stifler. The informed Spreader seeks to educate the Unaware. The Stifler (including the Naysayer, the Pollyanna, and the Ostrich) have evolved to become the real challenge to the Spreader in the population issue. This Sierra article is an encouraging aid to the Spreader. Congratulations and thank you!
Evan Jones
Sacramento, California


I was disappointed to read the unqualified advocacy limiting population growth in the "Fighting Climate Change With Family Planning." While slowing population growth will certainly reduce CO2 emissions and other environmental impacts, we must be very careful about what methods we use to reduce population growth. Promoting family planning in the wrong ways can have myriad and often severe unintended consequences, such as when parents in patriarchal cultures abort pregnancies or abandon children in an effort to get male children. At the same time, I and many other readers regard contraception in particular as morally objectionable. That said, I wholeheartedly agree with the need to promote both education and human rights worldwide; we should focus on these things rather than on preventing births.
John Haiducek
Albuquerque, New Mexico


Hurray! It's a pleasant surprise to see the Sierra Club make some connections with global warming and population. Unfortunately, the article overlooked the U.S. and U.S. population and global warming. The latest EPA data on U.S. emissions (released in April 2012) contained sheds light on this matter. Please see the full report at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html. For U.S. trends, see http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/downloads12/US-GHG-Inventory-2012-Chapter-2-Trends.pdf. Note Table 2-1. It is also useful to see it by U.S. economic sector: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/downloads12/US-GHG-Inventory-2012-ES.pdf. Note ES-7. The data illustrates that the U.S. emissions have increased about 10 percent over 20 years ending with 2010. Despite the American bashing and scary words we continually hear, that number implies U.S. emissions are growing at the tiny rate of 0.3 to 0.4 percent annually. Per capita it's falling. Yet, the 1990 U.S. population was about 250 million; todays it's about 320 million. Had the "per capitas" not been realized, the U.S. would have experienced a steady downtrend of emissions. It is wise to keep in mind that all U.S. population growth above approximately 245 million is solely from immigration (and all associated greenhouse gas increases). From this we can conclude that when we read articles or hear presentations regarding global warming, this is the single most important fact that needs to presented. Were it not for massive U.S. population growth, U.S. emissions would have steadily and significantly declined. Easily achieved the Kyoto Protocols. Likewise, the implication is that it doesn't matter what U.S. (or anyone else) legislates to reduce emissions, its results will be counter productive, make society and our ecology increasingly vulnerable, and likely bring the doomsday scenario closer in time.
Dell Erickson
NorthStar Member
Minneapolis, Minnesota


I wrote the Pope a letter in 1968 asking him to change the Catholic Church's position on birth control. I got some form letter/note thanking me for my contacting his Holy whatever. It didn't work. I suggest you add starvation as one of the five ways the world's population will be stabilized. It is happening already. Not pretty, but it will only increase. "A condom tree in every village" (and the requirement that men use them). By the way, the U.S. should not be immune from such a giveaway program.
Gordon Cruikshank
Member


"Fighting Climate Change With Family Planning: is a bold article. You take on an issue that must be addressed. However, your suggestions for ways to stabilize population growth miss a huge piece: culture, values and faith. We need to engage in a conversation that is inclusive. We need to engage all cultures and faiths in this conversation; by missing how important culture and faith can be in people's lives about family planning you have put a line in the sand that has not created an inclusive dialogue. We need to find better ways to talk about population growth that engages all people. Your lack of attention to the adaptive challenges of population growth is an oversight many groups have taken on this issue. We can't use technical fixes to solve huge adaptive challenges. Just making contraceptives available will not do the trick. Just offering sex ed won't do the trick. In addition, you have totally overlooked the complexity of socioeconomics on these issues: education, contraceptives, books all require financial resources—something missing in many fast growing countries. If we want to engage in a meaningful conversation about population growth, we must avoid stating complex solutions as simplistic and easy. Let's start a conversation that is looking at values, socioeconomics, culture, and religion that brings us together; not divides us. Let's engage in an inclusive conversation that draws in all people in no matter their socioeconomic, cultural, religious background. I fear this article shut doors instead of opened them just because of the way it was presented. I want to talk and read about population growth, but not the way you've done it in this article.
Polly Chandler
Program Director MBA in Sustainability
Chairperson Department of Management
Antioch University New England
Keene, New Hampshire


"Spout" (May/June 2012)

This is my first Sierra magazine . . . there will not be a renewal or donation in future. I just read Bob Sipchen's editorial story of "all the fun" watching a bear eat his child's backpack. I work in Yellowstone National Park: Leaving a backpack or any food not hung or in a bear-proof container is stupid and fine-able at very least. Feeding a bear or any animal will encourage him to return to the area and the next time it may be someone's child who is snacked on. Having the bear or any animal eating human food will habituate him and lead to "bear death by human." This editor in chief should rethink his joy at showing how not to camp and risking his family safety. He may think working in a different industry if this is how teaches and he treats our wilderness. So wrong in so many ways.
Carla Traudt
Old Faithful Inn
Yellowstone National Park


My wildlife biologist colleagues and other environmentally aware friends were amazed that the editor in "Wake Up and Watch the Picnic" used an incident caused by the carelessness of leaving food near his sleeping family to make the point- that his son is now "self-assured," in the context of a professional guide course! Whatever happened to editorial judgment regarding the stated goals of the Sierra Club? How many dead bears and people will result from readers copycatting this self-congratulatory account? This kind of irresponsible human behavior is the major cause of human-bear conflict, and the resulting public opposition to the recovery of carnivore populations in this country.
Winthrop Staples
Newbury Park, California


I was so gratified to read Yadja's letter to the editor about your offensive sexist cover (March/April). Seeing the photo made me sorry I'd renewed my membership. I think an apology is in order to all your members for this lapse in judgment.
Lois Jean


This is in response to the letter sent by Yadja from Ft. McCoy, Florida, regarding "High Art." It is amazing how someone can take something so benign and twist the intent of the work as some form of sexist subterfuge tactic by the Sierra Club. Most people view these photos of rock climbing and mountaineering as incredible feats. These profound scenes were artfully captured enabling the reader to transcend his or her banal confines and experience vicariously, through these incredible photos, what it must be like to live such free and exhilarating lifestyle. I thought this was on the better editions. Not enough credit goes to those tireless individuals who are constantly creating and perfecting this interesting and insightful magazine, especially to have someone so easily disregard and dismiss there work. I thank you Sierra Club for all that you do and I am proud and honored to have been a life member starting at the age of 10. Thank you!
Stanford Stickney
Los Gatos California


"Create" (May/June 2012)

I'm an avid reader of Sierra, and have been for many years. I don't always agree with the perspectives communicated in your articles or understand the sensibility of the products you compare and promote, but I do always agree with the intrinsic notion that the desire to preserve our natural wonders is most strongly reinforced by possessing a genuine appreciation for nature itself. This notion is routinely echoed in your publication. Director Brune's article entitled "Why We Explore" reminded me about a concern I've had about the Sierra Club organization ever since I first saw your long list of outings advertised in the magazine. Upon looking at the details of outing after outing, it is obvious that they are simply not priced realistically for most of your supporters. I understand my support and occasional donations don't add up to the large scale contributions the SC receives, but I think the SC should still offer outings that are affordable to the masses, not just the few. Possibly by decreasing the overall number of outings offered, by reducing the profit margin (nonprofit organization or not, I know the SC makes a profit—it's all in how the profit is used), or by giving us the opportunity to contribute directly during the outing in order to decrease overall cost and therefore decrease our individual cost, there could be a way to structure the outings so that practically every one of them don't seem like they're only intended for the elite.

Obviously I don't know all of the logistics and corresponding costs associated with any particular outing, but I've got my fair share of common and business sense—and where there's a will, there's definitely a way Therefore, I would appreciate it if the SC would publish my "Letter" below. Thank you. "Can't We 'Explore' Affordably?" "The point of the article "Why We Explore" is online, but the prices of the outings are and always have been way offline. I'm sure some readers can afford them, but I'm also sure that the majority like me cannot. For years I've wondered why each and every outing is so expensive. But all I can do is wonder, since I can't volunteer or otherwise be involved. I think it's time to offer outings that are affordable to the masses. If you haven't heard, the economy is a bear. I'd sure like to experience an SC outing, but it starts with your price tag." P.S.: Three of the letters in the May/June issue made particularly good points in my opinion: (1) Comment on the cover story, by Yadja from Ft. McCoy, Florida; (2) "Cheaper Cheese, Please," by Michael Painter from San Francisco; and (3) "The Waste-to-Energy Myth," by Roger Diedrich from Fairfax, Virginia. Please keep those good letters coming.
Russell Garrett
Little Rock, Arkansas


"Enjoy" (May/June 2012)

I have given the Sierra Club the benefit of the doubt, but after your latest issue, I will no longer contribute to your organization. These days we are all made aware of the damage that big farm agriculture is doing to our environment. However, the Sierra Club continues to publish stories about eating animal-based foods that are in most if not all cases not farmed with any kind of sustainability. Sure you suggest organic and local, but why not just suggest more plant-based foods. The latest story, "Fast Food, Hold the Guilt" was the last straw for me. Enjoying the green life with cheese, eggs, meat, yogurt. Please. How about kale and broccoli, nuts and seeds, giant salads.
Susie Fricker
Food For Life Instructor
The Cancer Project/PCRM


How about enlisting the almost 4,000 environmentally preferable fast-food outlets you promoted in offering up invasive species, as was suggested in a recent issue of Nature Conservancy, thus adding to the food supply with the double advantage of reducing the populations of invasive species while improving the habitat for the natives?
John T. Burridge
Former Chairman, Sierra Club Rhode Island Chapter
East Providence, Rhode Island


"Grapple" (May/June 2011)

Shame on you, Sierra, for giving those who "worry about the radio frequency radiation" from smart meters validity. Do these people use cell phones, listen to the radio in their car, and use wi-fi hotspots? Yes, they do. If they didn't, they would already be living completely off-grid and have no meter whatsoever. Those activities provide them with far more radiation than even the few meters acting as relays. Stop providing an excuse for people to make energy efficiency more expensive, as well as contributing to climate change by requiring a person to drive to their location and check their meter reading each month! Heather Payne
Chapel Hill, North Carolina


Let's not be snobs! The Tea Party is doing a fabulous job of alerting us to the dangers of cellphones (the WHO agrees) and smart meters. I, for one, am working with them on this & I am a Green. I'm also a Sierra Club Outings leader.
Xandra Manns
Eureka, California


"Smart-Meter Backlash" quotes from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine concerns about chronic exposure to wireless radio frequency radiation, and then the author says, parenthetically: "The group, it should be noted, also opposes fluoridated water." It's out of place for the Sierra Club to imply that fluoride belongs in water. Page 5 of the same issue is ironically dedicated Rachel Carson. She wrote about the contamination of ground water by pesticides. Likewise, our water table is saturated by fluoride, a known toxin. Fluoride is effective topically to prevent dental caries. There is no safe level of fluoride ingestion. No other countries around the world allow their aluminum industries to dominate their political entrenchment and to hoodwink the public. Years ago, the aluminum industry was stockpiling the waste fluoride from smelting aluminum metal, and the U.S. government forced them to end the storage, because fluorides were leeching into the water table. So Harvard University's research doctors subsidized by the aluminum industry came up with a scheme to dump the waste into our drinking water back in the 1960s.
Katherine Mendez


Although I applaud your effort to raise your readers' consciousness about the amount of water "embedded" in the products you listed, the example of bottled water should have had a huge asterisk on it. While its "water footprint" might be relatively low in comparison to the other examples you provided, bottled water is a largely unnecessary product, at least in most places where clean tap water is readily available. By looking only at the "water footprint" of bottled water, you have greatly understated its adverse environmental impact. May I suggest a better way to evaluate the environmental impact of bottled water than its water footprint—use the metric of "water miles" instead. The concept of "water miles" is a spin-off from the term "food miles." As you know, people are paying increasing attention to the often extremely long distances the food they eat has been shipped (or, more likely, trucked), with all the adverse impacts of the energy used for that shipping, trucking, etc. As a result, many people are looking to reduce their "food miles" by obtaining food from more local sources. A burgeoning "eat local" movement is building momentum as restaurants, produce markets and their customers seek ways to obtain more of their food from nearby sources.

I'd like you to consider promoting the slogan of "drinking local" as an equally (if not even more) worthy objective as eating locally. While we in 49 out of 50 states can't really grow our own pineapples, bananas or coffee and don't have a local alternative for those foods, and I wouldn't insist that anyone stop consuming those things just because of the food miles involved, almost everyone has the ability to "drink local," with that opportunity often being as close as the tap on their kitchen sink or water pitcher in their refrigerator. In other words, while there's no easily obtainable local substitute for some foods, there certainly is for water. People who choose to "drink local"—i.e., to consume a product with low "water miles"—will help reduce their "carbon footprint" and "water footprint" as well, especially if they obtain their water from the tap (filtered if need be) and refrain from purchasing water in single-serving containers. While a few other people have sought to promote the "drink local" concept as it applies to water (see, e.g., http://www.jimhightower.com/node/6155), I suspect the concept would naturally appeal to Sierra readers and Sierra Club members, as they are already likely aware of the adverse impact of shipping water many hundreds if not thousands of miles and the shady marketing practice of inducing customers into buying a largely unnecessary product, when those consumers have virtually the same product available locally, often as close as their tap or refrigerator. Thanks for considering this suggestion.
Russ Cohen
Boston, Massachusetts


"Innovate" (May/June 2011)

I was highly impressed with the Innovate article about benthic microbial fuel cells. It sounds like a very promising technology. However, I saw a couple of errors in it. First, the statement that fuel cells "produce no waste" is incorrect. While fuel cells can be highly efficient, they are not entirely waste free. All fuel cells produce some sort of waste product; in many cases the waste product is simply water, but some fuel cells produce carbon dioxide, and many fuel cells consume hydrogen, which is most commonly made by processes which produce CO2 emissions. Second, the one of the figure captions says that hydrogen molecules are produced by the reaction at the anode, but the illustration shows H+ ions, which strikes me as more likely. It was not clear to me from the article exactly what byproducts the benthic microbial fuel cell would produce, but the H+ ions shown in the figure would make the water in the vicinity more acidic. I'd be interested to know whether this technology could have any negative impact on sea life due to the H+ ions or any other byproducts.
John Haiducek
Albuquerque, New Mexico


Correction
The January/February "Innovate" on electric trains should have specified that the battery in a Philadelphia electrical substation is capable of holding one megawatt-hour.


 


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