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  March/April 1996 Features:
Assault on Mauna Loa
Where the Mountains Have No Name
A Natural History of the Yellowstone Tourist
Fish Out of Water
Ways & Means
Food for Thought
Hearth & Home
Good Going
Way to Go
Sierra Club Bulletin
Last Words

Sierra Magazine

Gambling on Growth

In "House of Cards" in the November/December 1995 issue, Mike Davis gives a frightening yet realistic overview of Las Vegas' environmental and social nightmares. Gambling is heralded as the savior in a time of numerous plant closures and layoffs, yet low-paying service-sector jobs benefit no one except the casino owners, who "earn" (loose definition) millions each year. Americans must see through the shallow promises of jobs and economic benefits and realize that gambling is sucking the life from the environment and the human beings who inhabit it.
Daniel R. Krug, Tahoe City, California

As Sierra Club activists and residents of Las Vegas, we take issue with Davis' viewpoint. Yes, there is much to criticize about how the nation's fastest- growing city is developing. But look at some of the positive aspects.We have a curbside recycling program that rivals the best. We have hotels (the Mirage, Treasure Island, and Harrah's) with some of the best water efficiency and environmental programs in the country. We are working with the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Las Vegas Water District to increase water conservation and to revise the rate structure so that growth and inefficient users of water pay for the impacts. We are working with our U.S. senators, progressive developers, and planning officials to create a green belt and a system of trails and parks through and around our city. Our state law requires ultra-low-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads and faucets in new construction. How about your state or locality?

Our traffic is bad and getting worse, but we have a bus system that is getting better all the time. We have some people talking about expansion of the monorail along the strip to serve larger areas of the city. It's not the total answer, but few cities in this country seem able to break America's dependency on the automobile.

All of us can probably look to our own neighborhoods and find something to dislike. We can always move on to the utopia where the author appears to live. But this is not the answer. Let's look to the positive things that are going on and build upon those things for a better life and environment.
Jeff van Ee and the Board of the Southern Nevada Group of the Sierra Club, Las Vegas, Nevada

Terrible Stooges

There are a great many people in Alaska who have been trying to oust the "Terrible Trio" (we call them the "Three Stooges") for quite some time (November/December 1995). Unfortunately Big Oil and others of the Alaska Good Old Boys Club wield a tremendous amount of power in this state. Alaska is fortunate, however, to have a great many friends "outside" who care more about the Great Land for what it is than many who live here and care only for what Alaska can give them. As an Alaskan I want to thank all of the friends of Alaska and encourage you to continue the vigil.
Ruth McGuire, Chugiak, Alaska

I enjoyed your article on Don Young ("Leader of the Pack," November/December). There are many of us here who consider this man an embarrassment. His unfailing re-election tactic of posing with a gun in his hand continues to send to young and old alike the wrong message in these violent times. I would say also that his senatorial colleagues, though not quite so crude, are just as objectionable.
John Haines, Anchorage, Alaska

One point that was not mentioned was that Don Young is also on the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association. I urge all who are members of the NRA, or enjoy hunting, to contact NRA headquarters to express your outrage at his attempt to gut the Endangered Species Act. Game animals must have healthy habitat to survive. Mr. Young wants to sacrifice this habitat for the sake of a few wealthy property owners.
Doug Goodall, Reno, Nevada

We are surprised and dismayed that you could give space in your magazine to cartoonist Victor Juhasz's medieval thinking about wolves. We refer to page 50 of the November/December issue, where Congressman Don Young is pictured as a "big bad wolf."

It's bad enough that wolves are endangered by loss of habitat without myth and superstition endangering them as well.
Tom and Gerry Easton, Port Huron, Michigan

Rainforest Reality

After reading "Heartburn of Darkness" (November/December) I was in tears, astonished by the blunt reality set in front of me. Finally I had read something that didn't glamorize or cover up the situation of the rainforests in Brazil.
Anna Opgenorth, Hubertus, Wisconsin

Author Bill Gann was upset when he learned that Jurua locals eat deer, monkeys, tapir, and jaguar. What would he have reserve inhabitants eat? The protein-supplying alternative to hunting is to grow livestock such as water buffalo, which often pollute water and overgraze. At the low human-population levels currently in Jurua reserve (approximately 5,300 people in 5,062 square kilometers), hunting can be carried out in a sustainable manner.

Mr. Gann also states the rubber tappers have "failed to learn the ways of the forest." This is far from the truth, at least in my experience on the vast Amapo Reserve. There I received guided tours from teenage girls reciting names and uses of dozens of wild and cultivated plants. Extraction of resources, such as fruit and palm thatch, does not decimate the supplies. And family members also know much about forest ecology, such as bird species that consume certain types of fruit.

The success of extractive reserves hinges on combining low human densities with small-scale marketing of forest products. I suggest that Mr. Gann distribute information and means of disease prevention and birth control, along with books and pencils, during his next Jurua trip.
Susan Moegenburg, Gainesville, Florida

Public Opinion Paradox

I very much enjoyed the November/ December article "The Public Opinion Paradox" by George Pettinico. If the public sees issues like crime and drugs, a weakening economy, and the federal deficit as more pressing problems than the environment, perhaps the movement should highlight the green components of those problems, in effect joining them rather than fighting them.
Mark Nuhfer, Decatur, Georgia

The Republicans were successful by promising a better life for most Americans--higher wages, lower taxes, and safer streets. We should do the same. By pushing for efficient forms of transportation and production we can offer average Americans a real increase in their quality of life. We can join together with urban and labor leaders to rebuild our cities and suburbs to be cleaner and safer.
Ross Bleakney, Seattle, Washington

A Real Republican

I want to thank the reader who acknowledged the fact that not all Republicans are the anti-environmental type that makes the news each day ("Letters," November/December). I have been a conservative and an outdoorsman since I was very young. I am embarrassed about the way some Republicans are acting, as if they want to see just how loud they can get the liberals to scream. The bills that I have seen copies of make me cringe.

The point that seems to have been forgotten is that average citizens do not have the money to take their families on exotic vacations down to the islands or to fancy resorts, but instead rely on our great parks for an affordable vacation. I would much rather show my little girl how to cook a freshly caught trout or spend time watching a herd of elk graze anyway. I guess they have never enjoyed that.
Jimmy Tyree, Leader, Texas

Sierra welcomes letters from readers in response to recently published articles. Letters may be edited due to limitations of space or in the interests of clarity. Write to us at 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94109; Fax (415) 776-4868;

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