Your article on Al Gore ("The Great Green Hope," July/August)
was an illuminating read on a man environmentalists want to know more about.
While it fairly criticized the vice president for not sticking to the principles
espoused in his book, Earth in the Balance, there is only so much one man
can do-even if he happens to be vice president. The Clinton/Gore administration
needs a critical mass of supporters and elected officials to help overcome
the inertia of business as usual. Ousting the anti-environmentalists from
the House in the next election would be a good first step, for without our
stronger support, Gore risks the same political dead end his father saw
when he took a hard line against the Vietnam War.
Walnut Creek, California
Your puff piece on Al Gore is mistitled. It should have been
called "The Great Green Hype."
Galiano Island, British Columbia
There is no such thing as an environmentalist with four kids. Eric V. Dose
Winter Park, Florida
Rebecca Solnit ("Among the Giants," July/August) told the sequoia
story with clarity and insight. And-good news-Congressman George E. Brown,
Jr., [D-Calif.] recently introduced his bill (H.R. 2077) to create a sequoia
preserve. The bill would protect more than half of all sequoia groves on
Earth and mandate restoration of the damaged areas. It will also add critical
roadless areas to the wilderness system. It is a well-thought-out piece
of legislation that would place these monarchs out of greed's reach.
Thank you for publishing John J. Berger's "Nine Ways to Save
Our National Forests" (July/August), surely the finest two pages
printed since Ed Abbey's "Industrial Tourism and the National Parks"
in his book Desert Solitaire.
John J. Berger missed the most important way to save our forests. Until
we individually and collectively reduce our demand for wood for homes, furniture,
paper, and so forth, we will not make significant progress toward restoring
our national forests. To take the steps advocated without reducing demand
and dependence is hypocrisy.
Editor's note: Sierra devoted a feature article to wood reduction last
year, "Shopper, Spare That Tree!" (July/August 1996).
ON THE SUNNY SIDE
I just finished forcing myself to read Sierra. Why force, you may ask.
Because this highly concerned, deeply motivated, slickly polished magazine
feels like a concerted effort to purvey gloom and doom, exclusively. Where
is the celebration of nature, the gratitude for what we do have on Earth.
Where is the respect?
The world is not totally destroyed by big-time money grubbers and excess
people. The world is a glorious place that deserves to be cherished with joy.
Ann M. Throckmorton
Thank you for the wonderful article by Sheryl Clough, "A Kayak of
One's Own." It saved my summer and reminded me of the really important
thing in life: self-satisfaction. Without some sense of this somewhere along
the way we are all doomed to simply recycle ad infinitum those endless mind-numbing
days of professional toil and too many voice-mails, e-mails, phone calls,
and ridiculous meetings. Thank you for reinstilling my sense of direction.
As of mañana, I will be blissfully solo-kayaking up and down the
Pecos River in West Texas, and then onward to Padre Island. Viva la revolución!
Vance G. Safley
San Antonio, Texas
I find the spectacle of the environmentally aware middle class attempting
"voluntary simplicity" ("The Goods Life," July/August)
mildly hilarious. Don't get me wrong-I'm all for it. But even with ten-year-old
cars, ten-year-old hiking boots, organic-cotton T-shirts, membership in
community-sponsored agriculture, and nary a paper towel in the house, our
middle-class lives are lavish and opulent. How can people say with a straight
face that they practice voluntary simplicity when their automobiles are
better housed than most Third World families?
Please, let us all vow to cut down. But let us not be too smug. Even
in relatively simplified lifestyles, our material wealth is vast.
As a biologist and the director of a botanic garden in New York, I was
disturbed to read "Brave New Forest" [about cloning champion-size
trees] in the July/August issue. In addition to the creation of a monoculture,
the cloning of trees will diminish the gene pool on which millions of years
of evolution have depended. Why not promote the idea of planting genetically
diverse native trees that will develop and evolve as nature intended?
Eric C. Morgan
Williston Park, New York
FEELING NO PAIN
Gina LaFond's [anti-fishing] letter in the July/August issue is filled
with errors presented as facts. First,the corrections: fish have no
pain-receptor cells, and are therefore incapable of feeling pain. Whether
they experience discomfort, we simply don't know. A fish's gills, unlike
our lungs, are not hollow, gas-filled structures, so they cannot "collapse."
Furthermore, fishes' swim bladders do not rupture just from being out
of water; this only occurs when a fish is raised too quickly from a great
depth, so fishing in a river or stream poses no such threat.
Are fish stressed physically by being caught and released? Certainly.
Does it cause them "discomfort"? We have no way of knowing. Is
any and all fishing, including catch-and-release, wrong or inhumane? I think
that remains a judgment call.
Raleigh, North Carolina
VIEW FROM A BIKE
I was dismayed to read letters critical of mountain biking and fishing
in your July/August issue. It seems to me that the authors are missing the
big picture. If the environmental movement is going to achieve its goals,
it must form broad coalitions. If wilderness preservation requires reaching
out to mountain bikers, fishermen, and, yes, even hunters, that is a small
price to pay.
Besides, we all, to at least some extent, live in glass houses. As someone
who rides a road bike for recreation (and to get to and from work) I have
often noted the irony in driving long distances in autos (and thereby spewing
pollutants into the atmosphere) to parks in order to enjoy natural beauty,
which hikers routinely do. All of us who want to protect the earth will
be better served by being open-minded and mutually supportive than by condemning
those whose recreational choices may not always coincide with ours.
I found the letter in the July/August issue chastising senior editor
Paul Rauber's use of a mountain bike in Grand StaircaseEscalante National
Monument rather predictable. There's no shortage of single-minded individuals
who look down from their lofty perch and pass judgment on others who don't
fit their environmentally righteous template.
I'm not going to advocate the merits of mountain bikes here, though I
enjoy them when and where I consider their use acceptable. True, there are
mountain bikers who aren't exactly poster children for the sport, but what
outdoor activity has 100 percent of its participants practicing ideal behavior?
Most mountain bikers enjoy solitude, vistas, undisturbed backcountry, and
We've become a society of special interests. And in the greater outdoor
community (yes, that means hikers, bikers, anglers, hunters, and bird-watchers)
we bicker among ourselves. In our zeal to point the finger at those of lesser
environmental conscience, we fail to build a platform for progress on important
contemporary issues. Ted Alan Stedman
A MODEST PROPOSAL
I'm writing in response to "Loggers' Free Lunch" [the July/August
article about subsidized roadbuilding and logging in our national forests]
by B. J. Bergman. Let's face it. We've made it very profitable for this
kind of predation to occur. These companies really are not driven by an
insatiable desire for wood. What they really want is money.
Why not reposition the gravy train? As a society, let's flood efforts
to grow genetically improved trees in plantations with government money
instead of subsidizing the destruction of the national forests.
Americans want natural areas.The economic value of outdoor recreation is said
to be around $130 billion a year. The national-forest lands of the West are
often on steep, dry land that is marginal for growing trees as a crop. So,
let's make it profitable-let's make it filthy lucrative-to grow superior logs
on tree farms! We can afford it. We just can't afford to lose our wonderful,
wild national forests.
CORRECTIONS AND AMPLIFICATIONS
For more on voluntary simplicity ["The Goods Life," July/August],
order the free brochure Simply Sustainable, produced by the Sierra Club
Population Committee, the Angeles Chapter, and Seeds of Simplicity. Contact
Seeds at P.O. Box 9955, Glendale, CA 91226; (818) 247-4332; SeedsOfSim@aol.com.
In "The Goods Life" we overstated the average number of commercials
a child sees annually. TV-free America, a nonprofit based in Washington,
D.C., says the figure is 20,000.
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.,
2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; fax (415) 977-5794;
or you can email us at: email@example.com.