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.

BUGGED CONVERSATION
Hurrah for "Eat Your Bugs!" (July/August). People can enjoy a steak dinner because they are culturally conditioned to eat meat and don't consider they are eating dead cow. Perhaps a good way to get past the barf factor would be to popularize a special gourmet treat of grasshoppers dipped in dark chocolate!
Bernadine Van Thiel
Spokane, Washington

Eating bugs is no better for you or the planet than eating animals. They are both destructive and disgusting. The best thing anyone can do for their health and the health of the planet is to eat a plant-based diet.
John Brennan
Oakdale, California

Despicable! What's next? "Eat your robins and hummingbirds"? "Special recipe: deep-fried hummingbirds"?
Kitty Barr
Willits, California

"Farming" insects will likely lead to the same sort of damage to the environment that animal farming does. On the other hand, foraging insects is probably worthwhile; the aphids on leaves in an organic garden taste delightfully sweet. Mine do, anyway.
Joe Yetter
Azalea, Oregon

Energized by E-Cars
Thanks for getting the word out on electric vehicles ("Rise of the Plug-in Hybrids," July/August). Both the Chevrolet Volt and the Ford C-Max Energi are hatchbacks with smallish cargo areas and fold-down rear seats that greatly increase cargo room. Yet the description states this primarily in a positive way for the Volt ("two passengers can carry all the gear they need for a camping trip") and in a negative way for the Energi (to carry "plenty," you have to "kick out your passengers and fold down the rear seats"). In fact, the C-Max Energi has greater cargo and passenger space than the Volt.
Chris Oswald
Medford, Oregon

Thank you for publishing the article on electric cars rather than yet another article on bicycling, river rafting, mountain climbing, etc. I've been a Sierra Club member since sometime in the 1960s, but now, at 80-plus with two knee replacements and living on a hill, I'm not about to get on any more bikes, so I'm not happy about being made to feel guilty about driving.
Renata Polt Schmitt
Berkeley, California

"Fuel From the Roof" (July/August) caught my attention, as I had mentioned the idea of using solar panels to charge an electric car to multiple people, who disregarded it as impractical. And I hope all Sierra readers will read Mr. Green's tips for hypermiling. I recommend taking advantage of downhill roads, even those with barely noticeable declines, by easing up on the accelerator pedal. By changing my driving habits, my average miles per gallon went up by 2--and I stayed at the posted speed!
Kauri Jacob
Nicasio, California

CORRECTION The map in "Busting Out of Boom and Bust" (July/August) incorrectly labeled the state of Louisiana.


WEB-ONLY LETTERS

"Eat Your Bugs"

Eating bugs is no better for you or the planet than eating animals. They are both destructive and disgusting. The best thing anyone can do for their health and the health of the planet is to eat a plant-based diet.
John Brennan
Oakdale, California


Hurrah for the "Eat Your Bugs" feature! It's getting beyond our cultural conditioning to wisdom and common sense needed to heal our Earth. People can enjoy a steak dinner because they are culturally conditioned to eat meat and don't consider they are eating dead cow!

Perhaps a good way to get past the barf factor would be to popularize a special gourmet treat of grasshoppers dipped in dark chocolate!
Bernadine Van Thiel
Spokane, Washington


In Eat Your Bugs, Peter Frick-Wright perpetuates a myth that is damaging our bodies, societies, and planet.

"As protein sources go, bugs may be more sustainable than almost anything else in our diets" is not true. Plants can give us all the protein we need, and a whole-food, plant-based diet is far more healthful than are diets rich in animal proteins and fats. (I'd suggest reading The China Study, or Whole.)

I just ate a few handfuls of raw collard leaves. I got about 10% of my daily protein requirement. In order to get the same amount of protein from beef, I'd have to have eaten a lot more fatty calories.

"Farming" insects will likely lead to the same sort of damage to the environment that animal farming does. On the other hand, foraging insects is probably worthwhile; the aphids on leaves in an organic garden taste delightfully sweet. Mine do, anyway...
Joe Yetter
Azalea, Oregon


During the last 17-year cicada boom in 2004 (Generation X), I was served cicadas at a dinner but politely refused. The reason was not an ugh factor but a knowledge of the human digestive system: We in the modern, developed world, for the most part, do not have chitinase in our digestive repertoire. Although 80 percent of the world's people eat bugs, they often prepare and eat them regularly, know which species are digestible, and have evolved the intestinal flora to help them digest chitin.

Like cellulose, chitin is an abundant biopolymer that is relatively resistant to degradation. We cannot digest wood, yet it is put in white bread as a filler, and not to our benefit.

During this cicada year, pets and people got sick from eating cicadas. I would not put a picture on the front cover of Sierra magazine of a child eating a June bug, because I would not want to encourage children to do something that could be injurious to them.

I have no objection to an article about eating earthworm banana bread, or our ancestors eating loads of grasshoppers, and I do think we need to find other sources of protein besides beef, which is the greatest environmental offender at this time--however, I wish to caution people, especially parents and pet owners to not let their "babies" eat bugs. They are swimming in pesticides, their exoskeletons can cause us to choke, and chitin cause severe allergic reactions in people who are allergic to seafood, and the indigestibility of chitin can cause harm to our digestive systems, like chewing on wood, especially if we are not used to eating bugs.
Maja Evans


The July/August article about entomophagy was quite interesting. I'm certainly aware of the nutritional value and environmental economy of this. However, the picture of the skewered grasshoppers and vegetables on page 32 is a bit disconcerting. These are Southern lubber grasshoppers (Romalea Micropter), whose primary survival strategy is to consume lillium species and absorb their potent toxins. In my flower garden this would be rain lillies and Dutch amaryllis. This makes them quite easy to catch, brilliantly colored and large.

According to the University of Florida, the consumption of them has been known to kill small birds and will make an opossum vomit violently for several hours. Shrikes are the only known animal species to eat them. To do this they impale them in the sun for several days to desiccate and bake them. Therefore it is possible that some form of cooking could denature the toxins. However, being the skeptic that I am, I would have to observe several people eat them and watch their reactions over several hours. I can get over the fact that if you drown them in a bucket and lay them out their heads violently shake and an alien maggot pops out of their head, this is not only more insect protein but a good way to gross people out.

I would like to hear from anyone who has actually eaten this species.
John V. Mounger DVM
Bushnell, Florida


I'm looking at your newest mag cover, and think it's not only disgusting but very dangerous. My four-year-old grandson is playing nearby, and I will make sure he doesn't see it. Kids are imitating all the time, and I hate to think what would happen if he got a hold of a filthy cockroach, or worst a scorpion that abound in Tuscan. What were you thinking? Kids live in a dangerous world as it is. I do hope you are not hit with a number of lawsuits. Eating insects may be in our future, but not like your cover portrays. Give me a break. Disappointing for sure.
Stephen


I went to my mailbox in rural New York the other day and among my letters I was glad to see the latest Sierra magazine. But then I noticed to my horror and disgust the cover story, "Eat Your Bugs!" As a pro-Earth American, I find it irresponsible to encourage humans to once again exploit yet another innocent and oppressed species of the Earth.

The solution to our problems in human culture is not, I repeat not, exploitation of the other species of this planet. Maybe you should have thought about that before writing such a not-funny, mean article. By the way, I am an active member of the Sierra Club.
Loretta Abramaitis
Saranac Lake, New York


Despicable! What's next? "Eat your robins and hummingbirds!" "Special recipe: deep-fried hummingbirds."
Kitty Barr
Willits, California


I don't expect that many vegetarian environmentalists enjoyed seeing an aw-shucks cute little tyke munching on a bug on the cover or inside pages of Sierra magazine--particularly in an issue extolling the benefits of cycling!

A vegan diet will save untold gallons of water and land in comparison to meat production, and especially cattle production. If you couple that with organic growing, you also protect those saved waters from contamination by hormones, antibiotics and pesticides.

A simple article comparing production (including water, environmental, etc.) costs of various meat sources to bugs might have been an appropriate article. Your pictures and your cover most certainly were not. I'm thinking that my advocacy dollars would be better spent at PETA. Andrea Alagammai
Tucson, Arizona


I enjoy getting the Sierra Club magazine--very professionally done, outstanding photos. That said, I experienced real frustration on seeing the latest cover, with its reference to eating bugs. I recently heard an interview, on NPR, of an author of a book on bugs as food worldwide. He was, happily, quite balanced and reasonable about the subject. The Sierra cover, in contrast, looks "cute" and somewhat revolting at the same time. But my real frustration is that it conveys the strong impression that the club is out of touch with reality and caters to people who are, consequently, going to be as much the problem as the solution.

It would be a good thing, I think, to occasionally solicit honest feedback on the magazine from typical good-hearted Americans from conservative states--there are plenty of them out there.

Frank T. Fawcett

Best cover ever!
Herb Stein


Why is the girl on the cover in her underwear? My husband and I have been Sierra Club members for many, many years. When the most recent Sierra arrived I was shocked at the cover photo. The boy in the bug article has all his clothes on! You've struck a chord of outrage in me, that your organization would let this go to publication.

Janet Kazienko

After receiving the latest edition of Sierra, I was very disappointed that your magazine had an ad promoting leather boots (page 19) and an article about eating living beings (bugs) (page 28). A few months ago, I received my first magazine from you and was very surprised to see an ad promoting fishing!

As an ethical vegan, I do not believe in harming any living being and I am very disappointed that you would allow advertising that promotes torture, abuse and murder.
I will not be renewing my membership with your organization.
Miriam Chisholm


What was Bob Sipchen thinking (or smoking?) when he approved your July/August Sierra cover: "EAT YOUR BUGS!"

I have a sense of humor and admire and support a great deal of the current work of the organization, especially your activist opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

But you must have been aware that thousands of your members are vegetarians or vegans and that they would certainly be offended by that cover. I didn't have the stomach (no pun intended) to read the accompanying article. I was more than a little turned off by the cover. I can't imagine I was alone.

This sort of thing really doesn't help.
George Shea
Studio City, California


"Rise of the Plug-in Hybrids

Thanks for getting the word out on electric vehicles (EVs). As an owner of a Ford C-Max Energi, I agree with the author on the benefits of plug-in hybrids. I was a little confused, however, by the descriptions given. Both the Volt and Energi are hatchbacks with smallish cargo areas and fold-down rear seats that greatly increase cargo room. Yet, the description states this primarily in a positive way for the Volt ("two passengers can carry all the gear they need for a camping trip") and in a negative way for the Energi (to carry "plenty," "you have to 'kick out your passengers and fold down the rear seats"). In fact, the Energi has greater cargo and passenger space than the Volt. I was also confused as to why how fun the car is to drive is even a consideration. I would think safety would be a more important criterion to report. Again, the description for the Energi is puzzling. Any car driven at "seven tenths" causes the driver to become uncomfortable, by definition. All the cars in the report are excellent vehicles and have been reviewed by many automotive media outlets. Your choice of which reviews to quote is inexplicable.
Chris Oswald
Medford Oregon


Where was Tesla in your plug-in buyer's guide? Fisker made it and they are far from successful than Tesla is, so why omit them from your article? They are made USA and have paid back all federal loans, so why omit them from the article? Come on fellow " greenies," let's do a complete review and promote all electric plug-ins.
Preston Stedman
Sonoma County, California


If only everyone read Sierra Club magazine! When your July/August magazine arrived in my mailbox, the "Plug Your Car Into Your Roof" article immediately caught my attention, as I had thought of and mentioned this idea to multiple people, but it had been disregarded as impractical. Thank you for giving me the proof that it can be done! Additionally, as I continued to read through your excellent magazine, I came across Mr. Green's tips for hypermiling. Many of his tips I already use, and I hope that all readers of Sierra will also read and learn from his suggestions. One comment I would like to add is taking advantage of downhill roads, even those with inclines barely noticeable to the eye, by easing up on the accelerator pedal--it is surprising how many people always have their foot on the gas when an automatic transmission vehicle will keep the same speed without it! Changing my driving habits this way on my commute brought my instantaneous miles per gallon on slightly downhill sections of the road from about 56.6 mpg to 99.9 mpg (the highest number the display can read), and my average miles per gallon went up 2 mpg--and I stayed at the posted speed!
Kauri Jacob
Nicasio, California


I just read the article regarding electric vehicles and noted that the Tesla from Elon Musk was notably absent. (I am in no way affiliated with Tesla thereby incurring potential claims of bias). I was just struck that the omission of the Tesla was in this article. Are you planning on doing a special piece on the Tesla in an upcoming issue?

The only reason I can think of for not including the Tesla would be that it is 100 percent electric (since the others have some form of gasoline accompaniment.) Please advise as to the reason for the omission of Tesla.
Robert Hodge

[Editor's note: Our 2013 EV buyers' guide focused on plug-in hybrid models. Tesla was covered in our 2012 all-electric vehicle guide.]


Author Reed McManus, a self-described "lead-footed fast lane driver", presents in a positive light having made his normal 41-mile round-trip bus commute, instead in an electric Chevy Volt. Does this convey Sierra Club's energy perspective?! If all 30 passengers on his bus were to buy electric cars, there would be a major drop in energy consumption? That commuting from sprawling suburbia 20 miles away by electric car is comparable to living close to work and biking?
Josh Dickinson
Gainesville, Florida


Thank you for your article on plug in hybrid cars. One other option that you did not mention for the regular Prius and perhaps other cars is that you can have another battery system added that can plug in. There are at least several companies that add this battery pack which then charges the Prius battery. We have a 2007 Prius with a 3-year-old extra battery system that we purchased for about $4,000. We average 65 miles per gallon while the 2007 Prius by itself gets about 50 miles per gallon. There are probably bigger, newer plug in battery systems that do much better now. Our battery pack runs out of charge after around 40 miles.
Nancy Marling


Your EV buyers guide article made lots of sense, but neglected information on aftermarket EV plug-in kits that can be added to the hybrid Highlander, Escape, and Prius. Some companies are expanding beyond that as well to other hybrids models.

I bought a used 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid all-wheel-drive, planning to add a plug-in EV kit so I could charge at night and mostly use just electric drive traveling to and from work and traveling to and from town. I am now uncertain which kit to purchase and whether to do the installation myself or pay for it through the dealer. Some companies are disparaging each other's product and it makes it hard to know which is better, or at least how they truly compare.

I suspect there is a huge market for existing hybrids that could be converted to plug-ins at far less cost than of manufacturing new plug-in hybrids. Many people live in rural areas, as I do, and need the range of a full hybrid, but would also like to mostly run on electric power. We may add solar panels to our home to cover our plug-in hybrid, once converted, as well as other electricity demands. Solar companies suggest selling solar power back to the grid in the daytime at premium rates and recharging hybrids at night using discounted rates, and in that way pay off the solar system more quickly.

It may also be important to note that estimates are that hybrid vehicles will last more than twice as long as standard vehicles because of decreased stress on their components. Shifting more of them to plug-in status would benefit everyone over a longer period of time than simply their fuel efficiency.
Kenneth Renwick
Soulsbyville, California


Thank you for publishing the article on electric cars rather than yet another article (there are already several in this issue) on bicycling and/or river rafting, mountain climbing, etc.

I've been a Sierra Club member since sometime in the 1960s, but now, at 80-plus with two knee replacements and living on a Berkeley hill, I'm not about to get on any more bikes, so I'm not happy about being made to feel guilty about driving.

Give us golden oldies a break now and then, okay?
Renata Polt Schmitt
Berkeley, California


A Room With a View

A beautifully written article!
Ann Cromey


"Booming Out of Boom and Bust"

I was extremely disappointed in the latest issue of Sierra. The only article I cared to read was the one on oil and gas drilling on western U.S. public lands, although I did appreciate the insert on solar rooftop. When Joan Hamilton was editor, I read the magazine from cover to cover.

When we have such important opportunities as "Our Wild America" campaign or the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014, it seems strange that these are not being covered. Most of us could care less about eating bugs.
Marjorie Sill
Reno, Nevada


"Spout" (July/August)

In light of the smug tone of his piece, Mr. Rauber's Spout seemed aptly titled. While I agree with the mission of the Sierra Club, please spare me the Cyclist-as-Saint, Driver-as-Environmental-Scourge rhetoric. Self-satisfaction stifles dialogue, which in turn inhibits change.
Brian Green
Seattle, Washington


"Grapple" (July/August)

[In] the July/August issue of Sierra there is a short article on the remarkable Australian peacock spider (Maratus volans) in which you state, "Until recently, scientists believed the surrounding flaps enabled the spider to fly." While it is true that the original describer, Octavius Pickard-Cambridge (who named this spider Salticus volans in 1874) thought the flaps might serve to allow the spider to glide, like the so-called flying frog (figured by A.R. Wallace in his book The Malay Archipelago in 1869), flying fish, flying squirrel, or flying snake (none of which actually fly in the sense of a bird, bat, or flying insect). However it was fairly obvious since at least the late 1970s that the structure of the male peacock spider must be related to courtship. At that time the female was unknown, but the fact that the abdomen was brightly colored in the male suggested that it must be used in display. In addition it is difficult to see how a spider this small could effectively glide, let alone fly. Ballooning with silk (as most spiderlings and some small adult spiders do) would be at least as efficient and would require less energy. However it did take until the last few years to document the reality of this suspicion.

See http://peckhamia.com/peckhamia/PECKHAMIA_96.1.pdfÊand several later articles on related species.
David B. Richman
College Professor Emeritus
and former Curator of the Arthropod Museum
Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico


The short column "On the One Hand ... On the Other" in your July/August issue was offensive and revealed not only the ridiculousness of economic models but also the tunnel vision all too often present in simplistic pronouncements from some environmentalists. Did it occur to either side to address the issue of how these poor people and developing countries could afford to purchase or manufacture all of this air conditioning equipment? I understand that the point was to reveal how much damage all of that technology could do, but really, shouldn't reality at least have been mentioned?
Nancy McDowell
Winter, Wisconsin


Comfort Zone (July/August)

Sierra's Comfort Zone featured a good bad house--good because its environmental features, but bad as sprawl and as an aspiration for Club members, who should spend their money on better things, such as those advocated in the rest of the magazine.

Every positive feature of this wonderful house can be achieved in a more wonderful way in more affordable housing closer to transit with a walkable land use density.

Certainly the house deserves some coverage, but I would like to see articles on more affordable and sustainable living. It's possible that a smaller house with lower ceilings, a few heat leaks, and linked to minimal car use has less carbon footprint than a large, car-dependent house.
Sherman Lewis
Professor Emeritus, CSU Hayward
President, Hayward Area Planning Association


Two houses recently featured in Sierra are lauded for their innovative, green, energy-saving design. But nowhere is access mentioned. All it takes is one slip on an icy step--perhaps the one shown that has no handrail--and the penalties of not addressing this critical necessity will be apparent. All new construction should be ADA compliant.
Peggy Hartman
State College, Pennsylvania


General letters

During my something like 50 years of environmentalism and career, ending as a senior National Wildlife Refuge Manager, I've joined many environmental outfits including--at different times--National Audubon, the Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever, and National Wildlife Federation. Their magazines arrived and joined others in a pile. I found them quite uninteresting. It became a losing effort and chore to read them. So I gave up. Recently I joined Sierra Club, have received two issues and, wow are they interesting: well written, factual, relevant, nicely laid-out, etc. It is an excellent, informative magazine. I look forward to receiving it. Good work!
Dave Potter
Klamath Falls, Oregon


As a proud member of the club for the past four-plus decades, I have deeply believed in the principles and policies of the club. However, I am increasingly concerned about the coverage in Sierra magazine.

I have two concerns regarding the club's approach to climate change. First you oppose all "nonrenewable" sources including nuclear energy and even new dams. The March/April issue of Sierra attributes 3 percent of electricity generation to wind and another 1 percent to all other renewables. Since electricity accounts for less than 50 percent of total energy consumption, the club's approach is utterly impractical.

My second and more serious problem relates to your neglect of the concept of personal responsibility. There is little discussion of the way we could all support bicycling, walking, public transportation, living in smaller houses, manage our thermostats, buy fewer motor homes and other energy driven toys, as if technology should solve all our problems and personal sacrifice is unnecessary. We have a monumental problem of reducing our footprint by 80 percent in 40 years and while re-purposing an old bicycle tube into a belt is amusing, it will not help us get there.
Vidya Kale
Lake Oswego, Oregon

 

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