"Reality Stew," Carl Pope's commentary on the current state of politics
(January/February 1996), contains some great ideas for fighting anti-environmental
politicians. But shouldn't we be looking toward a bigger picture, changing the current
system so that we can have better candidates representing us in Washington and in our home
states? Democracy is broken because there is too much money in politics. Strong campaign
reform is the positive, proactive answer. Shannon Raborn, San Diego, California
We agree. Carl Pope's call to action on campaign finance reform appeared in our
September/October 1994 issue.
Sierra ought to concentrate on a discussion of issues and get over the name-calling
("Eco-Thug: Richard Pombo," January/February). Every accusation directed toward
me was false. One newspaper editorial referred to the article as "a vicious attack
from a narrowly focused special interest group," and demanded a public apology from
Sierra. I am surprised you were even able to spell my name right! Richard Pombo, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
We are guilty of irreverence in this story, but not inaccuracy.The editorial
referred to appeared in Pombo's hometown paper. If any apologies are due, they are due
from Pombo to the American people.
Re:January/February's "Parting Shots: Species Your Grandchildren May Never Have a
Chance to See." So what!
A shocking reply? Yes, because I should care. And I do care. If I were playing devil's
advocate, however, I'd tell you that I have lived happily and so have my children and so
will my grandchildren without ever seeing these vanishing species. Something more than an
intellectual, far-into-the-future "grabber" needs to persuade me that I should
be concerned and read on. For instance, how does their vanishing affect me, today? Tell
me, and I will listen. Tine Thevenin, Bloomington, Minnesota
Is it possible that these New Age conservatives can arrogate to themselves that which
was given by God for the enjoyment of all? Is it possible that they can claim it is their
right to destroy all the natural world standing in the way of their lust for material
gain? In nature species go extinct--under the direction of God--but naturally only one
species in a million goes extinct every year. For all the millennia that man has lived on
the earth there has been a rough equilibrium between the birth and death of species,
keeping biodiversity at a very high level. Until now.
Did these people create the lands, waters, forests, and all life? By what right can
they destroy what they did not create? Mary Ellen Sweeney, Klamath Falls, Oregon
Lobbyists and scientists from both ends of the political spectrum can spar over impact
statements and values until the proverbial cows come home and ultimately it doesn't mean a
thing because America is watching Friends and The Simpsons and Hard Copy
and Entertainment Tonight. Ryan and Ashley America are far too busy to give a damn
about the Tipton kangaroo rat.
Issues that are under everyone's nose, like visible pollution and high- profile stories
that make it into their systems through their television IV, do garner the appropriate
negative reaction in most people and so get acted on, because the environment is important
But we're just so busy.
And what are the facts, anyway? I dunno. Hey, put Frasier on, willya? Tim Roache, Brooklyn, New York
Environmental activists can be unpleasantly arrogant. Their attitude and approach to
helping people change stands squarely in the way of what they wish to accomplish. Thus
when I noticed the title of Douglas Chadwick's article in your January/February issue,
"Strength in Humility," I expected to read about how humility can support
achieving environmental goals. Instead, I was shocked to see another arrogant diatribe. My
favorite example: "To argue that any person or enterprise has the right to obliterate
a life-form . . . is militantly selfish and spectacularly shortsighted. Not to mention
plain old stupid." Or, "There are no real doubts that this is what we need to
do, only false doubts cast by hucksters who cannot or will not think beyond the immediate
grasp of their fingers."
Yes, there is strength in humility. I wish supporters of environmental causes would
recognize that broad- based change will more likely occur when they are willing to
understand and be respectful of a position or point of view that differs from their own. Henry F. Olds, Jr., Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Right Words
The articles in your January/February issue strongly communicate the importance of the
Endangered Species Act, the need for dedicated enforcement, and the legislative threats
that the act now faces. I believe you could accomplish this more effectively, however, if
you avoided some of the divisive rhetoric that tends to belittle opponents of the act. For
example the Idaho delegation "clucked" their opinion, the Coeur d'Alene paper
"shrieked" its headline, Helen Chenoweth attended "Wise Use
whine-ins." Let facts and statements speak for themselves, because more often than
not, embellishment is not needed. Jeff Opperman, Washington, D.C.
"Thinking Like a Mountain" in the January/February issue raised the question
of what type of language is most effective in influencing public opinion to support the
protection of endangered species. What vocabulary should we use in carrying our message?
Can we gain support with scientific jargon? This language is needed to communicate
technical ideas, and therefore has a clear usefulness. Should we use poetic rhetoric such
as "the need to think like a mountain"? I have a problem with this kind of
language because it is confusing--mountains don't think! Or should we speak in terms of
ethics, such as generosity of spirit, stewardship, care, and responsibility? No doubt, all
three vocabularies are important and useful, depending on your audience, and they can be
used in combination. I would suggest, however, that ethics is the language that is most
effective in communicating our message to ordinary voters, including our friends and
supporters in almost every church and synagogue, in almost every town, village, and city
across the country. After all, the decision to act to protect Creation is an ethical
choice. The growth of science and technology without ethics caused the problem. The
challenge before us is bringing ethics and science together for the good of all. Ed Morley, Metuchen, New Jersey
Congratulations on "Tijuana Vice" (January/February). Any measurable change
in Mexico during the last 65 years has been because of international pressure. The elite,
which monopolizes political and economic life in Mexico, does not give a damn for the
opinion of its own citizens. The oligarchic system in Mexico is responsible for the
irreversible damage done to our ecosystems, similar only to that witnessed in the former
Soviet Union. As a Mexican, I thank you for your fine work. Javier Gonzalez Ramos, Brownsville, Texas
Martin Teitel's article "Endangered Dinner" in your January/February issue
says that "market hybrids . . . yield large, uniform crops but require vast amounts
of fertilizers, pesticides, and water." He then advises the home gardener to seek out
seeds labeled "heirloom."
As a home gardener, I've noticed the advances hybridization has brought, and they are
spectacular. New varieties offer options of color, better taste, variety of size, and
resistance to pests and diseases. Sugar snap peas, long-keeper tomatoes, white marigolds,
rock Cornish hens--none of these are "heirlooms." Barbara Van Ells, Earlton, New York
We the People
If politicians cannot stand by the men and women who enforce the Endangered Species
Act, then out with them. ("Defense of the Realm," January/February). Allowing a
bunch of gun-toting crazies to dictate national policy will take us back into a dark part
of history that many are trying to forget. We the people have the power to protect our
environment. Christian Santos, Bellevue, Washington
We regret the implication in "Defense of the Realm" that the San
Francisco-based legal newspaper The Recorder recycled "Wise Use"
propaganda in its June 14, 1995, story about the kangaroo rat. In fact, The Recorder
was one of the first publications in the country to investigate the case and report the
real story behind the hype.
Sierra welcomes letters from readers in response to recently published articles.
Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Write to us at 85 Second St., Second Floor,
San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; Fax (415) 776-4868; e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org