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Sierra Magazine: Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.
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SPOUT | Rant, React, Chat, Blather

North and South

Antarctica National Geographic/SuperStock

This issue of Sierra takes readers to the top of the world and the bottom of the world. A few editors here have been calling it the "Bipolar Issue," and at the risk of sounding insensitive to a serious illness, let me suggest that the mix of stories could indeed trigger mood swings.

Some readers, for example, may fixate on the frightening pace of climate disruption at the northern pole of our planet. Given how fast the world is changing, it's easy to fall into despair. For humans to behave in a way that leads to the melting of glaciers and permafrost up north and ever-more-severe and ever-more-frequent droughts and hurricanes farther south suggests that our species has lost its survival instinct. Dodo dumb, we deserve everything nature is throwing at us.

Misanthropic self-loathing doesn't get us far, though. So I encourage you to view the magazine from a different perspective.

In describing his ongoing exploration of the Alaskan Arctic ("In Beringia"), Edward Readicker-Henderson laments the rapidly melting permafrost—"a horror film on fast-forward." Depressing. But in his obsession with exploring the mystery of how monumental changes to habitat affected the mammoth's extinction, he creatively confronts our own climate crisis. The mammoth had no control over its fate. We do have control over ours. And I, for one, cannot help coming away hopeful from a story that describes Arctic blueberries as "what sunshine would taste like if it were edible and blue."

No doubt a cross section of grumps will grouse that Ben Shook's Antarctic ski adventure ("Heaven Is Made of Ice") symbolizes the sort of fuel-consuming recklessness that has pushed us to the brink of climate crisis. I prefer to see joie de vivre coupled with raw courage. My conclusion: If even a few of us have the nerve and ingenuity to ski glaciers and kitesurf frigid waters, we must have the gumption to save ourselves from climate disruption. Read Paul Rauber's story ("Solar for All") on the encouraging economics of solar power, and you'll realize we're already on our way. —Bob Sipchen, editor in chief


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