Letters to the Editor

Readers respond to Sierra's issue on gender, population, and the environment


December 28, 2019


Photo by Etinosa Yvonne

We received an unusual volume of letters in response to Sierra's November/December 2019 edition, which was a special themed issue on gender, population, and the environment. Here they are in full:


An Anti-Environmental Agenda?

Wendy Becktold’s November/December 2019 Sierra “Time to Fix the Population Fixation” article states, “the data on population trends is more nuanced than many environmentalists realize...”

There is nothing nuanced about possibly peaking at 10.9 billion people. In fact, there is nothing nuanced about the current 7.7 billion, which is already far too many for this planet to accommodate with any reasonable trade-offs between environmental preservation and quality of life. 

The author asserts that thinking has “evolved” since the (pejoratively dismissed) “population-bomb mentality of the 1960s and '70s” when people feared that exploding numbers would lead to ecological collapse and starvation. Undoubtedly, some thinking has changed and not all of the details, timing, and other specifics of the predictions made were accurate. But the basic premise and basic fact remains unchanged. Climate change is an ecological catastrophe in progress and dramatically increasing population numbers (more than doubled since 1970) are a significant contributing factor to that disaster. Denying facts that one does not wish to be true, in the face of overwhelming evidence, is the mentality demonstrated by climate change deniers. It has no place in the environmental movement.

Clearly the author believes that a focus (“fixation”) on overpopulation is a “myopic, outdated” concept, but to then link environmental concerns about overpopulation to extremist shootings targeting immigrants is dipping to the lowest depths.  The author asserts that the killers in New Zealand and El Paso cited overpopulation and environmental degradation as justification for their heinous actions, then uses that assertion to paint anyone concerned about overpopulation as a party to “eco-fascist rhetoric”, just at a less extreme level. By that standard, anyone with environmental concerns is of the same ilk, since the killers apparently also apparently referred to environmental degradation as justifications. 

Linking these killers to environmentalists concerned about overpopulation is disingenuous and suggests an agenda at odds with environmentalism. What is the author’s real agenda?

Ed Sybesma
Newport Beach, California


To the editors:

A whole Sierra magazine dedicated to population questions looked promising; however, nice graphics and reassuring words are no substitute for good research and honesty. While birthrates are down worldwide, a population increase of 28% is predicted worldwide by 2050. That means about 82 million more people every year. For reference, Sacramento's population is about half a million. Picture 164 new cities—every year—of half a million, needing food, water, housing, etc. Some of them will be here. Maybe we can fill in that annoying open space between the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Or how about the Central Valley, where population is growing fast. Who needs food?

The lead article poo-poos the 1970s population/sustainability predictions. True, the general ecological disaster did not happen then; we are seeing it now. A large reason for the delay was the “green revolution,” with its enormously productive plants. Looking just at India, famine was averted and huge crops ensued. But great damage was also done. Previously, farmers planted a variety of crops; some did well in drought, some in heat etc. The monoculture that followed eliminated those 250 or so plants, and relied on heavy inputs of chemical fertilizer and pesticides, plus much more water than used previously. Now the wells are running dry, the deadened soil requires the chemicals (which have caused illness and deaths), and the chemicals have become unaffordable. Farmers are committing suicide in great numbers. And the population is larger than before.

Sierra's article goes on to imply that concern about population growth leads to racism and violence. This is absurd and irresponsible, though a useful move if you want to suppress real dialogue. As for responsibility for climate change: yes, it's us, in the developed world. But that doesn't mean population growth in less developed countries is harmless. They lose farmland to development, creating hunger and desperation.

The UN Conference on Population and Development took a seemingly admirable stand for women's rights. Unfortunately, that stand didn't include anything practical about achieving such rights, because of pressure from the Catholic Church and some Islamic groups. After 1994, “right to choose” changed. Previously it had meant the right to choose an abortion; afterward it meant the “right” to have as many children as a couple chose.

Back in 1970, the US population was about 205 million—an almost sustainable number. It is now 330 million, and currently grows by about 1,839,600/year. Birthrates are well below replacement; most present growth comes from immigration. This raises the supremely difficult problem (ignored by Sierra) of how many people we can sustainably take. Africa's population, for instance, is expected to grow by one billion by 2050, and—theoretically—add another 2.8 billion by 2100. Africa can't support all these people, and no country can take in so many in. And it would endanger women's rights to take in very many from cultures that consider women about the way we consider the family dog. At present we feel, properly, guilty at our own prosperity, given hardship elsewhere—hardship often enough created by American foreign and economic policies. Right now our grocery stores are bulging with food. This, however, will not continue indefinitely. Industrial agriculture depends on those same pesticides and fertilizers and heavy water use that the Green Revolution depends on. We are looking at the end of cheap fossil fuels (source of chemical fertilizer—without which, 2 out of 5 people on the planet would not currently be here); we are drawing down irreplaceable water sources; we are paving over/killing/eroding huge areas of irreplaceable farmland; and we can expect ever more severe heat, drought, and destructive floods with climate change, with much lower crop yields and millions of internal climate refugees because of sea level rise.

These are some topics an honest look at population should address. Sierra fell flat. Maybe a good reading list would help:

Countdown, by Alan Weisman, 2013

The End of Plenty, by Joel Bourne Jr., 2015

Plan B, by Lester Brown, 2003

Life on the Brink, edited by Cafero and Crist, 2012

Oil, Power, and War, by Auzanneau 2018

The Vegetarian Myth, by Lierre Keith,

Hell and High Water, by Joseph Romm, 2007

Flooded Earth, by Peter Ward, 2010

essential website: Albert Bartlett: Arithmetic, Population, and Energy


Olivia Eielson


I've been a Sierra Club member since 1974 and have second guessed very little within the pages of Sierra. Indeed, I have found it to be an incredible publication, full of interesting, informative and inspiring content for 45 years. "The Trail Is Her Runway" brings an end to that streak, not because of Wyn/Pattie's sexual persuasion but because it was a distraction of extraordinary magnitude. A profile of his/her cleanup efforts, PSAs and outdoor experiences may have been worth a brief mention, I did not need to hear about drag fashion, "surfing in heels", her wedding to herself, or her "celebration of gender fluidity." Let's get back to Sierra's mission and leave the politics and sociology of sexual persuasion to the media outlets where it is more appropriately discussed.

John Frederick
Tyrone, PA


Dear Wendy,

I have just read your editorial and have several comments.

The fact that the United Nations projects world population to peak at nearly 11 billion in 2100 is a pretty scary statistic. Already the globe is having too much trouble handling the nearly 8 billion people we have now. Do you really think there is hope of saving the other lives on our planet with an even larger population? Let’s just take birds for example: The estimate is we have lost 3 billion, or 1/3 of our bird populations since the 1970s. Does that not send a chill down your spine?

I don’t need to remind anyone of the chain reaction of any one particular ecological catastrophe’s influence on all other ecologies. I grew up with “The Population Bomb” and consciously decided not to have children and think many, many other people should have less children, rich and poor. Because I didn’t, there is less generated trash, less consumption of food, clothing, electronics. Less consumption and pollution from power plants, less mining for precious metals and/or other things mined. Less of all the things we rich nations use. Please don’t “OK Boomer” me and, no I don’t want a pat on the back. You don’t know the relief I feel for not having to watch “my children” inherit our ecological problems.

The consequences of crowding have been studied for ages. I learned about them in Sociology 101 back in the '70s. In two words: stress, violence. An uptick is seen everywhere, as you mentioned. Racism, mass shootings, fear of “other” because of culture, religion, politics. I don’t see how a few more billion people on this planet is going to lessen these things, educated or not.

Well I could go on, but I agree education is a piece to the solution. Not just women, especially in developing nations, not just women. Men need a lot!!! Children need more! Unfortunately, education in and of itself will not cause the have-nots to not want what we the rich, have. How do you fix that?

What is the Sierra Club doing toward this? OK Trump has cut funding for birth control. Can the Sierra Club step in, just a little? Can the Sierra Club give money to organizations already up and running with solutions to these problems, such as Heifer? Can the Sierra Club encourage its younger members to think about having children? To not say, “Well we are having 3 (or 4) because we can afford them?  No, WE cannot afford that many.

Though sometimes, as a “senior” I feel a little left behind in the Sierra Club’s focus these days, I think your focusing on younger generations is the only way to go. But no one can be let off the hook. So keep fixating on the population problem. No pun intended, it is our globe’s largest and most alarming problem.

Thank you, 

Janet Haw


I am so glad that the Sierra Club has addressed the elephant in the room of global warming—human population growth. Nothing will change for the better in this world if the population continues to grow at the rate it is now. From 1968 to 1979, the population grew by about 75 million people annually. From 1980 to 2018, the population grew by about 80 million a year.

In addition to this growth, the people living in poverty in many developing countries deserve better conditions. They should have clean water at or near their home, electric energy (hopefully solar), medical care for all (including contraceptives), and education for all. These things will have a huge demand on resources and land just for the people living now, much less several more billion in the immediate future.

I urge all members of the Sierra Club to keep this in mind in their thoughts and actions.

John Fayant
Camdenton, MO


To fix "fixations," please confront concerns and avoid epithets. 

Thanks for the thought-provoking editorial "Time to Fix the Population Fixation." Unfortunately, this editorial (1) downplays key facts and concerns and (2) at one point uses the very sort of dubious rhetoric which it attacks.   

(1)  As the editorial correctly implies, sustainability and a sound environment for our finite planet require limits not only on population but also on per-capita consumption. And yes, we all greatly benefit from a trend toward long-overdue empowerment of women. But the editorial’s bubbly optimism, which banks on this trend, is just as dubious and speculative as the pessimism of a currently unfashionable "population bomb mentality." The editorial notes climate effects (via greenhouse gas emissions) of high per-capita consumption, but fails to note that both over-population and over-consumption have grave impacts even absent climate effects. These impacts in Africa are degrading land and water resources for basic sustenance food production. The editorial leaves unexplained how empowered women and eventual stable global population will slow the African population explosion soon enough to prevent massive famine.  

(2) Yes, mass killers in El Paso and New Zealand gave "overpopulation and environmental degradation as reasons to target immigrants." The editorial then states, "Such eco-fascist rhetoric has no place in the environmental movement." This statement itself is dubious rhetoric. Serious concerns—such as overpopulation and environmental degradation—are not mere "rhetoric," nor does the vague epithet "eco-fascist" enlighten us about them. These concerns are not made less worthy of careful discussion just because a killer cynically claims them as "reasons’ for killing." By the way, compared with Europe, it’s easy in the USA or NZ to righteously apply the epithet "fascist" to notions of immigration restriction. After all, as a proportion of local population, annual immigration—"legal" or not—into the USA or NZ is small. But Europe faces unprecedented impacts from massive and accelerating immigration from the failing environments and states of Africa and the Mideast.  

Joe Weinstein
Long Beach, California


Dear Sierra editor,

With respect to the climate crisis, Sierra's call to "fix the population fixation" is dramatically flawed. While per-capita greenhouse gas emissions are far lower in developing nations than in the developed countries, citizens of the more populated developing nations reasonably aspire to a Western living standard. Moreover, the fact that China recently overtook the US as the world leader in annual greenhouse gas emissions demonstrates the sheer impact of population in driving emissions, as China's per-capita emissions are an order of magnitude lower than in the US.

Of crucial importance is the intergenerational multiplier impact of having fewer children. As reported in The Guardian more than two years ago, a study conducted by Swedish and Canadian researchers (published in the journal Environmental Research Letters on July 12, 2017) demonstrates that by far the most important action citizens of advanced countries can take to lower their climate impacts is to have fewer children: Having one less child avoids more than 58 tons of CO2-equivalent per person per year (the next best action—living car-free—avoids just 2.4 tons, and the top 10 alternative lifestyle changes total less than nine tons per person per year). Citizens of advanced countries entering their child-bearing years should realize that the best way to reduce their climate impacts is to have fewer children than their parents and grandparents did; this, in turn, will set an example hopefully to be emulated in the Third World.

Reducing population and cutting per-capita emissions are mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive, but the former is far more important due to the intergenerational multiplier effect.    


Charles Goodman
Sacramento, California


Dear editor,

I imagine you will get a lot of push-back from people wondering where the environmental concerns are in your November issue, so I want you to know that I heartily approve. Those who think that Sierra is veering off topic with articles about social justice need to understand that we have no chance of saving this precious planet of ours without bringing along ALL people. 

I especially appreciated the articles discussing the population versus consumption debate. It's both—population times consumption—especially if you are a rich westerner. If you are poor it is not hard to understand that your children have a better chance if they are few in number. I learned that as a child in Ghana in the 1970s, where my mother ran a "well-baby" and family planning clinic. The two—healthy babies and planned babies—go together!  

My response to Katie O'Reilly's article "To Have or Not to Have" is that people who put as much thought into that decision and still decide to have kids are the ones who OUGHT to, because they are the ones who will give their kids the attention they deserve. I myself have chosen to have none, for the sake of other people's babies, but the next generation has to come from somewhere. What we need to get rid of is the expectation that everyone has to procreate, as if we owe it to our parents and society. There are many other ways to pay it forward.


Lois Braun
Falcon Heights, Minnesota


Your most recent issue, "The Planet is in Crisis. SHE Has Solutions," is timely and appreciated. I poured over every article and was thankful for the many kernels of hope found therein. A special call out to Katie O'Reilly for her contribution, To Have or Not to Have. As a 35-year-old woman in perpetual climate grief, I have been mired in similar spiraling thoughts and indecision but have felt that my personal issues are a drop in the vast sea of climate crises. It's a comfort to know others feel the same way. 

Erin Paulson
Brooklyn, New York


Dear Sierra Club,

Your last issue leaves me wondering if you have any pro-life people on staff. If so, they could have pointed out some inaccuracies.

The restriction of family planning funds only going to agencies that do not perform or refer for abortions has for decades been known as the “Mexico City Policy.” I’ve never heard it called the global gag rule before.

Today’s natural family planning is not the rhythm method. It is more sophisticated and more effective.

A great many pro-life people, perhaps a majority of them, support the use of contraception. Your magazine does a disservice by pretending they don’t even exist.

A new member of our species, scientifically speaking, is created at conception not implantation. You can play with words and say pregnancy begins at implantation, but that does not change the fact that killing the embryo before implantation is just as much an abortion as killing it after implantation.

I wish the Sierra Club would seek input from pro-life environmentalists. In order to fight climate change, we need “all hands on deck” and we cannot afford to alienate the 40% or more Americans who are pro-life.

You might have discussed why the Mexico City Policy is a failure (pg 19 abortions rose by 40% in the most affected regions). I believe it fails for two reasons. First, the Republican politicians are not pro-life. They do not care whether the policy raises or lowers the number of abortions. They just want to hoodwink sincere but naive pro-life voters into supporting them. And second, because the family planning agencies (like Marie Stopes) are more committed to promoting abortion than meeting women’s needs. 

Your article implies that many family planning dollars are available but left unspent. Is that really true? How much exactly is still available (millions?), and how can we apply for it? Surely the environmental community should step up and make sure that money gets spent, since, as the article states, family planning is a powerful tool against climate change.

Finally, it is ironic that the Sierra Club strives to protect the planet for future generations but seems to support the killing of members of the next generation. It would be far better for the club to be neutral on abortion and welcoming to all people, even those who think all you have to do to be human is to be a Homo sapien.


Robert Synk
Grand Rapids, Minnesota


Wendy Becktold's point ("Time to Fix the Population Fixation") is well stated, but it is not necessary to take the spotlight off the population problem just to take the focus off some people's unhelpful approach. It must be understood that every additional person added to the population directly affects consumption and adds to the challenges of education, women's rights, and contraception. It is literally the beginning of all our problems and adds to the complexities. While it is wise to simultaneously address our lifestyles and cultural inadequacies, addressing the root problem of population growth is the easiest way to help the other issues. We simply cannot keep going like this with or without progress in the other areas. We need to end the societal pressure to have children, boost personal responsibility and related education on the matter, and any stigmas attached to contraception. 

Thank you, 

Murray Neill
Sequim, Washington


The Sierra Club’s special issue on gender, equity, and climate change is one of the most informative and interesting magazines I have read, and I read it cover to cover. The level of information and presentation was academic yet easy to read and done in an entertaining manner, in the sense that I learned something new (and in some cases, shocking) in each paragraph. I shared many links to your site with copies of various articles from this issue on social media and hope that readers are equally moved and outraged by the news you reported. Thank you.

Gabriela Green
San Diego, California


Hello Sierra Club employee/volunteer,

I was hoping to make a correction to an article titled "Mandatory Maternity." I am a strong supporter for contraceptive access and more education on reproductive health and cycles. However, I am also a strong supporter of natural family planning as a natural method of preventing pregnancies. NFP is NOT the rhythm method and has an efficacy rate of 98% if used properly. NFP classes teach women how their cycles work, the hormones involved, and how to scientifically pinpoint ovulation so that pregnancy is avoided. As a Catholic married graduate student, I have successfully used this method for two years. Catholics don't want women to pop out babies all life long—they just want the "deed" to be natural. Again, I am not disagreeing with the article, I just wanted to point out the misrepresentation of Catholic teachings about reproduction and what NFP was as a family planning method. 

This is a wonderful organization and I adore the magazine. I just wanted to make a correction because I also love my church! 

Thank you for your time, and I'm genuinely excited for next month's edition.

Megan Brockman
Lexington, Kentucky


Hello, my name is Carmen Enciso-Steinberg. I have been a member of the Sierra Club for a number of years. Primarily I'm a member because of the beautiful calendar you put out each year, which has consistently been on my kitchen refrigerator reminding me of the beauty of the world and to go outside and enjoy it and protected. When my children were younger there was a woman in my local Sierra Club chapter who led weekly child-friendly hikes which I attended regularly. It was a great way of creating community and enjoying nature while spending time with the kids and also with other adults. This woman is still part of my community.

While I know that you have made some efforts to involve people of color, it seems to me like they have not been enough. I also seem to recall that at one point you were very much against immigration. In spite of this, I've maintained my membership with the Sierra Club. I received your magazine regularly and sometimes read it, but most times I don't. However, when I saw the cover for the last issue, I made it a priority to read it right away. It almost brought me to tears, I felt seen as a woman and a person of color. I am so enjoying this magazine I think I will actually keep it as a historical treasure. Thank you so much for having the courage to tell these stories and painting a more complete picture of what environmental protection is about. Interesting last week, I was at the YWCA Inspire Luncheon where Dolores Huerta was the main speaker. You might want to consider doing a story on her.

With gratitude, 

Carmen Enciso-Steinberg


It was so provocative and enlightening. The intersection between women’s issues, global warming, and global health became so clear. Thank you!

Annie Phillips
Seattle, Washington


I'm disappointed that the Sierra Club doesn't speak up about the environmental problems caused by illegal immigrants crossing our southern border. The huge amounts of trash left as well as other forms of environmental destruction is horrible. 

Spurred by the recent scientific findings that a football field worth of nature is lost every 30 seconds in the United States, Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced a non-binding resolution (S.Res.372) to give a "sense of the Senate" that conserving 30 percent of the territory of the United States by 2030 should be a national goal.  Unfortunately, the resolution does not address the elephant in the room: US population growth, driven almost entirely by immigration, is projected to add 79 million more people between 2017 and 2060. The threats to open space and nature flow from that projected population growth.

Also, see https://www.numbersusa.com/news/lawsuit-charges-environmental-impacts-high-legal-illegal-immigration-ignored 

You know the problems of illegal immigration, yet you don't speak out? Seems like some big money interest is stopping you from doing what you know is right.

Thank you for what you do. Please stop looking the other way at a major problem—immigration and overpopulation.

Chip Dwyre


Dear Wendy Becktold,

Thank you for writing this article. It was well versed and makes a great point. 

Too often people are quick to point fingers rather than be a part of a solution. People don't realize what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes, especially when it's across the world and completely out of touch with your culture. Some people are in positions where they can only focus on putting food on their table that day. If they're able to even look beyond that to fix a global problem, that's amazing in my book. 

As Americans, we consume more than any other country in the world and are quick to blame China or India for being big polluters. But in essence, where do our products come from? And American companies sent their manufacturing plants overseas so that they can increase profits in the name of looser regulations. So who is really to blame? We have the means and lifestyle to make the biggest difference. We have always been a global leader and are certainly able to become the leader again when it comes to innovation on the climate crisis. But it starts with accountability, not pointing fingers. 

Thank you,

Leslie Wallace
Riverview, Florida


Dear editors

For the first time, I read every article in the Sierra magazine. I've been receiving it for several years and typically would read a couple of articles that caught my attention. This time, they all did! Little did I know that I had conducted a personal experiment. It wasn't until I was halfway through that I saw that the focus was on women and was extra inclusive of female writers/photographers. When magazines are just as inclusive of women journalists and focus on women's issues, they are catching a broader net for Sierra supporters. Please keep the female persuasion in your thoughts in future issues.

Thank you!

Jennifer Banas 
Chicago, Illinois



Instead of Ms. Green, how about Mr. and Ms. Green? Or the Green Family? Environmental issues are and should be gender-free. Both genders have expertise in this. 

Mark Maller


While I am opposed to actions taken by the Trump administration limiting access to birth control, I am very disturbed by the article “Mandatory Maternity,” which denigrates anyone or any group with positions different from the author's, including inflammatory statements designed to demonize all such opponents. In short, the author sounds like Trump, just on the other side of the fence. If we ever want to move toward a more civil society or change peoples’ minds, whether on the subject of access to birth control or actions necessary to mitigate climate change, we have to put away our flame throwers and engage in more productive forms of communication.

Betsy Darken
Chattanooga, Tennessee


I am appreciative of and impressed with your woman-themed November/December issue. I’m disappointed, though, by your lapse on page 16. The person who told her tale of almost getting into trouble with a bear is a woman, but the expert you called upon to tell her what she should have done is a man. This is an unfortunate and unnecessary reinforcement of “traditional” roles and stereotypes. You should have contacted a female black bear expert. There are plenty around, such as Jen Vashon, state bear biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Colleen Olfenbuttel, state bear biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, and Laura Conlee, state bear biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Sue Booth-Binczik, wildlife biologist
Glenville, New York


When I sent my donation to the Sierra Club, I thought I was donating to protect the planet and the animals that exist on this planet. After reading the Sierra magazine, I realize your "club" is a farce. What does a drag star have to do with protecting the planet? I now know you are a political "club." Please remove my name from your mailing list! 

Brenda Jacobs


I want to thank you very much for the terrific edition of the magazine, written and about women and girls and the need to save the world from even more disastrous climate change. I suspect you are going to get (more than usual) negative responses from those who have a narrow view of the crisis we are facing. My husband is a lifetime member, and we have given gifts to three of our family of lifetime memberships. That’s how much we value the work of the Sierra Club.

Thank you again for this outstanding November magazine. (BTW, we’ve brought it to the attention of Nigerian friends, who really appreciate something positive being said of their home.)


Susan Weltman


Please print the following letter in Sierra. Thank you.

"Time to Fix the Population Fixation" does far more harm than good by belittling the impact of population on our planet. Population is the elephant in the room that almost no one wants to confront head on. Our impact on planet Earth is directly proportional to our population. While people in industrialized nations disproportionately degrade our environment, overpopulation in agricultural societies still causes habitat destruction, deforestation, and species extinction. We are already severely degrading all of our environmental systems; we can't add another 35% to the human population without catastrophe.  

Sadly, the Sierra Club's population policy is anemic at best. Vague platitudes on access to family planning and educating women de-emphasize the crisis. The Sierra Club should begin by acknowledging that we have overshot our carrying capacity by billions of people and advocate for an economic system that does not rely on growth, so there is no "need" for a greater population. In the United States, the Club should call for the elimination of the child tax credit for future births of more than two children per couple. And it should promote an immigration and adoption policy such that the US does not serve as a release valve for countries with backward population policies. If our mission is to protect the planet, it's time to get serious.

Steve Lachman, PhD, Esq.
State College, Pennsylvania


As a 40-year club member, I was saddened to read the editorial in the Nov/Dec Sierra magazine. There are numerous better and more effective organizations to pursue social equity goals. Instead, the Sierra Club is uniquely positioned to be the greatest defender of the environment. But, alas, that editorial demonstrates that the club has lost its focus, blurring its mission to the detriment of the earth's few remaining wildlands.

It is the unrelenting pressure of population growth that is destroying the last vestiges of wilderness in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. The poachers who kill the endangered rhinos or tigers are not evil. Rather, they are in desperate need to feed their 5 or 6 kids back in the village. And this, only after their tribe's five-fold population growth has degraded what little farmland remains outside of the preserve. Demographics is destiny.


Michael Henn
Piedmont, California


I seen what u sent about the wall. I don't understand why you're saying they are hiding this from us cause I've already seen this wall. I know many others who have seen this wall as well. I think we need this wall to protect our people from illegal immigrants. Our politicians live in gated places, so what's wrong with protecting all Americans not just the highest paid Americans? If you look around the world, you will see that almost all countries have a border wall of some kind that u have to go through to get to the next country. Why should America be the only country that people can walk right into and steal our jobs, kill our kids, rape our women, and then be able to get off with our legal system and not have to go to jail, Or be deported? I'm sorry, but I don't believe in everything that you are putting out. Some I do, but this one is not true and I'm sorry but we need this as a country if we gonna survive. If not, we will be overrun by illegal immigrants, and not one American citizen will have a sanctuary anywhere. Is that what you want? I don't. I want a safe place for my children to grow up and my grandchildren and so on. I don't want to be scared to take my kids to the park cause if I get attacked or God forbid killed or my kids get hurt or killed and the illegal immigrants that are responsible for these crimes get to walk away with no consequences. If u wanna live that way, then by all means go live in Mexico or North Korea. As for America, it's supposed to protect the real American people first, then if they hold thru the proper channels and become an American citizen, then they can be protected as well. I don't believe that we should be protecting illegal immigrants before our own veterans and Americans. Please feel free to answer me back if you can prove me wrong on this, but even the media has ran news on illegal immigrants getting off free with no punishment or consequences for the gruesome crimes some have committed. 

Thank you, but this border wall secret you are trying to push is a lie all the way around. 

Brandy Blizzard


Time to fix the population UNAWARENESS! 

Time to fix the population fixation


Sorry, I found this reasoning fatuous, implying that our carbon footprint is an offsetting justification for overpopulation. So one average middle class American has more environmental impact than a woman in Uganda with seven children.


Yet now! What of the human tragedy: malnourished as an infant, delayed growth and retarded brain development, marginal education, a wanton existence, without opportunities in a country where one struggles for a subsistent survival?

Carbon footprint is important for all of us, yet only one of many parameters to consider. The much larger number needs to be applied to the “human footprint.”

Yes, the human footprint being one that looks at life and life’s opportunities, the potential for future joy and happiness.

Circling back: No! It is not time to "fix the HUMAN population fixation" but rather wake up THE HUMAN POPULATION and bring it into our daily thinking and act with urgency to stop populating with no thought for tomorrow.

Michael Murphy
Concord, MA


Before I begin, let me say that I detest Trump and his attempts to destroy the environment. I have long supported the Sierra Club and its mission through membership and other donations. However, this will no longer be the case. The article "Mandatory Maternity" by Summer Brennan is not worthy of you. It is a screed attacking basic morality (the foundation of a civil society) and implies that sex for its own sake is OK (it isn't). Brennan implies that procreation and maternity is an unwelcome result of sex for many woman. Therefore just get an abortion to eradicate the unwanted results. I will not muddy the waters by addressing the issue of contraceptives and will address only abortion. I am a practicing Catholic (another group Brennan attacks). I accept as truth that at conception a human being is created. To abort is indeed murder. I accept this not only because the Church says so. I accept this based on common sense. A fertilized ovum (zygote) has all the chromosomes needed to develop into a human being. Thus it is life—a living being. At 5 to 6 weeks, the embryo (fetus) has electrical brain activity. If a lack of brain activity can serve as a legal definition for death, then it stands to reason that a sign of brain activity must indicate life! Also around this time there is a heartbeat, though it cannot yet be heard. Studies indicate that at around 8 weeks the fetus can feel pain. All this tells me that what is in the womb is a living human. The term "reproductive health" is disingenuous and a fraud. A woman has unprotected sex and kills the result of her actions because she doesn't want a baby. Nothing more than abortion as a form of birth control. Lastly, I want the Sierra Club to defend their support for federal legal protection for nesting birds and their eggs (MBTA), but not complete protection for a human in the womb. Since when is the egg of a developing bird more important than a developing human? 

Tony Sarcone
Forest Hill, Maryland


The Sierra Club’s continued focus on population and consumerism (Nov/Dec 2019) and overpopulation (July/Aug 2019) is laudable. Yet nowhere in the discussions is there any mention of one of mankind’s greatest natural human resources. This resource is human milk. A mother who breastfeeds does not use any cow’s milk with its methane gas impact and use of water and land. There is no production of manmade formula using water, electricity, plastic, and metal components. There is no transportation to markets of formula or baby bottles and artificial nipples. Then there are the waste materials from packaging and again water and electricity to sterilize the feeding paraphernalia. A woman who totally breastfeeds needs none of the above. Nor does she need an electric breast pump, which has become the fashionable gadget to acquire. She needs the support of her partner and society to carve out the time to devote herself to the environmentally sustainable act of breastfeeding. Overconsumption, consumerism, and environmental impact are the results of the use of artificial infant feeding. Decades of research on human milk have proven the many benefits to babies, to mothers, and economically to families. It is high time we also focus on the great environmental benefits of human milk.   

Jean Hoelscher
San Angelo, Texas 


Hello Sierra magazine,

I'm sitting here with my mouth agape after reading "Time to Fix the Population Fixation" by your senior story editor Wendy Becktold. I agree with the main premise of the article, that hyper consumption is more of a problem than population, but we need to address both, not flag one and ignore the other. Overpopulation is fundamental. If you get enough people here consuming resources and space, it doesn't matter how good their consumptive habits are. We need to address both consumption and population. That's my first gripe with the article. The tone of the article is that we can turn a blind eye to population because we have a consumption problem. That's wrong.

My second gripe with the article is that Ms. Becktold has an irritating feminist agenda that is spilling out all over the place. Feminism is not environmentalism, and she is confusing the two. It's a team effort. In her article, she uses female nouns and pronouns dozens of times and not once mentions anything or anyone male. Not once. She even went so far as to say "We are publishing this themed issue on the intersection between gender equity and population with the hope of sparking a conversation that is better informed and also female-led. . . which is why we enlisted an all-women roster of writers, photographers, and illustrators." What part of that has anything to do with gender equity? Does healthy discourse on the topic require the stamping out of all male influence or mention? It's ridiculous. In the same article, she decries "myopic, outdated ideas." What is more myopic than an article that tries to pretend men do not exist? Is she angry that men have dominated societies to prehistoric times and she's trying to right old wrongs by tipping the scales in the other direction? She mentions that "eco-fascist rhetoric has no place in the environmental movement." I agree. I also think that sexual-fascist rhetoric also has no place in the environmental movement, because like it or not, we're in this together.

Kent Lawrence
Chandler, Arizona


I was dismayed by the tone of Wendy Becktold's lead opinion piece in the November/December magazine. I am tired of widespread assumptions that if I am worried about human population, it must be because I am racist. Rather than dwelling on this inappropriate reason for concern, it is important to stress the many valid reasons for concern about population.

Yes, people in developing nations consume less than those of us who are more privileged. But this does not comfort me, because their consumption could very appropriately increase. I base my view of a sustainable population on one in which all people in the world enjoy similar access to resources for health, education, clothing, shelter, personal safety and leisure time. Yes, the consumption of richer nations could decrease, but even if it went down to zero, human consumption would be barely sustainable and would have to increase since people would validly need more. I recommend checking data available from the Ecological Footprint Network.

I am not reassured by projections that human population could stabilize at close to 11 billion, when I think a sustainable level of population—one that would allow for a reasonable standard of living for all as well as sufficient resources left for sustainable coexistence of the other living beings with whom we share this planet—would be more like 3 billion.

I am glad you note that many families would have fewer children if they had better knowledge and availability of affordable contraception. The solution does not have to involve coercion. And we need to stop thinking of the problem as a women's problem. Although women bear most of the burden of having and caring for children, men also make family-planning decisions and need to be part of the discussion. In fact, some families would be smaller if men's egos were less tied to their ability to procreate.

It is also worth noting that while the rate of growth has declined in percentage terms, it has not declined in terms of the number of years it takes to add another billion people to the planet. My "population fixation" has hardly been "fixed." I hope the Sierra Club will give appropriate attention to the seriousness of the burden of human population on our limited planet.

Beth Blattenberger, 
Salt Lake City


Dear Sierra,

In 1970, the world population was 3.7 billion and the US population was 203 million. At that time, I thought those population values were too high and unsustainable. I was at that time a member of groups like Zero Population Growth because of my concerns.

Now the world population is ~7.7 billion and the US population is ~327 million. From my perspective, the addition of ~4 billion to the world population and ~125 million to the US population has not made the world a better place.

The world is going through a mass extinction event that is substantially related to the increased human population. More people require more food, which corresponds to more extensive and intensive use of the earth to provide that food. We’re rapidly depleting valuable fossil water and losing soil from erosion in our efforts to increase food production. Those degenerative processes have long-term consequences.

Exacerbating the growing population is a general increase in the per-capita consumption level of that population. That is helping to deplete valuable resources and is leading to accelerated global warming, which will have a negative effect upon agriculture and populations.

On page 31, it states that the good news is that population growth is slowing and the population will only rise to 10.9 billion in 2100. For some reason, I don’t feel comforted by that. There are too many humans on the planet now and another ~3.2 billion won’t improve the situation.

Roger Blanchard,
Sault Ste. Marie, Minnesota


Your article "Mandatory Maternity" belongs in a Planned Parenthood brochure, not the Sierra magazine. Shame on you. Stick to environmental issues. Education brings about lower birth rates, not wholesale delivery of contraceptives or RU-486 pills. Oh yes, abstention is another good way to control population.

James C. Wernicke
Port Charlotte, Florida


As a 70-something retired US professional, I want to respond to Katie O’Reilly’ piece about personal decision-making regarding having children in the face of our overwhelming overpopulation and its effect on climate change and the earth.

Having made decisions 40 years ago to remain child-free in terms of personal procreation, I have never regretted that decision for a moment. I love interacting with kids and chose a profession that enabled that. But there are so many kids who have inadequate care and mentoring in the world that it still seems irresponsible to me to need to make your OWN kids. All sorts of family structures that enable fulfilling interactions with children are available to people, without their needing to add personally to the earth’s overpopulation, once they get over the need to have their own DNA in the children they’re caring for. And a choice not to add to the world’s population also adds an element of personal freedom that people who choose to produce more kids for the earth to support give up forever.

So just to counterbalance the O’Reilly article’s apparent capitulation to the long-term societal valuing of personal procreation, I want to affirm that a tremendously fulfilled life incorporating plenty of close relationships with kids (and also incorporating the freedom to develop personally and contribute professionally, without needing to hire others to care for the children you’ve made) is possible to people who decide not to personally contribute to the earth’s overpopulation and the resulting climate change.

S Cenname
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


The ten-fold increase in global carbon dioxide emissions over the past century was driven largely by the quadrupling of human population. The tripling of US emissions in the same time was driven by the tripling of US population. US emissions per person peaked 46 years ago in 1973 and have since dropped 28%, to a level lower than in 1918. Our rising standard of living has been more than offset by dramatic improvements in energy efficiency, lower carbon intensity, and development of non-fossil sources. But all that progress has been canceled out by increasing population, so US emissions today are worse than in 1973. We're the third most populous country and the second worst emitter. See attached graphs. 

Dismissing the population factor as a "fixation" of "myopic, outdated ideas" is like dismissing climate change as a "hoax." By refusing to honestly discuss population, we're gifting it on a silver platter to racists, xenophobes, white supremacists, and psychopathic mass murderers. 

Poor, high-fertility countries with exploding populations have low emissions today, but their emissions will increase unless they're kept in perpetual poverty. A few decades ago, China's greenhouse emissions weren't considered very important. Today, China emits far more than any country in history and about 30% of the world total. India, soon to become the most populous country, is already the world's third worst emitter, though still overwhelmingly poor. 

(The attached "Brief History of Climate Change Science" includes an analysis of the population and affluence factors that are discussed in the current Sierra issue. We use it as a quick overview for the climate change unit we teach in environmental chemistry.)

Dennis Brownridge
Las Vegas, Nevada


 I was disappointed to learn that the Mr. Green (a.k.a. Bob Schildgen) column has been discontinued. Because the column was replaced by Ask Ms. Green on the occasion of the "gender equity" issue, one can only assume Mr. Schildgen was replaced because of his gender. Isn’t that the definition of sexism and gender discrimination?  

Climate change and the many other issues facing our planet will require all of us—men and women—to work together. I hope the new leadership of the Sierra Club will remember that and continue the inclusive tradition of the club.


Ronald Schell
Madison, Wisconsin


While world citizenship is an increasingly valid consideration as our world population density becomes more urban, the reality is that we are flocking creatures. Mothers have a potent affinity for the newborn that grew within them. Fathers too are zealous providers and defenders of their own. Families become communities, which become towns, cities, states, and nations.

So what's wrong with that? This world is a competitive place, and nature itself imposes an eat-or-be-eaten means for survival. Every environmental issue of our times is caused or exacerbated by the world's population explosion. The footnote to Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" points that out explosively.

Historically, population control has been by Famine, Pestilence, and War (FPW). The pertinent question is whether civilization can come up with a better, more humane, and more universally acceptable means. So far, China is the only major nation of our time that has even tried to find a better way and in our high-minded moral superiority, we demonized them for it.

The irony of it is that back in the 1970s the Republican party being championed by former California's former governor, Ronald Reagan, along with his pal Charlton Heston were citing superior intellect in promoting "ZPG," for Zero Population Growth. Our younger generation will probably be surprised to know that they actually proposed sex education in public schools, free dissemination of birth control devices (condoms, IUDs, etc.), family planning classes in community colleges, Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide, and even government-provided abortion and vasectomy services, all of which were being pursued worldwide through United Nation's UNICEF. 

That effort continued into President Reagan's first term in the White House but came to an abrupt end when strategists warned that reelection required increasing their party base. Suddenly, photo ops showed Reagan having a religious conversion on abortion morality, which was a direct appeal to the Evangelical Religious Right. Interestingly, his religious conversion concurrently embraced the much less moral need for 2nd Amendment firearm rights, which appealed to rural America where law enforcement is woefully inadequate. It brought them into the Republican fold. FPW was on the march. Wars for promoting our form of government worldwide were now 'holy wars." Remember the Sandinistas and the Oliver North scandal?

Suddenly taking the potential for life from a fetus that hasn't developed a consciousness became a crime, but taking life from a human who has a full consciousness isn't.

All this demonstrates how group identification in this competitive world eternally persists amongst us all. 

So how can an acceptable ZPG that is more humane than FPW be found when various ethnic groups, including US, view population dominance of "their kind" (or ours) to be essential for survival? Are some more deserving or entitled to survive than others?

Anyone who can solve that enigma should win the highest peace prize of all time.

Al Williams
Oak Harbor, Washington


On a scale of 10, your last two issues, Sierra, I would rate at ZERO! 

Cleveland Spence
Aztec, New Mexico


Dear editors,

I am so heartened to see discussion of women’s leadership, family planning and population, and climate change in the magazine. Even better: It’s not even women’s history month! Truly, conversations about women, reproductive freedoms, and education are inextricably linked to environmental issues. Women—particularly Native women—have long been the leaders in environmental activism.

It’s about time these are mainstream conversations!


Elizabeth Sutton 
Cedar Falls, Iowa 



The storyboard “Overbearing” in the November/December Sierra gives mixed messages. The last image shows the couple running and then the expert advice from a black bear biologist says DON’T run. I hope readers heed Ternent’s advice and not follow the foolhardy and dangerous actions depicted in the cartoon.

Janine Motta


Dear Sierra Club and Wendy Becktold, 

I read the article “Time to Fix the Population Fixation” by senior story editor, Wendy Becktold, and found much that I agreed with.

Some of the things that I agree with are that the US releases too much global warming pollution; that wealthier nations consume more than their fair share of natural resources and others suffer as a result; that women should have control over their bodies and lives; that women and girls (and in my view, boys and men) deserve better education, health care, economic opportunity, and I might add, housing; and that xenophobia and racism exist and are unacceptable.

I do disagree with the article in several ways. The first is the title of the article, “Time to Fix the Population Fixation.” I believe that environmentalists must address population, including total human numbers, as a significant factor in consumption, environmental degradation, and the destruction and degradation of wildlife, ecosystems, and landscapes.

Environmentalists should be fixated on population as one large factor that has resulted in over one-half of the earth’s natural resources being taken and used for the benefit of one species when there are tens of millions of species that deserve the same respect, consideration, and ability to evolve.

I believe the statement that indicates that the “population-bomb mentality of the 1960s and '70s, when people feared that exploding numbers would lead to ecological collapse and famine” is no longer true, is incorrect. While it may have taken longer than predicted, today millions of people die or are threatened by famine, malnutrition, and war. Ecosystems are collapsing, like in the arctic, oceans, forests, wetlands, and grasslands.

These results that are due to humans have led in recent years to a movement that proposes setting aside half of the earth for all other life forms so that ecosystems, natural processes, disturbance regimes, and weather phenomena as well as individual species can evolve and change.

The United Nations suggestion that “human population will peak around 2100 at 10.9 billion” is not comforting. This does not prove that “Peak Baby Is Closer Than You Think,” because it will take another 80 years to achieve (a prediction which I doubt will be accurate) and add almost 4 billion more people to the earth. In my view, the stressed and battered human-caused climate change world that exists now, and in the future, will not sustain 11 billion people and tens of millions of other life forms.

We need today, at an accelerated pace, not only to educate, shelter, feed, clothe, and protect all humans, but to fully fund programs which lead to reduced human births, improved lifestyles, educated people that know about their impacts to and reliance on the earth, reduced greenhouse air pollution, reduced consumption, and people enlisted in saving themselves and all other life forms which they depend upon.

If human numbers are not adequately reduced via birth control and we do not press this issue vigorously, we will not make it. I fear we ignore or downplay the role of human numbers in the degradation of our survival, at our peril. I hope we take all factors seriously and don’t turn a blind eye to human numbers and the overshoot of our carrying capacity on Earth, so that we leave room for tens of millions of other living creatures who also have a right to exist.


Brandt Mannchen
Humble, Texas 


Dear editor,

Removing Donald Trump from office is an important environmental goal. But, I fear that the last Sierra issue is more likely to get him reelected than defeated. Examples: When was the last time Sierra banned content from women the way it did from men in this issue? In "Women's Rules," the movement for gender equality morphed into barely disguised female superiority. To defeat Trump, we must attract men and women in the political middle, especially in swing states. As presidents Lincoln and FDR believed, it's a mistake get too far ahead of the people on important issues. But since they were men, I guess we can ignore their ideas.  

John Miraglia
Old Bridge, NJ 


Hello: I agree with the author of the "Mississippi Serendipity" article in the November/December issue of Sierra that a visit to a prehistoric archaeological site represents an enriching and often spiritual event. As a professional archaeologist, however, I strongly urge readers not to leave foreign objects or plant materials on an archaeological site, such as the mound site the author visited. Archaeologists use floral remains, animal bone, artifacts, and structural remains to interpret prehistoric subsistence, ceremonies conducted onsite, past environmental conditions, and other research issues. Tobacco or other substances left by modern-day visitors can contaminate the site. And, please do not place stacks of rocks or similar constructions on an archaeological site; such places should instead remain as the Old People who came before us left it. 

Michael Sampson
San Diego, California 


To the editor,

Thank you for your issue on population. Population truly is a topic that few like to discuss, especially when it comes to climate change, probably because of population's past association, as you noted, with racist ideas. Unfortunately, it cannot be ignored if we wish to solve our climate and other environmental problems.

As researchers Seth Wynes and Kimberly Nicholas have calculated, (https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541), having one less child is the biggest thing a person can do to help the climate, especially in a developed country, more than 20 times the runner up, which is living car-free. 

You are to be commended for your willingness to address this topic. Empowering and educating women and giving them unfettered access to reproductive health care are some of the best ways to address the population issue. Unfortunately, many actions of the current administration do just the opposite, as the articles pointed out.

While all the articles were excellent, I found those by Katie O’Reilly and Summer Brennan especially enlightening. Bravo!

Perry D. Clark
Petoskey, Minnesota


Re: your op-ed "Time to Fix the Population Fixation." Kudos for promoting gender equality as affecting our environment, but I was disappointed in most of Wendy Becktold's arguments. There is an implicit suggestion that concerns about overpopulation are overblown, outdated, and often misdirected at women. Somehow those of us concerned about overpopulation get swept into her beliefs about who is to blame (the largest corporations, wealthy wild over-consumers) and who is not to blame (women in developing countries), rather than solutions. She implicitly downplays concerns about overpopulation by citing declining birth rates and a UN forecast that our world population will (only) be about 10.9  (let's just say 11) billion by the end of this century. She does not mention other studies forecasting higher numbers, or the consensus that (even using new technologies) our planet can only sustain about 5 billion folks without tipping over ecologically. Becktold's chiding of overpopulation advocates then goes so far as to suggest that many of their ideas are"outdated" and "myopic" and sometimes "manifest in racist, xenophobic, and even violent ways." What gets lost is the reality that actual births are going to almost double by the end of the century, lowering birth rates notwithstanding. She even concludes that discussion of possibly adverse effects of uncontrolled migration is "eco-fascist rhetoric."

Give me a break.

Dennis Coupe
Granite Bay, California


Imagine my surprise to turn the page in your November Sierra edition and see a picture of Nanih Waiya. Imagine my disappointment and sadness to see the writer did not refer to the sacred mound by its name, or correctly identify the people associated with the mound. This is a sacred mound to Choctaw people who believe our people were born from this mound. A simple Google search would have told her this. Instead, she mentions it was "built by Indigenous Americans" (sic). Choctaw people have annual ceremonies and festivals to honor Nanih Waiya. The writer trivialized this sacred place and made readers think this is just some mound built by ancestors of "Indigenous (sic) communities." 

Trisha Astrauckas
Mancelona, Michigan 


To the editor:

The Sierra Club, long a bastion of saving the planet by driving a Tesla and eating wild-caught salmon, took environmental leadership with the end of the year issue of the Club magazine on its “time to fix the population fixation” about the intersectionality of population, climate change, and inequality. Decrying “eco-fascist rhetoric” about overpopulation, the Club boldly argued that the problem is not the fertility of women but “overconsumption” and the “outsized contribution of the wealthiest few to the climate crisis and the extinction emergency.” Birth rates go down only when human needs are met and women are afforded reproductive freedom, while the global carbon footprint of the superrich few is vastly greater than the poor multitudes.

Best regards, 

Roger D. Harris
Corte Madera, California


Right off the top, I was not sure I was looking at my monthly Sierra magazine. I had to close the magazine and check the cover. Thank you, Bill Cook. I am 100% in agreement with your letter to the editor "Please Stay on Topic." My feelings are a loud echo to his letter. I do not believe that the Sierra magazine should be a platform for "women's rights." That is NOT why I donated money to the Sierra Club. Please address problems experienced by innocent wildlife. Example: We have had many sightings of cougars in the Eugene-Springfield city limits of late. Recently a bobcat entered a school and was killed. Another bobcat found outside the school was relocated. What is a wild animal to do? Bears are also coming into towns in slightly more rural areas. 

Carol Ramage
Springfield, Oregon

P.S. A thank you to Bill Cook. I am an 81-year-old displaced Montanan. Perhaps it is a Montanan thing.  


I have read Jackie Bryant’s article "Pilgrimage" several times now and still can’t understand why the Sierra Club condones the type of behavior mentioned in the article. Trekking across the desert (BLM) in order to leave food, supplies, and clothing for migrants that are obviously trying to enter our country illegally. In doing so, making the Border Patrol’s job just that more difficult. If the Border Angels want to really help, let them stick to their helping with legal aid and education and not promote illegal activity (by the migrants). I have been a member since 1992. This will be my last year.


Terry Price
Holt, Michigan



Your latest issue is exactly what we—as an environmental group and as a country—need right now. I read almost every article, front to back, for the first time in years.

Thank you for your courage, leadership, and vision!


Annie Belt

P.S. Am happy and grateful to see a woman at the helm of the Club.



In the November 2019 article “Mandatory Maternity,” the author adds to the confusion about the science of human development while attempting to clear up the confusion. On page 45/3rd paragraph, zygote implants, not the egg (although I admit there is some latitude possible in use of “egg” for “fertilized egg”). “After sperm has been introduced” is a convoluted way of saying “fertilization.” Accuracy in terminology is probably important to counter the misinformation by talking heads in our society about contraception/abortifacients.

Andrew Sensenig 


I have been a "partially committed member" to Sierra Club for a few years now. I wholly am committed to the stated mission of the Club, "The purposes of the Sierra Club are to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth." I struggle to be committed to an organization that uses its membership platform to promote a social agenda that has nothing to do with the stated purposes. Please stay true to the purposes of the club.

Sarah Gross
Cincinnati, Ohio



Perhaps a column from a Mr. and a Ms. Green could be considered? The perspective of Bob Schildgen is valuable and shouldn't be replaced seemingly because of gender or age. I am disappointed that the Sierra magazine editors are replacing this writer in such a manner. The kind and thoughtful manner in which Mr. Green imparts environmental wisdom and encourages action is a shame to lose.

Ann Z.

While I look forward to reading Sierra cover to cover, the last special issue left me uneasy. "Enlist[ing] an all-woman roster of writers, photographers, and illustrators" works at cross-purposes with the objective of furthering equity. I may have two X chromosomes, but I'm still curious to hear the views of the half of the readership that was silenced.    

Christine Kenney 
Santa Ana, California


I was a bit confused on what the environmental slant was in the Nov/Dec 2019 "Pilgrimage.” While Border Angels seems like a compassionate group doing what they believe in, as many nonprofit groups do, I was left with thoughts of a group of people lying to law enforcement and contributing to litter. Perhaps if the writer and friends at least mentioned they packed out some of the “signs of human activity” in the canyon, like empty water jugs or refuse. But really I am a loss to explain to those I have been advocating the Sierra Club to as to why this piece ran in the magazine? I find this article lacking anything compelling to help in the environmental fight, and worse, will not help me to enlist others who may have a different opinion on immigration. Why make it harder on solving our tremendous environmental issues by an article that shows disrespect to law enforcement and those of us who oppose illegal border crossings? Why?

I am a life member, past chair of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter as well as having served additional roles in PA and local chapters.


Dan Schreffler
Dunmore, Pennsylvania

Hello . . . Is this Sierra magazine? 

Congratulations on stepping into the current world in a big way. A drag queen hiker? An activist in a hijab? Gender equity? Nice. But two caveats: Heather Smith got "had" with the story of a stick bug called Clitarchus Hookeri. Hoax. Or at least quite a joke by the scientist who named it. Reminds me of the "story" that went around a while back that the toilet was invented by a Brit called Sir Thomas Crapper.  

Second: Are you serious about "honoring" Tasnim Mellouli by naming her a "fellow"? If you think the word is gender-neutral, ask five people to tell you what they picture when you ask them to describe "a fellow coming down the sidewalk." Time to find a new and beautiful title worthy of Tasnim, or at least use "intern."

Anitra Carol Smith
El Cajon, California

Wendy Becktold fell right into the climate change denier's tar pit when she promoted the position that discussions of the impacts of human population growth must be xenophobic, racist and misogynistic.  To deny the impact of the expected 10.9 billion people, no matter where they live, by 2100 is unconscionable. The planet will be "leveled out" by 4 billion more consumers. Sierra Club should pay attention to the recent report from thousands of brave climate scientists that includes increased human population as a climate change factor.

Rick McMonagle
Portland, Oregon

Sierra editors,

I have never written you before, but I feel compelled to thank you for your issue about gender equity and how it relates to climate change. I cannot tell you how many times I teared up while reading this issue. Thank you for illustrating how women's rights are directly linked to environmental sustainability, and thank you for giving people that are too often underrepresented in the national environmental conversation a chance to be heard, like Wyn Wiley and Nicole Horseherder. 

Please keep up the good work of representing all the environmentalist women, people of color, and people who can't afford fancy hiking gear. 

Thank you again,

Kirsten Hopkins
New York, New York