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  January/February 1997 Features:
Hormone Impostors
Poison Pens
What You Don't Know Can Hurt You
Edge of Eden
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Sierra Club Bulletin

Sierra Magazine


Lily Ruderman ("Letters," September/October 1996) was deeply offended to find a recipe for jerky stew in Sierra. I happen to agree with her about the negative environmental and health impacts of current practices in the beef industry, but I was troubled by the last sentence of her letter: "Please don't compromise or contradict our beliefs by publishing such recipes."

Although it is human nature to feel threatened by ideas or beliefs that clash with our own, the impulse to silence dissenting opinion must be resisted if we, as a global society and as individuals, are to learn to coexist peacefully with each other and with nature's ecosystems on this planet. So please, Sierra, continue to provide fertile ground for ideas to germinate and cross-pollinate. Who knows which ideas will lead to novel solutions for some of our most grievous environmental problems?

Deana M. Crumbling, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Does Bill Clinton deserve (better yet, has he truly earned) the environmental vote (September/October)? Probably not, but we must vote for him anyway. When I vote on November 5, it will not be for Bill Clinton but in favor of clean water and air, a rollback of "logging without laws," and in support of all the other natural resources worth protecting both for ourselves and for future generations.

Barry H. Haas, Little Rock, Arkansas

Giving unqualified support to the President is the only hope for preventing the widespread destruction that would result with both a Republican Congress and White House. The sort of lukewarm approach author Paul Rauber takes is yet another example of the type of single-issue political Calvinism that dooms progressives to permanent marginalization. I urge the Sierra Club to stop killing the patient to save him and to leave the litmus tests to the hard right.

Mary Hall, Savannah, Georgia

Author Paul Rauber dismisses third-party possibilities with a mere paragraph. The only mention of Ralph Nader refers to his decision not to actively campaign as "perverse." Yet it is a campaign that is more about the people working for it than about the individual whose name is at the top. Perhaps in 2000 or 2004, the public will have a vehicle by which to set the political agenda rather than merely choosing from what two corporate shills are willing to offer.

Larry Nargi, Seattle, Washington


Ted Williams ("Natural Allies," September/October) says environmentalists and hunters have a common cause, but where were our so-called allies the hunters when it came time to create a Mojave National Park? Sending their dues to the National Rifle Association, which eventually got the area downgraded to a preserve. The blasts of gunshot shattering the silence of wilderness are as offensive as the roar of dirt bikes and snowmobiles. If I were to be fortunate enough to glimpse a grizzly, bighorn, or elk in the wild, my last impulse would be to reach for a rifle, shoot it, and watch the blood run from its body. No matter how politically correct you portray the mind of the hunter, killing for pleasure is sick.

Bob DeNike, Sunnyvale, California

Ted Williams' article was thought-provoking and encouraging. I just wish he had been completely honest. He kills because he and other hunters enjoy it, not because they are doing the environment a "necessary" favor. Let's remember why there are no predators left in most of the United States. Hunters encouraged by greed (and at times our government) slaughtered all the wolves, bear, and cougar that would have kept in balance any deer or elk population.

What would happen if there were no hunters? The truth is that wildlife doesn't need to be managed. Animal populations would stabilize from resource competition. Some animals would starve to death. In ensuing years, females would produce fewer offspring. Nature has a way of compensating, and it's done so just fine up until the last two or three hundred years when the white man (European descent, privileged, hunting for pleasure, not food) changed the ecosystem.

Lisanne Freese, Chicago, Illinois

I'd like to offer a little dull and respectable academia as oil for troubled waters, as provided by well- respected Yale researcher Stephen R. Kellert. Dr. Kellert has long studied the nature of people's attitudes toward animals. Among hunters, he identifies three main types. One is the "sport hunter," who is motivated by the desire to dominate and overpower his prey. This is the type we love to hate. Another is the "meat hunter," a pragmatic and dispassionate character who mostly wants meat for the pot. The third is the "nature hunter," who wants to feel close to nature, to experience wildness, to observe closely, and to participate in the great web of life.

The difference between me, a vegetarian, and this third type of hunter lies in our attitude toward food. The difference is not trivial, but surely we can recognize the common thread, the shared passion for nature? Can we meet for our common good? Nature lovers and the "nature hunters" have more in common than we think.

Peg Ferm, Monroe, Washington

The lengthy justification for hunting by Ted Williams sounds like paranoia to us. Is he unable to cope with anyone who dares to challenge his Neanderthal form of recreation? Are we to believe that hunters engage in their killing "sport" because they see it as "a legitimate and necessary wildlife management tool"?

Tom and Gerry Easton, Port Huron, Michigan

I am one of this breed of hunters/fishers/environmentalists that has been thoroughly disheartened by the polarized stances taken by various groups and individuals, disheartened that so many of us who have so much in common have been split by the intensity of our own rhetoric and fear. It takes a good deal of courage to put aside the shelter of our stereotypes and extend our hands to one another.

Stephen C. Hansen, Salt Lake City, Utah

Hooray! I just read your article about forging an alliance among hunters, fishermen, and environmentalists. I am a recent Sierran, scared to death by the 104th Congress, but I am also a native Alabamian, hunter, drag racer, and swamp rat. I gained my appreciation of the woods with a gun in my hand while being taught to hunt by my father. I grew up in the woods, and learned to appreciate the simple beauty of our planet watching many sunrises in duck blinds and deer stands. My "good-ol'-boy" cousins and I are doing all we can to preserve our swamps. We have seen too much degradation to let it go any further.

Hal Tippins, Mobile, Alabama

"Natural Allies" is the most enlightened, constructive, and farsighted report to appear in Sierra in years. It ought to be reprinted in every environmental and sporting periodical in the country. Non-hunters who are not willing to set aside, for a profoundly greater good, that sense of moral superiority that poisons cooperation between "natural allies" reveal the stark truth that preserving the land is not their first priority.

Clarence Anderson, Upper Jay, New York


In "The Uncertainty Principle" (September/October), Paul Rauber claims that "fewer than a dozen scientists, many of them on the payroll of coal and energy companies, say not to worry" [about global warming]. This would be a surprise to the nearly 100 climate scientists who have signed the Leipzig Declaration, including scientists at Harvard, Oxford, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, and Yale. This declaration cautions against alarmism and premature policy initiatives, including binding emission-reduction limits. Whether or not Rauber wishes to acknowledge it, a substantial number of climate experts question whether global climate change is really the apocalyptic threat that some portend.

Jonathan Adler, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.

Rauber replies: Just who are Adler's eminent "climate scientists"? They include television weathermen from Tampa and San Francisco; the operator of "Dick's Weather Service" in Springfield, Ohio; ideologue S. Fred Singer (who hasn't published a peer-reviewed article in 25 years); a staffer from the Electrical Power Research Institute, plus the usual industry-funded skeptics like Patrick Michaels and Robert Balling. My point was not that such skeptics do not exist, but rather that they are, when pitted against the vast majority of the world's climatologists, utterly insignificant.


I was disturbed by "Adios Amigos," the article about floating the Owyhee River (September/October). It seems to me that you should only publish adventure articles that encourage wise and responsible conduct. The first rule a paddler learns is never go on a river that is flooding. To go on a river that is not only flooding but still rising is simply stupid. The author gives only the slightest nod to possible poor judgment. The article's romantic and sprightly gloss encourages others to place themselves in a grave situation.

W. R. Scott, Memphis, Tennessee

I enjoyed Page Stegner's fine piece of journalism on his flood-stage trip down the lower Owyhee. I had a similar adventure a decade ago. A little short on experience, a raging spring flood, and a flip. The Owyhee is truly a special and beautiful river--one that needs our vigilance to protect it from those who would spoil this corner of paradise.

Dave Neumann, Genesee, Idaho


Douglas Gantenbein, Jim Yuskavitch, and Page Stegner each made points about our public lands in the September/October issue to which I would add a couple of questions. Why are our public lands used as cow toilets and strip mines for the personal economic benefit of the tiniest possible number of uncaring people? Why are native plants and animals vilified while destructive invaders (cattle, sheep, countless plant species) are deified? Why can't the Sierra Club and other environmental groups convince the American people that their heritage is being pissed away? Perhaps dirt-cheap hamburger stands are at the top of the national agenda.

Patrick Fitzgerald, Santa Rosa, California


To the individual who elected the Pope as the eco-thug of the year ("Last Words," September/October): perhaps if we weren't such a materialistic and consumptive society, overpopulation wouldn't be such a serious environmental issue. Instead of pointing fingers at spiritual men like the Pope, we should look to ourselves, for we all probably have a bit of eco-thug in us.

Donna L. Higuera, Maquoketa, Iowa

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) 977-5794; e-mail

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