Sierra Club Home Page   Environmental Update  
chapter button
Explore, enjoy and protect the planet
Click here to visit the Member Center.         
Take Action
Get Outdoors
Join or Give
Inside Sierra Club
Press Room
Politics & Issues
Sierra Magazine
Sierra Club Books
Apparel and Other Merchandise
Contact Us

Join the Sierra ClubWhy become a member?
Sierra Main
In This Section
  May/June 1996 Features:
For Love of a Swamp
What is a Wetland?
Holding the World at Bay
Immersed in the Everglades
Teddy Rides Again
Ways & Means
Food for Thought
Hearth & Home
Good Going
Way to Go
Sierra Club Bulletin
In Print
Last Words

Sierra Magazine

Changing the System

"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.

Pombo Replies

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.

Who Cares?

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 to everybody.

But we're just so busy.

And what are the facts, anyway? I dunno. Hey, put Frasier on, willya?
Tim Roache, Brooklyn, New York

Humble Pie

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

Hybrid Vigor

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:

Up to Top

HOME | Email Signup | About Us | Contact Us | Terms of Use | © 2008 Sierra Club